First, there was an itch, and I blamed it on mosquitos. But they didn’t do it (this time at least), but something else caused my skin problems.
Years ago I took allergy tests that showed me what plants and substances to avoid in order to stay safe, so I’ve already excluded those harmful herbs from my diet. So, what’s left? Chemicals, for sure. I had to identify them and give up on them one by one. The first one to dump was the fabric softener, which I replaced following an old tricks that my grandmother used years ago.
Keep reading to discover the unbelievable simple trick to soften your laundry naturally! And it’s safe for the washing machine, too!
Did you know that the fabric softener is one of the most toxic substances in our homes? It contains at least seven harmful ingredients like ethanol, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, that are carcinogenic and affect central nervous system, the pulmonary systems and the pancreas.
As for the clothes, it doesn’t really soften them, but it makes the fabric less absorbent. Well this is the opposite of what we expect it to do, especially when you think about bath towels, right?
The Old Recipe
I’ve decided to throw away the fabric softener bottles, and go natural so I’ve started to look for a replacement. Good thing I’ve asked my mother first, because she reminded my one of the old tricks that my grandma used for years to keep her laundry clean and safe.
Here’s the deal!
My grandma used vinegar for everything, from cleaning the house to growing beautiful hydrangea (yes, you read it right). So her idea of clean laundry included a final rinsing with ice-cold water and 1/2 cup of scented vinegar, and the result was totally astonishing. I haven’t known for years what her secret for making scented vinegar was, but once I found out I’ve tried to make it better.
My grandma’s recipe was based on one bottle of vinegar and a handful of fresh mint, that were macerated for a few days. Beside fresh mint, she also used a type of scented geranium that you might identify easier by its Latin name – Pelargonium graveolens.
The fresh leaves were placed in the bottle, the vinegar was poured on top and they were macerated together in a shady place for a few days. Then she used half a cup of scented vinegar for rinsing a load of clothes or laundry. The “load” was still an improper term since the she didn’t have a washing machine before the ’90s, but the quantity was pretty similar to what we understand by this word.
My Update to the Old Recipe
I can hardly find fresh mint on regular basis, not to mention the special geranium type that I haven’t seen since. But we have a lot of essential oils at hand to replace them. Still, there is one thing to keep in mind when using essential oils.
First, let me tell you about the update: if you cannot get fresh leaves, replace them with 7 to 10 drops of essential oils per oz. There is one more advantage in using essential oils: you can use them immediately, as you don’t need to wait for the macerate. I recommend lavender oil, peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree oil or lemon, as they are also supposed to soothe allergies. My choice though is lemongrass oil, which is my favorite for other homemade recipes too.
What to Beware Of
It might be a downside too, and you should know it. When using this type of vinegar for rinsing white laundry and clothes, the oil added for scent might stain the fabric. Under the circumstances, using just vinegar would be safe (at least that’s what I do.) The fresh smell will remain, believe me!
Is it Safe for the Washing Machine?
I’ve heard this question many times. Is the vinegar going to affect the hoses and the pipes? Are the small parts going to rust sooner if using this acid liquid?
My father in law worked as a mechanical engineer for the largest appliances producer in my country and one of the largest refrigerators producers in Europe (look for Arctic and Beko, if you want to know more about them), and continued to provide service many years after his retirement. Everything I’m going to write next is based on his answer, and I have no reason to doubt his experience.
Briefly, using vinegar in the washing machine instead of fabric softener is safe. Actually, the producer even recommends using a solution of vinegar and lukewarm water for cleaning the washing machine accessories. Also, they recommend cleaning the washing machine once in a while, by running a washing cycle with a two cups of vinegar poured directly in the tub, to remove bad odors.
We already use stronger corrosive agents when we add bleach, for example. On the other hand, the hoses and the pipes are made to resist hot water and acids in a certain degree. The small amount of vinegar you use to soften the laundry won’t harm them, for sure.
I’ve made the switch to natural fabric softener for years (yeah, that’s my backyard in the picture), and I do not regret it. I bet that my washing machine would say the same, if it could talk…