5 Ways to Detox Your Laundry Routine
By Erin Odom, contributing writer
It wasn’t long after I started my natural living journey that I realized that I needed to detox my laundry routine. Most conventional laundering supplies contain dyes, perfumes and many other toxins.
At first, I simply began using a free and clear detergent. But even those are not quite as pure as they may appear.
The final push for me to fully detox my laundry routine was when I made the switch to cloth diapers. When I discovered that I needed to use a naturally-friendly detergent and skip on the stain removers, fabric softener and dryer sheets, I knew it was time for a full over-hall of my laundry routine.
Check out these 5 ways to detox your laundry routine:
Image by brittreints
1. Switch to a natural detergent.
What to stay away from:
- optical brighteners, which give the illusion that fabric is whiter/brighter than it really is. These can actually cause build-up on your laundry and even cause skin irritations.
- stain guards, which coat fabrics.
- a plethora of toxic chemicals typically found in laundering supplies.
Natural detergent recommendations:
- Try a homemade detergent. I don’t currently make my own, as I have hesitations about using certain homemade detergents on my cloth diapers, but I have friends who rave about both the effectiveness and frugality of these non-toxic detergent alternatives.
- Use soap nuts. These are just about as natural as you can get! Soap nuts are berries that grow on trees in India and Nepal. They contain large quantities of saponin in their shells, which acts as a natural, gentle detergent when it comes into contact with water.
- Check out this handy detergent determiner that rates an assortment of detergent brands for cloth diaper compatibility. It doesn’t matter if you plan on using your detergent on diapers or not. You can use the tool to rate how non-toxic your current detergent is–or to rate any detergents you are interested in purchasing.
- Research laundering supplies in the EWG database, which rates just about everything under the sun for toxicity. The database has 678 entries in the laundry section alone!
Image by Violentz
2. Use natural stain removers.
My favorite stain remover is free and 100 percent natural–the sun! If I have a tough stain, I will hang the article of clothing out in the sun while it is still soaking wet. The sun usually bleaches it within a few hours!
You can also try:
- adding oxygen bleach (which is a great natural alternative to chlorine bleach) to the wash. Or, dissolve powdered oxygen bleach in water and spray it directly on the stain.
- rubbing a bar of Fels Naptha soap directly on the stain before laundering.
- one of the homemade, all-natural stain removers we collected.
3. Ditch the fabric softener.
I’ve never used a liquid fabric softener. My mother didn’t, so I just never thought it was important. However, I know it’s a normal part of many laundry routines.
White vinegar is the perfect alternative to fabric softener. And not only does it soften, but it can also take the sour smell out of wet clothes that have sat in a washing machine for too long.
4. Forget the dryer sheets and use wool dryer balls instead!
Up until I started using cloth diapers, I always used dryer sheets. I would get the cheapest ones and cut them in half to make them last longer.
But when I started using cloth diapers, I found out the dryer sheets would leave residue on them. Plus, that residue was leaving toxins on our clothes, too!
I immediately switched to using wool dryer balls, and I’ve never looked back.Wool dryer balls can help speed up drying time, reduce some static cling, and, as an added bonus, wool is antibacterial!
I purchased my original ones from Re-Diaper.com, and I also have some from Mighty Nest. Mine have lasted for years. Many Etsy shop owners also sell them, or, if you’re crafty, you can even try making your own.
(Can’t bear to part with your dryer sheets? Give these homemade dryer sheets a try!)
5. Stop taking your clothes to the dry cleaner.
Traditional dry cleaners contain many potential toxins. I have always avoided clothes that required dry cleaning anyway–even before my natural living days. Back then, I just didn’t want the expense!
However, there will always be some items that absolutely must be dry cleaned. Our comforter set is one of those items. Thankfully, we have an organic, non-toxic dry cleaner business in my hometown. If you don’t, you may want to check into eco-friendly and non-toxic alternatives to dry cleaning.
Any suggestions on getting rid of a stale odor from clothes when coming out of the washer? There is always a few pieces of clothing/towels in each load that have a smell….never a full load, random fabrics, colors, people, wash times…we take them out of the washer immediately, changed soaps and now make our own soap, tried Bac-out, adding vinegar, lemon eo, drying on the line (which sometimes tones down smell), arghhhh….
Is it always the exact same clothes? Do they happen to have mildew/mold on them? Are you using enough detergent? That happens to my diapers if I’m not using enough detergent. Do you use wool dryer balls? Sometimes I dot the balls with some essential oils, and that will make the clothes smell nice.
