Saturday, March 31, 2012

DIY "Green" Laundry Detergent


The New Greener Laundry Line up

Can you use "green" laundry products 
and
get your clothes really clean?
That seems to be the question.

Up until now I didn't think so. In an effort to do my part with going green, I tried lots of different environmentally friendly products but found our clothes to be getting dingier and dingier and stains just weren't coming out. Little by little I fell back into the trap of trying the harsher main stream products, including bleach and yet for some reason our clothes still weren't getting all that clean. I shied away from the products with fragrance and dyes due to sensitivities but still ended up with a cabinet full of products that looked like this:


They did not make me happy.

To make matters worse, we currently live in a small space where our laundry is in a community laundry room, so lugging all these bottles with every load of laundry had just gotten out of hand, not to mention expensive. I also learned that hard water and a dryer set to scorch wasn't doing us any favors either. Both seem to cause a stain build up. To be fair we do have a "delicate" setting on the dryer, which just means it scorches our clothes for a shorter period of time. Due to being in an HOA environment, hanging laundry outside to dry is not an option. - Boo!

If you are on Pinterest, I'm sure you have seen the pins of Home Made Laundry Detergent circling around. The main claim is that it saves money, which is always a good thing but as I started to read through them, they were also getting their laundry really clean without a lot of chemicals!
This caught my attention. 

It got me thinking....so when the detergent started to run out, I decided to give it a try.

Some of these posts were written over a year ago and in the meantime have accumulated a lot of comments, user tips and updates. I took all the tips and links into consideration, really concentrating on the tips utilizing biodegradable and the least toxic ingredients, to put them to the test for myself.

I chose to make a dry detergent because there was less of it to store and frankly it was much less of a hassle to make.  The liquid version is just the soap melted stove top and diluted with water. It made me realize how much we are paying for water when we buy liquid detergent in the store.


Making A Kinder Gentler Laundry Soap


 The Basic Soap Recipe:

(1) 4 lb box of Borax (2.15kg or 76 oz)

(1) 4 lb box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (1.81kg)  
          I had to use (2) 2 lb boxes (only one shown above)

(1) 3 lb 7 oz box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (55 oz)

Approximately 15 oz of bar soap of choice
3 bars of Dr. Bronner's or other pure plant based soap

While many reviewers said that this soap worked excellent for even their most challenging laundry,
 I decided to go with the booster version:


The Optional Booster Recipe:

Substitute the Bronner's soap with:

Zote (1) 14 oz bar


And 

Add 3 lbs of OxiClean Free


While Zote is biodegradable and not toxic, I learned that it is also is not Vegan. If that is a concern go back to the Basic Recipe. I also learned afterwards that it comes in a white bar (no dyes) which is a little harder to find. Zote also has the citrusy scent of citronella. You can also substitute Fels-Naptha Soap, which will take (3) 5 oz. bars but be aware this does have petro-chemicals and can have toxicity issues over time.

The other booster ingredient is a 3 lb bucket of OxiClean Versatile Free, meaning it is free of dye, perfumes and chlorine bleach and bio degradable.

Both of these are pre-treaters that help the soap clean better. The Zote has optical whiteners as well. 

Note: If you use the OxiClean version- do not use bleach with your wash. The makers of Oxiclean warn against this.


Whichever soap you make you will only need 1 Tbsp of soap per load! or 2 Tbsp for extra large loads. Yep! That's it!

At 1 Tbsp per load this will do 512 loads!!!!

First step is to grate the bar(s) of soap. 

While you can grate it by hand, the best advice here is to run it through the shredding disc of your food processor and then again with the S blade to break it down very fine. This just helps it dissolve quicker in colder water and also allows it to be used in the detergent dispenser of even your HE machine (although please check your instruction manual and do so at your own risk.) Many have said they have done this safely for years but I'm just covering my tracks here. And the clean up is easy on the food processor. The soap dissolves nicely in water.

Zote after Shredding Disc and again with S Blade 

If you don't have a food processor, don't worry. Many reviewers have said the hand grated works fine as well. Just add to the drum of your washer with water before adding clothes, even with cold water.


Step Two is to mix all the ingredients together.
I suggest a large tub or 5 Gallon bucket, outside. These soaps are very fine particles and they do have a mild detergent odor so outside is best and remember to keep your face turned away as you pour.  I used our cleaned out cooler although I forgot to line it with a trash bag first. I think this was easier than a 5 gal bucket because it wasn't as deep for stirring. Again, clean up was a snap!


Step Three is to store it.

You will need a sealed container or two. It makes approximately 32 cups.  If I had a set shelf in a laundry room where it could sit without moving, I would probably use a larger but similar glass jar to the one shown in the photo below.
My New Laundry Soap and Fabric Softener

Since my laundry cupboard is above my head, I chose to use 2 handled flip top containers for ease of lifting and scooping. They each hold 16 cups, which is heavy. I got these at Wallmart. They also have some nice big glass containers there as well.


Homemade Laundry Detergent and Fabric Softener ready to go.

Step Four is to use it!

1 Tbsp per load, 2 Tbsp if it's extra large or soiled. 
At this rate I know this is going to last me a really long time. At 1 Tbsp per load that's 512 Loads!!!


