Doing Laundry is a chore that everybody has to deal with. Add trying to get clothes clean in a non-toxic way and 3 small kids to the mix and you’ve got a huge undertaking. After 7 years, I’ve finally found the best non-toxic laundry detergent for our family. Our journey to finding a good laundry detergent was long, hard, and sometimes stinky (literally).
Stage 1 – Going with the flow
My parents always used Wisk laundry detergent. I went off to college and did my own laundry using Wisk laundry detergent. My Tide using roommate often commented how my clothes seemed less faded despite the fact that she only did laundry once a month and I did mine weekly.
I was concerned to learn how laundry detergents contain cancer causing chemicals which stick to your clothes and touch your skin 24/7, as well as the dangerous scents being breathed in all day long. At this point in my life it was just a side thought, because after all EVERYONE is wearing these chemicals and nobody is falling down sick.
Stage 2 – Attempt at change
Lured by both the idea of getting away from toxic chemicals and the idea of saving some money I attempted to make some homemade detergent. There are a billion homemade laundry detergent recipes out there and entire eBooks on amazon all about non-toxic laundry detergent. Most recipes claim that making your own can cost you only a few pennies per load.
BUT the homemade laundry detergent I made gave me rash. I did not save the recipe, but I think the washing soda was causing my issues. Then I came across the Environmental Working Group (EWG) a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting health and the environment. I love that they have a searchable database with easy to understand toxicity scores. This has been my go to source for researching non-toxic laundry products.
Stage 3 – Allergies and Eczema
Then we had a baby with terrible eczema. I learned how sensitives to chemicals in laundry detergents could be an eczema trigger. Being new parents we didn’t know what to do other than to go with the public consensus “Use Dreft or ALL brand laundry detergent”. The pediatrician office even had sample packets! I tried both of these brands despite being extremely concerned about the bad EWG ratings. WHY would anyone use these dangerous laundry detergents on tiny human beings who are even more vulnerable to chemicals than adults? In reality you don’t really need a special baby detergent, any hypoallergenic laundry detergent will do. All I wanted was a non-toxic laundry detergent for my little baby.
Next I tried 7th Generation brand, and after that I finally settled on Whole Foods brand laundry detergent which had good ratings on EWG.
I was also plagued by the fact (and still am) that it takes as many as 9 washes to remove old laundry detergent residues. Nobody has time to wash every article of clothing 9 times without detergent (or with a different detergent). Especially in a small apartment with a washer that is half the size of 1 laundry basket.
Stage 4 – More Allergies and a Front-Load Washer
Along came baby number 2 with worse eczema. The red itchy rash was ALL over her body. We did everything the doctors told us and more but nothing helped. I never went back to Wisk brand, I never tried TIDE, I quit the Dreft. One of the brands I felt better a little better about was Planet powder. However It was almost impossible to tell if laundry detergent was contributing to the eczema. So I researched more and I came across soap nuts.
Soap nuts were AMAZING. They did their job well and there was absolutely no toxins from these little plant berries. The clothes were getting clean and I was happy for a while.
Since I had non-toxic and green in my head since before I had kids I had my short attempt at cloth diapering around this time. I used the ones with the inserts and it went ok for a few weeks. However It seems that a front-load washer can not really handle the stink of cloth diapers and I soon gave up on it.
Then a TERRIBLE thing happened, the washer began to stink. The clothes began to stink. I tried all kinds of methods to clean the washer, but the clothes still came out smelling. The fact that we were potty training a kid that constantly missed made it worse. I even gave up on the soap nuts and despaired at EVER having clean clothes again. I truly think our clothes became dirtier each week instead of cleaner. Our clothes began to emit a strange odor even as we pulled them out of the dryer and wore them outside the house.
Stage 5 – A New Washer
We finally moved and bought a new top load HE washer to go with the new house and clothes started to get a little bit cleaner. But they still weren’t quite clean. The copious amounts of Vaseline we used for eczema were coating our clothes in grease and preventing clothes from being cleaned.
This is my absolute favorite recipe for getting greasy vasseline out and making clothes brighter.
Mix all ingredients together and pour over stains. Let garment sit overnight, then launder as usual.
Stage 6 – A New Laundry Detergent
Finally I came across this article and I was absolutely shocked. It very clearly explains why homemade laundry detergent and things like soap nuts DO NOT WORK. Although I did have a period where the soap nuts seemed to clean clothes just fine, eventually they quit working and I had huge problem on my hands.
Its been a very long 7+ year journey of finding a non-toxic laundry detergent that works for our family. Now instead of worrying about toxic chemicals on our clothes causing allergies, eczema and invisible harm I can focus on more important things like spending time with my wonderful family.