Essential Oils and Laundry

Laundry.  It is a necessary evil in our homes.  The average family does around 80 pounds of laundry each week.  That is over 4,000 pounds of laundry every year!  The laundry comes out of the dryer seemingly crisp and clean and smelling great.  Only it isn’t truly “clean”.  Sure, the dirt and grime may be gone, but the toxic chemicals are there in full force.  The detergents, fabric softeners and scent boosters we use create a cocktail of dangerous toxins that could, long term, result in your family living below the wellness line.

Not only can these chemicals harm our bodies, but when clothes are washed, potentially toxic chemicals head down our drains and are known to be a major groundwater contaminant, which is of growing concern with the Environmental Protection Agency.  These contaminates can not be removed with water filters and have been known to contaminate water in Ann Arbor, Michigan and in several towns in Orange County, California. These toxins are likely present in many other places that do not routinely test for them.  Some of these chemicals never break down and can have long term affects on the environment.

It’s time to swap out those harsh chemicals and strong scents for an all natural laundry solution using essential oils.  It is unbelievably easy to do.  Laundry is a GREAT place to start on the path to toxin-free living in your home.  Not only will you be promoting health, but the monetary savings is so worth the time you’ve taken to whip up these laundry products. You could save $100 per year in dryer sheets alone, by creating your own wool dryer balls!


Those pretreating sticks and sprays sold in local markets are chock full of chemicals.  Most of these chemicals can irritate your skin, eyes and respiratory system. Some have even been linked to anemia, impaired fertility and reproductive and developmental toxicity.  One particular chemical  (Quaternium-15) that is found in these products actually releases low levels of formaldehyde.  This is an extremely allergenic chemical that has been linked to cancer.  That’s particularly troublesome for a product that comes in such close contact with the our skin; the largest organ on our body.    

Grass stains on the kids’ knees and gardening soil on yours.  Maybe there is a stale odor of fish on your apron or your toddler got a little carried away with the marker.  All of these pesky stains and smells can be pretreated using little to no elbow grease and essential oils.   Mix 1 Cup Vinegar, 1/2 Cup Salt and 3 Drops of Tea Tree oil and enough warm water to cover the item of clothing and let them soak for an hour, then wash as usual.

We all work hard.  A big presentation at the office, a tough morning at the gym or a Parent-Teacher conference at our little one’s school.  Breaking a sweat is inevitable and can lead to those unsightly underarm stains on our clothing.  You can pre-treat these stains by combining 1/4 Cup Vinegar, 1 Tablespoon Baking Soda and 4 Drops of Lemon, Lime or Eucalyptus Oil.  Rub the mixture onto the sweat stain with your fingers, a soft cloth or an old toothbrush and launder as usual.


Maybe you are a mechanic, a professional chef or just a messy home cook.  Grease stains on clothing can cause even the most seasoned laundry guru to chuck out the besmirched item. To pretreat that grease stain mix together

  • 2 Tablespoons Cornmeal,
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt and
  • 2 Tablespoons Baking Soda
  • and cover the stain.

Let stand for 30 minutes or more to absorb as much grease as possible, then wipe away.  Next soak any remaining stain in

  • 1/2 Cup Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • 5 drops of Lemon or Orange Oil

until the stain breaks free.  Wash in the hottest water the fabric can stand.

Laundry is a GREAT place to start on the path to toxin-free living in your home.  Not only will you be promoting health, but the monetary savings is so worth the time you’ve taken to whip up these laundry products.

In the Wash

Now that you have pre-treated the stains and your clothing is now ready for the actual wash cycle.   Laundry soap, bleach and fabric softener are all laden with harsh chemicals and toxins.   One such chemical is 1,4-dioxane.   Exposure, even at very low levels, to 1,4-dioxane resulted in lab animals developing cancer.   It is absorbed through the lungs, skin and gastrointestinal tract of mammals.     The National Institute of Health substance profile sheet claims that, based on research to date,   1,4-dioxane is “reasonably expected to be a human carcinogen”.   Many detergents are endocrine disrupters that cause hormone imbalances.   This can negatively affect fertility in males and increase breast cancer risk in females.   Hormone imbalance also contributes to an extensive range of problems including heart disease and depression.

