Is it possible to have clean smelling and soft laundry without the chemicals used in conventional fabric softeners and dryer sheets?
Fabric softeners were unnecessary before the advent of synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon and the birth of the dryer. The heat of the dryer combined with the petroleum-based textiles created a noxious odor that required some type of masking. Soon the masking chemicals outnumbered the fabric softening agents.
The first step in reducing your need for dryer sheets and fabric softeners is to separate your naturally-derived clothing (cotton, wool, hemp) from your synthetically-based laundry. The natural fabrics will not require masking and will smell much fresher if they are not mixed with synthetics.
Separating fabric types will also help with static cling. According to the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists,
“Static is an imbalance of electrical charge, or electrons, on the surface of some textiles. Dissimilar materials brought into contact and separated can transfer electrons leaving a charge imbalance. Friction and low moisture content enhance this process. For example, when clothing is dried in a machine dryer, items made of fibers that naturally contain some moisture like cotton can dissipate charges better than items made of manufactured fibers like polyester. “
It may take some trial and error but options abound when it comes to avoiding harsh chemicals. The success of these options depends on water hardness, types of fabrics, the size of the load and other variables.
The following chart may help when trying to separate your clothing.
All Natural Fabric Softener Solutions
1. White Vinegar
Add 1/2 cup to the rinse cycle to act as a fabric softener. It’s fine to add white vinegar sooner as it will help protect colors from fading.
White vinegar can corrode the rinse dispenser over time. It is best to add directly to the water. Delicate fabrics like silk, rayon and acetate can be sensitive to white vinegar. Use sparingly, if at all, when washing delicates.
2. Baking Soda
Sprinkle several tablespoons of baking soda directly onto wet clothing. This helps neutralize any odors. Add EM powder for increased effectiveness.
What is EM powder? Effective Microorganisms combined with ceramic powder. EM powder is completely non-toxic and natural. Learn more here.
I keep a stainless shaker on top of my dryer filled with baking soda and EM powder. I add some essential oil to the blend. I sprinkle the wet clothing before drying.
2. Wool dryer balls
Wool is a natural fabric softener. Not only does it help with static and wrinkling, it helps cut down on drying time. Wool dryer balls are available online. Amazon offers these options.
You can also make your own wool dryer balls. See this tutorial.
3. Herbal sachets
Fill a small cloth bag with herbs or dried flowers and sew across the top of the bag. Possible herbs include lavender, mint, or rosemary. I use scraps of 100% wool to create my sachets. Freshen the sachet periodically by sprinkling a bit of essential oil onto the bag. My herbal sachets last several months this way.
Skip the dryer and hang your laundry in the sun! You’ll love the fresh scent and feel of your clothing. Some items will be stiff, others will dry nicely in the sun. If they’re too stiff for comfort, try throwing them in the dryer before they are completely dry. Either way, you’ll love the fresh scent!
With a little experimentation, you’ll have your puppy sound asleep on your piles of unfolded laundry.
Looking to reduce the chemical load in your other laundry products? Consider these options:
What have you tried instead of dryer sheets or fabric softeners?
- 30Would you like to avoid harsh chemicals while tackling that stubborn carpet or laundry stain? In order to find the best solution, it’s helpful to consider the chemistry behind cleaning. On the pH scale, 7.0 is neutral. Anything above this is alkaline; anything below is acidic. Here are some examples…
We use soap nuts and sunshine….sometimes the clothes are a little crispy from our desert sun, but we’re used to it 🙂
Andrea Fabry says
We have our new clothesline ready to install. I may be calling you for desert sun tips!
Amanda L says
I use soap nuts for washing, and wool dryer balls with essential oils for drying. I have very little issues with static using this method!
Borax, baking soda, and salt can all be used together with clear white vinegar and hot tap water as a 12 hour soak for stiff new polyester blends. Be careful mixing and take your time as some of the ingredients will react with each other. Best mixed in a 5 gallon orange plastic Home Depot bucket outside on the porch or driveway. Swish your clothes in the mixture and let soak overnight (about 12 hours) in the bucket with the lid on, then wash your clothes as you normally would.
Andrea Fabry says
Thanks for the tip!