It’s always different laundry pieces, different fabrics, colors, washed at different times of the day/night, and immediately dried/put away. I’ve changed to homemade laundry soap and also clean out both my washer and dryer with homemade cleaners & periodically spray with lemon essential oil. I’ll probably start using vinegar also today, and sun drying gets rid of the smell 100% of the time and since my property is perimetered with woods, I will hopefully not draw the ire of neighbors. I actually Love line drying (am I weird—I also like cleaning too) and we have beautiful sunny and often breezy weather most of the year….I’m just doing it! (teehee)
I’ve just started using SmartKlean laundry balls (www.smartklean.com) and they are awesome!!! No more detergent for me! As for stains, I use a natural, biodegradable, borax-based laundry soap and it works wonderfully… just wet the stain, and rub the soap on it, scrub a bit (like hand-washing clothes), and wash normally with the rest of the laundry.
Haven’t found a good alternative for dryer sheets… I will be sure to check out the wool dryer balls that you recommend. Thanks so much!!!
Just an FYI, Fels-Naptha is not a natural product. They use artificial fragrances in their soap. Castile soap, especially coconut, is a good alternative.
Thanks for the heads up. 🙂 I’ll have to check into it.
So what detergent do you use with your cloth diapers?
I use Country Save. I have also used soap nuts before and tried Rockin’ Green for a review. I got a REALLY great deal on Country Save, and it works great, so it’s what I’ve stuck with!
I have read good reviews for Country Save, but it’s not on the EWG web site. I know it’s considered a more natural detergent. But even some that I thought were natural didn’t get great reviews. Does anyone know?
I love your site. It’s my go to every day. I’m also enjoying hearing about your trip. I have been making and using homemade laundry soap, vinegar, and wool dryer balls for about 1 1/2 years. I love it. I love how much money I don’t spend and I can’t tell the difference in the cleanliness of my clothes. They smell fresher too. The downside to using homemade cleaning products is how sensitive I have become to cleaner scents. I can smell bleachy stuff and other scented stuff a mile away. I’m still trying to convert my grown kids. One daughter does like my all-purpose cleaner but didn’t like that her laundry didn’t smell “fresh.” I’ll keep working on her. Thank you for all the work you do on your site.
I would love to try making wool dryer balls sometime!
I have found I’m more sensitive to stronger chemical smells now, too!
Have a great day!
I love the idea of making my own laundry detergent…not really confident enough to try it though, I am a REAL stickler about my clothes looking/smelling super fresh.
Haha! You can always try it on your rags first!
I add 25 drops of pure lavender essential oil and a tsp of rubbing alcohol to a quart of vinegar (purchased in a glass bottle). Use 1/2 c. of this into your rinse cycle or in the softener cup instead of commercial softeners. Lavender EO is antifungal, antitoxic and antimicrobial.
Michelle @ On A Wing And A Prayer
Sounds like a great recipe! I love the scent of lavender!
I stick my only to be dry cleaned comforter on the clothesline when it is about to be a gentle rain then bring it inside when it is dry . Freshens and deodorizes it and costs nothing. 🙂
Great tip!! I love free! 🙂
I put vinegar in a downy dryer ball and drop it in the washer, the vinegar keeps our clothes and towells from getting staticy even in the winter. Works great!
Line dry your clothes! For grease stains add 10-15 drops of eucalyptus oil to the wash cycle 🙂
I stopped using Fels Naptha because of the synthetic scents and it is petroleum based and opt for my own homemade soap. I still get static with wool dryer balls (I live in arid SoCal, whatcha gonna do?) but when I add vinegar to a Downy ball it helps tremendously.
We moved over to MelaPower, MelaBright and MelaSoft, totally love them. I tried making my own detergent but my clothes seemed to hang on to stains horrible. I’ve also noticed that we have not had the illnesses that we had before, not one trip to the doctor all winter for the normal illnesses the kids would have nor my asthma issues, yeah! Chemicals found in traditional laundry products are so hard on our bodies and our clothes, love having an almost empty lint trap now.
I’ve discovered Molly’s Suds for my laundry soap – which works amazingly well with only a Tbsp. sized scoop per load (even on kid and dog odors and stains, and mama cloth!). It is even Front Loader safe. I usually have a rag of some type in with each load, so I put a few drops of cinnamon essential oil on it before tossing it in the dryer. I also use blue nubby dryer balls, as several of us are so allergic to wool that we can’t even touch it. They seem to really soften the load nicely! For blood stains I love hydrogen peroxide – and I am anxious to check out your natural stain removers!
I so need to try out the wool dryer balls. These are great tips, Erin! Thanks for sharing!
I absolutely love them!!