Therefore, I decided to make my own laundry detergent that would only include the most basic and natural ingredients that I could manage. As it turns out, making your own laundry detergent is not all that hard, not to mention cheap! There are recipes scattered all across the Internet for how you can create your own laundry detergent, and almost all include basic bar soap, baking soda, washing soda and borax.
For my own laundry detergent, I'm going to stick with Castile or Marseille soap as they are the most environmentally friendly of bar soaps, and forgo borax completely. Although borax is a naturally occurring mineral that many say is completely safe for everyday use, there is still controversy over its effects on human health, so I'd prefer to err on the side of safety and not use it. Besides, I don't consider it an absolutely necessary ingredient to create an effective laundry detergent, so not including it in my recipe just means one less thing I have to worry about!
- vegetable-based bar soap
- baking soda
- washing soda (can't find any? make your own!)
- essential oils (optional)
1. Grate the soap bar into fine pieces. You can do this manually or with a food processor.
2. Mix the grated soap pieces in with baking soda and washing soda. You can experiment with the ratio, but I like to stick to a ratio of 1 part soap flakes to 2 parts baking soda and 2 parts washing soda.
3. Make sure you mix the three ingredients evenly, and here you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for fragrance if you prefer. I like to use lavender essential oil since it gives washed laundry that fresh floral smell of cleanliness, and it also has the added benefit of having antibacterial and anifungal properties.
Add a tablespoon or two of your natural homemade laundry detergent to a regular load of laundry in your washing machine, begin the wash, and you're good to go! Don't worry if the solution isn't as sudsy as what you're used to. It's a common misconception that you need a lot of bubbles for things to get "clean". But the truth is, any suds you see in the wash are just excess bubbles in the water, and they aren't actually doing anything for your laundry.
As we all learned in chemistry class, the soap in the mixture is what acts as an emulsifying agent to help lift oils away from the clothing. The baking soda helps further dissolve dirt and grease stains on clothing, brightening colors and keeping whites whiter, while also acting as a great deodorizer (check out this post on other things you can do with baking soda!). And finally, the washing soda helps soften the water, meaning the carbonate ions in the washing soda bind together with the mineral deposits in water so that they are easily washed away, rather than remain stubbornly attached to the fabric of your clothing.
The first time I washed a load of clothing with my own homemade laundry detergent I was really surprised at the results. I had no doubt that my clothes would be cleaned, but I was so happy to find that it actually worked better than the commercial laundry detergents I had previously used. One particular white article of clothing I had figured would never return to its original luster came out of the wash fresh, bright and as white as the day I bought it. It also smelled great and the fabrics were all comfortably soft to the touch, and nothing was ruined.
I've been making my own bath, beauty and home care products for awhile, so I really shouldn't be surprised anymore that many cheap, natural do-it-yourself recipes work better than the commercial stuff. But each and every time I'm still delightfully surprised, and I always end up wondering the same thing — why hadn't I started doing this sooner, and why isn't everyone else doing this too?