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Let’s talk about laundry. Not the mountain of clothes on the couch, or the laundry that’s been drying for 2 days 😁. Let’s talk about safer laundry products. Or, in today’s terminology, more natural laundry products.
According to the Environmental Working Group, “The label on a typical cleaning product is a mix of marketing hype and instructions for use. What’s missing is a list of what’s inside. Cleaning products, unlike foods, beverages, cosmetics and other personal care products, are not required by federal law to carry a list of ingredients. This means that manufacturers have no reason to avoid risky chemicals that happen to clean well – even if they can trigger asthma attacks or skin rashes or are linked to cancer. Without full disclosure, consumers lack key information they need to select cleaning products made with safer ingredients.”
Because of this, it’s hard to know what cleaning products are made with safe ingredients and what products are potentially harmful. The easiest way to determine this is to search for a product’s rating on either the Environmental Working Group’s website or the Think Dirty App. Both resources are provided by consumer watchdog groups, and neither are perfect but I do believe they’re a great place to start.
Another tool is to check out the company’s transparency and disclosure of ingredients. The ingredients should be clearly listed, in full, on the product. Is this company proud of their ingredients? Or, are they trying to distract you from what’s actually inside the bottle by using eye-catching marketing words or describing everything you won’t find in the product?
If you’re unsure about an ingredient, use Google or the EWG’s database to research the ingredient. Chemicals aren’t bad. After all, baking soda, air, and water are all chemicals. The goal isn’t to eliminate chemicals. The goal is to use chemicals that are proven to be safe time after time. Too many of the chemicals used in our body and cleaning products can disrupt hormones, cause allergic reactions, etc.
When you have the tools to educate yourself about ingredients and products, you have the power to make informed choices about what you consume (food), as well as what you use on your body and how you clean your home.
One of my goals with Live Simply is to share what I’m learning, when it comes to ingredients and products and real food, in an effort to empower families with practical tools and tips for this journey.
One area I’m often asked about, when it comes to non-toxic (or less-toxic) cleaning, is laundry.
Laundry can be a very personal subject. People love particular scents (remember when we talked about fragrance?–that’s a BIG offender in many laundry products) or feel tied to particular brands for various reasons. I get it. Because I once felt this way, too. Actually, I still feel this way.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with a number of safer laundry solutions, from laundry soaps to dryer sheet alternatives. Today, I’m sharing my favorites with you.
Laundry Soap or Detergent
This is the hardest area to change, because people (including myself) feel very attached to various brands and scents. I’ve experimented with a ton of laundry soaps over the years, and I’ve landed on a few favorites–ranging from do it yourself soap to safer store-bought detergents.
Here are my current favorites: Branch Basics (a multi-purpose concentrate that can be used for more than just laundry), Molly’s Suds, Better Life, Seventh Generation, Biokleen, and homemade laundry soap. I share about each one, in detail, over here.
When it comes to a natural fabric softener, there are two great options: vinegar or salt. Both options only require a simple kitchen ingredient.
Fabric Softener Option 1: Vinegar
I get it, no ones wants their clothes to smell like salad dressing. Yuck! With the right amount of vinegar, you can achieve naturally soft clothes and towels without the salad dressing scent. To make this option, all you need is vinegar. Just add 1/2 cup of vinegar to each load of laundry. Check out this post for the details.
Fabric Softener Option 2: Salt
The inspiration for this option came from reading the back of a Mrs. Meyer’s package. The homemade recipe is made with coarse salt and an optional essential oil, if you want a subtle scent. To make this option, you need: coarse sea salt and (optional) an essential oil for a subtle scent. Combine the ingredients in a jar. To use, add 1/2-1 cup per load of laundry. Check out this post for the details.
Dryer Sheet Alternatives
Dryer Sheet Alternative Option 1: Wool Dryer Balls
A few years ago, I started using wool dryer balls as an alternative to dryer sheets. They cut drying time (around 10-25%), keep static down (attach a safety pin to each ball if you have static issues), and reduce wrinkles in clothing. If you want to add a natural scent (to mimic a dryer sheet), add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to each ball. I love lemongrass. You’ll need to repeat this every few loads to maintain the scent.
If you’re a crafty kind of person, you can easily make dryer balls. If not, there are a number of ready-made options on the market. Look for 100% wool balls that are free of any fragrance. I purchased my dryer balls from Amazon.
Dyer Sheet Alternative Option 2: Reusable Dryer Sheets
This option uses vinegar as a fabric softener. This option won’t help with static, but if you want more of a dryer sheet and less of a ball, this is for you. Plus, this option is 100% reusable, just like the dryer balls.
To make your own dryer sheets, you need: 2 cups vinegar, 50 drops cleaning essential oil, 10 8-inch square cloths (such as: baby washcloths, small towels, cut-up old shirts, etc.). Combine the vinegar and essential oil in a storage jar. Add the cloths to the jar, submerging the cloths in the liquid. Add 1-2 cloths to the dryer. The cloths won’t reduce static cling, but will soften laundry and add a fresh scent. Return the cloths to the jar after use. This recipe comes from my cleaning book.
Dryer Sheet Alternative Option 3: Store-Bought Dryer Sheets
If you want to use an actual dryer sheet, from the store, I think the best option out there is from Seventh Generation. Both the scented and unscented versions rate as a B with the Environmental Working Group, and the ingredient list is very transparent. You can find Seventh Generation at most stores, from Target to Whole Foods and Amazon.