6 Ways To Nix The Toxic Chemicals From Your Laundry Routine

Get your clothes clean without compromising your health—or going broke.

December 16, 2016
laundry detergent

Dangerous ingredients such as synthetic fragrances and chemicals known to release formaldehyde lurk in many mainstream detergents, dryer sheets, and fabric softeners (and in these 12 other everyday places you’d never expect. Luckily, you don't even need them to get clothing clean. Here, 7 tips, tricks, and gadgets to get your laundry fresh and dinge-free the all-natural way.

(Find seasonal recipes, inspiring imagery, and gardening tips every day inside the Rodale’s Organic Life 2017 Calendar!)

laundry woolie
Use a wool-based dryer ball

Nix fabric softeners and dryer sheets from your grocery store list. Woolzies Wool Dryer Balls, handmade from New Zealand wool, reduce drying time by 25 percent while softening clothes and reducing static. A safe alternative to similar dryer balls made from harmful PVC plastic, these also eliminate the need for chemical-based laundry products that pollute your indoor air quality. (Be sure to check out these 7 plants that purify indoor air, too.) The best part? The laundry aid can be used hundreds of times—at least a year's worth of your dirty clothes.

laundry detergent
Subscribe to a safe detergent

Never run out of detergent again. Health-conscious mom and actress Jessica Alba's Honest Company line features nontoxic Honest Laundry Detergent that you can set up on a convenient subscription service. Bundle four other Honest Company products—everything from safe cleaning products to earth-friendly baby products—with your detergent for even bigger monthly savings.

Related: Natural Cleaning Products That Actually Work

measuring cup
Measure, measure, measure!

When it comes to laundry detergent, more is not better. Overusing detergent just means you'll wind up buying more, and it leaves your clothing looking dingy. Look on your washing machine for what the manufacture recommends as the proper dosage, not the recommendations on the detergent bottle. And get a clear, easy-to-read measuring cup if you're a chronic over-user. 

Use your measuring cup for inexpensive laundry boosters, too. Add a ½ cup each washing soda and borax (get a combo pack here) to your loads for natural whitening, deodorizing, and water softening; and add a ½ cup of white vinegar to your rinse cycle for fabric softening and static control. 

Related: 9 Surprising Uses For Baking Soda

indoor drying rack
Air dry—no matter what

Adamantly air-drying your clothing can save you nearly $100 a year. If you're cramped for outdoor space, opt for a rotary clothes dryer like this Brabantia Lift-O-Matic Rotary Dryer Clothes Line. Well-made outdoor rotary clothes dryers are rust-resistant and can often handle up to five loads of laundry at a time. Just hang them up, and let the sun and wind do their thing—for free.

Even when the weather outside doesn't agree with air-drying, a portable indoor drying rack (like this Household Essentials Folding Wooden Clothes Drying Rack) will do the trick. Bonus: The moisture from your clothing actually helps improve indoor air humidity during dry, cold winter months.

laundry nuts
Use nuts to lift stains

Want a laundry cleaner that's closer to nature? Eco Nuts Soap Nuts are the answer. These little organic berries grow in the Himalayas and naturally produce a soap called saponin that penetrates fibers. Great for people with sensitive skin, these soap nuts don't suds up like detergents with artificial foaming agents, but clean well just the same. Eco Nuts are deseeded and treated with a nontoxic sanitizing treatment before packaging to kill any harmful bacteria that could be lingering on the berries.

Related: 8 Ways To Keep Housecleaning Non-Toxic

laundry machine
Opt for an Energy Star washer

When the time comes to shop for a new washing machine, make sure it's Energy Star  certified (like this sleek LG front-load washer) to save on your electric bill for years down the road. Look for washers that allow you to adjust water levels based on load size and those that have fast spin-cycle speeds (faster spins get more water out of your clothes, which means less time drying).

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Energy-Saving Insulation

Energy Star doesn't rate dryers because all models use roughly the same amount of energy. But you can find models that use less electricity. For example, look for models with moisture sensors that automatically shut off when your clothes are dry. A Whirlpool spokeswoman says pairing one of its high-efficiency dryers with an Energy Star washing machine can reel in $3,300 in energy savings over the life of the products.

No matter what washing machine you use, be sure to wash full loads in cold water to save up to 3,400 gallons of water annually.

Related: 4 Ways To Save Energy This Fall And Winter