Until a few years ago, I just bought whatever laundry products were on sale. I didn't know and didn't much care what was in them. After all, most of our parents used those products, and we're alright, right?
And then my infant son started breaking out in rashes and we couldn't figure out why. We spent some time trying different dietary changes to find out what the problem was. And then I decided to try a natural laundry soap. One by one, I threw out my stain remover, my fabric softener, and my dryer sheets. His rashes stopped, completely. I was skeptical. Could it really be the laundry products? And then some friends came to visit and my baby boy sat on their lap. Within hours, the rashes we hadn't seen in weeks had returned.
I began reading more and more about what is in our household products and much of what I found was disturbing. Like that many "gentle" baby products are actually more toxic that their grown-up counterparts! And that fabric softener can be one of the most dangerous products in our homes! Yikes!
So it took some trial and error, but I now have a laundry routine that I consider safe enough for my family, but also effective enough to clean our clothing!
Stain Remover. A while back, for fun, I tried a bunch of different homemade stain remover recipes and compared them. But to be honest, most of the time I just rub a little bit of baking soda into a small stain before throwing it in the laundry heap.
Laundry Detergent: I buy natureclean's 3X concentrated Laundry Liquid. I normally buy the unscented, but my husband recently got the citrus blossom scent and it smells fabulous. It is more expensive than ordinary detergents, but it's highly concentrated so a small bottle goes a long way. And it gets our clothes clean without any chemicals that I am uncomfortable with. Be aware that many products that are labelled "green", "natural" or "gentle" are as bad or even sometimes worse than ordinary products. You can look up many of the ingredients in your household products, and even find a safety rating for them at the Skin Deep Database.
Why I don't just make my own laundry detergent:
I know that many of you make your own laundry detergent, and if that works for you then that is a great way to save some money. I did look into making my own laundry detergent, but many recipes included Borax, which I personally don't consider safe enough for household use. (Here's the Skin Deep data sheet on Borax. Notice it says "not safe for use on infant skin")
I tried making laundry detergent without borax but found a) it didn't get our clothes very clean, b) The grated bar soap I used left a film on the clothing and c) it caused our clothing to show a noticeable amount of extra wear and tear.Whiter Whites: I've shared before about how I use the juice of a fresh lemon and the whitening power of the sun to keep my whites bright.
Fluffier Towels: A large splash of vinegar in the rinse cycle will help remove any leftover detergent from your towels, leaving them fluffier and more absorbent. This is useful for cloth diapers as well. And no, your towels won't smell like vinegar.
Disinfect Dishcloths: I add 4-5 drops of tea tree oil to hot wash water when washing dishcloths to help to disinfect them. Tea tree oil (also called melaleuca oil) has anti-bacterial qualities and is probably available on the shelves of your local pharmacy. I could write a whole post on household uses for tea tree oil, and probably one day will. I love the stuff!
For Particularly Dirty Clothes: My husband's job has him coming home occasionally covered in things like drywall dust or pond water. When his work clothes need an extra deep clean I add a scoop of washing soda to the load. I keep it in a pretty wide mouth cookie canister behind my washing machine.
Washing soda is different from baking soda and can be found in the laundry aisle of many grocery stores.
Dryer Balls: Wool dryer balls are a great alternative to dryer sheets. They help to reduce static in your dryer and also decrease drying times. I have a tutorial on how to make your own wool dryer balls, or you can buy them from Etsy or Amazon.
That is how we manage to have fresh, clean laundry using only ingredients we are comfortable with. Even if it does spend half it's life waiting to get folded and put away....
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