If you’re like me, you want to clean your organic cotton clothes in an eco-friendly way, you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on “natural” laundry soap, and you’ve read about all of the toxins in laundry detergents and want to get that stuff out of your life.
Or maybe you’re allergic to regular detergents, and need something more gentle.
In an older post, I shared how I made powdered laundry soap with borax, washing soda and a bar of castile soap. The recipe works great, but does have some drawbacks – it’s time-consuming to grate the bar of soap, and doesn’t work well for items you have to wash in cold water (i.e: screen printed clothing, organics, some delicates, anything you want to keep bright & colorful .. etc.) (Edit: See a more recent & simplified version of this post here: http://thelotusroot.com/a-healthier-option-for-washing-your-clothes)
There’s a popular liquid soap recipe out there, but you have to grate soap and then boil it – I wanted something easy.
Many of the recipes also have you make about 5 gallons worth of soap at a time – since I live in New York City I don’t have a lot of extra space for that.
I’ve finally found a solution that works for me. (Hopefully it will make your life easier, too!) It’s cheap, quick, easy, and you only make 2 gallons at a time (or you can cut the measurements in half to make one gallon).
1 cup Dr. Bronners liquid castile soap. ( I used peppermint – it smelled amazing when mixing it, but the scent doesnt linger on the washed clothes)
1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup Washing soda ( See part 1 of this series for more info on Borax & Washing Soda)
1 mason jar (or another container to mix in)
2 empty 1 gallon milk or water jugs
Something to stir with ( I used a chopstick)
1. Using the funnel, add your Borax and Washing soda to a container – I used a mason jar since the measurements are already marked – you could just measure it all out and add it to a bucket if you’d like)
2. Add some hot water to the jar and stir to dissolve the powder – try to break up most of the clumps.
3. Pour half of the borax/washing soda/water solution into one jug, and half into the other.
4. Add a little hot water to each jug – cap ‘em & shake ‘em.
5. add 1/2 cup of Dr. Bronners to one jug, and 1/2 a cup to the other.
6. Fill the jugs the rest of the way with hot water (leaving a little room at the top.)
7. Cap & Shake the jugs again to mix everything together.
You can use 1/3 cup of soap in each wash. I added 20 drops of lavender essential oil to the washer, and the clothes came out smelling
fresh. (Some recipes call for you to add the essential oils to the jug – I avoided that since essential oils can degrade plastic, and sunlight can damage them. It’s best to keep them stored in amber glass.)
The borax and washing soda have great cleaning & stain fighting power, but if you want to skip them all together you can simply add 1/3 cup Dr. Bronners liquid soap to the wash. Some people add a dash of baking soda, too.
Some have mentioned that Dr. Bronners may fade clothes, so to be on the safe side you may want to use this only on your whites. Others have said they’ve used it for years without any fading.
To prevent colors from fading; turn clothes inside out, wash in cold water, use the shortest cycle, wash on gentle and hang dry when you can.
Adding 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle is also supposed to keep colors bright, and will act as a natural fabric softener.
I hope these tips help. Have you ever tried this recipe, or do you ever use Dr. Bronners to wash your clothes? Do you have any tips for me? Let me know in the comments below!
In my last post I shared a recipe for making your own laundry detergent – but I wanted to share some resources with you in case you don’t have time to D.I.Y
Here are some things to look out for when buying eco-friendly detergent:
Do you have anymore brands to recommend that don’t sneak any toxic things into their detergent? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
It’s a funny thing, detoxifying your life. There’s so much to learn, and it can be really hard to do everything at once. For me, one of the last few things to really dig into and research was laundry detergent. What IS in those conventional laundry detergents anyway, and do they really have to be neon blue? Are they harmful to a person once they’re rinsed out of clothes, and how terrible are they for the water supply & eco-system once they go down the drain? This one is tricky because, by law, companies aren’t required to list their ingredients. And JUST when you think you’ve picked up a natural or eco-friendly alternative that actually lists what its made of, you find out that its main ingredient is one of the worst and most toxic offenders (this happened to me last night, I couldn’t believe I was duped after all the research I’ve been doing.)
