One thing we were missing the most when we switched to a natural plastic-free Laundry Detergent was those amazing scents that liquid detergents and fabric softeners usually offer (how many Downy lovers out there?).
Although eliminating plastic bottles from our laundry and running it completely zero waste was a huge reward, we had to find other ways to make our laundry smell great again and this is why we fell in love with the Laundry Detergent Strips in both their Fresh Linen and Spring Flowers versions.
But there are still people who have to avoid fragrances entirely (even though these are mostly natural) but miss the joy of nice scents on laundry days or others who would simply love for their laundry to smell of their favourite scents.
This is why we started experimenting with adding essential oils to our laundry… and discovered a whole new world! After all, who doesn’t want their laundry to smell amazing and know that it isn’t due to a cocktail of chemical-filled fragrances packaged in plastic bottles?
First of all, what are Essential Oils?
The word “essential” indicates that the oil contains the “essence” of the plant, the natural chemicals that provide its unique aroma or flavour. Essential oils are extracted from different parts of the plant such as grasses, leaves, flowers, needles, twigs, peels of fruit, seeds, bark, branches, and roots.
To be classified as true essential oils, they must be isolated through distillation or cold pressing. Essential oils are NEVER extracted using solvents and this, as you can imagine, is a long and laboured process that makes them more expensive.
Although synthetic artificially created fragrances are available at a much lower cost, they will not offer the therapeutic benefits that true essential oils offer. Only natural botanical essential oils contain compounds that will cause various neurochemicals to be released in the brain, the concept which Aromatherapy is based on.
Contrary to synthetic oils which are reproduced in laboratories, natural essential oils don’t always smell exactly the same and this is because their chemical composition is influenced by many factors as the weather, temperature, rainfall and geographic location the plant is subject to and how they are stored (ever wondered why they come in dark glass bottles? This is because they are photo sensitive and exposure to sunlight would make them evaporate sooner).
When used in cleaning products like laundry detergent, essential oils offer several benefits. They can help kill bacteria and fight viruses, some can help in cutting through grease and they all add a natural scent that will make you fall in love with washing your clothes.
Is it Safe to use Essential Oils in the Washing Machine or Dryer?
Even if essential oils are considered flammable liquids (their flashpoint can vary between 37 and 102 Celsius), when you add them to your laundry machine, you’re mixing them with plenty of water and this will prevent them from heating up too much to cause serious concerns.
This is different if you want to add essential oils to your dryer to refresh your laundry and give it a nice, customised scent. Because of their flammable properties and the fact that dryer machines can run on pretty hot settings, you should never add essential oils directly in your dryer.
We recommend putting a couple of drops of your preferred essential oil to wool dryer balls, which will be added to your load. They will make sure to spread the aroma and also help you reduce drying time and wrinkles.
Why do we prefer wool dryer balls to dryer sheets? First of all, they are reusable for thousands of cycles, reducing your waste, but also they don’t release chemical compounds which coat your clothes to prevent static, which could cause asthma and other serious health issues.
If you want to keep using dryer sheets instead of wool dryer balls, you can use the same method of adding a couple of drops of the essential oil of your choice.
To be extra safe, don’t run your dryer on the max settings but opt for low or medium heat when you use your essential oils or alternatively dry your clothes on high heat before and then add your scented wool dryer ball on cooler air setting.
How to add Essential Oils to your Laundry
How to add essential oils to your laundry routine will depends on which type of detergent and washing machine you use.
The recommended amount of essential oil will depend on your load size and your personal preference but it’s best to start with a small amount and eventually add more product next time if necessary.
As a guideline, you can start adding around 10 drops of your preferred essential oil and then adjust the quantity if the scent is too strong or not as strong as you’d like.
If you still prefer to use liquid detergent, opt for an unscented one, fill up the cup to the specified measure and add your essential oil to it before pouring it to the detergent dispenser of your front load machine. Similarly, if you use powder detergent, fill up the dispenser with the recommended amount and add your essential oil drops to it.
If you are a fan of our Laundry Detergent strips, which are pre-measured and mess free, just opt for the fragrance free or baby version, add some essential oil drops to your detergent strip before tearing it up into smaller pieces and adding it to the detergent dispenser. The strip will absorb the essential oil and then distribute evenly to your clothes once it will dissolve immediately in contact with water.
If you have a regular top-loading machine, it's best to fill your washer with water first, then add your detergent and essential oil drops of choice, then add your clothes. This will help evenly distribute the detergent and oil in the water before they hit your clothes.
Alternatively, you can add the essential oil to the fabric softener compartment of your washing machine with a bit of water.
Want to make a DIY fabric softener using essential oils? Vinegar will come to the rescue and will help soften your clothes naturally and leave with fresh scent laundry.
Combine six cups of white vinegar with one cup of water; add in ten drops of your favourite natural essential oil and shake well. Use half a cup per load during the rinse cycle as you would a traditional fabric softener.
Want to keep your Clothes smelling great between washes?
Even though some induments must be washed regularly for hygienic reasons, washing some clothes such as delicate garments or woollen sweaters too much is not necessarily a good thing and might reduce their life.
So how can you keep your clothes smelling amazing between washes in a natural way?
