When you wash your clothes in conventional laundry detergents, you’re getting a lot more than you bargained for. From harmful chemicals that pollute our water supply to “fragrance” that lingers on your clean clothes, that box of detergent leaves a lot to be desired.
Detergent isn’t the only dirty part of doing the laundry. Dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener are not so clean from a health or environmental standpoint, either. They contain a laundry list of ingredients, many of which are rated high for toxicity or are even completely unregulated.
Not all chemicals are harmful, of course. Baking soda is a chemical, and so are salt, borax, and acetic acid (found in vinegar). The trouble comes in when we’re talking about chemicals that harm our health, that pollute the environment, or that breed antibiotic resistance. Luckily, you don’t have to wash your clothes in harmful chemicals! Here are some DIY alternatives to get your laundry truly clean and leave it smelling fresh.
DIY Laundry Detergent Options
Instead of potentially toxic conventional detergents, you can whip yourself up a batch of homemade laundry soap instead! Homemade detergents can be just as effective as the store-bought variety, and they’re often much less expensive to boot.
Soap nuts are one of the simplest DIY detergent options, because they only contain one ingredient: soapberries. When you agitate soap nuts in the washing machine, they release saponin, which helps the water dissolve dirt and stains from your clothes. You can toss them into the machine whole, grind them up, or make soap nut liquid detergent by boiling them in water. If you need more deets on how to use soap nuts, there are some great recipes here.
The coolest thing about soap nuts? When you’re done using them, you can compost them right in the garden. How cool is that?
Homemade Laundry Detergent
It’s easy as pie to whip up a batch of DIY laundry detergent. Here’s how!
1. Grate 1 bar of castille soap, like Dr. Bronner’s.
2. Add 1 cup of borax and 1 cup of washing soda
3. To wash your clothes, use 1-2 tablespoons (depending on how dirty the laundry is and how hard your water is), just like you would store bought detergent.
How to Make a Laundry Sachet
Dryer sheets are bad news. Sure, they leave your clothes smelling nice, but the way they do that is by coating the fabric in toxins and “fragrance,” which could be anything from a list of chemicals. The term “fragrance” is totally unregulated, meaning that manufacturers don’t have to disclose which chemicals they are using. No, thank you!
Instead of scenting your clothes with synthetics, you can use all natural herbs. Most homemade sachets I’ve seen use lavender, but you can also use other herbs like raspberry leaf to gently scent your clothes without the toxins. To make your own laundry sachet:
1. Cut a piece of organic or scrap fabric to 11″ x 4.5″, then fold and iron it in half, right sides together.
2. Use your sewing machine to stitch all the way around the folded fabric, leaving yourself a 2″ gap so that you can flip it right side out and stuff it.
3. Stuff your sachet with 1 1/2 cups of the dried herbs of your choice.
4. Tuck in the unfinished opening, stitch it closed, and you’re ready to toss your new sachet in the dryer!
Image Credit: Photo by Becky Striepe
Homemade Liquid Fabric Softener
Just like dryer sheets, liquid fabric softener is bad news. The homemade sort is not only better for your health, it’s much less pricey than the store-bought variety. You can use it in your washing machine just like commercial softeners! Here’s how to make your own liquid fabric softener.
1. Add 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oil to a one-gallon jug of white vinegar.
2. Close the lid and give it a good shake.
3. When it’s time to do your laundry, shake it once again, and use 1/3 cup per load.
How do you guys keep your laundry free of harmful chemicals? I’d love to hear your favorite clean laundry tips in the comments!