Dear Dot: What’s the deal with eco-friendly laundry detergents?

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Dot tackles your thorniest questions from a perch on her porch.

Dear Dot,

Ads for laundry strips have been showing up in my Facebook feed, touting their eco-friendliness. Do they work? Also … what are laundry strips?

–The Laundress, Oak Bluffs 

My dear Laundress,

The data gods with their dark magic algorithms have determined that you are an eco-warrior, apparently. And also, it would seem, a resident washer-in-chief. 

Ads for these strips populate my Facebook feed too, all but crowding out my hazily remembered high school chums’ saccharine odes to the sisterhood. 

I was intent on ignoring both the ads and the odes, but a friend insisted that I try the laundry strips, going so far as to mail me some from TruEarth, a British Columbia–based company that ships to the U.S. 

What’s more, laundry strips are light as a feather, which makes transport a breeze, and vastly reduces the use of fossil fuels to ship compared with liquid or powder detergent.

To answer your first question, laundry strips are tiny, highly concentrated strips of detergent that replace your liquid or powder laundry detergent. Their eco bona fides aren’t simply that they contain less harmful ingredients than typical detergents, but that they have eliminated plastic packaging. There are a few brands, including Kind Laundry strips, which was recently awarded Best Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent by Better Homes and Gardens, for whatever that’s worth. The two brands I tried, TruEarth and Nature Clean, both package unwrapped strips in a simple cardboard envelope. What’s more, laundry strips are light as a feather, which makes transport a breeze, and vastly reduces the use of fossil fuels to ship compared with liquid or powder detergent.

I can also report that yes, they work, which I know because, as mother to three kids who seem to change their clothes a half-dozen times a day, I do a lot of laundry. However, a caveat: Don’t expect planet-friendly laundry detergents, including strips, to produce the same blinding white clean that some (ahem, Tide) conventional detergents do. That Woah! White! is thanks to what’s called “optical brighteners” in the biz, which don’t actually make clothes cleaner — they just cast a blueish tinge rather than a yellowish one, making clothes appear cleaner. Line-drying your whites in a sunny spot can brighten them up.

My advice: Give strips a try, and share those ads on your social feeds to spread the message far and wide! Better still, ask your grocery store manager to stock them. The only companies I can find are Canadian, but they all ship to the U.S.

Love, Dot 

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