Laundry is one of those things that most people expect you to just know how to do, but can be so overwhelming if no one has ever taken the time to teach you. And if we’re being honest, it can be a pain. If you have ever pulled your clothes out of the wash to find that they still don’t smell that great, you were probably tempted to default to scent boosters, fabric softeners or dryer sheets. Maybe even all of them. It happens to the best of us.
Branch Basics Wool Dryer Balls$19
These dryer balls are made with 100% wool in a sustainable family farm, are compostable and biodegradable, and soften clothes while reducing dry time, wrinkles and static. Branch Basics also offers liquid detergent and oxygen brightener.
But adding more products to your laundry routine isn’t necessarily the best solution. Instead, you’ll likely have a much better result simply by adjusting the way you wash them. How can you do that?
Less is more
Using soap effectively is a big step. Most laundry detergent you can find at your supermarket these days will be labeled with the letters HE (for High Efficiency) somewhere on the packaging. Finding out if your washing machine is also HE should be the first thing you do because you can use HE soap in a non-HE machine, but not the other way around.
Meliora Soap Stick for Laundry Stain Removal$4.99
Meliora’s Soap Stick has a coconut oil base, is dye, fragrance and palm oil free, and works well to remove both stains and mildew. The brand also offers laundry powder and oxygen brightener–and the entire collection is plastic-free!
Essentially, newer washing machines use only 20 to 60 per cent the amount of water than older ones. Using non-HE detergent in a new machine means that all that soap and suds aren’t getting rinsed off properly, which in turn can cause your clothes to smell bad. To fix that, read the instructions for both your washer and your detergent–if both are High Efficiency, you likely only need a couple of teaspoons per load.
Blueland Laundry Starter Set$25
Little tablet, big clean. Replace the traditional plastic-wrapped laundry pods with these clean, dry-form tablets free from dyes, bleach, and harsh chemicals. Blueland offers refills for their tablets, an oxygen brightener, and wool balls.
Not only that, but fabric softeners and dryer sheets make the problem worse while supposedly fixing it. This is because they work by coating your clothes in a waxy film that builds up over time, making them harder to clean the more you use it.
Fragrance can be bad for you
When you see “fragrance” as an ingredient for these types of products, it can be easy to not think twice about it. The problem is that this catch-all term can actually be hiding unregulated chemicals, many of which are toxic. From allergies to potentially worse long-term effects on your health, you should be wary of any ingredient list that doesn’t actually break down what chemicals are being used for their scents.
Rosey Unscented Laundry Degergent$9.99
Rosey™ by Thrive Market is a mineral and plant-powered detergent made with a special stain-fighting formula without harsh chemicals or synthetic fragrances for a powerful clean. The brand offers a liquid detergent, laundry powder, and laundry pods.
What to use instead
Even if you adjust the way you wash so your clothes don’t smell bad, we know that opting for an unscented soap can be boring, and sometimes you may want a stronger smell anyway. In that case, consider replacing your dryer sheets with wool balls (you can add your favorite essential oil before drying, but be careful with the amount so it doesn’t stain), or a DIY scent booster.
- 1½ to 2 cups of Epson or kosher salt
- 1 cup of baking soda
- 20-30 drops of your preferred essential oil
Mix everything together and let it sit in a jar for at least half an hour before using. For a regular-sized load, use ¼-½ a cup, then cover with a lid to store.
The Laundress Classic Signature Detergent$22
This all-purpose formula whitens, brightens, and preserves color while removing stains. If you like scented soap and would like to keep using it, The Launderess offers plenty of scents, as well as a fragrance-free option. Aside from laundry detergent, they also offer stain removers, bleach alternative, and wrinkle remover.
If you want your clothes to feel softer, we recommend using ¼ to ½ a cup of vinegar in your wash (but never with bleach!). Don’t worry, the vinegary smell will not linger! Also, air-drying if you’re able–it can help with softness, reduce static, and preserve your garments in the long run.
Photo by Kateryna Hliznitsova on Unsplash