Laundry Detergents

Doing laundry is all about cleaning our clothes, right? Unfortunately, many products on the market today are a source of toxic exposure for humans, pets and the environment. This post covers detergent, dryer sheets, fabric softener and dry cleaning.

What’s wrong with the mainstream products

  • Fragrances in dryer sheets, detergent, fabric softener and dry-cleaning products are associated with hormonal imbalances, decreased fertility and other health problems that you can learn about here. Fragrances are the lowest common denominator among all commercial laundry and cleaning products, but there is definitely more to the story.
  • Commercial laundry detergents often contain surfactants, allergens, endocrine disruptors and phosphates, with the potential to harm health. Laundry pods are more concentrated and thus even more problematic than the detergents, and more dangerous to children who may get their hands on them. Learn more here.
  • Dryer sheets and fabric softeners contain carcinogens, central nervous system disruptors, narcotics and stimulants. Learn more about dryer sheets here, and read about the chemicals in fabric softeners here.
  • Common dry-cleaning chemicals have been found to be endocrine-disrupting and cancer-causing, with implications for the health of workers and consumers alike. Read this government report on drycleaning chemicals to learn more.

Safer alternatives

Laundry detergent

Have you ever heard of “soap nuts” or “soap berries”? They have been used for washing and many other applications for centuries. They are very affordable and easy to use. I place about 6 soap berries in a well-closed drawstring cotton or hemp baggie (usually supplied in the soap nuts package). Never heard of soap nuts before? Learn some basic facts here. Soap nuts don’t activate well in very cold water but work very well in warm and hot water.

You can use liquid castile oil soap as a liquid detergent for machine-washing and hand-washing your laundry.

You can search for non-toxic liquid laundry detergents on the Environmental Working Group’s guide to cleaning products.

Want to Make Your Own Laundry Soap?

Are you a crafty do-it-yourselfer just dying to learn how to make your own detergent? Here are some good recipes:

Fabric Softener/Dryer Sheets

You don’t actually need either of these. I don’t use them and see no need to replace them with anything. As I sometimes have to explain, I may be “crunchy,” but my clothes aren’t!

You may or may not need a dryer, depending on your climate. In the warm weather, I hang my clothes outside in the sun, where the clothes take on a clean sunny smell that you can only understand through experience. In the winter, I hang the clothes on a rack near the wood-burning stove in the kitchen.

If you like using a dryer and want something to replace your former dryer sheets, you can try using wool dryer balls. You can make them yourself or buy them. They remove static, reduce drying time and soften the laundry.


Depending on your clothing style and your profession, you may or may not be able to cut your dry-cleaning significantly or altogether. I’m very chemically sensitive, and dry-cleaned items are off-limits. When I was a teen, one of my mom’s cardinal rules of shopping was never to buy anything with a “dry-clean only” label on it. Even many “non-toxic” dry-cleaners use fragrances and chemicals that many, myself included, find noxious.

Wool sweaters can be washed by hand rather than dry-cleaning. I don’t love hand-washing sweaters, but I do it anyway. If your washing machine has a hand-wash cycle, you may be able to get away with washing your wool sweaters in the washing machine, especially if you’ve already hand-washed the item several times. Once you have washed your wool sweaters, they need to lie flat to dry. They will lose their shape if you hang-dry them, and will shrink in the dryer. Make sure you are super-gentle when wringing out your wool sweaters. I wrap mine in a clean and dry towel and then gently squeeze or wring the towel. This helps remove extra water while at the same time keeping your wool item from losing its shape.

Check out my video library!

New to the website is a growing archive of video recordings on special topics. So far, you’ll find:

  • Nutrients for Sperm and Egg Health
  • Reducing Toxic Exposures
  • Stress and Your Health
  • Improving Nutrient Absorption

I hope you’ll check out the topics, and I highly encourage you to contact me if you have any special requests for future topics. Don’t worry, though – I have tons of ideas!