If you’ve been around my blog or enjoyed my free downloads, you know that healthy homes goes hand in hand with humidity levels and toxic chemicals. And did you know, the laundry room or laundry closet in your home often has higher than average levels of both these components?
It’s true. Laundry rooms often house some of the most harmful chemicals (clue: bleach) and are often a small space with a lot of excess moisture. These two things on their own are trouble, but put together they can actually form a bigger problem. Most chemicals and VOCs off gas into the air. This means that the toxins that are harmful to our bodies usually evaporate into a gas form, infiltrating our indoor air. The toxins can then enter our lungs and eventually our bloodstream while we’re simply breathing the air at home.
The reason that humidity mixed with VOCs and chemicals that off-gas can be so harmful is that they will actually off-gas at a faster rate when the environment is more humid. Any cleaning product or laundry product in your laundry room will enter the air more rapidly and be more concentrated in the air if you have high humidity levels.
And the truth is that most laundry areas just naturally have higher levels of humidity. Through no mistake or fault of our own, the simple chore of doing laundry increases the humidity inside a room by as much as 35%. But the good news is that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to reduce the level of humidity in the room once you know it can be a problem.
Like I mentioned above, the simple chore of doing laundry, especially if you’re like me and seem to do a load just about every day, increases the humidity level in your laundry room by quite a bit. The heat and water from simply washing clothes evaporates into the air, causing the relative humidity in the room to rise. The dryer will also increase the humidity in the room, as it pulls moisture out of the clothing and exhausts the air through the dryer vent outside. And don’t think line-drying will reduce this problem. Line drying clothing is actually worse for the indoor humidity and will add more moisture to the air over time than drying the clothes in a dryer.
So how can you prevent adding moisture to the air in your laundry room or closet? You don’t have to dry your clothes outside and you don’t have to drastically change your habits. Nope. You can change just a few key things to make sure the humidity levels aren’t soaring inside.
- Use a window if you have one in your laundry area and crack it open while running the washer and dryer
- If your laundry area has a vented fan (similar to one found in a bathroom), run it while doing laundry and for about 20 minutes after finishing to eliminate as much moisture as possible
- Leave doors to the laundry room or closet open while doing laundry to allow moisture to escape the area
Precautions & Preventative Measures
A laundry area can quickly become a nightmare when pipes leak or dryer vents are blocked. Taking extra precautions to make sure your laundry area is free from these issues will save you from unplanned expenses and frustrating home repairs in the future.
First, if your laundry room is above a finished space, you’ll want to make sure your washing machine has a disaster pan below it. Usually this is a plastic basin that the washing machine sits in, however the plastic basin also has a drain built in that allows any water leaking from the machine to be carried to a drain, rather than spilling out onto the floor and room below.
Second, check to make sure your washing machine has stainless steel braided supply hoses in the back. Older machines may have rubber hoses, which are more likely to leak and burst. Changing over to braided hoses will help prevent future leaks.
Next, check your dryer vent. You’ll want to check outside to make sure there is nothing blocking the vent. It’s a good idea to have the dryer vent cleaned every 1-2 years. You can do this yourself or hire a professional. Cleaning away extra lint is the key to keeping your home free of this fire risk.
Finally, check behind your dryer to make sure you don’t see an excess amount of lint. If you see a lot of lint in the area, it could mean that your dryer has become unattached from your dryer vent. This is another fire risk and should be dealt with right away.
Let’s talk products. Laundry products are not only some of the most toxin in a home, but they also become embedded into the fibers of the clothing we wear and the textiles around our home. Taking extra care to research the products being used in the laundry room can help create a healthier environment in not only your laundry room, but your whole house.
Laundry detergents are made from more than just soap. They often have elements of bleach and ammonia in them made to scrub and sanitize clothing. Laundry detergents also have added synthetic fragrances that are made up of chemicals harmful to our respiratory and nervous systems.
The synthetic fragrances that are added to laundry detergents is often times necessary in order cover up the unpleasant, chemical smell of the cleaner. Truly, simple soap products without fragrances should be enough to clean our laundry.
The solution? Taking the steps below, you can easily change your laundry detergent from toxic to completely healthy in record time.
- Check your current laundry detergent with www.ewg.org to see what your current grade is. Use the same database to find a replacement if necessary.
- You can also make your own laundry detergent (check out my favorite recipe in my non-toxic cleaning book).
- Switch to a plant based laundry detergent like Thieves for complete peace of mind (plus it smells like Christmas in a bottle!)
Fabric softener was one of the first things I let go of when it came to cleaning up my cleaning products. I ditched the blue, smelly liquid and never looked back. Fabric softeners often contain the same plethora of chemicals added to mask the chemical odors that laundry detergents do. Fabric softeners also contain other toxins and chemicals that help embed the formula into clothing. This is what helps the fabric softener stick to clothing fibers and keep that scent in clothing for the long haul.There are a few solutions to creating soft feeling clothing that are completely natural and don’t add any unnatural scents or irritating chemicals to the clothing.
- A simple solution of vinegar with a few drops of lavender essential oil in place of fabric softener is the simplest way to naturally soften clothing fibers.
- Try ¼ cup of ice cream or rock salt in the washing machine with your clothing to add an extra level of softness
- Try washing clothing in a cycle with just baking soda to remove any product build up from the fabrics and then wash with natural soap and softener to bring the fibers back to their natural form
Dryer sheets are another toxic product that I got rid of early on. Not only did I just not like finding them all over my house and stuck to the inside of my clothes, but they’re infused with many chemicals and unnatural scents. The great news is I completely replaced them with wool dryer balls and never looked back. I add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the dryer balls to give my laundry a clean scent, but I don’t feel it’s necessary.I’ve been so happy with this simple switch, not to mention I’ve saved money not purchasing boxes of dryer sheets to add to the laundry.You can also soak cut up squares of old cotton t-shirts in a solution of vinegar and lavender essential oil and add them to the dryer with your clothing. Simply keep a jar of them on your dryer and refill the jar every few washes. You can get the exact steps in my cleaning book here.
Nobody hates dingy, grey whites as much as I do. But bleach just isn’t an option in my house. The strong bleach odor should be a red flag to all of us — this product is made with harsh and unsafe chemicals. Bleach isn’t safe to be around kids, and to be quite honest, it’s not healthy for us either. Check out bleach products on www.ewg.org and see for yourself the harmful components this product adds to your own home.
To keep your whites white, you can add baking soda, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to your wash. Using about a ½ cup of any of these products is a great option to keep your whites bright. You also want to make sure your home doesn’t have overly hard water. Hard water will make any whites grey and kind of disgusting looking.
If you’re trying to regain that brightness in your whites, you’ll want to soak your clothing in a solution of hot water and washing soda. The ratio I use is 1 gallon of water to ½ cup soda. Soak as a prewash and simply launder as usual.
Socks are a whole other story in my opinion. My girls run outside to greet friends and family in their socks and I often catch them traipsing through the garage without shoes. For tough whitening and non-delicate items, you can boil them in a pot of lemon slices and water. Let them soak for about an hour and wash as normal.