This post contains affiliate links of things I have actually purchased and use. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to click on the link, but if you do buy, I get a little kick-back from Amazon. 🙂
A little over 2 years ago I got on an “all natural” product kick. I was already eating a “chemical free” diet, due to my sulfite sensitivity, so it seemed like the next step. I had hopes that making my own would be easier, less expensive, and be just better. There was also the bonus that I wouldn’t be subjecting my body, and my family, to anything potentially toxic, nor would the grey water from my drains contribute to any sort of pollution or toxic buildup on our surrounding land or the farm next door.
I went all out. I made my own laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, stain pre-treater/remover, all-purpose cleaner, scouring powder, hand soap, bar soap, and hair detangler. I tried other things like vinegar for a glass cleaner, dishwasher rinse aid, and fabric softener, the “no-poo” method for my hair, and “oil cleansing” my face.
Fast forward, and only a few of the “natural/chemical free” methods have stuck around.
We are outdoor people. On any given day, my daughter has dirt stains on her backside, grass stains on her knees, and/or mud stains on her shirt. And she never, ever lets a little thing like wearing a dress or “school clothes” stop her from partaking in whatever adventure is happening at the moment.
My sweetheart works with his hands. Be it on an engine or other machine, or woodworking, or cooking or grilling, his clothes usually have spots of grease, oil, dirt, grass, mud, blood, ash, or any other unidentifiable substance on them on a daily basis. Luckily he’s a jeans and tee sort of guy, and he does his own laundry, so no special trips to the cleaners for me, ever.
My mess is usually confined to cooking-related spills or splats. I try to designate specific clothes for days I know will be messy (gardening, mudding, camping, etc.) and I don’t really care if those get stained. But I do use “mama cloths” so there’s always that.
I needed something easy to use, cheap and easy to make, and that actually worked, no matter what laundry detergent I was experimenting with at the time. Turns out, my first attempt was all that, and I stick with it even today.
- 1 part Dawn dish soap
- 3 parts hydrogen peroxide
Put them in a spray bottle, shake really well, and spray it on the stain. Then wash normally. Easy as that!
Yes, I know this isn’t the most natural of cleaning products, and there are some concerning ingredients in Dawn, but it satisfied:
- quick and easy to make
- quick and easy to use
- it works
Seriously, it works. No soaking or scrubbing required. No extra time or planning the laundry. Just spray, then wash. I have personally used it on:
- mud (red, black, brown, and grey)
- cooking oil/fat
- tomato stains (spaghetti sauce, soup, etc.)
- blood (yes, even the mama cloths)
- motor oil
- grease (auto, kitchen, and unidentifiable greasy spot varieties)
- chicken poo (we have chickens, it happens)
- printer cartridge ink
- ball point ink
- beeswax (from natural deodorant)
- essential oil residue
- sweaty pit stains
- and other unidentifiable smudges and blobs
Some require a bit of effort…like bodily fluids and oils need to at least be sprayed before they dry, but can be washed later with the rest of a load. And if there are a lot of items that have been sprayed, an extra rinse at the end is usually called for. I’ve never had any fabric ruined affected by the mix.
And I do intend to try out some more eco-friendly dish soap once my giant stash of Dawn is used up (I went on a bulk-buying spree not too long ago…Amazon Prime Pantry…). I will update with my results. 🙂
Bonus: Stain Remover/Natural Fabric Softener (the smell part)
Absolutely nothing fades staining like hanging in the sunshine!
Hanging clothes outside to dry was something I hated in my childhood. It was my job, and the trudging in and out carrying heavy baskets sucked. Plus, we had a dryer! So why not use it and end my torture?!
As most things go, I got older and wiser and realized how much money I was wasting on using the dryer when there is ample sun and wind to do the work for free outside. So I got an awesome, retractable clothesline. This thing is fantastic! My sweetheart attached it just inside the shed, and put the hooks for the other end in a nearby tree, and I can pull one or both lines out whenever I need them. They are secure, and have ample space for two loads of regular laundry, or three beds worth of linens. In 3 years of use, I’ve only had the very edges of the plastic retainers snap off, but the lines are still just as secure. I’ve never had my laundry fall down on me, and the retractable function still works great. And if you ask my sweetheart, the very best part is not having to dig any holes or set any posts for a permanent clothesline.
I still use the dryer in the winter, and when it’s rainy. …….and when I’m lazy. And I’ll run the towels and jeans through a quick 10 minute tumble once they are dry just to loosen them up a bit. But I really do like the sun-dried thing. It smells so great, especially sheets! And everything just seems a little brighter. Plus it doesn’t heat the house up in the summer. And did I mention free?
I’ve always disliked conventional fabric softeners. Whether it’s the liquid or the sheets*, it seemed like just an extra expense to make my clothes smell like something completely synthetic. And I always ran out at a different rate than the laundry detergent so would go a few loads without just be annoyed. But I do like soft laundry, and I do like the anti-static part. I tried the plastic dryer balls. You know, those hard plastic things that look like a koosh ball with rigor mortis (am I showing my age by referencing a koosh ball?). But then I don’t really like putting plastic in the dryer.
Then someone suggested old tennis balls…but then your clothes smell like, well, old, hot tennis balls.
I also tried the foil balls. Basically you take a big piece of regular aluminum foil, ball it up as best as you can, and toss it in the dryer with your clothes. It’s supposed to help the drying process and also get rid of static. In my experience, it didn’t noticeably reduce the static, and I kept losing them. I’d make more, and lose them. Eventually I’d find them again, usually under beds or in random corners, so now I’ve got a whole bunch of random little silver balls sitting on my dresser.
Then I saw a product in the natural section of my local grocery…wool dryer balls. Being a
cheap resourceful do-it-yourselfer, I made a few myself, which was pretty fun in and of itself.
The basic idea is that they bounce around in the dryer amongst the clothes and add space for the warm air to get in and dry them faster. They are just wool, 100% wool, so no leaching of plastic or other things into your clothes. And they are soft, so they don’t snag or damage anything, even delicates or sweaters.
Fast forward, and over two years later I’m still using them and they seem to work great. I originally made five, of which I still have two. I lost one (I honestly think it’s in my daughter’s room somewhere), the dog got one, and one unraveled on me, but the two that are left are still going strong. The bright colors and the size help me find them in the laundry and I simply toss them back in the dryer.
The wool balls, while helping with the energy cost of running the dryer, and they do seem to help “soften”, or at least fluff, my laundry, static was still an issue.
Enter the always useful white vinegar.
I simply pour a splash of regular white vinegar in the fabric softener compartment of my washer, and Voila! Static is gone from most of the laundry (the super dry part of winter, and certain fabrics still give a spark now and again). And no worries, there is no lingering vinegar smell on the laundry after the final rinse. It’s all just clean. When I use a scentless detergent, there’s almost an absence of smell. Just air.
….to be continued….Laundry Detergents
*As a side note about those leftover dryer sheets…they do work wonders at getting stuck on/baked on food off dishes. An overnight soak with a dryer sheet dropped in the water, and the next morning you can take the sheet and literally wipe the baked on stuff right off.
2 thoughts on ““All-natural” experiments: Laundry”
We are not the same generation (I actually have a son just a few years younger than you), but we are definitely on the same page! I tried the foil balls in the dryer and came to the same conclusion. I haven’t tried wool, what exactly donto mean? Yarn rolled into a ball?
I plan to do a how to post on the wool dryer balls too. It’s a process to felt the wool so it doesn’t come apart. But mine have lasted a couple years now so I think it’s worth it.
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