Favorite Natural Laundry Products: Detergent, Stain Remover and Dryer Balls


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“Clean” doesn’t have a smell.

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That’s one of the {ahem} few useful things I learned from the Oprah show, years ago. It’s really stuck with me!

Thanks, Oprah!

It’s true: most of the scents in cleaning products are completely artificial, meant to mimic natural scents.  But they’re NOT natural at all!  And many are actually dangerous for our health, especially with repeated exposure.

Here’s what WellnessMama has to say about it:

Conventional laundry detergent is loaded with chemicals like sulfates, fragrances, phenols and more. Many brands contain things like petroleum distillates, which are linked to cancer and lung disease. Fragrances in these detergents are made of a mix of harmful chemicals.  [Read more]

This excerpt is from the post entitled Natural Laundry Detergent Basics at Back-to-Basics-Cleaning.com:

Do naphthalene, phenol, sodium nitilotriacetate, chloroform and phosphates sound like natural laundry detergents? You may not know that you have a chemistry lab in your laundry room! These chemicals all lurk in the most popular detergents and fabric softeners on the market, and most of them never rinse out of your clothes, sheets and towels….Fact: the chemicals found in laundry products can be absorbed through the skin and cause a host of health problems such as allergies, headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, contact dermatitis, or cold-like symptoms. [Read more]

Without further ado, here are my favorite “clean” laundry products:

  • Ecover Stain Remover
  • Homemade Laundry Detergent (powder)
  • Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent Free & Clear Powder
  • Wool Dryer Balls

Here’s what you should know:

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Ecover Stain Remover 

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  • I buy it by the case (9 bottles) on Amazon,through Subscribe & Save.  (Click on the image to the right).
  • It’s widely available at health food stores and even at grocery stores.  The price isn’t as good, but it’s probably better to try one bottle first.
  • It doesn’t work quite as well as Shout, but it’s pretty close.  And I’m not sure that any natural stain remover could make that claim.  Plus, Shout is super-toxic.  I will do just about anything to avoid using Shout.  And all in all, it does a pretty decent job.
  • I did read a concerning review (Works Great, But… by goonius) on Amazon, and am feeling less confident now about its true safety.  STILL, it’s definitely an improvement over the Shout I was using before.
  • One thing’s for sure: this stain remover doesn’t tear up my hands like Shout did.
  • Here’s the method I recommend for optimal results:
    • Keep a spray bottle of water and an old toothbrush with your Ecover Stain Remover.
    • Step 1: Mist stain with water.
    • Step 2: Apply Ecover Stain Remover.
    • Step 3: Use toothbrush to work remover into stain.
    • Note: As with most stain removers, the sooner the stain is treated, the better.  However, some stains at our house don’t get treated right away and I haven’t noticed a major problem.
    • After washing, I recommend line-drying the garment.  When clothes are wet, I have trouble discerning whether or not faint spots are truly gone.  So I avoid placing those clothes in the dryer, where the potentially leftover stain could get set in by the heat.
  • NOTE: In my research for this blog post, I came across this sort-of-homemade-stain-treater at Keeper of the Home.  After I finish using up my remaining supply of Ecover, which may very well last me for several decades, I plan to give this a try.

Homemade Laundry Detergent (powder)

  • There are SO MANY recipes available online!
  • These are two I’ve used:
    • Recipe #1:

2 cups finely grated Dr. Bronner’s bar
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup Baking Soda

    • Recipe #2 (which is almost identical):

2 cups finely grated Dr. Bronner’s bar
3 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
2 cups Baking Soda

    • Instructions:
    1. Grate soap in a food processor.
    2. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
    3. Use 1-2 TB per load.
  • All of the ingredients are widely available at most grocery stores and online.  (Look for Borax and Washing Soda in the Laundry/Cleaning aisle.  Dr. Bronner’s is usually in the Natural or Cleaning aisle).  I generally buy mine at Wegmans.

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Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent Free & Clear Powder

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    This is what I use when I happen to run out of Homemade Laundry Detergent.
  • Read here for more info.
  • I buy it on Amazon, but it’s available at many health food stores and regular grocery stores.

