Have you tried overhauling your laundry to reduce your exposure to harsh chemicals and reduce your waste?
Conventional laundry detergent and softeners can make your clothes smell what we can think of as fresh and 'clean' smelling, but this smell is often down to a heavy use of synthetic and possibly harmful perfumes. However its not just the fragrances that can be an issue but the harsh cleaning and detergent ingredients that can contain harsh chemicals assosiated with health problems and negative effects on the environment.
Other potentially dangerous substances like sodium laurel sulfate (SLS), ammonia, nonylphenol ethoxylate, phenols, and phosphates may lead to other significant health problems once they come into contact with your skin. In addition, because laundry care manufacturers are not required to list all the ingredients in their laundry detergents, most of them are not even written on the labels, which makes it pretty difficult for us to make informed decisions about which detergents to buy.
Making your own laundry detergent versus buying the 'greener' stuff
I have done so many experiments trying all sorts when it comes to natural laundry, some were disastrous with washing coming out smelling exactly the same as when it went in.
Other recipes and experiments have been slightly more successful, and I wanted to put down a few of my top tips to save you your own triall and errors and to save you some pennies in the long run.
Here is what I learnt:
1. We should all stop using fabric softener. Immediately. This stuff is pure chemical ghastliness.
2. White vinegar does an incredible job naturally softening clothes, as an extra cleaning agent & cleans your washing machine at the same time. Use a capful of this stuff either in the soften compartment or directly in the drum of every wash. You can buy class bottles from the supermarkt (get just plain old white vinegar) or I buy the big 5L bottles on ebay or amazon or make my own from concentrated acid (but you need to be really careful when diluting this stuff, it is seriously strong).
3. I now buy 100ml bottles of pure eucalyptus and keep by my washing mashine for every wash. Simply add 20-odd drops of an essential oil such as eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint or lavender in with your vinegar or powder for gorgeous smelling washing AND additional cleaning properties.
4. Soap nuts need a really hot wash (60 degrees plus) and you need to add essential oils directly to the drum if you want any kind of smell to your washing as clothes washed with soap nuts don’t smell of what we traditionally think of as the ‘clean just washed smell’.
5. Having said the above, I still like using them, as they are so much better for the environment, no plastic is used and it’s a very natural wash. I use them when I need to do a hot wash anyway with things like pants/ sports kit/ towels and sheets. I use them alongside vinegar infused with essential oils.
6. For cooler washes I use either a natural bought detergent (I like ecover if you don’t have access to a re-fillable store with their own natural detergent) or I am pretty happy with the below recipe. I do make my own soap so this is a bit easier, but you can get lovely natural castile soap online in hard bars that you can also melt down to make hand soap or dishwasher detergent (with a little bit of Dr. Bronner concentrated detergent in there).
DIY Natural washing detergent powder recipe
You can make a liquid version; however, this has a shorter shelf life and I don’t find it as strong as the powder version, particularly if you are in a hard water area.
180g Citric acid
85g Bicarbonate of soda
175g finely grated castile or laundry soap
50 drops of essential oil
1. Mix together all ingredients and store in a jar or box. The soap is heavier than the other ingredients so you may need to shake the jar to mix it up before you use it each time.
The baking soda and washing soda help loosen the tougher stains and remove odours; the essential oils will add a nice smell and, in some cases, they will also be beneficial to your fabric. (essential oils like eucalyptus and lemon are known to help remove grease stains.)
It's best to use gloves while working with citric acid.
Makes: 60 washes (2 tablespoons for each load)To make a liquid version of the below, simply melt the soap in 300ml water, take off the heat, then then add other ingredients, stir until fully dissolved. Put into a clean glass container and store in a cool dark place. Use up within 4-6 weeks.