Wondering about the vinegar in the photos?

This is the best replacement for Fabric Softener!

Ever read the ingredients of fabric softener? Trust me, you don't want to know. But If you have hard water like me, then without it your towels come out all stiff and crunchy and clothes are not as soft.
Not my problem any more... This works beautifully!


1/3 cup Distilled White Vinegar per load

 Your clothes come out nice and soft, 
free from any soap residue and
 smell nothing like vinegar- promise!
Vinegar loses it scent when dry!
Plus your washer gets a nice cleaning as well.

Just add the vinegar to the rinse cycle, either through your softener dispenser or with a downy ball.
If you would like a scent to your laundry, go the natural route and add a few drops of essential oil to the vinegar in the dispenser or add about 15-20 drops to a gallon of vinegar. Since I use this vinegar for cleaning only, I went ahead and added the lavender to the whole gallon dispenser.

Lavender is nice; so is Orange, Grapefruit and even Peppermint!


Our laundry is now brighter, cleaner and softer already. 

Now when I go to the Laundry Room, this is all I need to bring and I love it!

1 Heaping Tbsp Laundry Soap and The Downey Ball with Vinegar


Notes and Facts:

1. Where to find the ingredients?
Most can be found in the grocery store. I found the washing soda at Ace Hardware and noticed they had the Fels-Naptha there too. Zote was in the grocery store as well as Home Depot. White Zote is available through Amazon and frankly if I didn't live as close as I do to all these different stores. I would probably buy these items online with my Amazon Prime to save the running around (and the shipping.)

2. Don't be expecting a lot of suds.
Not a lot of suds here and also why it works in HE washers just fine. Suds are not what cleans your clothes, or your hair for that matter. It's only a marketing ingredient to give you that visual "feeling" of clean while you are using phosphates that are not only bad for you but are bad for the environment.

3. Can you use it in front load washers?
While I presently do not have one, lots of people have chimed in on this one and do. This is a low suds soap which is what you need for a HE washer. If the soap is grated finely enough, it works in dispensers although if in doubt add it to the drum. People say it dissolves just fine in cold water too. Please do this at your own risk as I take no responsibility for what you do in your home. The addition of the vinegar rinse helps keep pipes free of soap build up as well.

4. Is it safe enough for sensitive skin? 
As someone who suffers terribly with multiple chemical sensitivities and reacts to everything, I can honestly say I have no problem with this, even the "booster" version. If you have toddlers in the house or are even using cloth diapers, then definitely I would go the extra measure and use the basic version with the plant based soap and without the oxyclean. The plant based soaps are a little pricer but it's worth it for your little ones.

5. Can you use it in cold water?
Yes.

6. Why the addition of Baking Soda? 
It helps soften the water so that dirt and grease dissolve and soap can clean better. It also softens your clothes and prevents stain build up in hard water. And yes if you have soft water, go ahead and use the baking soda as well. It also has odor fighting agents as well, as does the Borax.

7. How long will it last?
While this will vary by how much you use, it should do 512 loads at 1 Tbsp per load.

8. Will it fade my clothes?
All of these ingredients say they will not fade clothing that is "color safe" as they contain no bleach. If you are unsure if something is color safe, test it first. The optical brighteners are most noticeable on whites. Keep in mind that fading of dark clothes tends to happen with all washing.

9. What did it cost me to make this?
All the ingredients cost me around $33.20 which works out to .06 cents per load. That's half a penny per load! The equivalent in Tide plus one box of both Borax and Oxiclean (because the Tide alone doesn't cut it) would be $113.76 or .19 cents per load. This doesn't even take into consideration the money saved by buying vinegar instead of Fabric Softener. 

10. What about for stubborn stains and pre-treating?
In the next Raw Home post,  I'll be sharing some more back to basic laundry tips for stain cleaning and they too really work!


Have You tried making your own detergent? 
And if so how are you liking it?


7 comments:

Ann Harper said...

Great Post Jodi! I will definitely start gather the ingrdients to do my own batch.

Marjorie said...

This is such a wonderful comprehensive article. You deserve an award my friend! Thank you and I am also going to start collecting and make my own!

Jodi~GettingRaw said...

Thanks Marjorie and Ann! I'm so excited for you both! This seems silly but I can't tell you how much happier I am with this new laundry arrangement! No more cumbersome and expensive bottles, not to mention the chemicals being cut out of our clothes.
Let me know how you like it!

Lisa is Raw on $10 a Day (or less!) said...

Just saw this ... omg, how brilliant! I've been looking for more green options for laundry & this looks perfect.

Jodi~GettingRaw said...

Thanks Lisa. It's very freeing to switch and I'm actually excited about laundry which is kind of silly but true. ;-)

Lisa is Raw on $10 a Day (or less!) said...

Hey, I have a question ... how does the vinegar work for static? I'm pretty excited about it too :)

Jodi~GettingRaw said...

No more static. I even used it for Lili's (dog) blanket which is acrylic or something and gets really staticky and no more zapping. Isn't that exciting? And we live in a really dry climate.

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