Clean Laundry Naturally without Toxic Chemicals

Karen Patten

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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Traditional laundry products emit volatile organic compounds, several of which are classified as carcinogens. Want to know how to eliminate them and clean laundry naturally?

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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.

Do you want to learn simple and easy ways to eliminate toxins, clean laundry naturally, and still get it clean and super fresh smelling? #cleanlaundrynaturally #nontoxiclaundry

How can you eliminate the toxins from your laundry and still get it clean and fresh smelling?

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

These can help you ditch the toxins in your laundry detergent. Find out what soap nuts are and how to use them to clean laundry naturally. #cleanlaundrynaturally #nontoxiccleaning

Using soap nuts is really cost effective and super easy!

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

These are such a great solution to removing the toxins contained in your traditionally available fabric softeners and dryer sheets to help you clean laundry naturally. #cleanlaundrynaturally #cleanlaundry #naturalcleaners #nontoxiclaundry #laundrywithouttoxins #nontoxiccleaning #essentialoils #essentialoilsforcleaning #essentialoilsforlaundry #soapnuts #wooldryerballs

Wool Dryer balls are a great solution. Plus, you get to create your own favorite fresh scent!

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.

Using non-toxic alternatives to clean laundry naturally is cheaper and more cost effective than you think!

Finding non-toxic ways to clean laundry naturally is easier and more cost effective than you think!

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!


  1. Addie on September 14, 2015 at 11:31 am

    Ok wow, that’s purely natural! I use seventh generation laundry detergent & it is naturally derived. It’s definitely necessar for sensitive people!

    • Karen Patten on September 14, 2015 at 10:51 pm

      Thanks for stopping by! Try soap nuts and see what you think!

  2. SARAH on September 14, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    This is a great post, especially for someone like me that has wanted to change laundry detergents but have yet to make the move. Thanks for sharing these important tips!

    • Karen Patten on September 14, 2015 at 10:52 pm

      Thank you! There are so many good reasons to make a change! I hope you give something more natural a try and let me know what you think!

  3. Hillary Cole on September 14, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    Oh my gosh I have never heard of soap nuts! We use vinegar in our wash cycle all the time. I will have to check those out!

    • Karen Patten on September 14, 2015 at 10:53 pm

      Isn’t vinegar the best??? I couldn’t believe that our laundry didn’t smell like it! It really works!!

  4. Sheryl on September 14, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    I have never heard of soap nuts before but certainly think this is something worth trying. Thank you for the information.

    • Karen Patten on September 14, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      Absolutely! Thank you for stopping by! Let me know if you give soap nuts a try!

  5. Angela on September 15, 2015 at 9:30 am

    I love soap nuts too! I am going to try adding the essential oils to the wash, I have put a few drops on my dryer balls but don’t notice much of a scent from that. Thank you for the ideas!

    • Karen Patten on September 15, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      I confess – I always feel like I’m going a little heavy on the scent 🙂 I add about 5-7 drops in the wash and about 4-5 drops on each dryer ball (usually 1/2 and 1/2 with the different oils). But after the load comes out – it’s noticeable, but not overpowering! And, aren’t soap nuts the bees knees? I love that I only have to change them out about every 5 loads or so!

  6. Leigh Powell Hines on September 15, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Such great natural remedies to laundry. I am doing the house this way, too.

  7. Carissa on September 15, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    I love wool dryer balls! I’ve been doing without fabric softener for years and dryer balls do make the clothes much softer. Adding EOs is a great idea; thank you!

    • Karen Patten on September 16, 2015 at 12:02 am

      Enjoy! I’d love to know your favorite scent 🙂

  8. Alecia @CSNY on September 17, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Do you know if they’ll work well in really hard water? I’d love something more natural for our cloth diapers but that’s not something I can afford to skimp on cleaning ability with!

    • Karen Patten on September 18, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      Soap nuts do work in hard water…but it’s a little bit harder. I would recommend using the soap nuts liquid concentrate for diapers as well as using hot/hotter water. There are other recommendations to treat the hard water (adding either Calgon or RLR), but I wouldn’t trust them to be safe for your baby’s diapers. I’d love to hear how they work with your hard water!

  9. Deborah Davis on September 21, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    Using soap nuts and wool dryer balls instead of toxic chemical-filled laundry products makes so much sense! We must protect our families and oursellves from unncessary exposure to toxins. Thank you for sharing his healthy, natural alternative with us at the Healthy Happy Green and Natural Party Blog Hop! I’m pinning and sharing. I can’t wait to see what you share with

    us next!

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Hi, I’m Karen, the Atlanta mama, writer, and creator at Intentional Family Life. I’m a passionate advocate for intentional living so that you can experience all that you deserve for yourself and your family. Here, I inspire moms to chose what matters most and then to only do the things that move them closer to what matters most. Read More About Karen…

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