Want to start using more natural laundry supplies, but not sure where to begin? Whether you’re doing it for your health, the environment, or your pocket book, this handy guide will share everything you need to know to make the switch.
Would you like to protect your health? Avoid skin irritation? Reduce waste? Eliminate chemicals that harm the environment? What if I told you you’d even save money doing it? Making the switch to natural laundry supplies is an easy and worthwhile change to make. And I’ve found it’s better at keeping my clothes clean than the traditional products I once used!
However, there can be some confusion about which products are really natural, safe, and effective. You can’t always trust brands and labels. But I’m here to help.
Here’s everything you need to know about natural laundry.
Why make the switch to natural laundry products?
Protect your health
I first developed an interest in natural laundry products after being diagnosed with several chronic health problems. I have an autoimmune thyroid disease and polycystic ovary syndrome, both of which are worsened by inflammation. Dietary changes, quality sleep, and stress reduction are vital to reducing inflammation. Based on my reading, though, reducing the toxic load in my environment can also help.
While I haven’t struggled with rashes or other forms of skin irritation, I’ve had many friends who have. Fortunately, they’ve often found that switching to a natural detergent and cutting out fabric softener and dryer sheets has made a drastic improvement.
Now, keep in mind I’m not a doctor and am not offering official medical advice, but I’m happy to do anything that may improve my health. That’s especially true when it’s a simple change that saves me money and helps out the environment to boot.
Now this might seem like a dubious claim if you’ve compared the price of the “natural” laundry detergents with the usual name brand alternatives at the grocery store. Those fancy detergents cost a lot!
So how can they possibly save you money? For one thing, you’ll be eliminating the cost of dryer sheets and fabric softeners altogether. In their place, you’ll make a one-time purchase of dryer balls and use plain old vinegar.
And when it comes to detergent, there are cheap alternatives that I’ll discuss below. Though I personally use a specific, safe detergent brand, it’s a highly concentrated one. Since I only need a tablespoon or so per load, it lasts far longer than the typical brands I once depended on.
Protect the Environment
Most natural laundry detergents contain synthetic chemicals that don’t break down fully in the water treatment process. These chemicals then pollute our waterways, lead to toxic algae buildup, and leave fish vulnerable to disease. And that doesn’t even get into the microplastics we release into the environment by blasting through jug after giant, plastic jug of detergent or fabric softener.
Meanwhile, the laundry products I recommend below are naturally derived. As a result, they break down readily in nature. Even better, you’ll end up using less plastic, since these items need to be replaced far less often than traditional laundry supplies.
Natural Laundry Shopping List
I swear by Biokleen for three reasons: First, it gets an A from the Environmental Working Group. That means it has “few/no known or suspected hazards to health or the environment.” It also means the company openly shares what ingredients it uses. Second, it’s highly concentrated, and one small bottle lasts months. And finally, it gets the job done. My laundry comes out clean and freshafter every wash.
Other Laundry Essentials
Essential oils in your favorite scents (Optional)
Lavender sachets (Optional)
Natural Laundry FAQs:
How do I sanitize laundry naturally?
Your best tool for sanitizing laundry is heat – hot water, and a hot dryer. Unfortunately, heat can also end up as your enemy if it shrinks your clothes or bleeds colors.
So for me, items that are prone to germiness and stinkiness, like linens, underwear, and socks, get washed and dried on the highest heat level. My other clothes get washed in tap cold water and air dried. To add a little antimicrobial boost, I add a few drops of tea tree oil along with my laundry detergent. Other good options include peppermint, lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus, and lemon.
Now, are essential oils as effective at killing bacteria and viruses as synthetic antibiotics? Absolutely not. But that’s actually a good thing much of the time. Overuse of antibiotic hand soaps and cleaners is simultaneously weakening our immune systems, destroying our microbiomes, and creating antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” that are hard for medicine to fight.
Antibiotic medications and sterilizers are absolutely lifesaving when needed, especially in hospitals and other health care settings. But we’re reducing their effectiveness by using them all the dang time in our own homes. Fortunately, plain old soap and hot water are generally plenty effective, anyway.
How do I make my clothes smell good with natural laundry products?
As I’ve shifted to natural cleaning products, my mentality about scents has shifted too. Clean doesn’t have a scent.
Let me repeat that: Clean doesn’t have a scent. It smells like nothing.
If your clothes are clean, they shouldn’t have an odor at all.
But after years of synthetic cleaner use, most of us still crave fragrance as a sign of cleanliness. To fill that wish more safely, use essential oils in your favorite scents. I always include tea tree oil for the antimicrobial purposes mentioned above, but also because it smells incredibly fresh. I also enjoy using lavender and vanilla or various citrus mixes. Experiment to find your own favorites.
Since I love the smell of lavender, my other favorite method is storing lavender sachets in my dresser drawers and linen closet. Mmmmm … that smell is the best!
How can I avoid stinky towels naturally?
Musty towels may just be my least-favorite smell in the world! But you may be surprised to learn that your laundry detergent and fabric softeners are actually CAUSING that stink, not eliminating it. As I mentioned in the environment section above, natural laundry detergents and softeners don’t break down easily in water. As a result, they’ll build up in your clothing. Since towels are so absorbent, that’s especially true for them.
So, switching to a small amount of a plant-based detergent will already do wonders for the scent of your towels. Beyond that, I recommend adding a few drops of Tea tree essential oil (make sure it’s a pure, 100% essential oil version), since it’s a natural antimicrobial product. Finally, wash and dry towels on high heat to sanitize them. And to avoid a musty odor, make sure you dry towels fully before you remove them from the dryer
How do I soften clothes naturally?
Some of the irritation and stiffness you experience from your clothing is likely from built up detergent fabric softener. As a result, switching to plant-based options will help right off the bat. But for extra fabric softening power, add ½ cup of white vinegar to your washing load.
How do I get rid of that washing machine stink?
Once again, it’s probably from a build-up of synthetic detergent and softener. All that nasty gunk will get moldy, and thus stinky, very quickly.
Fortunately, cleaning a stinky washing machine is easy. First, wipe or scrub away any visual grime, slime, or buildup you see in the machine. The soap and fabric softener shoots are common problem areas, as is the door seal in front-loading washers.
Next pour vinegar in the soap and fabric softener shoots – a couple of cups in total. Then run the empty machine on high heat with an extra rinse cycle. One round usually does the job, but repeat those steps as needed until the machine no longer smells moldy or musty.
Most importantly, ALWAYS leave the washing machine lid or door open between washes so that it can dry out.
Do you still have questions about switching to natural laundry products? I’d love to hear them in the comments!
And if you’d like to make the switch to natural in other areas of your cleaning life, head here for tips.