If you’re seeking a healthier and more environmentally conscious way to tackle your laundry, learning how to wash laundry naturally is an excellent starting point.
Not only does it help reduce your exposure to harsh chemicals, but it also benefits the environment by minimizing pollutants.
This comprehensive guide will take you through the process, ensuring that even beginners can achieve fresh, clean clothes without relying on conventional detergents.
Table of Contents
Preparation: Gathering Your Natural Washing Supplies
Before you begin, you’ll need to gather a few natural items:
Essential oils (optional for scent)
Gather these items and prepare to transform your laundry routine.
Step 1: Sorting Your Laundry
To start off your natural laundry process right, it’s essential to sort your clothes carefully. Proper sorting goes beyond preventing color bleeding; it’s about preserving the quality and longevity of your clothing. So, grab your laundry basket and let’s get to sorting with these simple steps:
Color Coordination: Begin by separating your clothes into distinct piles based on color. Whites should be in one pile, lights in another, and darks in a third.
Multi-colored clothes can be tricky—if the item is mostly light with some dark patterns, consider if it’s safe to wash with lights, or if it’s a risk, put it in a separate pile. Always err on the side of caution to avoid colors running.
Fabric Types: Your next step is to sort by fabric type within those color piles. Delicate fabrics like silk and lace should be handled separately from your sturdy cottons and denims.
Delicates often require a softer wash cycle and milder soap, whereas more durable fabrics can tolerate more vigorous washing conditions.
Soil Level: Take note of the soil level of your clothes. Heavily soiled garments, like work uniforms or gym clothes, should be washed separately from lightly soiled items. This prevents dirt and odor from spreading and allows you to tailor your wash to the needs of each item.
Inspect and Prepare: Before finalizing your piles, do a quick check of the pockets for any loose items, and turn clothes inside out to protect the colors and outer surface from wear and tear. Close any zippers and fasten hooks to avoid snagging other items in the load.
Step 2: Pre-Treating Stains Naturally
When it comes to natural laundry care, pre-treating stains is a crucial step that can make all the difference. Nature has provided us with some powerful allies in the battle against stains, and when used correctly, they can be incredibly effective. Here’s how to tackle those stubborn spots before they go into the wash:
Spot Identification: First, lay out the garment and identify all the areas that need treatment. Good lighting will help ensure you don’t miss any spots.
Lemon Juice Application: Squeeze fresh lemon juice onto the stain. Lemon is a natural bleaching agent, especially effective on light-colored fabrics. It can help lift the stain without the harshness of chemicals.
Baking Soda Sprinkle: After applying the lemon juice, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda over the area. Baking soda is a mild alkali that can help dissolve dirt and grease easily in water.
Gentle Scrubbing: Using an old toothbrush, work the lemon juice and baking soda mixture into the stain with gentle, circular motions. The bristles will help lift the stain from the fibers without damaging the fabric.
Settling Time: Allow the mixture to sit on the stain for at least 30 minutes. For tougher stains, you may want to leave it for up to an hour. This gives the natural ingredients time to break down the stain.
Rinse and Assess: After the waiting period, rinse the area with cool water to remove the lemon and baking soda. Check the stain; if it’s still visible, you may repeat the process. Some stubborn stains may require a second treatment before washing.
Step 3: Washing with Natural Soap
The core of natural laundry is using the right soap. Synthetic detergents can be harsh on fabrics and the environment, but a natural soap will clean effectively while being gentler on both. Here’s how to wash your clothes with natural soap:
Water Temperature: Start by filling your washing basin or sink with lukewarm water. It’s important to avoid hot water, which can shrink or fade certain fabrics, and cold water might not dissolve the soap as effectively.
Grating Soap: Take a bar of natural soap – ideally one that’s free from fragrances and additives – and grate it into the basin.
You want to create a good amount of suds, as this is what will help lift dirt and oils from the fabric. If you’re not sure how much soap to use, start with a little and add more as needed.
Creating Suds: Swirl your hand in the water to help dissolve the grated soap. You’re aiming for a sudsy solution, but without an excess of bubbles. The suds are the cleaning agents, so give them a minute to form.
Submerging Your Clothes: Place your sorted laundry into the water. Ensure each item is fully submerged and has enough room to move around – this will help the soapy water penetrate the fibers.
Hand Agitation: With your hands, gently agitate the water and clothes. Mimic the action of a washing machine by moving the clothes back and forth and squeezing them gently. This helps the natural soap to work its way through the fabric and dislodge any dirt or oils.
