HOW TO: Naturally Freshen Your Laundry


If you’ve read my Liquid Laundry Detergent or Powdered Laundry Detergent posts, you may be wondering how I’ve tackled the issues of fabric softener and dryer sheets. Read on to find out why I don’t use these products and how I naturally freshen my laundry without the use of harsh chemicals.

It’s easy to guess why I don’t like the liquid softeners – I hate the idea of artificial fragrances and residues left on my clothes, when it’s supposed to be in the washing machine to get washed! But what about the dryer sheets? What could possibly be wrong with dryer sheets? Well, besides the artificial fragrances (again), a quick online search returns a long list of some interesting chemicals – Benzyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Chloroform, A-Terpineol, among others that are neurotoxins, carcinogens, and even listed on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste List! For a complete list of what’s actually in your dryer sheets, along with their health risks, visit this link.

There are a couple of things I do both in the washer and the dryer that work really well at getting my laundry feeling and smelling fresh and clean:


  1. Baking Soda: I add about 1/4 cup baking soda to the wash basin while it’s filling with water and let it dissolve before adding the clothes. Baking Soda helps to not only soften the clothes, but it also regulates the pH level of the wash water. It’s is also very effective at reducing odors in the laundry. (For HE/front-loading machines, I just add it into the detergent cup.)
  2. Vinegar: Instead of using a liquid fabric softener, I use some good old vinegar in the rinse cycle of my washer. If you have a fabric softener dispenser just pour 1/4 – 1/2 cup into the dispenser and you’re good to go. If not, you can just use an old Downy ball or just manually pour it in during the rinse cycle. Vinegar helps to soften the clothes and if used during the rinse cycle, it won’t leave your clothes smelling like a salad. ;)
  3.  Homemade Dryer Sheets: So after using the vinegar and baking soda for a while and being very happy with the way my laundry felt, I still wasn’t happy with how it smelled. I knew I had to do something in the dryer but didn’t know what, until I came across this awesome way to make a homemade version of dryer sheets:
    *Take a small piece of cotton cloth (cut-up shirt, washcloth, etc.), soak it with water and wring it out so that’s it’s just damp. Take your favorite essential oil (lavender, orange, tea tree, etc.) and put about 10 drops all over the cloth. After you’ve run your clothes through the dryer using heat, throw the wet cloth into the dryer and run the dryer again on a NO HEAT cycle for about 10-15 minutes. When you take out your clothes, they’ll smell so fresh and clean but without such an overpowering scent as with commercial dryer sheets. Just keep wetting the cloth and using it over and over again until the smell runs out. Then toss it in the wash and start all over again!
    EDIT: I’ve been asked a few times if you could just add the essential oils (EO) directly into the homemade liquid laundry detergent and bypass the second drying cycle, and the answer is absolutely! For that size batch, I would try about 1 oz. of oils and go from there. The only reason I don’t do this personally is because I like to control which loads get the EO treatment, ie: our clothes – most of the time, and the baby clothes – barely ever. One day I hope to be hanging all our clothes to dry outside, then we can do away with the dryer completely!

Try these 3 methods of freshening your laundry and you’ll never go back to store-bought fabric softeners again! Just remember, if you’re looking for that really strong, chemical smell that comes from commercial products, these methods are not for you! But if you want your clothes to come out of the laundry smelling clean and fresh, there’s nothing better than natural products like vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils.

Let me know how it works out for you!

Where can you buy essential oils? You can find them at any health food store that sells natural and organic products. If you can’t find a store near you, you can always purchase them online. Mountain Rose Herbs has really good quality oils – love them!

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c

*affiliate links included in this post

The following two tabs change content below.
Sarah UmmYusuf is a former school teacher turned stay-at-home wife and mama with a passion for all things simple, natural, and homemade. She loves the natural world, and believes the solutions to many of the world’s ailments lie in nature. Her blog, , began as a way to document her family’s journey to a greener home, but has since become a thriving community and resource for those wishing to take small steps towards a more eco-friendly, natural and sustainable lifestyle. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Latest posts by Sarah (see all)