Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Homemade laundry detergent

My recipe for homemade laundry detergent came from A Home Companion by Wendyl Nissen, purchased on a cold, rainy day during our recent vacation near Kerikeri in Kiwiland. A good list of her cleaning recipes can be found on her website here, so I hope she doesn't mind that I'm sharing this:

Laundry detergent

½ bar Castile or vegetable-based or Sunlight soap, grated
1.5 litres of water
½ cup washing soda
50 g borax
1 litre hot water
Place soap in a saucepan with the first quantity of water and heat on low until soap is dissolved. Stir in washing soda and borax. Stir for a few minutes until thickened and remove from heat. (If you're using Castile or vegetable-based soap it won't thicken straight away, but don't worry, it will overnight in the bottles). Add 1 litre of hot water to a bucket. Add soap mixture and mix well. Fill bucket with another 5 litres of hot water and mix well. Pour into old milk bottles or other containers and set aside for 24 hours or until mixture thickens. Use ½ cup of mixture per load. It is easy to squeeze from the bottles as it is quite gluggy.

Tip: Add about 20 drops lavender oil at the end before pouring into the bottles for a nice fragrance or try eucalyptus oil, which is great for woollens.

I'm still not 100% sure mine is right, because there is no need to squeeze it from the bottles. It thickened, yes, but not to that extent. There are gluggy clumps in a watery base. Right? Wrong? Not sure.

Can you use it in a front loader? Yes!

The important question is: is it any good?
I think so. I'm quite happy with it, but I admit haven't put it to a tough test. I'm lucky that my girls aren't big mud-rollers, so our laundry isn't too demanding. I have noticed it doesn't have the stain-busting power of the commercial stuff when there is heavy-duty demand (ex: blood from skinned knees), but it does a pretty good job on the day-to-day. The clothes look clean and smell like...clothes. The essential oil doesn't linger (alas), but then again, no chemicals linger either which is a real plus, especially if anyone has sensitive skin.
Another unexpected bonus is it seems to be cleaning my washing machine too. I started noticing a moldy smell in the laundry room the first few days I used this detergent, and I definitely didn't think that could be good (thankfully, that has passed). Then, I realized this detergent seems to be cleaning out all the build-up of gunk and goo that must be in the internal workings of my machine. In recent months, the "cleaning jet" at the top of my front loader has been more like a "cursory trickle"...but that is coming back to life (see the waterfall inside the washer near the top of the photo taken today?). Nice.

If you are concerned about chemicals in your home, on your clothes and skin, and in the water supply, I certainly think this recipe is worth a go! If you are someone who doesn't see the point of "green" options because you think small changes don't matter (and there seem to be a great many people in this camp), let me convert you for reasons of frugality. I don't know what you spend on laundry detergent, but the homemade stuff costs close $5 for an estimated 100 loads, even factoring in the Dr. Bronner's lavender castile soap I purchased at a ridiculous imported price of $7 per bar. Sweet!

Please let me know if you give it a go. I'd love to know how it works for you (and if yours sets to a more gluggy consistency than mine so I can figure it out better)!

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