Dirty laundry happens. It happens daily, and even if we don’t deal with it all of the time, at some point during the week (hopefully) or the month (hopefully no more than that), we have to wash. We have to deal with unsavory smells. We have to face stains. We have to try to soften. We have to dry. It’s one of the less desirable parts of not being a nudist.
Unfortunately, many of the detergents, softeners, stain removers, and dryer sheets we are being sold are chemically concocted and, thus, not exactly primo for our health or the planet’s. So, if we are going to insist on wearing clothes — and let’s be frank in that it does keep life’s daily endeavors on task — then we need to find a way to clean our clothes without causing too much damage.
Luckily, there are plenty of natural ingredients that are perfectly suited for just that!
Odor-Free, Bright White and Soft to Touch: White Vinegar
Vinegar, as with pretty much all things cleaning, is great for the laundry. It helps to whiten whites (1/2 cup in the rinse cycle), brighten brights, and soften softs. It’s also great for neutralizing odors (two cups in normal wash). It’s not a bad idea to keep a spray bottle of vinegar near the hamper and spritz, especially dirty clothes before they go in. The vinegar will help to keep them from smelling.
- Cider vinegar tends to have a golden tint to it (something akin to pit stains) and has a higher acidity level than distilled white vinegar, so going with the cheap stuff, in this case, is better.
The Sensitive Skin Solution: Soap Nuts
Soap nuts are amazing. They literally grow on trees, and because they have saponin (the trick ingredient behind suds), they make for great laundry detergent. Amazingly, soap nuts alone can be used for washing clothes. They will clean them, as well as soften them. It’s very easy (a lot like making iced tea) and inexpensive to make a natural liquid detergent using soap nuts. Some people just put soap nuts in a mesh bag and toss them in the washer that way. They are particularly good for those with sensitive skin.
- While soap nuts probably aren’t going to be on your shelf already, they can be ordered online. They keep well in storage, and a pound or two will last a long time.
Scrubbing Stains Away: Baking Soda (or Washing Soda)
Baking soda and washing soda are not the same things, but in terms of laundry, they are used in the same way. They help with the scrubby side of cleaning, and they absorb odors and remove stains. Baking soda is a bit milder and dissolves more easily, while washing soda is more caustic and more likely to leave a little white residue.
- These two ingredients work because they are alkaline, so they shouldn’t be combined with vinegar or lemon juice (acid) because that would neutralize their effectiveness. Instead, combine them with a bit of natural soap and hydrogen peroxide for stain removing.
The Home Recipe Remedy: DIY Detergent
Making laundry detergents at home is easy and cheap, and it’s the best way to start with all-natural clothes washing. There are many recipes out there for making it yourself, none of which require Bunsen burners, beakers or a chemistry book. Or, for the super busy (it only takes about 10 minutes to make enough for months of laundry), there are products on the market that are more eco-conscious.
Sweet Solar Breezes: Air-Drying
In terms of drying clothes, using the sun and wind is a much more ecological option than a dryer. Dryers are energy hogs, which isn’t good for the environment or our pocketbooks. Instead, let clothes air dry. This can be done with a clothesline outside. Many people love the fresh air smell. Or, if it’s rainy, there are clothes maidens that work for inside, and with a fan on (as it would be) or near a blowing vent, the clothes should dry within a day. In other words, some sun and/or wind is enough to dry our clothes naturally.
That’s it. The clothes are soft and stain-free. They don’t smell (add some essential oils for a nice aroma). And, they’ve dried without sucking up a bunch of energy and heating up the house. It can be done with nothing but natural ingredients!
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