You can prepare a spray bottle with a solution of water and some drops of your preferred essential oil and keep it in your closet. Shake it well and lightly spray your garments before wearing them for fresh natural smelling clothes.
Another great way to keep your clothing smelling nice, is to use the oils in your closets and drawers. You can add some drops of cedar oil onto some cedar rings, and they’ll not only smell great but will also keep moths away from your woollens!
Alternatively, our Laundry Detergent strips can come to the rescue again! Add some essential oil’s drops to a Fragrance Free sheet (or use one of the Fresh Linen or Spring Flowers versions) and tuck it in your drawers for a whiff of amazing natural scent every time you’ll open them.
How to choose which Essential Oils to add to your laundry
There are lots of essential oils to choose from and the choice will come down to your personal preference but it’s good to know that many oils don’t only have a great scent but also some added benefits.
Lavender – This is one of the most popular essential oils for using in laundry and present in many cleaning products. It will be a great addition for your baby clothes, bed sheets and pyjamas laundry. Pairs well with ylang ylang and it’s great also diluted with water as linens’ spray.
Chamomile – like lavender, chamomile essential oil is also very calming and has the potential to put your mind at ease. If you prefer a more uplifting scent, you can combine it with bergamot or another citrus oil.
Rose - the sweet floral scent of rose oil has been shown to help reduce anxiety when inhaled and would add a nice natural floral scent to your laundry.
Geranium – similarly to rose essential oil, Geranium has a sweet floral scent, and it also helps to make you feel calm and uplifted.
Lemongrass – often combined with green tea for spa-like scented candles and body creams, lemongrass essential oil has a soothing, comforting scent.
Spearmint and peppermint – Notoriously chosen for their energizing crisp aroma, mint essential oils will immediately make your laundry smell clean and refreshed. While being very similar, you will find that spearmint oil has a bit of a sweeter kick to its aroma. Essential oils from this family also have great antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that help in disinfecting your clothes.
Lemon – It is also a great energising aroma and helps boosting your mood. Citrus essential oils like lemon, orange, bergamot, and grapefruit are great at cleaning dirt & grime, deodorizing, and adding a fresh, clean, uplifting scent. As a bonus, Lemon is also a perfect natural anti-bacterial and antiviral and pairs well with peppermint or basil for a brighter kick.
Basil - has a fresh, crisp scent that pairs well with lemon. It’s been shown to be both antiviral and anti-inflammatory, so it could be a great addition to your laundry when someone in your household comes down with the flu.
Eucalyptus – One of the most Aussie scents known, eucalyptus oil is also a natural germ fighter. Its fresh scent combines well it with lavender or spearmint.
Tea tree – Tea tree is very well known for its strong antibacterial properties which naturally helps fighting viruses and germs and it’s therefore great to use when cleaning surfaces and clothes of someone who’s been sick. Tea tree is also amazing in fighting mold and mildew scents that result from forgetting your laundry in the washer for too long.
Rosemary – Rosemary has anti-fungal properties, which will come very handy if in your household there’s an avid swimmer or someone with a fungal infection.
Oregano – This is a strong, natural disinfectant that also has antifungal benefits that may help treat bacterial infections. One study found that it has strong antioxidant properties and could help treat fevers and respiratory symptoms, too.
Grapefruit – similarly to the previously mentioned Lemon essential oil, Grapefruit has been said to have antifungal properties that may help reduce any harmful bacteria in your laundry. If you enjoy a citrus-scented load, try mixing lemon and grapefruit.
Find here below some great essential oils combinations to try for your laundry (and don’t forget to comment on this post with your favourite!)
CITRUS LOVER: orange, bergamot OR grapefruit, and lemon
BRIGHT KICK: lemon, basil, and spearmint
COOL BREEZE: eucalyptus & spearmint
ANTIBACTERIAL: lemon & tea tree
LUXURY SPA: lemongrass, lavender, and eucalyptus
RELAXING MIX: chamomile, lavender, and orange
General Precautions When Using Essential Oils
Lighter, colourless oils are usually safer to use to avoid the chance of staining your clothes. Even though the oils will be mixed with water in your laundry wash, the heavier resinous oils such as patchouli, cedar and pine, or with darker colours, such as vetiver and tangerine are riskier.
The purpose of aromatherapy is to elicit some reaction in the body. Since we are all unique, not all oils will benefit everyone in the same manner.
Essential oils are very strong, and many can be skin irritants if not used correctly so make sure to handle them with care when adding them to your laundry. With few exceptions, you should NEVER apply essential oils directly to your skin.
To check for sensitivity or allergic reaction we suggest you perform a patch test using a properly diluted essential oil.
Keep all essential oils out of the reach of children and pets.
If you are under a doctor's care for any medical condition or pregnant, please consult your Health Care provider before using essential oils. Chemical compounds in essential oils can produce adverse effects when combined with medications. They may reduce the effectiveness of conventional drugs, or they may exacerbate health conditions in the individual.
While essential oils may help to soothe the symptoms of viruses such as flu, there is no evidence at this time to suggest that inhaling or applying essential oils to the skin can prevent viruses from entering the body to prevent infection in the first place.