Essential oils are a great way to eliminate foul odors, and leave laundry with a wonderful, fresh scent – without toxic artificial fragrances. Here are some of the best go-to essential oils to use for laundry!
Back when we were first married, my husband and I rented a little house that turned out to be just filled with black mold. Living there wreaked havoc on my health, creating a devastating cascade of miserable symptoms that finally began to clear, once we moved.
Today, the one lingering physical reminder of that experience, is an intense sensitivity that I still have to chemicals and synthetic scents. There are very few laundry detergents that don’t make me sneeze and itch, and laundry products with any scent to them are impossible.
I’ve always tried to dry my clothes on the clothesline, because (aside from saving electricity) it gives them that “fresh off the line” outdoorsy smell. But for years, whenever clothes and towels got dried in the drier, they just ended up…not stinky. No good smells. Just – neutral. It was disappointing, but there just didn’t seem to be any good way to get great-smelling laundry without making myself miserable.
Enter essential oils. They’ve finally put the good smells back in my laundry, and have helped with eliminating odors from musty laundry better than laundry detergent alone. I like using essential oils both in the wash, to really help clean my laundry and totally wipe out any bad odors during the washing process, and then again in the dryer to leave my clothes with a lingering scent that’s both pleasant and good for the body, rather than damaging to it, like artificially-scented dryer sheets.
My favorite essential oils for laundry
These are some of my go-essential oils, when it comes to laundry. Aside from smelling great, they each have wonderful cleansing properties!
Single essential oils for laundry
Lavender. This is one of my go-to oils for almost anything. It has antiseptic properties, and the aroma has a calming and relaxing effect.
Lemongrass is one of my favorite oils to use in the dryer. Almost nothing gives a brighter, fresher “I’m cleeean” scent, than Lemonagrass!
Tea Tree Oil. With its broad antimicrobial, as well as antifungal, and anitparasitic, and antiseptic properties, the oil of Melaleuca alternifolia is a real heavy-hitter in the wash. This is definitely one to pull out for doing pet laundry, or musty towels!
Rosemary is another oil with amazing antimicrobial, antifungal, antiparasitic, and antiseptic properties. Like tea tree oil, I generally use rosemary in the washer, to help really eliminate stubborn odors.
Cedarwood. Traditionally recognized for its calming and purifying properties, cedarwood is one of favorite woodsy oils to use in the dryer – I especially love pairing it with lemongrass!
Lemon. Another wonderfully clean-smelling oil, that has both antiviral and antibacterial properties. This one’s great in both the washer or dryer!
Eucalyptus is a wonderful antimicrobial and antibacterial oil, that’s great for using in the washing cycle.
Grapefruit is a wonderfully uplifting oil, that also has disinfecting antiseptic properties. I love pairing grapefruit with Rosemary or Lavender!
My favorite essential oil blends for laundry
Purification. This is one of Young Living’s essential oil blends, and it’s one of my all-around favorites. A combination of Citronella, Lemongrass, Lavandin, Rosemary, Melaleuca, and Myrtle, this blend works absolute magic on tough odors!
Citrus Fresh. Another Young Living blend, this one is so bright and fresh – it just makes everything smell clean. It’s one of my favorite blends to diffuse when I’m cleaning the house, and it imparts the same “fresh and bright” feeling to a load of clean laundry, too!
Envision. If I could have only one Young Living’s oils to use on my dryer balls, I would pick this blend. The smell is fresh and clean, in a way that leaves me feeling refreshed and creative every time I catch a whiff of it. From clothing, to towels, to sheets, this is a scent I’m happy to use on absolutely everything.
How to use essential oils in the laundry
Using essential oils in the washer
There are a few ways to use oils in the washer. Depending on your washing machine, and laundry set-up, one of these methods may work best for you.
Add essential oils directly to your unscented laundry detergent.
Use 2-3 drops of oil for each load’s worth of detergent. So if you have a small 20-load bottle, adding 40-60 drops would be about right. Shake the bottle really well, and then use like usual.
Mix the oils with Epsom salt, then add
Add 20 drops of essential oils to 1 cup of Epsom salt. Mix thoroughly in a jar, and keep tightly covered. Add a tablespoon of this directly to the laundry, each time you do a load.
Add 2-4 drops of oils directly to the fabric softener compartment, along with a little water or white vinegar (see note).
Because I have a really old washing machine, with a center-cup style softener compartment, this works well for me. I partially fill the cup with water, and then put a few drops of oil on top. I feel that the oil fully washing and disperses into the wash load, and works well for my old washer. **If I had a new washing machine, I probably wouldn’t choose this method, since oil and water don’t mix, and I wouldn’t want to risk essential oil residues damaging the machine’s mechanism for handling fabric softener.
Using essential oils in the dryer
There are also a few different ways to use essential oils in the dryer:
Add a drop or two of essential oil directly to each dryer ball before tossing them in.
Many, many people do this, and it’s a method that works well for me. However, I have heard from some people that have ended up with stains on their clothing, from an article getting stuck next to the part of the wool ball where the oil was applied.
Because I’ve only heard this complaint from people using oils purchased from Amazon (often the NOW brand seems to be a culprit), and never once from folks using Young Living or doTerra oils, it makes me think this is primarily a problem with the quality of “essential oils” being used. (Did you know that a bottle of oils only needs to contain 5% essential oil to be labeled “Pure”?)
If you’re concerned about staining, I’d suggest this next method!
Make up a bottle of dryer ball spray.
Because the oils are more finely dispersed, there’s very little chance of any staining, even from lesser-quality oils.
There are so, so many recipes out there for dryer ball sprays! Most use either vinegar, witch hazel, or vodka, along with water and essential oils.
You know me, I’m not going to share a method just because it’s popular on Pinterest, and that’s how everyone does it. I’m in the process of testing which of these ingredients actually work best for making DIY dryer ball spray, and I’ll get back to you.
In the meantime, pick one (witch hazel, vodka, or vinegar) and fill a small spray bottle about 1/3 of the way. Add your essential oils (about 25-30 drops works well for a 4-ounce spray bottle), and top up with water. Spray each dryer ball before you toss it in.
When I finish my dryer ball spray experiments, I’ll come back and update this post so you’ll know what I found out!
No dryer balls? No problem. Use an old sock!
If you don’t have dryer balls (and here’s why you should), please don’t despair. Grab an old mate-less sock, tie it in a knot so it’s easy to find at the end of each load, and apply your oils to that. You can either put a few drops directly on it, or use the spray bottle method above.
Have questions about using oils in the laundry that I haven’t answered? I love questions! Ask away in the comments below!