When I first started my baby-steps towards less-toxic living, I learned laundry soap contains some of the nastiest ingredients. And while there are lots of good reasons to make your own laundry soap, the main reason I do it is to avoid the chemicals in store-bought detergents. But it's also extremely frugal and eco-friendly; I've been doing it for years and it's 1 of those things I've never regretted.
For me, the biggest obstacle to switching to safer cleaners was simply mindset. We have been bombarded for years with non-stop messages that our clothes need to be X-Brand Clean or Y-Brand Fresh; but not even my family noticed the change when I switched to safer laundry soap because our clothes are just as clean & fresh as they were when I used the pricey & popular plastic jugs, and no more guilt when depositing all those jugs at the recycling center (making and recycling plastic are both very toxic processes).
I've seen some recipes for homemade laundry powder that are made with harsh bar soaps and they often contain much more than is necessary for clean laundry. The fact is, water & agitation are the main cleaning agents, not the over-priced Miracles-in-a-Jug from the store. Also, lots of soap bubbles do not equal super-clean clothes, in fact, the new HE (high efficiency) washers direct users to only use low-sudsing detergents.
It only takes about 5 minutes to mix up a batch and our homemade laundry powder contains just 2 ingredients: baking soda and Dr. Bronner's bar soap. Our favorite scents are lavender & peppermint, but there are many to choose from and if you have sensitive skin or allergies I highly recommend their Baby Mild bar.
Our laundry powder is:
Earth & human friendly
Cleans & deodorizes
Safe for HE washing machines
Rinses clean with no residue
No animal testing or by-products
~ Mamó's Laundry Powder ~
6 Cups Baking Soda
1/2 bar Dr. Bronner's Soap - shredded
Place 1/2 the baking soda in a large container that has a tight-fitting lid. Using a regular or mini-size cheese grater, shred 1/2 of a bar of your favorite Dr. Bronner's soap into the container then add the remaining baking soda & secure the lid. Mix well for a couple minutes by tipping, turning & gently shaking in all different directions. Choose a container that will only be 2/3 full to allow room for everything to mix up good.
Use 1/8 cup per regular size load, slightly less for HE machines
Use a heaping 1/8 cup scoop (or up to 1/4 cup) for large or extra dirty loads or for very hard water
growing amount of research suggesting that it may be an endocrine disruptor.
Borax can be added to this recipe if you choose. (4 cups baking soda, 2 cups borax, 1/2 bar of soap) I now prefer to add it as needed to individual loads; I usually reduce the amount suggested on the box by at least 1/2.
More laundry tips:
The best laundry whitener & brightener I've ever found is good old-fashioned sunshine (also frugal & eco-friendly), so we dry clothes outdoors as much as possible; darks & brights get turned inside-out so colors don't fade. If clothes dry too 'stiff' for your liking, give them a good hard shake before folding or toss them in the dryer for 10 minutes to fluff them up.
Lemon juice is a great stain remover & natural whitener; I've even used it undiluted to remove rust stains from a delicate doily, although I wouldn't advise any prolonged soaking because it is quite acidic. Occasionally I add a half-cup of lemon juice to a load of whites to brighten them.
For spots or stains I usually dampen the fabric with cool water, rub with a bar of Dr. Bronner's soap & work it with my fingers or a toothbrush, let it sit for awhile then wash as usual.
We don't use fabric softener or dryer sheets because both contain numerous toxic chemicals, including endocrine disruptors, and they're really not necessary. I usually add a 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle. To add a nice scent to clothes in the dryer, I place 3-5 drops of essential oil on a small piece of terrycloth or other heavy scrap of fabric & place in the dryer with wet clothes.
Breaking Down the Cost
Baking soda is super cheap - $2.39 for a 4 lb box of our local store brand. Compared to the highly marketed brands, Dr. Bronner's may seem expensive ($4-$5 per bar); to me, it's totally worth every penny because I compare labels, not prices.
Baking Soda = $1.60 (approximately 2/3 of a 4 lb box)
Dr Bronner's = $2.25 (1/2 bar)
Total = $3.85
Yields approximately 75 loads = approximately 5 cents per load
Using Borax adds about 1 cent per load:
Borax = $0.85 (approximately 1/4 of a 4 lb box)
~ ♥ ~ ♥ ~ ♥ ~