Sunday, April 22, 2012

Homemade Natural Laundry Detergent

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It's simple. 
It's natural. 
It's effective.
Best of all..... It's a steal! 

So I've felt this very strong urge to move towards a more natural means of cleaning, especially since Sofia has been with us. I hate chemicals, I hate using them and I am working towards eliminating them from our household one product at a time. 

Side note here - if you are trying to move towards a more eco-friendly home and have a slew of products that you want to just get rid of in order to switch over to a more natural means I have actually read that the most eco-friendly way to dispose of those products is to use them up. Don't pour them down the drain or throw them away. Either give them away to someone who will use them or use them up yourself! 

We ran out of laundry detergent (as many of you know, we do a TON of laundry) so I was excited to try out a homemade laundry detergent recipe. 
There are MANY MANY detergent recipes floating around the internet, for both liquid and powder detergent. I wanted one that would require as little work as possible to make (helloooo! baby on the hip!), would last a long time (biggest bang for my buck) and would work

I am really really happy with this recipe. Keep in mind, I have a husband who comes home covered in dirt and ground up asphalt and I have a baby with ubersensitive skin. This detergent gets both hub's work clothes clean AND hasn't irritated Sofia's skin -- so I am a happy wife! 

I was able to find a great bulk recipe on a blog I follow called The Eco-Friendly Family.
I made some minor changes to it and here is the new recipe that I am using.

Powder Detergent Recipe
-3 Boxes Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (55oz each)
-2 Boxes of 20 Mule Team Borax (76oz each)
-1 Large Tub of OxiClean (this product now comes more concentrated, so just grab the large concentrated bucket or if you are getting a store brand and it is not concentrated it should be the 96oz bucket)
-5 Bars of Zote Laundry Bar Soap, finely grated (this is soap made specifically for laundry)*

*There are other brands of soap to choose from including Fels Naptha, Ivory, Kirk's Castile etc., I found that Zote is the most cost effective and that is why I chose to use it (I have had no problems with its cleaning ability or with skin irritation). Keep in mind if you change the brand of soap, the original recipe calls for 24 bars of soap, I only used 5 of the Zote bars because they are almost double the size of the Fels Naptha etc. and I only wanted to use half the amount called for because I cloth diaper and did not want my laundry detergent leaving a soap residue in the washer which could negatively affect my diapers. If you have a HE machine, you will need to stick with this recipe of using half in order to keep the suds down in your machine anyways.

I will say that Zote does have a Citronella smell and that is because it does in fact have Citronella oil in it (for those of you who are curious like I was, Citronella is actually a plant based oil from the Lemongrass family). I was concerned about this smell at first, but found that after washing our clothes they did not smell like Citronella but smelled very fresh and clean. 
 Grate up your soap using the smaller grate on a cheese grater. This is the hardest and most time consuming part and it really wasn't even bad! 

Now, I decided to mix all of my ingredients in a large galvanized tub that I have which allowed for plenty of stirring room. It is easiest if you layer your ingredients to start with, then simple mix with a big wood spoon or some other large utensil until it is all well and mixed. 

There will be a LOT of detergent, so I recommend getting a plastic tub (medium size) with a lid to store it in and to keep moisture out. I keep a large mason jar of it in my laundry cupboard and keep the bulk of it down in the garage, filling up my mason jar whenever I need to. You could also simply reuse the OxiClean container! 

I use 2 tablespoons per load, but you could get away with 1. Our (when I say our, I mean Wes and Sofia's) clothes are usually heavily soiled, but if yours aren't then by all means only use 1 tablespoon :o) 

***This detergent is NOT cloth diaper safe due to its soap content***

 I spent about $30 for all of the ingredients to this recipe. I purchased them at Walmart and they were all available on the laundry detergent aisle. I've heard it lasts a very long time and looking at the amount I have, I believe that will be true. I do a lot of washing. Doing the math, this seems to be about 4 times CHEAPER than buying even a bargain detergent and I like the peace of mind in knowing exactly what is in it. 

Amanda at The Eco-Friendly Family makes a note about the Borax in this recipe that I really appreciate, she writes:
"**A recent article by EWG cautions the use of borax for cleaning in the home noting that toddlers and young children face special risks from hand-to-mouth transfer of carpet or crack and crevice, dust or spray borax treatments. I would recommend not using borax as a general home cleaner – any cleaner (aside from pure water) used for these purposes will leave a residue.  I feel comfortable using the minuscule amount in the detergent. It is not used on open surfaces and is washed out during the rinse cycle.

You can read a bit more on this debate here – there are some great points of view in the comments.
Happy Detergent Making!!

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