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Laundry- it's a mundane chore that many of us probably dread. Who really likes to spend all that time sorting, pre-treating, washing, drying, and folding? Not me! Unfortunately, it's a chore we've all got to do. As the saying goes, "Laundry today or naked tomorrow." Since that isn't the ideal outcome, we wash our laundry.
The problems with traditional laundry detergent:
What brand of laundry detergent do you use? For me, it was Gain detergent with Downy fabric softener. I loved that combination. The clothes, sheets, and towels were soft, fluffy, and smelled great. Or so I thought back then. So, if the clothes are coming out clean and smelling great, what's the problem?
Laundry detergent and fabric softeners are full of chemicals that are harmful to us and to the environment. These include Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), phosphates, dyes, and fragrances to name a few. Did you know that "fragrance" on a product's ingredients list could refer to a combination of any number of hundreds or thousands of chemicals? Yep, that scent you love is protected by trademark laws, and manufacturers aren't required to list each ingredient in their "fragrance."
Fragrance is the ingredient in a product that most commonly causes allergic reactions including dermatitis and other rashes. These are also bad for the lungs, and pulmonologists have recommended that synthetic fragrances be removed from most commercial products. Fragrances are also known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Is tropical scented laundry really worth all that?
Fun fact: The last thing I washed in Gain and Downy was several sets of curtains. I folded them up and put them away in the linen closet. I have since donated them to the thrift store, but FOUR YEARS LATER they still smelled like Gain and Downy! Is something this potent really what you want touching your skin?
Now that I have not used those detergents or fabric softeners in over five years, I cannot walk down the detergent aisle at the store without getting a headache. When my neighbors are drying their laundry, I can smell those "fragrances" through their vents. It is amazing how sensitive you can become to those things when you no longer use them.
What to use instead:
There are many alternatives to traditional laundry products that are much more natural. Recipes abound online for DIY laundry detergents, though not all of them work very well. Some may even harm your machine, so it's worth doing some serious research before you go that route.
You can also buy "natural" laundry products in many stores and online, but even then those products are often greenwashed. This means they have the right wording on the label, and they make just enough claims to make you think they're safe and natural. They're usually better than traditional products, but they can still contain some questionable ingredients.
I've tried many, many different brands of natural detergents, and I have made my own. They all seemed to work okay, but none really stood out to me. Plus, many of the natural brands are quite pricy, and that adds up when you do as much laundry as I do.
Luckily, I've finally found the combination that works for me. It's simple and affordable, and most importantly, it gets the clothes clean. That's the important thing here, right? I use the Eco Egg laundry egg, white vinegar for fabric softener, and a homemade scent booster. Instead of dryer sheets, I use wool dryer balls. Here are the details on this stuff:
Eco Egg laundry egg: * This egg has been a lifesaver. It's so easy to use. It is a plastic, two-piece, egg-shaped chamber filled with beads. It comes with two types of pellets. One is minerals and the other is tourmaline. This package comes with enough of both types for up to 720 loads of laundry. In this house, I do roughly 30 to 40 loads of laundry per month when I take into account clothing, bedding, and towels. This will still last our household for 18 to 24 months. At a cost of just under forty dollars, I'd say that's a deal. It comes with simple instructions and an FAQ guide. I've seen some reviews say that it isn't for HE machines, but I've not seen that anywhere on my product, and I use it in our HE machine with no problems.
Plain distilled white vinegar: Plain ole' white vinegar is a staple for cleaning in this house. I use it for many different things. For laundry, I use it as a substitute for fabric softener. If you want, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil, but I don't bother. It helps to reduce static cling in the laundry, and it seems to make things softer. Our clothes never smell like vinegar either, as it's all rinsed out in the rinse cycle.
Homemade laundry scent booster: This is my alternative to Downy. It's simple to make and smells great. All you need to make this is baking soda, Epsom salt, essential oils of your choice, and a glass jar. You can make any amount you'd like, just be sure to follow a fifty/fifty ratio of baking soda to Epsom salt. For a roughly quart-sized jar, I use 20 to 30 drops of essential oil, but you can use more if you'd like. To make it, simply place your baking soda and Epsom salt in the jar, leaving enough room to shake it up. Shake it well to mix, then add your chosen essential oils. Shake it well again. To use, simply add two to three tablespoons right on top of your laundry before starting the load.
Note: My favorite essential oils for this are lavender and peppermint. I put 15 to 20 drops of each in my scent booster. I also like to mix lime and clary sage. If someone has been ill in the house, eucalyptus is great for a germ-fighting, respiratory-friendly boost.
Wool dryer balls: * These are a great alternative to dryer sheets. They reduce drying time and static cling, help to soften clothes, and they contain no harsh chemicals that may irritate your skin. I only need to replace them about once every six months. Again, you can add a few drops of essential oils onto these to add a subtle scent, but I rarely bother.
This routine has really simplified laundry day for me. Who am I kidding? Every day is laundry day. But the statement still stands- these things work wonders! Even the kids' funkiest clothing comes out smelling and looking fresh. All I have to do is toss the egg into the drum on top of the clothes and add vinegar and scent booster. In about thirty seconds, I can have a load of laundry started and washing. That's my kind of product.
If you have used products like Gain, Tide, or Downy (or any other strong-smelling product) for years, it will likely take some adjusting to get used to this new routine. Your clothes simply won't smell strong. Essential oils leave a very light scent that will be a big difference from the scent left by Downy. The thing to remember is that it is so much better for you and your family.
I will never switch back to traditional laundry products. I know that my family is healthier not using those things. I no longer deal with dermatitis from fragrances in detergent and body care products. My skin doesn't burn. I never knew those symptoms were linked to that ubiquitous "fragrance," but I am so glad to have figured it out. I know we are better off now.
Do you think you'll give these things a shot? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!