Wool Dryer Balls

  • Did you know that dryer sheets are super-toxic?  You can easily google info about this, but here’s a good place to start: The Toxic Dangers of Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softeners.
  • Instead of using (nasty) fabric softener, I make my own wool dryer balls!  For real.  Love them!
  • Check out my tutorial: Mak Your Own Wool Dryer Balls.
  • I use about 8 at a time.  They just live in the dryer (although they consistently try to migrate elsewhere).
  • I recommend using darker colors of wool.  The lighter colored ones shown below tend to shed their whitish hairs onto our dark clothing.  For some reason, the dark wool hairs don’t seem to cause much of an issue with lighter-colored clothing.
  • Don’t want to make them yourself?  You can buy them on etsy!  Click here.

I hope the above list proves helpful.  I am by no means an expert on the topic of natural products, but I do strive to keep our home as chemical-free as possible.  These are the products we’ve used with great success, although you may discover other products you love just as much!  (And when you do, please share them below)!

Happy experimenting!

Do you have a natural laundry product you love?  Tell us about it below!

Other posts you might like:

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Kathleen | Roots & Boots

Let's get real! I’m Kathleen Henderson, your Natural Living Mentor. I’m on a mission to help families see the joy in real food, while finding natural remedies and creating a nontoxic home. Learn more about my story >>


  1. Courtney D on 01/17/2013 at 12:56 pm

    After hearing about these dryer balls from my other friend–then heard you used them too–made them over the weekend. it was a fun, simple task, even 2 of my kids helped. I have done 4 loads with them so far and am happy with the outcome- the only problem is keeping the 3 yr old from playing with them- so, we made him his own-and he loves rolling it around-it just is fun! haven’t made our laundry powder for over a year and miss it- my recipe uses a bar of ivory soap and i’m not sure where that is w/ purity- but it makes the soap crazy cheap! thanks, as always, kathleen for your fun blog posts. can you send a photo of your bedroom corner w/ the wall art hung?

    • Yankee Homestead on 01/17/2013 at 1:12 pm

      We have a similar problem with our dryer balls–so fun for the youngest member of the family. Glad you’re liking them, and I hope Mr. D doesn’t hate me too much for the loss of his dryer sheets. 🙂

      The bedroom corner is still in progress. Will definitely blog about the results after it’s completed!

  2. Heather on 01/17/2013 at 2:34 pm

    Do you like one recipe for laundry soap over the other? I think we tried the second one, and though it works, it seems visually that I’m not putting enough “soap” into the machine. Does the water in your load become frothy? I have no “froth” but my clothes are clean (even the stinky boy clothes.)

    • Yankee Homestead on 01/17/2013 at 3:20 pm

      HH–It does not foam much at all. (Which, incidentally, makes it safe for High Efficiency front loaders). I’m pretty sure that regular detergents have a foaming agent added. Sort of like how regular shampoos contain sulfates, which leads to nice lather (while leaching toxic chemicals into your scalp). 🙂

    • Yankee Homestead on 01/17/2013 at 3:20 pm

      PS–I don’t really have a preference for one of the recipes over the other. Sorry!

  3. Courtney H. on 01/21/2013 at 2:13 am

    Thanks for the post, Kathleen. My journey into cloth diapering lead me to ditch dryer sheets and use natural detergents. There are just a handful of “cloth approved” detergents and I’ve tried them all. Country Save was so well loved that I just began using it for ALL of my family’s laundry. Eco-friendly, no fragrances or dyes, HE approved, no residue for diapers or synthetic clothes. (Note: the liquid uses a fragrance but the powder is the plainest/safest.) Though it costs more than your DIY recipe, I do the Amazon “subscribe and save” and it works out to be a good price. And yes, we all love the wool dryer balls around here!

    • Yankee Homestead on 01/24/2013 at 7:36 pm

      Courtney, I’m not surprised to hear you do wool dryer balls. 🙂 Never heard of Country Save–will have to look into it! And don’t you LOVE subscribe and save?

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