Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The Famous Homemade Laundry Detergent
I can't even begin to count how many people I've passed this recipe on to. I've got it from my friend Dana a few years ago originally as an alternative to expensive commercial laundry detergent. As our household became more aware of the products we bought and how they effected the environment, it just added to my love for this recipe.
We make a conscious effort to steer clear of buying products with lots of packaging. We do this in lots of ways...buying used, frequenting the bulk bins at the health food store, staying away from individually packaged anything, enforcing the use of water canteens and reusable coffee mugs, eating only fresh veggies, hunting and fishing our meat instead of buying it, banning paper towels in our house...really just being aware of what we buy. There are so many ways to reduce waste, and a little effort by all goes a long way! Pick one idea or come up with your own, and try it for a week...you may never go back :)
Even though we recycle, it still takes a process that uses energy, transportation and emissions are still produced. Don't get me wrong, recycling is MUCH better than throwing it "away"...just where is "away" anyways? So, in the case of laundry detergent containers, our preferred method of the three R's (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) is to Reduce. I triple the recipe, store it in a 6 gallon bucket saved from my bulk wheat berry purchases, and refill an old Tide container as needed.
Before I give you the recipe, just a few more bits of info I want to share. This soap will not suds like commercial laundry detergent. You will see a small amount of suds while you are making the soap, because soap does make a small amount of suds naturally. The lack of suds does not mean it's not working. Suds were actually introduced to soaps for marketing purposes. We've basically gotten trained to seeing suds and think cleaning. Commercial laundry detergent manufacturers use sodium laurel sulfate or some derivative of it as a surfactant. That's what makes the suds. Unfortunately, it is a proven carcinogen. Aside from the surfactants, more recently, another set of chemicals being introduced called optical brighteners, are used to "trick" the eye into by altering ultraviolet wavelengths to make clothes look brighter. Studies have shown these agents are extremely toxic to fish and can cause mutations in bacteria. They can also trigger strong allergic reactions in humans when exposed to sunlight. Last, but not least, commercial detergents contain phenols. Phenols have been deemed toxic by the National Health Institute. They can cause damage to the lungs, heart, kidneys and liver. They are very easily absorbed into the skin, making them especially dangerous. Phenols have been linked to serious health conditions and even death. None of these are something I'd like to have touching my family's bodies all day or entering our waterways.
On a happier note, I like a little smelly good in my detergents...especially on towels and sheets. I don't add it to my big batch, because I use vinegar as a fabric softener on my dark loads of laundry, and it neutralizes whatever scent I added. Since I line dry my clothes, a fabric softener helps to do a dryer's work and remove any lint that tends to be visible on dark loads. If you're not using vinegar as a fabric softener, feel free to add a few drops of essential oils to your detergent. I like to use lavender, but get creative...try jasmine, lemon, eucalyptus, orange, geranium, rose, vanilla. You can mix them or try them on their own. Have fun with it!
Lastly, I find all these ingredients at Publix. The Borax is a little less expensive at Target, so if I'm there already, I try to remember to grab a box. Did I mention, this recipe costs practically nothing? I make a 6 gallon bucket of laundry detergent for under $5, and it lasts me at least 4 months (if not longer).
I know there are so many versions of this recipe out there. This one worked right off the bat for us, so I never tried any others. If you have a recipe you use, please feel free to post it in the comment section!!
LAUNDRY DETERGENT RECIPE
1/3 bar soup (Fels Naptha or other types of soap like Zote )
1/2 a cup of washing soda
1/2 cup of borax powder
2 gallon size bucket to mix in
Grate the soap into a sauce pan. Then add 6 cups of water & heat til soap is completely melted. Add washing soda and borax and stir that til dissolved. Remove from heat; pour 4 cups of hot water (we just use out the faucet, as hot as it would get) into a bucket; now add your soap mixture; stir. Then add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water; stir. Use 1/2 a cup per load.