Detox your laundry: two ways


laundry detox main

I’d like to talk to you about your dirty laundry.

No, no. Not the clothes pilled on the floor or the ones that actually made it into the hamper.

I want to talk to you about what’s neatly folded in your drawers and hanging in your closet.

We all know that laundry detergents and fabric softeners can cause skin irritation, especially in babies and children. But did you know they contain chemicals that can lead to infertility, damage organs and disrupt hormones? The government doesn’t regulate many of these chemicals and doesn’t require them to be listed in the ingredients. Scary!

So, what’s to be done? There are some safe commercial detergents but they come with a pretty high price tag. Let me suggest Laundry Detox: Two Ways.

Landry Detox One: You’re still a normal person

Normal Person Laundry

DIY laundry detergent and Nellies PVC Free Dryer Balls.

This has been my laundry routine for a while now and I am very happy with it. Our clothes get clean and my wallet doesn’t take a hit. And it’s still pretty normal so when I tell people about it they don’t think I’m crazy.

I use this simple and effective detergent recipe. You should even be able to find all the ingredients at the grocery store, like a normal person!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

1 cup Washing Soda

1 cup Borax

1 bar soap, such as Dr Bronner’s Pure Castille Soap or Fels Naptha

Cut soap into small chunks. Put all ingredients into a food processor (or blender) and blend together. Use 1 tbs for a load of laundry.

While this really is a great almost non-toxic laundry option, Borax can be considered mildly toxic (as in don’t let your kids eat handfuls of it but otherwise it’s safe kind of toxic) and even though the dryer balls are PVC free, I’m not 100% excited about my clothes being tossed around with hot plastic.

So here’s another option.

Laundry Detox Two: You’re totally granola

Granola Laundry

Okay, are you ready to dive into the deep end? Me, too!

Soapberries and wool dryer balls: easy, affordable, zero toxins.

Soapberries aren’t actually soap; they’re seed pods whose chemical compound acts like soap. They’re safe, effective and not overly expensive. I’m already in love with dryer balls (they cut down on dry times) and making them out of a natural material only makes them better. And I don’t hear the wool balls bouncing around in the dryer like I do the plastic ones (which is amazing because our bedroom is directly above the laundry room and I usually put diapers in the dryer right before going to bed.)

Beyond detergent and dryer balls

I recently came across this stain remover  recipe and I am excited to try it. I’m currently using something similar but I like the looks of this one better.

While I think dryer balls are pretty great, the absolutely best way to dry your laundry is in 100% air. We’re pretty spoiled in North America to have dryers. When we lived in Hungary there was a drying rack permanently set up in our bedroom. When it was hot enough to  sun-dry TWO loads of laundry in one day I was one happy woman. So if you have the space or when the sun is shining, skip the dryer entirely!

I’ve yet to find an affordable, non-toxic detergent for cloth diapers that actually works. And apparently both Borax and soap deteriorate elastic thus disqualifying every DIY recipe I’ve ever found so I’m still on the hunt. Maybe soapberries? Maybe I’ll just risk it and try this one? If you know of or use anything you like, let me know in the comments! I (and my baby’s bum) would appreciate it.

Cleaning up your laundry routine is fairly easy. It’s a great place to start removing chemicals from your home and surrounding your family with a little more goodness. It’s the simple changes that make a difference, and what a big difference simple changes make!

Further reading

I found this articles at Mother Earth Living, Science Daily  and Huffinton Post helpful and rather illuminating.


23 thoughts on “Detox your laundry: two ways

  1. I’m just beginning to detoxify my house, so your post was very timely! I just made my own deodorant and body butter (how’s that for granola?!) and look forward to trying my own detergent. Thanks for the post! 🙂

    • I’m so glad this post was helpful! And good for your for detoxifying you house. It can seem daunting to get all the toxins out, but one piece at a time. I make my own lotions but have yet to venture into deodorant (I don’t use it very often). I hope it goes well for you and thanks for stopping by!

  2. Love soapnuts and I am actually working on making my own wool dryer balls. One of the things I love to do with the wool dryer balls is to add a few drops of essential oils to them and your clothes come out smelling great. Sometimes when I don’t feel like making my own detergent or feel like I really need some good cleaning power I use the Rockin Green detergent which is great if you haven’t checked it out yet you should.

    • Making dryer balls? That sounds great! And I hadn’t heard about adding EOs to them. I will definitely do that now! I have used Rockin’ Green and I liked it but it’s just too expensive for me to use regularly on my diapers 😦 Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I LOVE natural skin care so I will definitely be checking you out!

      • Yeah, I will have to do a post on the dryer balls when I am done. Great I hope you like what we have to say and our products. We don’t have much for sale yet but we are making new products every week and we do custom orders. Also if you are interested in making your own natural skin care products we are glad to help point you to places to get ingredients and some great recipes.

