How to Make Chemical Free Laundry Detergent

When my daughter was 2 years old, we spent many nights listening to her cough so hard she started to sound out of breath.  It was the winter so we thought it was a bad virus at first, but when it persisted we became concerned.  We brought her to her pediatrician and described her nightly coughing fits, and he told us she had asthma.  She was actually too young to receive such a diagnosis, so I believe they called it “reactive airway disease” but he explained that this was basically asthma.  She was put on a medication for allergies and asthma, and we were given steroids to be used in a nebulizer. Wow. What just happened?

My daughter is very sensitive, and tends to experience every side effect possible, so I was a little alarmed by this new and sudden medication regimen.  I respect the use of medicine in health care, but I am always cautious when it’s not addressing the root cause of the issue, and I felt like this was one of those times. Why was she only coughing at night? I started to research and read that there are many household toxins that can be inducing and/or contributing to a child’s respiratory ailments. Now I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical when I found that the most basic household products, such as my laundry detergent, could be causing my daughters respiratory problems.  It’s laundry soap, a staple in everyone’s house. It’s something my busy household goes through tons of.  It’s not sprayed in the air, so how could this be such an irritant that it could cause my daughter to cough so bad that she needed steroids to open her airways? I wasn’t buying it at first. Then I was horrified when I delved in and read about the ingredients in such products, and the dangers associated.  Common sense told me that Clorox bleach is a potentially dangerous irritant, but I never would have thought the same of my basic laundry soap.  However, truth be told, it too had a bad report card with the Environmental Protection Agency. You know those pretty scents you love to smell coming from your laundry room? Well the artificial fragrances are made from petroleum and are linked to allergies and irritation.  Many laundry detergents also use Ethanol which is linked to damage to the lungs, amongst other health problems. Absolutely horrifying. You can find anything you want on the internet, good or bad, but my research was through trusted sources, including a government website—The Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov.  It doesn’t get anymore legit than that. If the EPA is telling me that bleach is a registered pesticide, and I keep my children away from that when outdoors, I certainly don’t want it introduced inside my home.

That very day I went and bought an organic laundry detergent free of such artificial fragrances and dangerous irritants.  I started washing everyone’s clothes and linens in it until everything was safe.  At the same time, my daughter had already been on her steroid and anti-histamine regimen.  While we did see a decrease in her coughing fits/breathing episodes, negative behavior changes including hyperactivity, anxiety and restlessness also ensued. Now that everything was converted, it was time to put it to the test. I slowly weaned her off all of her medications, and voila, we still had a cough free child. If she caught a cold, we may see a minor breathing episode, but they were few and far between and nothing compared to the nightly hacking she had been enduring. Bonus, being off all of those medications, that were merely putting a Band-Aid on the problem, she thankfully resumed her typical demeanor as well.  As a second unintentional test, upon accidental re-exposure to a basic laundry product, she immediately began coughing at night again.  As a favor to me during a time of need, a friend graciously did a bunch of my laundry for me, but used her products. Included in this laundry—my daughter’s bed linens. I never thought about the impact of what chemicals she was exposed to when she was sleeping, but it made sense; can’t you just picture your child nuzzled up, face buried in their pillow and blankets?

Welp, that did it for me. I was committed to staying toxin free in my laundry room, for the health of all of us. I also don’t like to spend a lot of money on cleaning products, so I found a few ways to go green with my laundry without spending a ton of green.

  • Homemade recipe. Use a 1 gallon container, and fill it with 1 cup liquid Dr. Bronner’s Soap, 1 cup baking soda, and 30 drops essential oil (I use citrus or lemon to give it a powerful cleaning boost in a gentle way). Fill it up with warm water the rest of the way, shake and use 1/4 cup per load.
  • If you’re a busy mom with not a minute to spare or simply prefer to purchase a product, I find Eco-Me Laundry Detergent to be effective and affordable.

When I made this switch, I had so much guilt for what I had caused my daughter, but it was not my fault.  Cleaning products have changed drastically from the baking soda using days of our grandmas.  And now with all the large conglomerates in competition with one another, a quick, inexpensive way to make a cleaning product is to pack a bunch of harsh chemicals into the recipe. They work, they clean, but they also work on our systems to break them down.   I used to feel a certain amount of guilt in passing this information on to the unsuspecting mom, but not anymore.  As moms, we should support each other by sharing our knowledge.  Not one of us knows everything, but if we all unite to exchange information we are a wealth of knowledge amongst us. I don’t judge moms for the products they use, because I was once there. I didn’t know. But now I do, and my children’s health is much better off because of it.

Michele Ogniewski

Michele Ogniewski

Michele is a full-time mother of three young children and part-time social worker. She loves to write and has a particular interest in simple ways for healthy living and family fun.
Michele Ogniewski

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Michele is a full-time mother of three young children and part-time social worker. She loves to write and has a particular interest in simple ways for healthy living and family fun.


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