By Erin Odom, contributing writer
It wasn't long after I started my natural living journey that I realized that I needed to detox my laundry routine. Most conventional laundering supplies contain dyes, perfumes and many other toxins.
At first, I simply began using a free and clear detergent. But even those are not quite as pure as they may appear.
The final push for me to fully detox my laundry routine was when I made the switch to cloth diapers. When I discovered that I needed to use a naturally-friendly detergent and skip on the stain removers, fabric softener and dryer sheets, I knew it was time for a full over-hall of my laundry routine.
Check out these 5 ways to detox your laundry routine:
Image by brittreints
1. Switch to a natural detergent.
What to stay away from:
- optical brighteners, which give the illusion that fabric is whiter/brighter than it really is. These can actually cause build-up on your laundry and even cause skin irritations.
- stain guards, which coat fabrics.
- a plethora of toxic chemicals typically found in laundering supplies.
Natural detergent recommendations:
- Try a homemade detergent. I don't currently make my own, as I have hesitations about using certain homemade detergents on my cloth diapers, but I have friends who rave about both the effectiveness and frugality of these non-toxic detergent alternatives. I recently put together a list of 5 homemade natural detergent recipes that I want to try. I also collect them on my "Homemade Cleaners" board on Pinterest.
- Use soap nuts. These are just about as natural as you can get! Soap nuts are berries that grow on trees in India and Nepal. They contain large quantities of saponin in their shells, which acts as a natural, gentle detergent when it comes into contact with water.
- Check out this handy detergent determiner that rates an assortment of detergent brands for cloth diaper compatibility. It doesn't matter if you plan on using your detergent on diapers or not. You can use the tool to rate how non-toxic your current detergent is--or to rate any detergents you are interested in purchasing.
- Research laundering supplies in the EWG database, which rates just about everything under the sun for toxicity. The database has 678 entries in the laundry section alone!
Image by Violentz
2. Use natural stain removers.
My favorite stain remover is free and 100 percent natural--the sun! If I have a tough stain, I will hang the article of clothing out in the sun while it is still soaking wet. The sun usually bleaches it within a few hours!
You can also try:
- adding oxygen bleach (which is a great natural alternative to chlorine bleach) to the wash. Or, dissolve powdered oxygen bleach in water and spray it directly on the stain.
- rubbing a bar of Fels Naptha soap directly on the stain before laundering.
- one of these 10 homemade, all-natural stain removers.
3. Ditch the fabric softener.
I've never used a liquid fabric softener. My mother didn't, so I just never thought it was important. However, I know it's a normal part of many laundry routines.
White vinegar is the perfect alternative to fabric softener. And not only does it soften, but it can also take the sour smell out of wet clothes that have sat in a washing machine for too long.
4. Forget the dryer sheets and use wool dryer balls instead!
Up until I started using cloth diapers, I always used dryer sheets. I would get the cheapest ones and cut them in half to make them last longer.
But when I started using cloth diapers, I found out the dryer sheets would leave residue on them. Plus, that residue was leaving toxins on our clothes, too!
I purchased my original ones from Re-Diaper.com, and I also have some from Mighty Nest. Mine have lasted for years. Many Etsy shop owners also sell them, or, if you're crafty, you can even try making your own.
(Can't bear to part with your dryer sheets? Give these homemade dryer sheets a try!)
5. Stop taking your clothes to the dry cleaner.
Traditional dry cleaners contain many potential toxins. I have always avoided clothes that required dry cleaning anyway--even before my natural living days. Back then, I just didn't want the expense!
However, there will always be some items that absolutely must be dry cleaned. Our comforter set is one of those items. Thankfully, we have an organic, non-toxic dry cleaner business in my hometown. If you don't, you may want to check into eco-friendly and non-toxic alternatives to dry cleaning.