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Natural Alternatives to Laundry Detergent

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homemade laundry detergent
source: NessaLand

I’m sure we can all agree on the importance of clean laundry. None of us wants to walk around — or have our children walk around — in smelly or dingy clothes.

However, if you’re concerned about keeping toxic products away from your skin (the largest organ in your body that in many ways serves as the gatekeeper to your internal organs and therefore your health), traditional laundry detergent contains more than a few questionable ingredients, including napthas, phenols and artificial fragrances.

Add to that the expense of traditional laundry detergent — especially considering that most of us use entirely too much in a single load — and natural alternatives are appealing for your health and your wallet.

So what options do you have besides regular detergents?

Green Detergents

The first place most of us turn when looking for natural alternatives is the “natural lines” of some of our favorite brands. However, it’s important to be aware of greenwashed products — products that still contain unsafe ingredients while calling themselves green or natural.

Before purchasing any alternative detergents, read the ingredients list.

I love the simple “Can you say it?” test. Can you pronounce each ingredient listed on the label? If you have to stop to sound it out or it takes you several tries to even come close, it is most likely a chemical compound and not a naturally occurring ingredient. I’m sure there are exceptions to this rule, but in general, it works!

These are probably safer than their traditional counterparts, but don’t be fooled into thinking that these products are all-natural.

Homemade Laundry Soap

If you’re looking for a frugal alternative to traditional or greenwashed detergents, making your own laundry soap is a great way to ensure that you control all of the ingredients.

Trent from The Simple Dollar has a great tutorial on making your own detergent from four basic ingredients: bar soap, washing soda, borax and water.

While I know many people have used homemade detergent in their front-load high-efficiency washers, I’ve been hesitant to do anything that might void my warranty. Now that we’re out of the warranty period, though, I may give this a try.

Soap Nuts

Even homemade laundry detergent includes man-made materials, so if you’re truly looking for an all-natural solution, soap nuts are the way to go.

If you’ve never heard of soap nuts before, I’m sure you’re wondering what the heck they are!

Soap nuts are the berry-like fruit of the Sapindus Mukorrosi tree, found mainly in the Himalayas. The berries are gathered, their seeds are removed and they’re dried in the sun.

Because they’re grown organically and then dried, they really are 100% natural. They’re also gentle, biodegradable, antimicrobial, and low-sudsing, making them safe for high-efficiency washers.

Moving away from traditional products and methods is never easy. I encourage you to try a few things — and more than just one time each — before making a decision on which alternative is the best for your family!

What type of laundry detergent do you use? Have you tried homemade laundry detergent or soap nuts before? What about natural fabric softeners?