Soaking: Allow the clothes to soak for a bit after you’ve worked the soap through them. The length of soaking time can depend on how dirty the clothes are; usually, 15 to 30 minutes should be sufficient.
Rinsing Thoroughly: After soaking, rinse the clothes with clean, lukewarm water. You may need to change the water a few times to make sure all the soap is removed. Soap residue can make fabrics stiff and can irritate skin, so make sure the water runs clear.
Step 4: Rinsing Thoroughly
After your clothes have been lovingly washed with natural soap, it’s crucial to rinse them thoroughly to remove all soap residues.
Rinsing effectively means your clothes won’t have any leftover soap which can attract dirt and might be irritating to the skin. Here’s how to ensure a thorough rinse:
Draining Soapy Water: Begin by carefully draining the basin or sink of the soapy water. Avoid wringing the clothes harshly, which can damage the fabric. Instead, gently squeeze the garments to remove excess water without twisting or pulling them out of shape.
Refreshing with Clean Water: Refill the basin with clean, cold water. Cold water is effective for rinsing and won’t set stains or cause shrinkage as warm water might. It also conserves energy compared to using hot water.
Submerging for Rinse: Place your clothes back into the clear water. Swish them around gently, separating any items that have bunched together to ensure that each garment is fully rinsed.
Agitation for Residue Removal: Use your hands to agitate the clothes again, as you did when washing. This helps to dislodge any remaining soap. If you’re rinsing a small load or just a few items, you can do this one piece at a time to focus on removing all the soap.
Water Inspection: After a couple of minutes of gentle agitation, lift the clothes to check the water. If it’s sudsy or cloudy, drain and refill the basin again. Repeat this process until the water is clear.
Final Check for Soap Bubbles: Before concluding the rinse, do a final inspection for soap bubbles. If you don’t see any soapiness and the water runs clear, then you’ve done a thorough rinse.
Step 5: Natural Fabric Softener
Harsh chemicals in traditional fabric softeners can be tough on clothes and skin, so a natural alternative is not only eco-friendly but also gentle. Here’s how to use white vinegar to soften your fabrics naturally:
Creating the Softening Solution: In a clean basin, mix together one part white vinegar to three parts water. White vinegar is excellent for breaking down laundry residues and softening water without leaving any lingering scent or residue on your clothes.
Submerging Clothes: Gently submerge your freshly rinsed clothes into the vinegar solution. Make sure each garment is fully soaked in the mixture to reap the full benefits of the natural softening.
Soaking Time: Let the clothes sit in the solution for a few minutes. This doesn’t need to be long — just enough time to allow the vinegar to penetrate the fabric.
Final Rinse: After the short soak, remove your clothes from the vinegar solution and rinse them once more with clean, cold water. This ensures that any remaining vinegar is washed out, though it should not smell once the clothes are dry.
Using white vinegar not only softens but can also help to remove any last traces of soap and can even brighten your clothes. It’s a simple, cost-effective, and eco-conscious way to ensure your clothes come out soft and comfortable to wear.
Step 6: Drying Your Laundry Naturally
Once your clothes are clean and soft, drying them naturally is the final step in your natural laundry routine. Here’s how to do it properly:
Removing Excess Water: Gently wring out each garment by hand to remove the excess water. Be mindful not to twist too hard, as this can stretch the fabric. Instead, press the water out gently.
Using a Clothesline or Rack: Hang your clothes on a clothesline or place them on a drying rack. Make sure there is enough space between each item for air to circulate, which helps them dry faster and prevents any mildew smell.
Adding Fresh Scent: If you enjoy a light fragrance, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a clean cloth or a small handkerchief.
Place this near your hanging clothes so the scent can transfer subtly as they dry. Essential oils like lavender, lemon, or rose can add a pleasant, gentle fragrance to your laundry.
Drying Indoors or Outdoors: If you have outdoor space, letting your clothes dry in the breeze and sunlight can freshen and naturally disinfect them. Indoors, choose a well-ventilated area away from direct heat sources.
Final Dryness Check: Once your clothes feel dry to the touch, give them a little extra time before taking them down. Sometimes thicker fabrics can hold moisture in seams or creases that may feel dry on the outside.
For more articles on how to wash, click here: How to Wash: Your Comprehensive Guide to Clothing and Fashion Care
Conclusion: How to Wash Laundry Naturally
By following these steps, you’ve learned how to wash laundry naturally and taken a significant step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. With each load of laundry, you’re contributing to a healthier environment and setting a positive example for eco-friendly living.