In a previous post I wrote, about my favorite liquid laundry detergent that I make and have been making for the last eight years. I really do love it! It works great, is super cheap, easy to make and best of all, made with safe ingredients.
Well, I have a small confession… As much as I don’t like the idea of using chemicals in our home until recently, I still used Downy fabric softener in the wash. Mainly because I love how my clothes smell and of course I can’t go without soft, fluffy towels. Plus, the water in my area is pretty hard and without fabric softener my towels would probably feel like sand paper. I’ve looked for alternatives but most of the recipes I found were essentially watered down, cheap conditioner for your hair. While that’s certainly better than harsh chemicals, I just wasn’t satisfied with using conditioner as an alternative.
Recently, however, I read a scary article about how bad fabric softener can be. Several articles touted fabric softener as the number one air pollutant in your home with high concentrations of VOCs…Yikes! While I found several articles to support this theory, I didn’t do the research myself to determine the validity of these claims. I did however learn that fabric softeners are designed to coat the fabric of your clothes with an electrically charged chemical that in essence makes the fabric fibers stand on end. This chemical reaction is what gives you the fluffy soft feel. Further, this coating on clothes also helps reduce friction in the dryer and ultimately, the static electricity that can build up as the clothes tumble together in the dryer.
Have you ever noticed a fabric softener build up in your washing machine? That same build up is on your clothes and can make your laundry detergent ineffective at cleaning over time. Further, I’ve recently learned that fabrics like towels and sports clothing which are designed to either absorb or wick away moisture, can be less effective due to the coating of fabric softener.
Great… so what good are my fluffy towels if they aren’t effective at drying?? And the scent I love is potentially filling my house with cancer causing fumes??
So, it was time to find a safer, natural alternative. As I scoured the internet, I read a number of articles that recommended using white vinegar as fabric softener. Vinegar is an acid and as such breaks down the oils in soap and helps to break down hard water scale mineral deposits like calcium and magnesium (the minerals that make water “hard”). These minerals are partially why fabrics can become stiff, dull, and even get holes. At first, I was a bit skeptical to use vinegar in the wash. I mean, who wants to walk around smelling like a bottle a of vinegar! But, the vinegar completely washes away and leaves the clothes fresh and static free.
For the last few weeks, I’ve added 1/2 cup of white vinegar in the wash wash instead of my normal fabric softener. I’m pleased to say that my laundry smells fresh and feels soft. There’s not even a hint of the vinegar smell on our clothes. As an added bonus, the washing machine is cleaner too!
While my clothes smelled clean when I used the vinegar, I still missed the fragrance I got from the liquid fabric softener. I considered using “scent crystals” but after reviewing the ingredients on a popular brand the primary ingredient is Sodium Chloride…aka SALT! In addition to salt, there are a number of other chemicals most of which appear to be for distributing the fragrance in the wash and making it “stick” to your clothes. The other typical ingredients are perfumes and dyes. So why use harsh chemicals when you can make a non-toxic version yourself in less than 5 minutes!
- Rock Salt – Look for products labelled Ice Cream Salt or Pickling Salt. You’re looking plain salt (sodium chloride), no additives. Don’t use plain table salt as most contain Iodine)
- Essential oil of your choice
Combine at a ratio of 20 drops of essential oil to every 1 cup of salt. Be sure to stir to distribute the oil evenly.
You’ll use 2 tablespoons (or 1/8 cup) in every load. So every cup is enough for 8 loads of laundry.
NOTE: Don’t use Epsom Salt! I made this mistake with my first batch and later learned that Epsom salt is not “salt”. It’s magnesium sulfate, putting this in your wash will actually make your water “harder”. Don’t worry it didn’t go to waste, I’m using it as a great smelling foot soak!