4 Natural Laundry Boosters & Why They Work
Today I’m covering the basics of 4 natural laundry boosters that can be used along with any detergent to enhance its cleaning ability.
In order to appreciate why the laundry boosters work, it is essential to understand that laundry washes best in soft water (meaning the PH of the water is high, or “alkaline”, see chart below). Minerals that exist in hard water interfere with your detergent's ability to clean, and this is why laundry detergents contain “water softeners”, or ingredients that increase the alkalinity of water. Natural laundry boosters further aid in this process by balancing water PH to be closer to the optimal washing PH of 10. (Source)
Alkaline water is also important because stains and soils that accumulate on your clothes are often acidic (see chart below). Speaking simply, acids (dirt & stains) and bases (detergents & laundry boosters) react when combined and eventually neutralize (think of a baking soda and vinegar volcano experiment).
So if nothing else, remember that laundry washes best in alkaline water!
4 Natural Laundry Boosters you can use in your home to improve the laundry water PH and fight stains in clothing:
Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate), PH: 8 - 8.6 Baking Soda is known for helping deodorize your laundry and also slightly increasing water PH. Baking Soda is edible, safe to handle, and already in most households. Baking Soda is a great go-to booster for every day washing as it dissolves in all water temperatures. (Source) Suggested Use: Add ¼ cup to the drum of your washer before adding clothes. Caution: Mildly irritating to the eyes
Washing Soda (Sodium Carbonate), PH: 11 – 11.7 Washing Soda is similar to baking soda, but it has a higher PH and that makes it a very effective water conditioner (commonly found in powder laundry detergents, like Original Tide). As washing soda can be harsher on clothing, I wouldn’t recommend adding it to loads with delicate clothing, but I use it for every day washing as it also freely dissolves in water. (Source)
Suggested Use: Add ¼ cup to the drum of your washer before adding clothes. Cautions: Washing soda dust may irritate eyes, skin and cause shortness of breath. Wear gloves if handling the powder and do not inhale or ingest.
Borax (Sodium Borate), PH: 9.3 While Borax is natural (it comes right from the earth), and an effective laundry booster, it is not considered a “non-toxic” ingredient; sodium borate is banned in the European Union in some applications due to the negative effects it can have on the human body (irritation and reproductive toxicity). If you already own a box of Borax, I personally would say to use it up (rather than throw it out) because I have been unable to find any studies that suggest it is harmful in a normal laundry application - just be sure to follow the safety instructions and keep out of reach of children or pets! Washing Soda is generally considered a safer alternative with similar results in laundry cleaning. (Source) Suggested Use: Add 1 TBSP into a mason jar with hot water, dissolve and add to the laundry drum for regular washing To Pre-Soak stained clothes: dissolve 1/2 cup of borax in a gallon of hot water (Source) Note Borax does not readily dissolve in cold water. Cautions: eye and skin irritation, reproductive toxicity
Sodium Percarbonate (Sodium Carbonate Hydrogen Peroxide), PH: 10.5 Sodium Percarbonate is used as a stain remover and brightener and it is the primary stain fighting ingredient in oxygen bleach or oxiclean. It is made up of washing soda + hydrogen peroxide and when those two ingredients are combined, they pack a powerful punch. This is an excellent laundry booster (or pre-soak) for stained clothing and is considered to be a low safety concern (green circle classification). The formula works best in warm- hot water and when given ample time to work at stains, so pre-soaking is ideal when you have time. Do not use on silk or wool. *A special note: once sodium percarbonate mixes with water it breaks down into washing soda and hydrogen peroxide within 5 to 6 hours. These two ingredients working separately are not as effective, for this reason I would suggest you avoid buying liquid “oxiclean” sprays or laundry detergents as the sodium percarbonate will no longer be present. If pure sodium percarbonate is not available near you, look for an oxygen bleach containing just sodium carbonate and sodium percarbonate (skip the dyes and perfumes!). (Source, Source)
Suggested Use: Add 2 TBSP to the drum of your washer before adding clothes. Pre-Soak Use: Add 4oz to a gallon of hot water (or follow your package instructions based on soil level) Caution: May intensify fire, serious eye irritation, warning not to consume. Always follow the labeled safety instructions.
These natural laundry boosters can be combined! In fact, you will see they are often listed together in laundry detergents. Feel free to come up with your own combination but please follow the above guidelines in terms of how much to use; using too much of these products may lead to residue not rinsing clean from clothing that can be irritating to the skin.
Vinegar can be added to the fabric softener compartment in your washing machine to help clear out any residue on clothing at the end of the wash (do NOT add with your detergent at the beginning as vinegar will neutralize your detergent before it does its job!!). My only caution with this is that the acidity of vinegar can wear out the rubber components of your washing machine over time, so for that reason I don’t use it regularly (and don’t feel the need to).
Did you learn something new? Have you tried any of these laundry boosters before- if so, which one? I would love to hear your insight and experience!