We have been using natural or fragrance-free laundry solutions for a number of years. Recently two different friends needed to borrow the washer and dryer, and I was overwhelmed by the smell of the chemical fragrances of the laundry solution and dryer sheets that they had brought over to use with their laundry. The marketing on the dryer sheet box was very deceptive. It said 'Lavender' and had pictures of flowers, but it was just scented with something synthetic. Synthetic fragrances are made with proprietary ingredients, so it is hard to know what exactly is in them, but many contain harmful Pthalates and other ingredients which lead to allergic or asthmatic reactions. An introduction to synthetic fragrances with more info can be found at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. These fragrances wash down into the water supply and are harmful to the ecosystem.
In the past I used a variety of unscented powdered detergent from Arm and Hammer. I alternated using it with soap nuts and soapwort root. I still use soapwort and soap nuts together in a mesh bag for very lightly soiled laundry, like sheets or towels, quilts, and darker colored items. I have found that you need to use the soapwort roots together with soap nuts otherwise whites will come out very dull looking.
If you have children who like to get very messy or if you have diapers to wash, you probably won't find soapnuts and soapwort very satisfying. But you might like this homemade laundry soap recipe from the Family Homestead. I suggest following this recipe precisely, as it is not particularly forgiving to modifications.
|Lavender Lemongrass Hard Hand soap by AquarianBath|
1/3 bar of soap (We use about 2 oz of a hard hand soap)
½ cup washing soda
½ cup borax powder
~You will also need a small bucket, about 2 gallon size
Grate the soap and put it in a large pot. Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts. Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket. Add the soap mixture and stir. Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel. Use 1/2 cup per load.
You can also add a few drops of a deodorizing essential oil to the batch such as lemon, orange, cinnamon, or use Lavender essential oil. Stir up the solution before using it each time as it will separate. Do not use more than 1/2 cup per load or you may find the solution will fade out your colored fabrics. Sometimes I will add a drop or 2 of essential oil to the load if there is anything stinky in the laundry. This laundry soap is not a magic bullet for soiled items that need pre-treatment to prevent stains, but it does the job for regular loads.
I am a big fan of line drying laundry to save energy. However when it is raining out or when I want to soften up the laundry, I like using felted wool dryer balls. The balls bounce around in the dryer to help soften up laundry that has been out on the line. They also eliminate static. These dryer balls are from Bog Berry Dryer Balls. Brooke provided these to me to review under no obligation. They are very effective and I love the colors. They came in a handy drawstring tote, perfect for travel to a laundry mat. These dryer balls are made from local wool.
I like to add up to 4 drops of my Lemon essential oil to one dryer ball to deodorized any loads that need a little extra freshening. The essential oil comes in handy for drying diapers, loads left in the washing machine a bit too long, kitchen rags, or potty training clean up rags. It feels good to know that the deodorizing essential oils, my favorite being lemon, actually help to remove odors instead of just masking them in the way that chemical fragrances do.
With these natural and chemical fragrance free laundering options, is there any other pollutant in our wash that we need to look out for? Nov 1, 2011 researchers concluded in an article published in Environmental Science and Technology that laundering of synthetic fabrics such as polyester and acrylic were contributing to microplastic pollution. These microplastics are contaminating beaches and working their way up the food chain. Even worse microplastics have been shown to absorb toxic chemicals such as PCBs, DDT, and dioxins. Learn more in this article at Ecocoture. Shop with ecologically safe laundering in mind. Choose cottons, linen, hemp, or wool. Skip the polyfleece.