Mixing together your own laundry soap takes just a few minutes and is so unbelievably economical.   Every ingredient can be found in the detergent aisle in your local grocery or super store. In the end, a load of wash with this detergent will only cost you pennies.   Combine 1 (4 lb. 12 oz) box of Borax, 1 (3 lb. 7 oz.) box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, 2 (14.1 oz.) Shredded Bars of Zote or Fels-Naptha Soap (a cheese grater works wonderfully) and 20-30 drops of an Essential Oil of your choice (citrus oils are great for cleaning).  This makes approximately 200 loads worth of detergent.   You need only ONE TABLESPOON per load, as it is highly concentrated.

Bleach is strongly corrosive.   Its fumes alone can irritate or burn skin, eyes and lungs or cause nervous system damage.     Each year 1/4 of the calls made to Poison Control are related to accidental ingestion of bleach or products containing bleach.   Many of these accidents involve young children and can be potentially fatal.   Bleach scores and F from the Environmental Working Group due to its toxic ingredients.   (Go to to check the “grade” of your household cleaners and personal products).     If you are wanting to create a chemical free bleach alternative try mixing 2 Cups Liquid Castile Soap, 1/2 Cup Aloe Vera Juice, 1/2 Cup White Vinegar, 1 Cup Water, 1 Tablespoon Powdered Citric Acid, 2 Teaspoons Grapefruit Seed Extract and 15-20 Drops of Lemon (or Lemongrass) Essential Oil.   Store in a glass one gallon jug and turn upside down once or twice before each use.   For an average load of whites use 1/4 Cup.   This can truly be used for any load of wash, but is especially nice for cotton linens that can then be hung on a line to dry in the sun.   The aloe vera juice softens, while the citric acid, grapefruit extract and lemon essential oil brighten and sanitize.

The Rinse

The hardest laundry product to give up seems to be fabric softener.   Who doesn’t love a super soft, good smelling article of clothing or towel? It’s so easy to pour a capful in the washer or toss a sheet in the dryer. The problem is that modern fabric softeners and scent boosters are made of noxious chemicals combined with massive amounts of fragrance. These chemicals are known to cause central nervous and respiratory systems damage (Alpha Terpineol, Ethanol, Benyl Alcohol), irritation to the eyes and skin (Limonene), and are even linked to pancreatic cancer (Benzyl Acetate). Even worse than the liquid fabric softeners are dryer sheets.   When these sheets are tossed into the dryer the chemicals are heated and then emit into the air.   Now we are breathing the chemicals into our lungs. Fabric softener is nothing more than a combination of chemicals that coat the surface of textiles with a thin layer of lubrication.   This makes our clothes feel “smoother” and helps them to resist the buildup of static electricity. But at what cost?   There are some wonderful alternatives to modern fabric softeners.   By combining 6 Cups Vinegar, 1 Cup Water, 1 Cup Baking Soda and 15 drops of Lemon, Lemongrass or Orange oil in 1 gallon-glass jug, you will create an amazing smelling, all natural fabric softener.   Add 1 Cup to the rinse cycle of each load.

Making your own Wool Dryer Balls is probably the most economical way to soften your clothing and towels.   You will need to purchase a skein of 100% pure wool yarn (you should be able to make about 3 balls with one skein).   Just start wrapping the end of skein around a couple of fingers one way and then the other to form the round shape.   Wrap the ball nice and tight and then tuck the end the end inside the ball so it will not unravel.   Next you need to “felt” your dryer ball.   Felting will keep the yarn from unraveling.   Place the yarn balls into the leg of a pair of nylons and tie knots on either side of the balls.   Wash them with a load of laundry you are doing on the “hot” cycle.   Toss them in the dryer and then repeat the wash/dry cycle one more time.   Remove the hosiery and they are ready to use.   When your are ready to dry a load of laundry, put 5-7 drops of your favorite essential oil on the dryer balls (yes, all three) and toss them in the dryer with the wet laundry.   You can re-add essential oils about every 5-7 loads.   The wool dryer balls soften your clothes naturally and should last you a few YEARS.

Clean laundry is a “must have” in most of our homes.   It makes us feel at ease knowing we are using all natural ingredients that don’t harm our families and keep the environment healthy, as well.


Lisa has a passion for full body wellness and happy living. She founded Three Leaf oils after a small bottle of lavender oil was introduced by a friend when she was struggling with getting a decent nights sleep in 2014. Her passion and drive stem from seeing real results in her family and friends that are using Essential Oils. She strives to introduce and educate as many people as she can to the exiting world of essential oils. Lisa is a Wife, Mother of 6, Mimi of 3 and growing business owner.

Karen Teeling
1. July 2019
Karen Teeling
1. July 2019
can reed diffuser oils be used on wool dryer balls? what's the best oil that smells like my childhood memory of laundry hung outside in the sun


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