  3. Great post. Ill have to give it a try 🙂

  4. I’m totally granola! I use that same detergent recipe and hang dry about half our stuff. About deodorant…..milk of magnesia actually works amazing! Just the plain stuff people use for indigestion or whatever. I used to use clinical strength dove because nothing else would work and I’m a total convert to milk of magnesia now. It’s amazing!

    • Kerry, you will have to tell me more about this milk of magnesia thing. I am a very sweaty person, so I’ve been using “clinical strength” deoderants (whatever that means), but I am anxious about the crazy chemicals being soaked up through my armpits.

      I love having your granola-ness in my life!

      • You just apply it straight out of the bottle with your fingertips – or you could use a sponge or something. I put some in a smaller glass bottle (just because the bottle it comes in is really big and annoying with a large opening that pours everywhere if you’re not careful) and refill it every few weeks. Then I pour a small amount on my fingertips and pat on my underarms. Wait for it to dry and you’re good to go! A couple tips: don’t put it on freshly shaved armpits, it irritates. I also make sure my underarms are well washed/exfoliated so you’re not covering up old smells/skin. And it’s not an anti perspirant, you’ll still sweat. So it might take a bit to get used to it. I’m sweaty too but I find because I’m less focused on the smell now, I sweat less! I’ve tried lots of different natural deodorants and way prefer this. And one $10 bottle will last you till you’re like 57 hahah. And its totally worth it to give me peace of mind about Alzheimer’s!

    • I’m interested in the milk of magnesia as well. I’ve heard about it before but am not sure how to apply it, etc. I’m not sweaty so I just buy a natural deodorant but I’m always interested in other methods and like to know what to recommend to people!

      The detergent recipe is the gold standard. It’s fantastic!

  5. Just ordered some Molly Suds for my laundry. Only a tablespoon at a time in each front load of laundry. The website has one just for diapers too. I would like to look into wool dryer balls too but when the sun starts coming out again and it warms up a bit I will be hanging my laundry.

  6. Let me tell you about laundry in Zimbabwe. First of all, I don’t do my own (so I’m storing away all this great info until I’m back in Canada). Second, I am betting that whatever detergent is used to wash my clothes probably isn’t great for me or for the environment.

    Most of our clothes are air dried outside, which is wonderful. They are, however, ironed once they come in (which makes caring for more ‘needy’ clothing complicated). I learned that clothes are ironed to avoid a certain bug (prepare for gros) laying eggs in your skin.

    In short, IRON AWAY!

    Love this post, by the way. Very informative. I am excited to get natural dryer balls of some sort when I return to North America and do my own laundry again!

    • You just confirmed that Ryan’s internship WILL NOT be in Africa.

      It is hard when these things are outside of your control. We’re sharing laundry machines and the other detergent used is not what I prefer but that’s when you just have to let it go. There are worse things in the world and one day my (and your) laundry situation will be what we want it to be!

  7. Thanks for the post Erin! I’ve used dryer balls for a while now and would never go back to anything else, but I have yet to try wool ones. I’d like to start detoxing other areas of my life and especially making my own stuff rather than buying organic or natural shampoo, detergent, soap, etc. as I am finding that to be fairly expensive. Would love to see other post like this!

    • Thanks so much, Rachel! I’m glad this post was helpful. I will definitely be doing more about natural living and DIY. There are tutorials about making wool dryer balls so check it out! If you sell them I will definitely promote them here!

  8. Oooh, I’m totally granola! I made my own dryer balls from some very expensive Alpaca yarn (2 skeins!) that our puppy got into…she created so many knots and tangles! So instead of crying and throwing the yarn out, I searched out a tutorial on Pinterest and set to felting!
    On the topic of soap nuts…You can detox your hair by making a shampoo/rinse from them…if you’d like to try the no-poo thing. I found the link randomly and made my soapnut shampoo the other day:

    • Good for you for turning what could be a rather unpleasant situation into a good one! I think I’ll try to make my own next time.
      I’m going to look into soap-nut shampoo. I use baking soda and vinegar (classic no-poo) most of the year but for some reason it doesn’t work for me in the winter. I’m always on the lookout for great granola options. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. So how do you keep dishcloths and the like from building up a funky smell? Because I admit that those sometimes still get a hit of bleach. It seems like a better option than tossing them out and starting with new ones! I’ve considered buying the soap nuts, but I’m having a hard time spending the money when I don’t know anyone who can confirm they actually work 🙂 My plastic dryer balls don’t seem to make much difference unless I’m trying to wash something like pillows….but Sam likes playing with them because of the little nubs on them 😉

    • I LOVE SOAP NUTS! And I know the family that owns the company linked in my post so if you do want them, please order from there! They’re doing a lot of great work.

      Bleach: I hate it, though I get why people use it. I wash all our towels in very hot water for the longest cycle possible and don’t have problems with them smelling. I also change them out almost every day and let them dry before tossing them in the laundry basket. I know hydrogen peroxide works as a bleach, though I’m not sure how much and at what cycle you would use it in landry. I’m sure Pinterest knows!

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