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

Skip the toxic fabric softeners and pour 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar or 1 cup of baking soda into the washer instead.

Alternatively, you can buy a small pack of wool dryer balls online. They’re about 2 or 3 times the cost of a box of dryer sheets or bottle of liquid softener, but they last for hundreds of loads, so you actually save money in the long run.

Wool balls also help your clothes to dry faster, which saves you money on the energy bill. The wool doesn’t shed onto clothing, so the dryer balls are hypoallergenic and safe for people with wool sensitivities.

Soften laundry with baking soda
  • Add the clothes and laundry detergent to the washing machine as usual.
  • Pour one cup of baking soda over the clothes and wash.
Soften laundry with white vinegar
  • Add the clothes and laundry detergent to the washing machine as usual.
  • Add half a cup of distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser and wash.
  • If your washing machine doesn’t have a dispenser, add the vinegar to 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.
Soften laundry with wool balls
  • Toss a couple wool balls in the dryer as you would a dryer sheet.
  • Wool dryer balls reduce the drying time, so set the timer for 10-15 minutes less than you normally would.
  • Wool dryer balls last hundreds of dryer cycles, so reuse them over and over.
Give clothes a truly natural scent (Optional)
  • 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.
  • Try lavender, peppermint, lemon, rosemary, tea tree, clove, vanilla, chamomile or eucalyptus oil.
  • Use only light-colored oils, as darker oils may stain clothing.

Good To Know

  • Use only white vinegar. Darker versions such as balsamic or apple cider vinegar can stain fabrics.
  • You can use each of these vinegar or baking soda solutions alone, or use them together for extra cleaning, deodorizing and softening power.
  • Pure wool dryer balls, white vinegar and baking soda are all hypoallergenic and safe for those with skin sensitivities.
  • White vinegar and baking soda dissolve soapy residue from the washing machine and pipes as they soften your laundry. This helps to lower the risk of plumbing issues later on.
  • White vinegar and baking soda are also natural deodorizers. White vinegar kills odor-causing bacteria in the laundry, while baking soda neutralizes sweaty odors. Both effectively remove the smell of manufacturing chemicals from new clothes.
  • Baking soda also neutralizes the smell of musty towels and bathing suits that have been sitting in the hamper or that smell like chlorine.
  • 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.

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