You know how those fabric softener commercials show pretty moms getting all cozy with a dryer sheet? Or taking a big ol’ whiff of their towels after they come out of the dryer? If your fabric softener has chemicals in it, don’t do that!
Liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets make our clothes feel soft and cuddly by leaving a layer of slimy, asthma-inducing, skin-irritating chemicals on them. Just the thing you want sitting on your kid’s skin all day, right?
And the lovely, fresh scent? Also chemicals — the kind suspected of causing cancer and disrupting our hormones.
Natural laundry softeners – vinegar and baking soda
Why use toxic (not to mention expensive) fabric softeners, when you can just pop some all-natural and inexpensive white vinegar or baking soda into the washer instead?
White vinegar and baking soda dissolve soapy residue from the washing machine and pipes. So not only to they soften your laundry, but they helps to lower the risk of plumbing issues at the same time! If that’s not enough of a bonus, they are both natural deodorizers as well. White vinegar kills odor-causing bacteria in the laundry, while baking soda neutralizes sweaty odors by absorbing them and then flushing them in the rinse cycle.
To soften your laundry using baking soda, simply add the clothes and laundry detergent to the washing machine as usual. Then pour one cup of baking soda over the clothes and wash.
To soften with vinegar, add the clothes and laundry detergent to the washing machine. Add half a cup of distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser and wash. If your washer doesn’t have a dispenser, add the vinegar to the main area of the washing machine during the rinse cycle. Wash cycles usually last around 10 minutes before the rinse cycle begins. So set a timer for 10 minutes, check that the washer’s rinse indicator is lit and drizzle half a cup of white vinegar over the clothes.
NOTE: Use only white vinegar. Darker versions such as balsamic or apple cider vinegar can stain fabrics.
Soften laundry with wool ballsWool dryer balls may seem expensive, when compared to a box of dryer sheets or bottle of liquid softener. But they last for hundreds of loads, so you actually save quite a bit of money in the long run. They also help your clothes to dry faster, which saves you money on the energy bill as well.
Even without using vinegar or baking soda in the wash, wool dryer balls will do the trick. Toss 2 to 3 wool balls in the dryer as you would a dryer sheet. Since the dryer balls reduce the drying time, set the timer for 10-15 minutes less than you normally would. And since they last hundreds of dryer cycles, you can reuse them over and over — for months.
Allergic to wool? Don’t worry. The wool doesn’t shed onto clothing, so the dryer balls are hypoallergenic and safe for people with wool sensitivities.
Adding essential oils to your laundry (Optional)To add a nice scent to your laundry, simply mix 4 drops of essential oil into the half cup of vinegar. That’s about 1-1/2 teaspoons of essential oil, if you’re using a one-gallon container. You can also drizzle 3 or 4 drops onto the wool dryer balls, if you use them.
Be sure to use only light-colored oils, as darker oils may stain clothing. Lavender, peppermint, lemon, rosemary, tea tree, clove, vanilla, chamomile, or eucalyptus oil are all good options.
Dry your clothes outdoors
If you prefer to dry your clothes outdoors the ol’ fashion way, clotheslines are a must-have. A simple rope-style clothesline will do, but if you prefer something with more space and support (racks and umbrella styles, for example) look for sturdy construction that won’t rust with rain, won’t blow over with heavy winds, and won’t sag if you dry something heavy on it, such as wet towels or blankets.
Good to know
- Pure wool dryer balls, white vinegar and baking soda are all hypoallergenic and safe for those with skin sensitivities.
- Just as white vinegar brightens the colors of Easter eggs, it also brightens the colors in your clothes.
- Baking soda boosts the cleaning power of your laundry detergent.
- Vinegar should not be used with PUL (polyurethane) diaper fabrics because the soft plastic fibers can degrade over time.