How to use essential oils in laundry – to make laundry smells sweeter for longer

Achieve longer-lasting laundry fragrance with these essential oil tricks

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There is something incredibly satisfying about pulling your laundry out of the dryer or off of the line and breathing in the fresh laundry scent. It is always an instant mood booster.

If your laundry is on the musty side, however, it can quickly put a damper on your day. If you have recently cleaned the washing machine, it might come down to a need to add just a little more fragrance when doing laundry, experts say.

This is where using essential oils in laundry comes into play, to help you achieve a perfectly tailored, signature laundry scent wash after wash.

How to use essential oils in laundry

Essential oils are one of the best ways to make laundry smell better, but they need to be used with caution lest you risk staining. This is how laundry experts get the balance right for perfect washes every time.

Make your own detergent

Someone pouring liquid laundry detergent into a drawer

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Making your own laundry detergent is a common practice if you are into green cleaning, but it can also be useful if you want more control over your laundry fragrance. Ocean Van, owner of Coco Laundry suggests DIYing your detergent or fabric softener to include your chosen essential oils from the first step of your laundry routine:

‘Essential oils like lavender and tea tree have natural antibacterial properties that enhance the cleaning power,’ she begins. ‘These oils contain volatile compounds that can break down grease and grime, while their antibacterial properties help to eliminate bacteria that cause odors. Lavender and tea tree oils are well-documented for their antibacterial properties, making them ideal for use in laundry detergent.’

To make your own essential oil detergent, Ocean recommends mixing one cup of soap flakes, half a cup of washing soda, and half a cup of borax in a large container. Then, add 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oils and mix well to ensure the oils are evenly distributed. Store the detergent in an airtight container to preserve the fragrance and effectiveness.

‘Test the detergent on a small, inconspicuous clothing area to ensure it doesn’t cause staining,’ she adds.

Mix up a scent booster

Miele washing machine in a chic farmhouse style laundry room with striped wallpaper and flowers in the sink

(Image credit: Miele)

Given that scent beads can be bad for your washing machine, it is a good idea to try to find natural alternatives. Hyacinth Tucker, owner and CEO of Laundry Basket, recommends using essential oils mixed with salt instead:

‘For a natural scent booster, combine two cups of table salt or kosher salt with 40 drops of essential oil in a bowl. Stir well and store the mix in an airtight container. Add a scoop to your washing machine at the start of the wash cycle to give your laundry a fresh, delightful scent,’ she suggests.

Add them to dryer balls

wool dryer balls on a towel

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Dryer sheets can add some fragrance to your laundry after washing, but they are not the strongest options. So, what to use instead of dryer sheets?

‘For drying, I love using two to four drops of my favorite doTERRA essential oil onto our wool dryer balls,’ shares Bekah Nixon, VP of global product innovation at doTERRA International. ‘I recommend using our abode blend, available at Amazon, for more of a clean, fresh smell, but you can use pretty much any essential oil. Toss two to four balls in the dryer with each laundry load.’

Hyacinth Tucker, laundry professional, adds that while this method is incredibly effective, you need to be cautious with certain oil blends: ‘Beware of using too much essential oil, or flammable essential oils such as tea tree, especially in the dryer, as it can be a safety hazard.’

Create a linen spray

Spray bottle

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If you would rather not risk any staining by using essential oils in the laundry process itself, Ocean Van, laundry expert, recommends applying it afterward in the form of a DIY linen spray:

‘A linen spray made with essential oils can be used to refresh clothes and linens between washes,’ she says. ‘The alcohol or witch hazel in the spray helps to dissolve the essential oils and acts as a dispersant when sprayed. The essential oils then evaporate, leaving a fresh fragrance on the fabric. The antimicrobial and deodorizing properties of essential oils like lavender and lemon are well-supported by research, making them ideal for use in linen sprays.

‘To prepare the spray, mix equal parts water and witch hazel in a spray bottle and add 10-15 drops of essential oil. Shake the bottle well before each use to distribute the oils evenly and lightly spray the solution onto clothes or linens from a distance of about six to eight inches.

'Be sure to spray from a distance to avoid concentrated spots that might cause oil stains,’ Ocean adds, ‘and keep the spray bottle away from heat sources to prevent degradation of the essential oils.'


How long do essential oils last on fabric?

Essential oils can last days on fabrics, especially if they are of high quality, applied properly and thoroughly, and the fabric is not then put through rigorous use (such as your gym wear). The scent will eventually fade over time, however, which is why reapplication either through your laundry load or a linen spray is recommended.

How long do essential oils keep?

Essential oils, when stored correctly, will stay fragrant for around two to five years, depending on the blend and quality. Storing essential oils in cool, dark, dry places will extend this life span, too. For any products you make with essential oils, aim to use them within six to 12 months, replacing them as the scent fades for the best effect.

Natural essential oils are quickly becoming one of the laundry room essentials everyone needs, and we can’t get enough of them. Be sure to invest in the highest quality essential oils you can afford for the best, longest-lasting results.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.