Friday, February 11, 2011

Never say never

I did something yesterday I thought I would never do.

I made my own laundry soap. Oh yes, I did. It seems like such a...I dunno...such a denim jumper-wearing, home-birthing, fundamentalist thing to do. Doesn't it? I don't know. But I'm trying to reduce the amount of dangerous chemicals in my home because I think they are killing me and Jake. Sometimes I can't breathe when I'm cleaning, and it takes days for my hands to recover after scrubbing a bathtub or shower. I am also trying to save money.

Here's the recipe:

1 bar fels naptha soap
1 cup borax
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup baking soda

Grate the bar of soap in the food processer. Add the remaining ingredients with the grated soap into the work bowl and process with the blade until powdered. Store in a container with a lid. Use 2 tablespoons per wash load.

It looks like regular, granulated laundry detergent. It works great. It smells fresh. It was easy to find all the ingredients at Walmart or Ace Hardware store.

And it was super cheap! I doubled the recipe, which made enough for 56 (or so) loads of laundry. I spent less than $8 on the ingredients, and I still have most of the boxes of borax and washing soda left. So when I'm out of laundry soap, I'll buy two more 97 cent bars of the soap and make enough for 56 more loads for less than $2. I can probably do this at least three times more with what's left of the washing soda and borax. The whole process was easy and took about 5 minutes. I found a metal 2 tablespoon measuring cup at Walmart so using the detergent is easy.

Because you know if it's not fast and easy I'm not going to do it.

In our Relief Society meeting next Thursday we are going to make different kinds of homemade cleaners, including this one, so I've been experimenting and looking around for availability of the items we'll need. I'm going to do all the math and figure out exactly how much it costs to make these things and how it compares to the cleaners and detergents you can buy at the store.

One that I am kind of excited about is 1/2 cup baking soda mixed with 1/2 cup kosher salt and a drop or two of essential oil. This makes a scrubbing powder similiar to Comet or Ajax. I'll be interested to see if it dries out and hurts the skin on my hands like Comet does.

I'll let you know the results of all my experiments.


  1. ooooh! Coool! Can you find a recipe for liquid HE (high efficiency front loader) laundry detergent?
    Or even a powdered HE recipe.

  2. Sounds good, Amy. I should do it. Do you use the laundry soap with bleach for white things?

  3. Donna, this laundry soap doesn't make any suds so I think it would be fine as is. The info online says you can use it in HE front-loading machines. There are recipes to make a watery, gel-like detergent using the same ingredients but you have to melt the soap and add hot water with the other things in a big bucket and then let it sit for awhile. Sounds like lots more work to me but you could try it. I don't think I will - the powder suits me just fine because I know it doesn't have anything in it as "filler".
    Mom, I haven't tried it with anything that needed bleach yet. I've only done one load so far - the clothes smelled fresh and clean but not perfumey. I will let you know as I do more how it goes and what I think. Tomorrow is laundry day. The real test will be sweaty summer teenager armpit clothes so I might have to wait to give a final verdict.

  4. I quit using Bleach on the whole a long time ago. Besides the horrible smell being gone - nothing is missed. I am going to make my own laundry detergent too! I make my own carpet fresh with baking soda and orange oil - and its WONDERFUL stuff - smells great - deoderizes well, and if you add a bit of borax you can get some cleaning power out of it too! Lemon juice and baking soda is a great cleaner for all sorts of things. Cuts grease and soap scum and with the mild abrasive nature of the baking soda and citric acid!

    I got an H20 mop years ago - no cleaning needed for floors and carpet cleaning - the power of STEAM only! LOVE IT!!

  5. one thing I dont like about your recipe the Fels Naptha - I realize you are using a small amount per load - but the MSDS sheet says this: Stoddard solvent (one of the components) is another name for mineral spirits, which are, like petroleum distillates, a mixture of multiple chemicals made from petroleum. Exposure to Stoddard solvent in the air can affect your nervous system and cause dizziness, headaches, or a prolonged reaction time. It can also cause eye, skin, or throat irritation.

    Maybe there is something else that could be used?

  6. Jennie, I've read some more about this - since the Dial Corp. started making this brand of soap in 1998 Stoddard Solvent has been eliminated from it. It still may cause eye, skin, or throat irritation with repeat or prolonged exposure, like any other laundry soap. I will keep checking for other options.

  7. Mom, the MSDS says that fels naptha is incompatible with strong oxidizers, acids, and bases. It should be okay with bleach. I think I will continue to use some bleach in my whites loads to kill E Coli and salmonella. I always rinse bleached loads twice.

  8. Jennie, I've also seen recipes that use ZOTE soap or Ivory soap. Any bar soap that doesn't make sudsy lather would probably be fine. Liquid body wash is not okay though. Some of them may make a chemical reaction with the washing soda to produce ammonia gas.

  9. I love being the mother of such smart people!

  10. I think I like the Ivory soap idea. I know that our father used Ivory because of his uber sensitive skin. The temperature of the hot water when you wash your whites is sufficient to kill those bacterium. Let them do a "soak" in the hot water - and it will kill them. Trust me when I say that bleach alone does not do the trick - we do an experiment in our microbiology lab with bleach and other disinfectants - bleach is the least effective actually. The most - iodine - but who wants that on their white clothes eh? Also - UV light can kill surface bacteria. I have always thought I want my laundry room to have a UV light box for those especially contaminated items. :o)

  11. I've been making and using homemade type cleaners for years. Baking soda, vinegar, and Borax are the main ingredients you have to have around. Vinegar does stink, but the smell fades a lot more quickly than you imagine.
    Also, there are a lot more companies now making less toxic cleaners. I love Biokleen produts, which can be found at Whole Foods. They make a fantastic bathroom cleaner from soy oil, and a fabric spray that is Lemon Thyme scent, which smells incredibly fresh. I also like an Eco type fabric softener that doesn't have any animal tallow in it. Yes, most fabric softener contains cow fat. A dermatologist told me years ago not to use fabric softener on my sheets and towels, and preferably not on anything else if I can help it.

  12. We use homemade detergent too...except that I use Dr. Bronner's soap. I put a little bit of essential oil on an old flour sack dishtowel that I tied into a ball in the dryer. It helps "poof" things up and they have a little bit of scent.

  13. I loooove Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap.

  14. Saw this today and thought of your blog entry on the subject.