Enter, the eco-friendly/natural soap recipe that has been sweeping the internet. How hard is it to make? Can you really make it for pennies on the dollar? Is it to good to be true?
Most importantly, does it actually work?
I put it to the test.
After experimenting with it for a few months, I want to share what I’ve learned.
But first – what’s in it, and how is it made?
1 bar of soap ( I like using castile soap, so I used Dr. Bronners,
but you can use any other bar of natural soap. )
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing soda
How to make it:
Grate up the soap with a cheese grater (the hardest part – I promise)
1. add 1 cup Borax ( I use this trick to mark measurements on my jar so that I don’t have to use a measuring cup. If you use a Mason/ball jar the measurements are already there.)
2. add 1 cup washing soda
3. add the grated soap
4. Cap it & Shake it
Ta-da! You now have your own, homemade, laundry detergent.
Result: Success! It actually does clean clothes, and is very inexpensive to make.
Note: It’s best to use it when you’re washing with warm water, since cold water won’t disolve all of the grated soap. (Soon I’ll be sharing part 2 of this post – where I show how to make a liquid version.)
What shouldn’t you wash in this soap?: It’s recommended to not use it for woolens or silk since it can damage them. You may also want to avoid anything else that’s delicate. I also wouldn’t use this to hand wash clothing.
How much should you use?
Use 1 – 2 tbsp per load. I had one of those little scoops from an old container of protein powder that I threw in the jar to use.
Where do you find the ingredients?: Borax and washing soda can be a little tricky to find in the U.S these days. You may have luck at your local hardware or grocery store. After going to 5 stores I finally found both at Associated Market in NYC – both were around 4 bucks. My mom tracked them down at Crafty Beaver (a hardware store in Chicago.) Dr. Bronners bar soap is pretty easy to find these days at drug & health food stores. Or better yet, support a small business and buy a bar of handmade soap from a local shop or farmers market.
What about that mountain spring, just-rolled-around-in-a-field-of-lavender fresh scent?
The soap on its own does leave your clothes smelling fresh and clean – but doesn’t have much of a scent to speak of.
I used peppermint soap, but the smell does not linger – so I added grapefruit essential oil to the wash cycle. You can also try lemon, peppermint, lavender, etc.. The nice thing is that most essential oils are also anti-bacterial /anti fungal / anti-microbial, and very effective in getting rid of mold & mildew on fabric (and in the air).
The first time I tried 10 drops – the laundry smelled fresh but I couldn’t smell the grapefruit. The next time around I added 20, and the grapefruit scent lasted after the clothes were dry.
According to the environmental working group, “Sodium borate (borax) is a naturally occurring mineral based on the element boron.” There’s a lot of conflicting info about whether or not borax is really natural and safe. Here’s a great blog post about this – after a lot of research the author concluded that it is safe enough to use a cleaning product. Washing Soda is Sodium Carbonate, also known as soda ash. More info can be found here. Overall, both borax and washing soda appear to be safe if not ingested, but can be mildly irritating to the skin, eyes & lungs. So, like any other cleaning product, you should use these things with caution. (warning: when making this stuff – it will get everywhere. Using gloves and/or washing your hands afterwards is a good idea. It helps to put a piece of newspaper under your jar to catch any excess powder. You may want to use a funnel, and hold your breath while pouring so you don’t breathe any in.)
And that’s all she wrote. Tune in next time to learn how to make the liquid version, for all of your more delicate clothes that need to be washed in cold water. In the meantime, I’d love to know – do you have a favorite eco-friendly/natural laundry detergent? Let me know in the comments below. (and please let me know if you try this recipe – I’d love to hear how it goes.)
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