Is Putting Essential Oils In The Washing Machine Safe? (best tips)

An ever increasing number of people are turning away from conventional laundry products like detergents and fabric softeners. With many saying they no longer want to be exposed to so many potentially harmful chemicals. One way to keep your clothes smelling fresh after washing is the use of essential oils, but are they safe to use in the washing machine?

It turns out, using essential oils in a washing machine is safe as long as it’s done in the correct way. For all of the information you need to use essential oils in your laundry and how to do so safely, read on.

Where Do Essential Oils Come From?

Essential oils are pure oils that are extracted from many types of plants. The oils are extracted by one of two methods which are;

  1. Distillation
    In this process the plant material is boiled in a still and the steam is collected in a tube. That tube then passes through a cooling tub and this turns the steam back into a liquid which is collected and strained. The resulting liquid is the essential oil.
  2. Cold Pressing
    This process is more mechanical and uses a machine that punctures the plant parts using a series of spikes. The process then relies on centrifugal force to separate the oil from the rest of the plant material. This process is usually carried out for citrus based essential oils.

Whichever process is used to extract the essential oil, it is then mixed with a carrier oil, usually argan or jojoba oil.

Will Essential Oils Ruin A Washing Machine?

The best answer to this question is maybe, that’s because it all depends on how you use the oil. The thing is, different essential oils have different flashpoints, which means they catch fire at different temperatures. 

As a rough guide the flashpoint of essential oils ranges from 37 to 102 C. However, as you’re using the oils in the washing machine in the presence of water, there is far less chance of the oil catching fire. 

You wash clothes covered in grease and oil without those catching fire, and you’re only going to use a few drops of essential oils at any one time.

Is It Safe Putting Essential Oils In A Washing Machine?

So, overall, it’s safe to use essential oils in the washing machine as long as you don’t add too much oil and of course, as long as the water is running as normal too. 

The average washing machine uses anywhere between 14 to 20 gallons of water for each wash load. Which is more than adequate to prevent any essential oil catching fire.

We recommend using a wash cycle of no higher than 40 C when using essential oils because any higher could increase the risk of fire slightly.

Plus most essential oils will become dispersed at 40 degrees so you don’t need higher wash temperatures.

The only problem could be using essential oils in the tumble dryer. But even that’s safe as long as you use just a few drops on wool dryer balls.

What About Causing Stains?

Some people wonder whether the essential oil is likely to stain fabrics, which is a valid point. However, as long as the essential oil is not placed directly onto the clothes, and is mixed in with the detergent or homemade fabric softener. 

There’s very little chance of enough oil coming into contact with the fabric to cause any problems. Using good quality pure essential oils makes staining clothes less likely too! 

What’s The Safest Way To Add Essential Oils To The Washing Machine?

Essential Oil

If you’re thinking of using essential oils to freshen your laundry up, it’s probably because you’ve switched to unscented detergents. The easiest and safest way to add the essential oils is by mixing them with the detergent.

Adding Essential Oil To The Detergent

All you need to do is add 1 or 2 drops of your preferred essential oil to the measured dose of detergent before pouring it in the machine. 

Alternatively you could add around 10 to 15 drops of essential oil to the full container of liquid detergent and shake to mix thoroughly. However, this means your laundry will always have the fragrance of just one type of essential oil.

Whereas adding just a few drops to a measured dose allows you to choose a different fragrance for every wash load.

Making A Homemade Fabric Softener

If you’ve switched from regular detergent to an unscented version, there’s also the likelihood of you no longer using a fabric softener either. You can make your own using 1 cup of white vinegar mixed with a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil.

If you don’t like the idea of using vinegar on your laundry, you could use 1 cup of bicarbonate of soda mixed with 5 drops of your favourite essential oil. This should then be added to the wash cycle.

Both of these methods will result in your clothes feeling softer and smelling fresher too.

SEE ALSO: How To Use White Vinegar In The Washing Machine (and why!)

Other Ways To Freshen Clothes Using Essential Oils

clothes on a drying rack

If you’re still not convinced that using a few drops of essential oils in with the detergent is safe, there are other ways you can use essential oils to freshen up your clothes. They include;

Using A Fabric Spray

You can make a simple fabric spray that can be used on your clothes as you wear them or as you iron them. 

All you have to do is mix;

  • 6 tablespoons of distilled water
  • 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol
  • 10 drops of your preferred essential oil

Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spray the laundry just before wear or prior to ironing.

Added To A Steam Iron

If you use a steam iron to remove creases from your clothes, you can add 2 or 3 drops of your favourite essential oil to the water reservoir. Your clothes will become infused with the aroma of the essential oil every time you use the steam function.

