Thursday, February 28, 2008

Laundry Detergent Shenanigans

As briefly mentioned in my last post, I made my own laundry detergent a couple of days ago. I had never even thought of such a thing until I read this post by Liesl on disdressed that really piqued my curiosity. I would love to say that I had been searching for weeks, no months, for an easy way to make an environmentally friendly detergent alternative because I am soooo green, but no, my motives are completely self centered. I hate the smell of every laundry detergent I have ever met. I hate how much laundry detergent costs. Up until now I have used the Kirkland brand unscented laundry detergent from Costco and been quite happy with it. But when I read Liesl's post and then read through her very informative links I decided I would give it a try. And it doesn't hurt that it is a lot better for the environment (not entirely benign, but drastically better). The recipe I used is from Modern Cottage:

  1. 1 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated (comes out to about 2 cups)
  2. 1 c Borax
  3. 1 c Washing Soda
  4. 1/4 c OxyClean

Mix it all together into a bumpy, granular mix. Don’t worry about stuff getting correctly dispersed, even if it doesn’t quite look like it does.

Use 1T for a light load

Use 2T for a large or dirty load (It’s true! Only 2 Tablespoons per load!)

The purple thing in the middle is "essential oils" from Michael's. They smell horrible, I wouldn't add them to the cat box, and they were not used. I guess one thing you can't skimp on is essential oils.

I found all the ingredients in the laundry aisle at my local Publix, they were even all together. You know, in that "no one ever uses this crap" section. The OxyClean is not required, but some people think it keeps whites from getting dingy. Also, I plan on running a load every now and then with my regular detergent just to make sure there is no buildup. I mean, there is a reason people buy expensive liquid chemical detergents and a lot of that is the chemicals make them rinse really clean. Plus I still have a big Costco vat. My detergent was super easy to make, I just have a few suggestions:

1. I bought a grater just for grating the Fels Naptha soap and it has medium size grate teeth. I suggest the small, you want the grated soap to be really small so it mixes well with all the really granular and powdery other ingredients.

2. I said I don't like the smell of regular detergents, but this doesn't mean I don't like smells. I just don't want my clothes to smell like super fake spring fresh make me gag smell. However, Fels Naptha soap is stinky. Not an appealing to me in the least way kind of stinky. The Borax and the Washing Soda don't really have a smell, and the OxyClean smells pretty nice, but the soap does not. I do have to point out that after using the homemade detergent the clothes do not actually smell like the detergent, they just smell clean and actually pretty scent free, but next time I will use something else. You really can use any kind of pure soap, like Ivory or Castile, which is supposed to be quite pure and comes in yummy scents like mint or lavendar.

3. Mix it up outside, the Borax and Washing Soda make quite a little cloud when you are pouring them and mixing them.

4. If you are doing a cold wash, run the water on warm or hot while adding the detergent to dissolve the soap then switch to cold. There are plenty of liquid versions out there, but they seem much more involved.

I have done a few batches of clothes in the last few days to test out the detergent, some of my dirtiest items have been: white towels with sticky cheap makeup on them (from the girls' bathroom), a cream sweater that was covered in dirt after the smallest shrimp fell off a swing on the playground, paint on my jeans from an impromptu art session the other afternoon, a couple of dirty rags from cleaning and dusting last week. All items came out clean and sparkl-y, I really have been quite pleased so far. Here is the cost rundown:

Fels Naptha 99 cents
Borax 3.29
Washing Soda 2.29
OxiClean 7.59

This is enough ingredients to make about eight batches of the above recipe.

The Modern Cottage estimates about 5 cents a load, where Tide is about 30 cents a load.

Oh, and an important thing to point out apparently, based on comments left on other blogs, just because these ingredients are better for the environment doesn't mean they aren't still chemical. This concoction is supposed to be 1/16th as chemical as regular detergent, but it still has ingredients that are harmful (as in, you wouldn't want to eat it or bathe with it, just like regular detergent).

I'll report back when I make my next batch with different soap.


Anonymous said...

I want 2T to see if gets the boys clothes clean :)

Kate said...

I'll just go drag the girls through some grass and roll them in some mud puddles. I would like to hear results from someone who has less prissy subjects to experiment on!

Arwen said...

Can you use Dr Bronner's Castille soap which is liquid instead of the Naptha?
PS - you freaky hippie. Next you are going to vote for Nader or something.

Quiltin' Jenny said...

I couldn't resist trying this out, and decided on the ultimate test. Click here to see my before and after pics of the boys' paintball clothes. Success! Yes, just 2T.

Anonymous said...

I have been using this receipe for a few yrs now, I grated it much finer. I have had less breakouts on my skin (back). I've always heard people say "oh fresh sheets MMMMMMMMMMM! I would say NAY! Now with this receipe I say YAH! NO SMELL! I work around oil all day and this gets it all out. I also use 1/4 cup Vineigar for fabric softener, works grteat, no smell! I also use Baking Soda for shampoo and Apple cider Vineigar for cream rinse. Getting alot of chemicals out of life has imporved my health.