A new study shows that our laundry habits might be doing even more harm to the environment than we realized. Researchers at Plymouth University say more than 700,000 microscopic fibers are released into the water every time we do a load of laundry, and many of those particles end up in our environment, where they threaten ecosystems and harm wildlife.

“The quantity of microplastic in the environment is expected to increase over the next few decades, and there are concerns about the potential for it to have harmful effects if ingested,” the study authors wrote.

This is a tough problem to solve, because most of us likely won’t stop washing our clothes. But there are things we can do to make our laundry routines more eco-friendly.

You can save money, reduce your energy consumption, cut your family’s exposure to chemicals and prevent water pollution without spending all day hand-washing your laundry or purchasing an expensive new washing machine. Just a few simple changes in your laundry routine can make a big difference, and you already have many of the best natural laundry products in your pantry. Here are 10 suggestions, from choosing safer soaps to making your dryer more efficient.

1. Use safer detergent

While wildlife-harming phosphates have been banned from laundry detergents in the United States since the 1970s, there are other ingredients that you should avoid. Skip artificial fragrances, which can be among the most toxic components of any home or personal care product. Surfactants like nonylphenol ethoxylate are known to be hormone disrupters, and can end up in our waterways. Brands like Seventh Generation, Ecover, Method, Planet and Biokleen offer laundry detergents that eliminate polluting ingredients and are often biodegradable.

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