Make Scented Drawer Sachets

Just add a few drops of essential oil to a small fabric pouch and drop it in your clothes drawer. Or hang a sachet or two from the rail in your wardrobe.

Added To Wool Dryer Balls

Although there is an increased risk of some essential oils catching fire in a tumble dryer, as long as you only use a couple of drops per ball, it’s perfectly safe – especially if you don’t allow the dryer to get too hot!

This means running the dryer at low to medium heat only. Never use the high heat setting when using essential oils in a tumble dryer.

What Are The Best Essential Oils To Use In The Washing Machine?

There are more than 90 different essential oils that are commonly used throughout the world. They are all believed to have their own particular benefits and qualities.

Good Essential Oils To Use On Laundry

Lavender Oil

There are many essential oils that are perfect for mixing with unscented liquid detergents. They include;

  • Sandalwood
    Sandalwood essential oil has soothing properties and is also said to improve focus and concentration.
  • Lavender
    Lavender essential oil has Soothing, calming and stress relieving properties and is often used for clothing and bedding.
  • Peppermint
    Peppermint essential oil has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and leaves clothes smelling fresh and minty.
  • Spearmint
    Just like peppermint, spearmint has the same antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and a fresh minty fragrance.
  • Lemon
    Lemon essential oil is used for removing stains and brightening white items. It also has a fresh natural smell that is great for general laundry.
  • Tea Tree
    Tea tree essential oil is a natural disinfectant that kills germs and sanitises making it a great choice for towels and bedding. 
  • Pine
    Pine essential oil is a natural deodoriser which makes it a good choice for sportswear and gym wear.
  • Eucalyptus
    Eucalyptus essential oil has antibacterial properties making it great for disinfecting clothes and removing bad odours at the same time.
  • Rose
    Rose essential oil is said to be a mood lifter as well as being used to reduce levels of anxiety. Plus it leaves clothes smelling fragrant and fresh.
  • Grapefruit
    Grapefruit essential oil is known for its antibacterial properties and has a fresh, clean smell.
  • Orange
    Orange essential oil is known for its mood improving properties as well as its pleasant smell and stress relieving properties.
  • Bergamot
    Bergamot essential oil is a great stress relieving oil and is also good for skin conditions. The fragrance is very similar to that of oranges.

Essential Oils Known To Stain

There are a few that can stain clothes and we would recommend keeping them away from the laundry. They are usually those that have natural dark or strong colours and include;

  • Tangerine
  • Myrrh
  • Patchouli
  • Vetiver
  • Blue Tansy
  • German Chamomile
  • Jasmine

This is not a comprehensive list and we suggest you do a patch test before using any essential oil on clothing. This should be done on a small inconspicuous area like the inside bottom of a shirt for example.

Mixing Essential Oils For Amazing Scents!

With so many essential oils on sale, you have a wide choice of fragrances available to use. However, combining different fragrances can really enhance the smell and feel of your laundry.

You can experiment with various combinations or you can use some of the more popular combos which include;

  • Sandalwood & Pine
    This pairing gives an earthy, woodland fragrance which smells like a walk in the woods and is said to increase focus.
  • Lavender, Rosemary & Lemon
    This combination makes a fresh and clean fragrance that lifts the mood.
  • Lavender & Chamomile
    This pairing creates a calming, restful fragrance and is often used for bedding and pillow cases.
  • Lemon & Bergamot
    This combo makes clothes smell refreshingly citrus-like and helps to relieve stress.

Are Essential Oils Safe To Use In A Washing Machine?

The nature of any oil is it will burn under the right conditions. Which is why it’s best to never use a diffuser that uses a candle. However, using a few drops of essential oil mixed in with a liquid detergent is about as safe as it gets.

With anywhere between 14 to 20 gallons of water running through the machine, at temperatures no greater than 40 degrees C, there’s an extremely low risk of the oil catching fire.

SEE ALSO: Is It Bad To Underload Your Washing Machine?

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to put essential oils in the washing machine?

It is completely safe to put essential oils in the washing machine as long as you add the oil to a liquid detergent or fabric softener. The flashpoint of essential oils ranges from 37 C to 102 C. As long as you only use a few drops of essential oil in the wash there’s no chance of it catching fire.

What is the best way to use essential oils in laundry?

The best way to use essential oils in laundry is to add a few drops to a measured dose of liquid detergent. Which is then added to the dispenser drawer in the usual way.

Are essential oils flammable in the washer?

Essential oils are considered to be flammable liquids with the flashpoint of essential oils ranging from 37 to 102 C. However, if you add just a few drops in with a liquid detergent before adding to the dispenser drawer, there will be enough water in the system to prevent any chance of a fire.

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