Get the scoop on laundry fresheners made without 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.
A better way to freshen laundry & stinky stuff
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 – like Seventh Generation Free & Clear or very lightly scented with natural ingredients like Biokleen Citrus Essence or Better Life Lavender.
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 – here are 3 easy and inexpensive laundry fresheners for clothing and home textiles without the overwhelming blast of artificial fragrances insulting your nose and damaging your health.
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1. 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 fragrances you are trying to avoid in the first place. A natural scent booster uses salt as the hero ingredient.
Salt acts to neutralize odors and also softens fabrics at the same time (bonus!) Mix salt with some essential oils and you’ve got a non-toxic scent booster that will give you a light, fresh scent that smells clean instead of artificial.
2 cups kosher salt*
30 drops (about 1/2 teaspoon) essential oil of your choice (lavender, lemon, orange or geranium are all great choices)
Thoroughly mix essential oils into salt. Store in a covered jar to allow scent to infuse into salt.
Use between 1/4 and 1/2 cup per load (a repurposed scoop from laundry soap is the perfect size). Add directly to washer with garments (same for both top and front loading washers).
*some recipes call for epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) but I’ve heard that it hardens rather than softens water, so I opt for kosher salt (sodium chloride).
If you don’t want to DIY, Mrs. Meyers makes a laundry scent booster product although I have not tried it myself.
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 dryer balls at a time). 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. Aura Cacia and NOW are both good affordable brands, as is the 365 brand from Whole Foods.
3. 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 life saver! 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, use vodka to make a non-toxic fabric refresher. Why vodka? It allows the spray dry quickly and helps reduce odors.
Mix these ingredients in a spray bottle:
1 cup water
1/4 cup vodka
20 drops essential oil
Spray on smelly items and allow to dry.
Not into DIY? My go-to fabric refresher is Eco 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 product to sell! Meanwhile, the stinky room commercials continue, and millions of people spray toxic fabric refresher on on their clothing and home goods every day.
Will you be a black sheep and stop using toxic laundry fresheners?
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