Not All Who (Waste-Free) Launder Are Lost...

Happy Autumn Waste Warriors!


It’s been quite a while since my last post, as it has been a dizzyingly busy late Summer/early Autumn – but have no fear! I have kept with the zero waste challenge, and have been making observations along the way to put together a few more of these blog posts before the New Year.

Now, down to the dirty – laundry, that is! Earlier this summer, I began experimenting with DIY zero waste options to replace the most common laundry products: detergent and dryer sheets. Finding simple, effective zero waste options for these was no simple task, even for a Pinterest-addict like me.  

I want to begin by sharing one of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year: due in part to this zero waste challenge, and also due to my stubborn tendency towards self-sufficiency, I have learned that it isn’t always the most efficient use of resources (i.e. money, materials, and time) to replace everything in your house with DIY alternatives.

I start with this lesson, because in trying to make several DIY alternatives to household cleaners, detergents, and body products throughout the year, I have ended up with many products that I didn’t like, didn’t work for me, or simply didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to. Although I acknowledge much of this DIY work is practice and playing with recipes, I don’t always have the time or willpower to do so, and that is okay. As a result, I have come to the conclusion that some products I prefer to buy instead of make at home. (Eco-friendly) laundry detergent is one of these products.

Laundry Soap

On the interwebs, there are hundreds of DIY laundry soap recipes. Finding zero waste options was basically determined by how simple the recipe was. For the recipe I used, there was still packaging waste, but these materials I made sure were recyclable.

On left, DIY laundry soap poured into reused laundry detergent container. On right, DIY laundry soap in glass container after sitting for a month of non-use — shake up the bottle and the soap is good as new!

On left, DIY laundry soap poured into reused laundry detergent container. On right, DIY laundry soap in glass container after sitting for a month of non-use — shake up the bottle and the soap is good as new!

The recipe for 1 gallon of laundry soap is as follows:

·      ¼ cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

·      ¼ cup Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda

·      ¼ cup Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Liquid Castile Soap

·      50-100 drops lavender essential oil

For the recipe and instructions, I referred to this blog, Pink Fortitude (

Ingredients for DIY laundry soap.

Ingredients for DIY laundry soap.

After using this DIY detergent a few times, I was disappointed to find my laundry didn’t smell freshly of lavender as I hoped it would; however, I’m used to my clean laundry being odorless anyway as the eco-friendly laundry detergents don’t tend to be very pungent.

The factor that ultimately deterred me from using my DIY laundry soap was an article I found outlining the reasons why DIY laundry soaps cannot replace detergents. In a nutshell, soaps and detergents are made from different ingredients, and soaps aren’t as effective at clearing build-up and dirt off clothes.

After reading this article, all I could think about when using my DIY laundry soap was if my precious clothes were just becoming dirtier in the laundry, and if I was ultimately ruining them. Although I haven’t taken the time to double-check the validity in the article, the risk of possibly ruining my clothes is too great to me. As a result, I switched back to using my store-bought laundry detergent. And alas, I am left with nearly-full containers of the ingredients involved.

Dryer Sheets

The recipes I found for dryer sheets all, for the most part, resembled each other. The recipe I used is as follows:

·      1 cup distilled vinegar

·      16-20 drops (lavender) essential oil

For the recipe and instructions, I referred to this blog, View from the Fridge (

DIY dryer sheets in reusable container.

DIY dryer sheets in reusable container.

The main thing that differed here was the material used for the actual sheet. In order to make this zero waste, I first opted for thick face towels, as my logic here was the thicker the towel, the more solution the towel will absorb, and therefore the more likely it is my clothes would have a stronger smell of lavender.

What I found instead is that with thick face towels as dryer sheets, you run out of the solution much quicker (it literally took only 3 dryer sheets to soak up the entire solution before having to remake it), and even with all that solution in the towel, my laundry just smelled like vinegar with the faintest hint of something resembling lavender.

I then opted for reusable cleaning towels for dryer sheets as they are much thinner, and are marketed as absorbent; these towels are also the recommended dryer sheet option in many of the recipes I came across. Using the reusable cleaning towels, the solution at least lasted about 8 or so dryer sheets, but my laundry still came out smelling like vinegar.

 If I were to continue to test the recipe, my next move would be to select an essential oil with a more pungent aroma. However, since I’ve spent the past 7 years not even using dryer sheets with my laundry, it isn’t important enough to me to continue testing. The fact of the matter is, you don’t NEED dryer sheets for your laundry – they are simply a nice-smelling, anti-cling luxury. Fortunately, all the ingredients and materials required of these DIY dryer sheets I can use for other things.

 SO, there are also recipes out there for DIY fabric softeners, stain removers, and scent boosters, but as I have never used these products anyway, I didn’t find it worthwhile to try them out for DIY purposes. Also, the stakes are high when testing these products on your own clothes and when you are still (over)paying for quarter-fed laundry loads.

 That was my experience with DIY, zero waste laundry – hope this is helpful for you if you are planning to try it as well! Do you have any zero waste laundry tips and tricks? Tweet or share with us on Twitter and/or Instagram at @globalgreen.


Happy zero wasting,



Madisen Gittlin