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I’ll admit it, I was a tide junkie. Not to mention my obsession with the smell of snuggle dryer sheets. I never really put much thought into what exactly was in either of those products. Good smelling laundry meant squeaky clean clothes, right? Who doesn’t love the smell of “clean cotton”? I had more candles and car fresheners in that scent then I care to admit. I’ve tried all the different scents of laundry detergents in the ultimate quest to find which ones made my clothes smell the best. More recently I even started adding scent beads to the wash. The more dryer sheets I used, the better. I don’t know how I thought any of this was healthy!
One day while visiting a friend, she mentioned to me that she had switched to Soapberry Suds, an organic laundry detergent. She briefly mentioned how toxic traditional laundry detergent was, and why she had switched. She told me this Soapberry stuff was cloth diaper safe and gave me a little zip lock bag with a couple of scoops to try. Well that, my friends, opened a whole can of worms for me. I started questioning if regular laundry detergent was really so bad. Then I went on a different kind of laundry quest- to find a safe, natural alternative that I could use for both my clothes and my daughter’s cloth diapers. Guess what? Regular detergent is pretty bad. Here’s a glimpse into what I found.
Why is laundry detergent so bad anyway?
The more I started reading about laundry detergent the more I realized I had been tricked into thinking, like so many of us, that a strong fragrance and “optical brighteners” meant super clean clothes. Unfortunately those marketing tactics are not revealing the scary truth about what is actually in laundry detergent. Do a quick google search and you will easily find that most detergents are made with toxic chemicals that have been linked to various health problems. They also do not biodegrade easily.
After washing, the chemicals that remain in the water go down your pipes and find their way into waterways, damaging ecosystems and wreaking havoc on the environment. The more I read into it, the more scary facts I found. Like chemicals found in sunscreens, lotions, shampoos, and other beauty products were found to be the cause of bleaching out coral reefs. Yikes. [source] That is something I just do not want to contribute to. Not to mention the chemicals from the detergent stay in the fibers of your clothing. Which your skin can then absorb. Just something to be mindful of.
Petrochemicals, which are a byproduct of the oil and natural gas industry, are frequently found in commercial laundry detergents. They are known to be carcinogenic, neuro-toxic, and disruptive to the endocrine system. Some ingredients that are used in the US are already banned in Canada and Europe.
In my nursing career I have been made aware of the deadly effects that happen when children accidentally ingest laundry detergent, especially laundry pods. They are extremely neuro toxic and many children unfortunately, do not survive it. [consumer reports article about laundry pods] Just another reason not to have those in my house.[source][source][source]
Dryer sheets aren’t actually softening your clothes. They are just coating your clothing with chemicals that make them feel softer. Hmm, no thanks. I don’t want to turn a blind eye to these things anymore. With so many options to purchase natural products out there, I really don’t have to, and neither do you!
But can natural laundry detergent actually get your clothes clean?
Here are a few of my favorite natural alternatives I have tried.
Soapberry suds uses soap nuts along with a few other ingredients such as baking soda to get your clothes clean.
Here are the ingredients: Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Percarbonate, Sapindus Mukorossi (organic soapberry), Sodium Bicarbonate
What are these soap nuts you say? They’re not nuts at all. They are a fruit that comes from bushes, small trees, and shrubs in the Lychee family. The fruit has a natural surfactant property. Apparently people have been using these since ancient times. [source] I know, it blew my mind too. I could not believe how clean it got my clothes. The scoop is small, and uses much less detergent than I am used to. I was skeptical at first. Plus it has no scent. My clothes came out perfectly clean. No overpowering perfume fragrance, but yet they still smelled like clean clothes. The jar it comes in lasts a long time and is completely biodegradeable. I purchased this in June and I still have some left (although I have been alternating with Nellie’s, and Molly’s suds.)
This is one of my absolute favorites. It works great! I will be buying this again.
BONUS: If your husband hunts, like mine does, this will not leave any scent on clothes. You will NOT have to wash your husband’s hunting clothes separately with some expensive “scent killer” laundry detergent that is full of chemicals. I’ve seen hunters on instagram write that they use soapnuts for their hunting clothes, so if you need proof just search for it so you can show him. Or just do what I do and don’t tell him. I’m the one doing the laundry anyway 😉 BTW he already got a deer this year, so it does work! [Buy it here]
Nellie’s Laundry Soda
I really enjoyed Nellie’s Laundry Soda. You can find it on amazon for under 19 dollars [amazon affiliate link] or at Target for about 22.
