Get the scoop on laundry fresheners and scent boosters that are made with natural ingredients instead of toxic artificial fragrances that are bad for your health.
I once took part in a mock Febreze commercial. You know the one, where they show a teenager’s messy, stinky room and freshen it by spraying Febreze on everything?
First I was blindfolded, then brought into a room that reeked of extremely strong, artificial floral fragrances – as though they were trying to imitate a fresh spring garden, only failing badly.
Then they asked me – “Where do you think you are?” I said, “I have no idea but it reeks of extremely strong, artificial floral fragrances – like you are trying to imitate a fresh spring garden, only failing badly.”
That wasn’t what they expected me to say.
When the blindfold came off, I saw that the setting was a college dorm room with pizza and dirty clothes everywhere. I was supposed to be shocked and delighted.
Instead, I was the black sheep, saying (politely) that I didn’t like that fake flower smell and asking questions about the toxic chemicals in their laundry fresheners.
3 Natural Ways to Freshen Laundry & Stinky Stuff
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Here’s the problem – the stuff of life begins to stink after a while – and if we don’t want to cover it up with artificial scents – then we need to find safer, more natural solutions.
I’ve stopped buying conventional laundry products because I don’t want my family to be exposed to those chemicals. The laundry detergent I buy is either unscented or very lightly scented with natural ingredients like essential oils. In fact, I’ve got an entire blog post about my favorite eco-friendly laundry detergents. I don’t use wasteful dryer sheets either.
That said, I still want my laundry to come out smelling clean and fresh (for real, not artificially) and sometimes I need a little boost above and beyond detergent.
Wanna be a black sheep too?
Much to the chagrin of the chemical scientists working for enormous companies, there are ways to remove odors and make fabrics smell good, without an overwhelming blast of artificial fragrances insulting your nose and harming your health.
Here are 3 easy and inexpensive ways to freshen clothing and home textiles without toxic chemicals:
1. Natural Laundry Scent Booster
One way to get a little more of that “fresh laundry smell” without nasty chemicals is to use a scent booster, along with your laundry detergent.
Conventional scent boosters are just concentrated amounts of the toxic, artificial fragrances you are trying to avoid in the first place. In fact, Downy Unstopables, one of the most popular scent boosters, rates an F on the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Bottom line, most scent boosters are NOT a safe addition to your laundry routine.
A natural scent booster uses salt as the hero ingredient. Salt acts to neutralize odors and also to soften fabrics at the same time (bonus!) To make your own non-toxic laundry scent booster, simply mix kosher salt with the essential oils of your choice. When added to laundry, it will add a light, fresh scent to your clothes that smells clean instead of artificial.
DIY Scent Booster:
2 cups kosher salt*
30 drops (about 1/2 teaspoon) essential oil of your choice (lavender, eucalyptus, lemon, orange or geranium are all great choices – I recommend Rocky Mountain Oils!)
Thoroughly mix essential oils into salt. Store in a covered jar to allow the scent to infuse into salt.
Use between 2 tablespoons and 1/4 cup per load (a repurposed scoop from laundry soap is a perfect size). Add directly to the washer with garments (same for both top and front-loading washers).
*Some scent booster recipes call for Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate), but this actually hardens rather than softens water, so I opt for kosher salt (sodium chloride) in my recipe.
Other natural scent booster options:
If you are not up for a homemade scent booster, Mrs. Meyers makes a natural laundry scent booster product although I have not tried it myself. Dropps fabric softener pods are another way to add scent to your laundry, without a bunch of toxic chemicals.
2. Scented Dryer Balls
Dryer balls are my laundry savior for so many reasons – they are THE BEST alternatives to chemical-infused dryer sheets because they help prevent static and reduce wrinkles as they bounce around in your dryer. Here’s one more way dryer balls can be of service: infusing your laundry with natural fragrance.
Add 2-3 drops of essential oil on each dryer ball and toss them into the laundry. I usually use 3 – 5 dryer balls at a time and I scent them with either lavender or eucalyptus essential oil. The resulting scent will be subtle but will add a nice, fresh scent to your laundry.
Expensive essential oils are not needed for laundry use as they are primarily used for scent and not true aromatherapy purposes. As I mentioned before, I love Rocky Mountain Oils, but Aura Cacia and NOW are both good affordable brands, as is the 365 brand from Whole Foods.
3. Homemade Fabric Refresher Spray
For those times when you either don’t want to wash or don’t have time – a fabric refresher spray can be a lifesaver! Use fabric refresher to freshen laundry and other household items like these:
- clothes that have been used but are not dirty enough to wash
- seasonal items coming out of storage
- pillows and bedding
- stinky kids rooms or musty basements
But please don’t use that awful Febreze I was telling you about – ewww! Instead, create your own natural Febreze alternative. Believe it or not, you can use vodka to make a non-toxic fabric refresher. Why vodka? It allows the spray to dry quickly and helps reduce odors. Add the essential oils of your choice, to leave a light scent behind.
Mix these ingredients in a spray bottle:
1 cup water
1/4 cup vodka
20 drops essential oil (I prefer orange essential oil for this)
Spray liberally on smelly or musty items and allow to dry.
Not into DIY? My go-to fabric refresher is Ecos Breeze by Earth Friendly Products. All the ingredients, including the fragrances, are all naturally derived (the Lemongrass scent is my fav!)
My run-in with the Febreze people was a wake-up call. They listened to my feedback but I doubt they really cared – they have products to sell! Meanwhile, the stinky room commercials continue, and millions of people spray toxic fabric refreshers on their clothing and home goods every day.
Will you join me and stop using toxic laundry fresheners?
P.S. Want even more info about non-toxic cleaning so you can be CONFIDENT that your cleaning routine is safe? Check out my Green Cleaning Kickstart mini-course!