First off the bat, I'd like to excuse my recent non-blogging to the maybe two people who've ever looked at this blog. I've been super busy and haven't had any time at all for writing.
Ok, now that apologies have been made and my washing machine is once again broken, let's talk about washing detergent. I'm always excited to find any sort of ecological alternative. I use hardly any disposable products and our cabinets and drawers are full of lovely washable cloth stuff: napkins, hankies, menstrual pads, diapers, wipes, shopping bags, etc. No matter how happy I am to be throwing out (and buying) so much less crap, I still can't help wondering, but considering the fact that I have to wash all this stuff, are they really so ecological after all? Washing uses water, energy and detergents which pollute the water.
So I went searching for some alternative to detergent. First I found "Ecoballs," plastic balls filled with little pellets which alter the pH of the water, letting it wash much better. In addition, they're anti-bacterial, they don't leave chemicals or perfumes on your clothes, they are much more delicate on the material and they can even make your water a little softer. You use these balls and you never have to use regular detergent again. How cool! I was psyched and ordered them right away on UK eBay (with another product made by the same brand, the "Magnoball," a ball with magnets inside which protect your washing machine or dishwasher from limescale deposits without having to use any sort of chemical agents).
It's true, they are pretty cool, but we all know that nothing is ever as wonderful as it first may seem. First of all, you can't fill your washing machine up completely because the balls need to "circulate freely." And this circulating is damn noisy (well, maybe not the Ecoballs, because they have a sponge ring around them, but the Magnoball is heavy and thumps around). They clean dry and easy removable dirtiness, but if you have harder dirtiness, like oil, blood or wine, not even the special stain remover they toss in with the Ecoballs will get rid of it.
So then I decided to try the Natyr soap nuts that you can find in Altro Mercato stores. The nut Sapindus Mukorossi from India has a natural soap in the shell. You put these shells in a little cotton pouch and you put the pouch in with the rest of your laundry and it works like detergent. Nothing synthetic or chemical and after using them, you can put the shells in your compost. I really like these nuts, even though I've found that the hardest stains still just won't come out.
And so, my ecological-while-still-being-functional solution? Laundry without staining dirtiness (like sheets, clothes worn but not really visibly dirtied) with Ecoballs. Regular dirty laundry with the soap nuts. Worrisome dirtiness pre-treated with that laundry liquid detergent on tap at Auchan, the type where you bring back the container and fill it up over and over so you don't ever throw it away. And everything with the Magnoball (we've got hideously hard water here), but filling up the machine normally.