Laundry time. Again. With two boys, I feel like the Dunkin’ Doughnuts guy – time to do the laundry… But how can you clean laundry naturally and feel that your family’s clothes are clean and fresh and safe to wear 24/7? (Ok, children enjoy nudity sometimes, so maybe not completely 24/7 – but you get the gist).
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If you’ve been hanging out with me here, you may remember that one of my sons has a lot of food sensitivities and several food allergies. It seemed reasonable that if he had a lot of food sensitivities, his body may be sensitive to other things as well. So I wanted to learn about and remove as many toxins from our home as possible. Our largest organ, our skin, absorbs a LOT of potential toxins. A study from the University of Washington found that scented laundry products emit more than twenty-five hazardous chemicals through dryer vents. Two of these chemicals – acetaldehyde and benzene – are classified by the EPA as carcinogens.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health looked into the skin’s absorption rates of chemicals found in drinking water. It showed that the skin absorbed an average of 64% of total contaminant dosage. Other studies found the face to be several times more permeable than broad body surfaces and an absorption rate of 100% for underarms and genitalia. And another peer-reviewed study showed 100% absorption for fragrance ingredients.
YIKES! “Fragrance” is listed on just about every cleaning and beauty product for sale these days!!! Scented laundry products contain hazardous chemicals (and unscented products are the same scented products with another chemical added to mask the scent). And our skin absorbs significant percentages of these chemicals. Bad. News.
A multitude of toxins in laundry detergents and fabric softeners, and environmental toxins in general, are being linked to neurological disorders and a multitude of other diseases. The Brain Wash is a book that’s been recommended to me and I’ll be checking it out to read more about possible links between environmental toxins and disease as well as ways to reduce our toxic load.
The fragrance in products is also a real negative if you have family members with very acute senses of smell or with skin sensitivities. So how do you protect your family?
Learning about all the dangers of traditionally available laundry detergents and softeners led me to immediately target our three main laundry products – detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets. I’ve replaced each with super simple and less expensive alternatives! Simple, less expensive, and non-toxic? A no brainer.
Clean Laundry Naturally – Ditch the Detergent & Fabric Softener
I use soap nuts (or soap berries) to clean laundry naturally. What are soap nuts? My favorite brand of soap nuts explains that “soap nuts release saponin (an effective, hypoallergenic, biodegradable organic cleaning agent that ends our reliance on sulfates, synthetic chemicals and other toxins).” How do you use them? This is the best part! I put 4-5 new soap nuts in the included cloth bag. and toss it in the washer. That’s it! I can use those same soap nuts for between 4-6 loads. You’ll immediately know when they are ready to be replaced, they just start to fall apart in the bag. If you want to clean laundry naturally, want to reduce your impact on the environment, have allergies or sensitive skin, or use cloth diapers, soap nuts are a safe and effective alternative to traditionally available laundry detergents. The other thing that I love about these soap nuts is that the company makes a super 18x concentrated liquid laundry cleaner as well. I confess that if I have a load that I feel needs a really super clean, I use the concentrate and it’s amazing! Things come out fresh and clean.
Once finding out about traditionally available fabric softeners, I immediately stopped using them while I investigated what to replace my other products with. And then I received complaints. From a lot of family members. I found out that plain white vinegar is a perfect and non-toxic alternative to commercial fabric softeners. I was really worried that our clothes would smell like vinegar, but there is no trace of vinegar smell left and they really do the job getting clothes and towels soft.
Finally, if I want to scent my laundry at the wash stage, I add a couple of drops of our favorite essential oil to the vinegar. The acid in the vinegar helps to disperse the essential oils throughout the load, leaving it smelling delicious! And I can use any scent or combination that I want to! When I first tried this, I was afraid that I would get oily spots on our clothes – but that didn’t happen either.
Clean Laundry Naturally – Ditch the Dryer Sheets
The problem with dryer sheets is that those “scents” are designed to “stick” to our clothes. Remember how toxic “fragrance” is? I’ve found the solution! Natural, organic wool dryer balls can be added to the dryer. They fluff up your clothes and add softness. But, since I’m the kinda’ girl who writes a blog called Spoil My Family, I always feel the need to guild the lily a little bit and up the anti. I add several drops of our favorite essential oils to the wool dryer balls to scent the entire load. Our absolute favorite combination of essential oils for the dryer is lavender and spearmint. Odd sounding – but a wonderful and fresh combination. During the winter, I also love the wonderful cinnamon and clove scented Thieves blend.
So these are the ways that we’ve found to remove the toxins from our laundry process and then replace them with less expensive, non-toxic alternatives. Now, if I could just find something that would separate and hang the clothes back up for me!