Homemade Laundry Detergent

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

About two months ago, I attended a green cleaning class offered by Oregon Center for Environmental Health. I walked away with some homemade laundry detergent, a bottle of all-purpose household cleaner (vinegar, water, and a little essential oil), and a jar of creamy soft scrub (baking soda, castile soap, vegetable glycerin, and essential oil) for the kitchen & bathroom. Since that day, I've been most excited about the homemade laundry detergent--it works, it's super cheap, and better yet, it's safe for you and the environment.

I use 100% vegetable soap from Trader Joe's, where you can get two bars for $1.49. You can pick up a box of washing soda and borax at most grocery stores on the laundry detergent aisle. Here's how you make it:

For soft water (Portland water):
1 cup soap flakes (shred bar using cheese grater)
1/4 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
Shake up in a jar, and you're ready to do some laundry!

For regular water (check with your water bureau to determine if your water is soft or hard), increase to 1/2 cup of washing soda.

Suggested uses: For all fabrics except silk, woolens, and vinyl. Use 1 tablespoon per load (2 for heavily soiled laundry). Wash in warm or cold water.

Fabric softener: After 30 minutes, add 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar (make sure you wait 30 minutes and add during rinse cycle so vinegar does not react with washing soda!).
Whitener: Soak for 30 min. with 20% hydrogen peroxide, then launder as usual.
Scent: You can add a few drops of essential oil when you add your laundry detergent.

For front-loaders, where high-efficiency (HE) detergents are recommended, do not use the detergent tray, but simply toss the detergent into the front-loader drum when you throw in your laundry. I found that not all the soap flakes were able to move through the tray into the drum, and for this recipe, using the tray is unnecessary. You can use the tray, however, to add the vinegar or hydrogen peroxide for the rinse part of the cycle. HE detergents are recommended to reduce the suds produced by other laundry detergents, and this isn't an issue for this recipe.

Companies that make laundry detergents are not required by law to list their ingredients due to trade secrets, however, you can read here about commonly added ingredients and how those ingredients harmfully affect the environment and often times cause allergic reactions when they come in contact with your skin. My little brother recently told me how sensitive his skin is to laundry detergents, and I'm planning to make him a jar of this as a gift.

I hope you'll try this recipe, and if you do, let me know how it works for you. Good luck!


Ayelet said...

good for you! I've been making my own cleaning products for about a year and I really think that they clean better than the store bought stuff! I can't give up my Method floor cleaner though...I haven't been able to duplicate the scent (ginger and lemon)!

Aviva said...

Hey Karli!

I'm glad you wrote about this -- I was hoping you'd share your experiences as well as the recipes you got from that class!

So how long is that laundry detergent good for? Is there a maximum time after mixing it up before it loses its effectiveness? It seems like if you're using 1-2 tablespoons per load, that it might last for awhile for those of us who do laundry less frequently.

I'm definitely going to try it!! I do stick to the free-and-clear versions of commercial detergent because of sensitivities but I like the idea of being nicer to the environment. And since I know you've tested it on tough stains with two kids, I'm excited at the idea it works well!!

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