"Green laundry" no longer refers to what happens to your whites when you wash them with colors. Now, green laundry means eco-friendly washing practices that emphasize biodegradability and less waste.

For natural laundry, some popular choices include soap nuts, dryer balls, and eco balls. If you've never heard of these things, read on – they are part of all-nat ural, green laundry. And for those who suffer from chemical allergies or sensitivities, these natural alternatives can be a real boon.

Soap Nuts

Soap nuts are actual nuts or fruits from the Chinese Soapberry Tree (Sapindus mukorossi), which grows in the mountains of India and Nepal. They may be a new idea for westerners, but these soapy nuts have been used to clean fabrics for generations of local people.

After the seeds are removed from their shells and dried in the sun, the soap nuts are ready to use in your laundry. For modern washing machines, soap nuts come packaged in a cloth bag. You put the nuts into this bag, tie it shut, and toss the bag into your washing machine. They can be used for several more loads before you need to replace them with fresh nuts. And the used nuts can be tossed into your compost pile.

Dryer Balls

These specially-designed, rubber balls have rubber bumps all over them. They are said to take the place of fabric softener and/or dryer sheets, and to reduce drying time. The protrusions on the balls' surface help to separate fabrics, keeping them from balling up into a wad in the dryer which lengthens drying time. (If you have ever had to unwind a ball of bedding in the dryer only to find it still wet in the center, you know how valuable keeping fabric separate in the dryer can be.)

Many people prefer dryer balls to conventional fabric softeners and dryer sheets because they do not contain fragrances and chemicals. Reduced drying time saves energy, and fewer chemicals in your laundry make dryer balls part of a green laundry.

Eco Balls

Sometimes called laundry balls or wash balls, eco balls make use of the cleaning power of water to wash your clothes. The secret is in the design and materials – the clay-based balls are housed in a permeable plastic cover. The balls react with the motion of the washing machine agitator and the water itself to produce an ionization cleaning process.

Eco balls are used instead of liquid or powder laundry detergent, and are said to last anywhere from 60 to 120 loads. However, the plastic part of the eco balls will need to be recycled once you're through with them.

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