Switching to natural laundry soaps is one of the easiest transitions to make. Although many conventional brands offer unscented or 'natural' versions, I prefer to make my own. For one, brands like Tide, Gain, Ivory and Cheer, are all on the Top Ten Laundry Products To AVOID list by the EWG (Environmental Working Group). So, even if they have a 'natural' version, I'd rather not give them any of my money! Also, although there are a number of great green brands that make laundry soaps, I find it's SO much cheaper to make my own. Here's my favourite recipe, plus some tips for natural ways to remove tough clothing stains.
What to AVOID
Laundry soaps and stain removers can often contain a number of toxic ingredients. The EWG tested 821 laundry products and 721 of them fell into the two lowest grades, meaning they contained a high number of toxins. Only 12% of the laundry products tested received a passing grade. The majority of these products contained asthma and respiratory irritants and skin irritants. Many contained ingredients flagged for their reproductive and developmental concerns. Not to mention, Canadians pour 3 million pounds of household cleaners down the drain every day, meaning some of these chemicals are entering our drinking water and causing harm to aquatic species.
Stain removers can also contain hazardous chemicals, such as Quaternium-15 which can trigger asthma and releases formaldehyde, a carcinogen. Another harmful ingredient is MIT, a potent allergen that's been found to cause dermatitis.
Since manufacturers are not required to list all of the ingredients and terms like 'fragrance' can hide thousands of ingredients, it can be hard to know exactly what's in a product. Also, manufacturers are not required to disclose breakdown products, an example being an ingredient that releases formaldehyde. I've NEVER seen formaldehyde on any ingredients list, have you?!
To steer clear of the most hazardous ingredients, the EWG recommends avoiding products that use the following terms on labels -
- Anionic or nonionic surfactants
- Alcohol ethoxylate(s)
- Fabric-brightening agent
Natural Stain Removers
These are some of my best tips for natural stain and odour fighting!
- For sweat stains, soak clothing in a 1:1 mixture of white vinegar and water and soak overnight.
- For eliminating tough smells on clothing (even shoes!), place in a sealable bag and leave in your freezer for a few days. The freezing temperatures will kill the bacteria that cause odour.
- For blood, fruit or red wine stains, use hydrogen peroxide. Soak the area for a few minutes, then use a towel to dab and pull the stain out.
- For grass stains, oil stains and other tough dirt (turmeric anyone?!), soak clothing as soon as possible in cold water. Use bar soap directly on the stain, rubbing the soap in and then gently rub clothing. Leave to soak overnight, then launder as usual.
DIY Laundry Detergent Recipe
2 cup washing soda
1 bar castile soap (I use Dr Bronner's baby unscented which is 140grams)
- Grate bar of soap very finely. Use a hand grater or cut soap into chunks and pulse in a food processor fitted with the ’S’ blade. The finer the better.
- Add grated soap and washing soda to a large bowl and stir well to combine.
- Store in a glass jar with a lid and keep in a cool, dry place.
- To use, add 2 Tbsp for regular loads and 3 Tbsp for large or very soiled loads.
To add scent, use 20-30 drops of essential oils per load, adding it before use (if you add it sooner, the scent will fade, best to add it right before washing).
If washing on a cold setting, dissolve laundry soap in a little hot water first and then add to detergent compartment.
NOTE: If you have a HE washer, start with half the amount of soap (1 Tbsp for regular and 1.5 for large/very soiled). If your machine is still under warranty, read the fine print before using to make sure they don't specify what types of detergents you need to use.