Natural Cleaning Products That Really Make Laundry Sparkle

Karen Patten

Spoiler Alert: I have two boys. I have to do laundry for two boys – although they are old enough that they now help. I’ll add that both boys had eczema in their early years until I figured out the best laundry detergent to make it go away. The popular scented baby detergents didn’t help their sensitive skin – in fact, they made it worse. So I investigated natural cleaning products, including homemade, until I found the best products and soaps for cleaning laundry that really worked and were super simple to use. My most surprising discovery was these cute little things called soap nuts. Here, you’ll find some cool products that give the best non-toxic clean laundry for our family and I’ll share how to use them.

Laundry time. Again. With two boys, I feel like the Dunkin’ Doughnuts guy – time to run the washing machine…

But, seriously. 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).

My First Step Toward Natural Cleaning Products

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 highly sensitive to other substances as well.

My son’s sensitivities started my campaign 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 multitude of toxins, dyes and perfumes in laundry detergents and fabric softeners are 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.

If you have family members with very acute senses of smell or with any skin sensitivities, chemical “fragrance” is the enemy. So how do you keep your family safe?

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Why Check Out Natural Laundry Detergents?

The short answer: 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. Call me dramatic – but I think this bears repeating. Carcinogen – n. a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue.

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! Just about every cleaning and beauty product for sale these days lists “FRAGRANCE” as an ingredient!!! Let’s face it – we love these products because of the fragrance. Especially the baby products – am I right?

Scented laundry products contain hazardous chemicals. Unscented products are the same scented products with another chemical that masks the scent. And our skin absorbs significant percentages of these chemicals. Bad. News.

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? No. Brainer.

Friendsheep Organic Eco Wool Dryer Balls - 6 Pack - 100% Handmade, Fair Trade, Organic, No Lint - Premium QualityFriendsheep Organic Eco Wool Dryer Balls – 6 Pack – 100% Handmade, Fair Trade, Organic, No Lint – Premium QualityFriendsheep Organic Eco Wool Dryer Balls - 6 Pack - 100% Handmade, Fair Trade, Organic, No Lint - Premium QualityNaturOli Soap Nuts/Soap Berries. 1-Lb USDA Organic (240 Loads) + 18X Bonus! (12 Loads) Select Seedless. Wash Bag, Tote Bag, 8-pg info. Organic Laundry Soap/Natural Cleaner. Processed in USA!NaturOli Soap Nuts/Soap Berries. 1-Lb USDA Organic (240 Loads) + 18X Bonus! (12 Loads) Select Seedless. Wash Bag, Tote Bag, 8-pg info. Organic Laundry Soap/Natural Cleaner. Processed in USA!NaturOli Soap Nuts/Soap Berries. 1-Lb USDA Organic (240 Loads) + 18X Bonus! (12 Loads) Select Seedless. Wash Bag, Tote Bag, 8-pg info. Organic Laundry Soap/Natural Cleaner. Processed in USA!NaturOli Extreme 18X Soap Nuts/Soap Berry Liquid Organic Laundry Soap, (3 Pack) Natural HE Detergent & All-Purpose Cleaner. Super-Concentrated, Sulfate-Free. Unscented.NaturOli Extreme 18X Soap Nuts/Soap Berry Liquid Organic Laundry Soap, (3 Pack) Natural HE Detergent & All-Purpose Cleaner. Super-Concentrated, Sulfate-Free. Unscented.NaturOli Extreme 18X Soap Nuts/Soap Berry Liquid Organic Laundry Soap, (3 Pack) Natural HE Detergent & All-Purpose Cleaner. Super-Concentrated, Sulfate-Free. Unscented.Budieggs Wool Dryer Balls Organic XL 6-Pack, 100% New Zealand Chemical Free Fabric Softener for 1000+ Loads, Baby Safe & Hypoallergenic, Reduce Wrinkles & Shorten Drying Time NaturallyBudieggs Wool Dryer Balls Organic XL 6-Pack, 100% New Zealand Chemical Free Fabric Softener for 1000+ Loads, Baby Safe & Hypoallergenic, Reduce Wrinkles & Shorten Drying Time NaturallyBudieggs Wool Dryer Balls Organic XL 6-Pack, 100% New Zealand Chemical Free Fabric Softener for 1000+ Loads, Baby Safe & Hypoallergenic, Reduce Wrinkles & Shorten Drying Time Naturally

 

These Cool Things Called “Soap Nuts”

a linen bag of soap nuts

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 which is an effective, hypoallergenic, biodegradable organic cleaning agent that ends our reliance on sulfates, synthetic chemicals and other toxins.” 

If you want natural cleaning products, want to reduce your impact on the environment, and if you have allergies or sensitive skin, or use cloth diapers, soap nuts are a safe, effective, and dye free alternative to traditionally available laundry detergents. But how do you use them? Easy peasy.

  • 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.
  • When you need to replace them, they start falling apart in the bag.

You can also get super 18x concentrated liquid laundry detergent if you need super stain removal power for grass stains or any other really tough stain. I confess that if I have a load that I feel needs a really super clean, I use the concentrate and it’s amazing! Everything comes out fresh and clean.

Fabric Softener

Non-Toxic Natural Laundry

Once finding out the dangers of traditionally available fabric softeners, I immediately stopped using them. I figured I would investigate what to replace my other products with and get to the “softness” later.

But then I received complaints. A lot of complaints. From a lot of family members.

I discovered that plain white vinegar is a perfect and non-toxic alternative to commercial fabric softeners.

And while I adore a tasty homemade vinaigrette, it’s not my laundry scent of choice. I worried that our clothes would smell like vinegar.

But there is no trace of vinegar smell left and it really does the job getting clothes and towels soft. One of the easiest natural cleaning products ever: vinegar. It’s probably already in your pantry.

Finally, if I want to scent my laundry at the wash stage, I use another favorite natural cleaning product – our favorite essential oil. I just add a few drops 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.

Natural Cleaning Products To Help You Ditch the Dryer Sheets

images of natural cleaning products for laundry and clean, fluffy white towels

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! Organic wool dryer balls that you simply chuck into the dryer are some of the best natural cleaning products our there for your laundry.

They fluff up your clothes and add softness. And there’s absolutely nothing toxic about them. I should add – make sure that you don’t drop any around the house; dogs seem to believe that they are very suspicious and evil and must be destroyed as quickly as possible. Ask me how I know.

Since I love a beautiful fresh scent to our laundry, I add as many drops of our favorite essential oils as I like 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 or somebody to separate and hang the clothes back up for me!

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19 Comments

  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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