Here are the ingredients: Soda Ash, Linear Alcohol Ethoxylate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Metasilicate, Sodium Carbonate.
One tin lasted me about 4 months, but I also use 2 scoops because we have very hard water. According to Nellie’s the product is hypoallergenic, residue free, uses all natural ingredients, leaves clothes fresh and soft, and is super concentrated. Hence only needing one small scoop. My clothes come out clean and fresh every time. It works great on cloth diapers. I don’t see why you couldn’t use this on hunting clothes as it leaves no fake scent. It comes in a nice metal tin, which you can recycle, or if you are crafty I’m sure you can re-purpose it. Overall Nellie’s works great. I would definitely recommend it.
Molly’s suds is another great product. I was originally given a free sample to try and immediately fell in love. I now buy it on amazon, but they have it at Target and I’m sure at other stores.
Here are the ingredients: Proprietary blend of: sodium carbonate (sourced from the Green River Basin in WY), sodium bicarbonate, magnesium sulfate (heptahydrate), unrefined sea salt, organic peppermint (menthe piperita) oil.
This is by far my favorite for both our clothes and the cloth diapers. Not only does it work great, but it leaves a very light clean scent. I don’t mind having unscented laundry detergent but it’s nice that this one has some peppermint essential oil added to it! I love the mission of their company and the story on which it was founded. (Plus the founder is a nurse, so you know, nurses unite 🙂 ) .
From the Molly’s suds website:
Our company came about in a very unexpected way. Our daughter Molly was born in 2005 but she never took a breath. As a pediatric nurse and mother to three other healthy children, this was not just a tragedy, it was a shock. We knew Molly was serving our mighty God, but the nurse in me yearned to know what could have caused her stillbirth. I began to read everything I could about stillbirths and uncovered a disturbing fact that would change our lives. In the United States alone 80,000 chemicals were approved for use by the TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) and yet only 200 of the toxins were tested for human safety.
Read more here . They also have unscented laundry powder, as well as one that is specially formulated for cloth diapers. I just used the regular one on my cloth diapers and had no issues. There are tons of reviews on amazon that say this is the best detergent for people with eczema. I can’t attest to that but I will say based on the ingredients I can see why.
One thing I will say about switching to natural detergent in general is that I found my clothes to feel stiff at first. I was used to the chemical softening of detergents and dryer sheets. Instead of my beloved snuggle, I found a much safer and natural alternative to softening clothes.
I first ordered dryer balls from Buckaroo Organics when I ordered the Soapberry Suds. I figured, if I was going to start using natural laundry detergent, I had better get rid of the toxic dryer sheets as well. I didn’t think I would like using the dryer balls as much as I do. First of all, not only do they eliminate static, but they really do soften your clothes. Plus they somehow reduce drying time. I either use 3 big ones or 6 small ones at a time. The ones I bought in June from Buckaroo are still good, but I did purchase more from amazon, which I love. Buy them here [amazon affiliate link]. Molly’s suds carries dryer balls as well.
The best part about them, in my opinion, is that you can add any essential oils to them if you want to make your clothes smell amazing. When your clothes have about about 5-10 minutes left in the drying cycle, add a few drops of essential oil to the wool balls and dry for the remaining time. My favorite essential oils to add are fir needle and cedarwood. I have also used sweet orange, grapefruit, and cinnamon with great results. Your clothes will have a nice fresh scent from whatever you added, but it won’t be overpowering.
You can make your own dryer balls if you buy virgin, un-dyed wool yarn and wind it into a tight ball yourself.
The only downfall I’ve found with these are that my dog likes them too…
I’ve noticed that when I smell laundry washed with any traditional detergent now, it smells way too fake and overpowering to me. I really enjoy knowing that I am using biodegradable detergent that cleans my clothes without harming the environment.
All of the detergents I tried were either comparable in price to Tide, or slightly less expensive while lasting just as long, and cleaning just as well (if not better). You can also find affordable natural detergent at local stores such as Target, or Walmart instead of buying it online.
You can find a list of safe detergents on the Environmental Working Group’s website here
Don’t be afraid to use natural detergents!
You’ll be doing your family and the Earth a favor.
I’m happy to say that I’m now a natural laundry detergent junkie 😀