This is a paid partnership with eco-friendly dry cleaners BLANC, all images Cate St Hill
Creating a simple, sustainable home doesn’t just stop when you’ve considered the rights choices and bought the right products (for you). Sustainability is also about carefully looking after your homewares so that they can last the test of time and you don’t have to go out looking for replacements. Once you’ve invested in a beautiful set of bed linen that will see you through passing trends and fleeting fashions, there’s no reason why you should need to buy any more any time soon. You can change up objects, accessories and little details, but good quality, well-cared-for bed linen is the foundation for any bedroom.
Once upon a time a bride might have been given bed linen in her trousseau at her wedding, and taught how to care for it. Now, we just use a teeny label of confusing symbols to decipher how something might be cleaned. But, how can you keep your whites white? When should you get in the professionals? How do you know what is best for your skin? And perhaps more importantly now, better for the environment?
From reducing my consumption of single-use plastic to shopping at zero waste stores, I’m always looking for ways to live that are healthier for both my home and the planet. Even more so in the last year or so. With research showing that indoor air quality has been shown to be over three times worse than outdoor pollution, I’m now even more conscious of the gasses and chemicals that our homeware and furniture can give off, whether it’s potentially carcinogenic formaldehyde in MDF, harmful VOCs in paint or toxic chemicals in cleaning products. To give an example, one study even found that shampoo and other household products were as bad a health risk as car fumes.
That’s why I was thrilled to be introduced to eco-friendly dry cleaners BLANC based in London. Set up in 2011 by husband-and-wife team Ludovic and Mathilde Blanc, BLANC offer a healthier, better quality and greener alternative to traditional dry cleaning. With a great-grandmother as a launderer and cleaning in his DNA, Ludovic sought to clean-up the industry and introduce a less toxic technology.
“We want to be synonymous with taking care of yourself and your environment. Dry cleaning is carcinogenic and toxic — and most dry-cleaners use perchloroethylene, or PERC, which is a strong pollutant for air, water and soil, as well as irritating for the skin,” says Ludovic Blanc
I was amazed to hear that PERC is banned in the US, France and Denmark, but not yet here in the UK. Those with sensitive skin or allergies might notice irritations or skin rashes, but even if you don’t, it’s worrying just what effect those chemicals might have in the home. Especially if you’re sleeping in that fabric and breathing it in. I know in the past when my other half’s shirts have come back from the dry cleaners they can be so pungent with a synthetic fragrance it’s almost too much.
Instead of soaking fabrics in toxic, solvent-based cleaners, BLANC uses the Woolmark-approved ‘wet clean’ technology. Their specialists hand-treat fabrics with natural, pre-spotting products, before cleaning them with water and biodegradable detergents in specialist machines set at low temperatures.
While the high temperatures and harsh chemicals of dry cleaning can make fibres deteriorate over time, wet cleaning can restore the purity of whites and preserve the hue of coloured items that might otherwise be dulled by exposure to solvents.
I sent off my linen bedding and delicate cushions to be dry cleaned and they came back beautifully pressed and brighter. The linen was so much softer than I can ever get with a machine wash at home, and they had magically got rid of some stubborn stains I couldn’t shift myself (teaches me for having coffee in bed and dropping chocolate crumbs on the sofa!).
But now onto the tips! Here’s some simple ways to care for your bed linen:
– Let’s start with the obvious. Wash your bed linen at 30-40C – not only is it better for the environment and helps save energy (and money), it also reduces the damage to fibres that can come with higher temperatures
– Choose eco-friendly laundry detergents, such as Ecover, Tangent GC and Bio-D. Seek out products made with biodegradable and renewable ingredients, but in particular look for those that are free from petroleum-based sources, artificial colours, parabens, chlorine and phosphates.
– Treat stains right away before they have time to set in. BLANC have a brilliant natural stain remover soap that can be rubbed and worked into the fabric before the item is put in the wash. Leave it on for 2-3 hours for best results.
– Even if it can be a pain when you just want to flop into bed, take off all your makeup before going to bed – those little black marks from mascara are impossible to get out!
– Instead of using bleach-based products to get rid of stains and whiten laundry, try adding a cup of white vinegar and a cup of bicarbonate of soda to your detergent to improve its efficacy. You can also try adding some lemon juice – just like in the summer when you might use it to lighten your hair in the sunshine, lemon juice can help brighten your whites when dried outside.
– Change your sheets once a week – the feeling come clean sheets day hardly makes it feel like a chore. BLANC recommends ‘having three different sets of bed linen so you can always have one to sleep in, one in the washing machine and one to keep stored in your drawers’.
– Instead of making your bed right away, pull back your duvet in the morning and open the windows to allow your bedding to breathe. Half way through the week you can turn your duvet or pillows around to get a fresher, cleaner feel without changing the sheets.
– Keep pouches of lavender in your drawers to keep bed linen smelling sweet between changes.
– Rather than using a dryer, the most eco-friendly option is to leave your bedding to air dry – whether it’s outside or like me, hanging from the stairway banister (I find it also helps to ease out some creases)! Fresh air and sunshine just does something wonderful to clean washing. UV light from the sun can help kill micro-organisms and bacteria, says BLANC, but if it’s not the weather for it or you don’t have an outdoor space, a hot iron run over bed linen is as effective.
– Linen in particular comes out softer after it’s been tumble dried. Choose a low temperature and the shortest amount of time to reduce shrinkage and avoid lots of wrinkles that can be hard to iron out.
Just like we might care for our clothes and take pride in how we dress, so we should also do the same in the home. I’d love to know, do you have any tips of your own?
Eco-friendly dry cleaners BLANC currently have four stores – the first opened in Marylebone in 2013, followed by three more in Notting Hill, Chelsea and most recently, White City. They will be opening a fifth store in South Kensington on 20th September. BLANC offer a handy collection and delivery service that you can book easily online.
And BLANC have kindly offered my readers a welcome offer – simply use this link (redeemable in-store and on the webapp, and valid on garments & household cleaning until the end of September).
BLANC are currently expanding across London postcodes, but if you’re not in London, or even if you are, they also have an online store with a carefully selected range of products from the most environmentally friendly and natural brands in the UK and Europe. There’s natural detergents, microfibre washing bags and organic soaps, as well as decorative objects for the Scandi home that I think you might like…