How did we end up here? We had a traditional product: laundry washing powder. Somewhere along the way, it was diluted with water, packaged in plastic, then sold back to us at a greater cost. Now, we can choose to pay more for the same product, but “concentrated”, which just means adding less water in the first place.
That seems like clever product marketing designed to meet rising disposable income. Oh, and it does help with the pesky problem of laundry powder not always completely dissolving in the wash. Now, though, we are entering a new era: laundry sheets.
Laundry sheets provide an alternative to typical laundry liquid or powder. The objective is to reduce the carbon footprint required to transport laundry detergent and remove the need for plastic packaging. Laundry sheets for 40+ loads can arrive via your letterbox in an envelope – one sheet for each load. Each sheet (or half-sheet) is dropped into the wash in exactly the same way you would add liquid or powder. The sheet dissolves throughout the wash, leaving no residue.
Laundry sheets are emerging as a low-carbon, low chemical alternative to traditional laundry detergents. The companies that produce them make some pretty big claims – that if everyone used their product, it would reduce plastic jug use by one billion each year, and reducing carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking 27 million cars off the road annually.
Global plastics production has reached 368 million metric tons and is expected to continue to grow by around 4% annually for the foreseeable future. Of that, 40% is plastic packaging, or nearly 150 million tons, according to PlasticEurope, as sited in this OECD report.
It is also worth noting that many common laundry detergents contain microbeads and/or other microplastics. In addition to microplastics in the detergent itself, opening and closing HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) caps multiple times results in shedding of more microplastics, according to a 2019 study.
Many of the laundry sheet solutions are also micro-plastic free. You can check this by having a look at the ingredients. I have confirmed with Earth Breeze that their laundry sheets are microplastic free. Microplastics in detergent are typically one of the following: Polyethylene (PE), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Nylon (PA), Polypropylene (PP), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA).
Earth Breeze are my personal favorite. They advertise themselves as Carbon Neutral and donate 10 loads of laundry to shelters for every 40 wash package purchased. They are also a member of 1% for the planet. They are typically delivered via subscription service, which provides you with a discount and regular delivery.
As a product, I have been using Earth Breeze sheets for a year now, and I really like them. I can choose from “Fresh Scent” or “Unscented”, and I love the subtle but clean “Fresh Scent” option. They clean just as well as any other laundry detergent we’ve used and take up way less space in the utility room, as compared to the previous bulk laundry liquid or powder containers I used to keep. On subscription, the price is ￡9.99 for 40 sheets, designed to cover a minimum of 40 loads.
Cut the sheets in half when they arrive, and use half-sheets for most loads – you can double up for a super full or super-dirty load, but half a sheet is effective enough most of the time. This makes your delivery last a lot longer, and brings the price per load down to as little as 13p.
This compares to around 20p for the closest eco-friendly liquid alternative, like Ecover concentrated non-bio. Persil or Ariel pods are also about 20p per load. Supermarket own brands can be as cheap as 5p per load, meaning the budget savings on this tip only apply if you are using a brand name laundry detergent at the moment.
That being said, when I’ve used the bargain basement stuff, I find that I need to use more, so the load estimate (often 60 washes per bottle) is inflated, and actually I only get 40-50 washes out of one of those bottles, so I can’t say I’m a fan of the bargain basement stuff.
When compared to powdered laundry detergent, laundry sheets (still assuming the half-sheet per load rule), are cheaper than eco-friendly powder brands, like Bio-D and Ecover (29p/wash), and roughly on par with Persil and other legacy brand products (13p/wash). There are a number of laundry sheet alternatives available globally if you don’t like or can’t get Earth Breeze.