4/01/2011

On home-made laundry detergent

In my attempt to "green" my home space and also after learning in my ecology class the environmental effects that phospate-based laundry detergents have on our water supply--toxic run-off causes unnatural eutrophication of fresh waters (which you can read more about on this TreeHugger article)--I decided to make my own natural and biodegradable laundry detergent.  Also, the fact that most laundry detergents don't list their ingredients, aside from stating that it contains "surfactants," bothered me and made me question what sort of chemicals were being used to wash my clothes (they obviously don't want you to know).  My Downey fabric softener doesn't even mention any ingredients at all!

After all, it's important to question this because your clothes come in direct contact with your skin which is permeable to toxic chemicals.  (Studies estimate that 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream.)  So, by making my own laundry detergent I know exactly what is going in it; I can choose ingredients that are not toxic to my health and do not affect the integrity of our water supply.

So, on to the process...

This home-made laundry detergent is actually very simple to make and most materials needed are inexpensive and commonplace in grocery stores.

Took this picture after I grated castile soap so let's pretend there's soap
in this picture...
Hand-grated castile soap

For washing powder, you'll need:
  • 6 cups Borax
  • 8 cups baking soda
  • 4 cups grated castile soap such as Dr. Bronner's castile soaps (I used lavender). You can find this in your natural health food store. I've also spotted them at Target and Trader Joe's.
  • 1 tablespoon of pure essential oil (I recommend lemongrass or lavender for their anti-bacterial properties)
Combine the first three ingredients together in a large bowl and mix until nicely incorporated.  Add essential oil and mix with wire whisk.  Store in a large container with a tight-fitting lid.  Use 1 tablespoon for normal loads and 2 tablespoons for large loads. This batch of detergent will last you about 6 months.
(Source)

Finished product!
For dryer sheets:
  • Infuse a washcloth with 30 drops of your choice of essential oil and throw it into your drying load.
OR another option would be to hang dry your clothes (provided your neighborhood allows it).  Check out the non-profit organization, Project Laundry List.  They advocate line drying as a positive approach to change. [Why line dry?]

6 comments:

  1. I wish we could line-dry our clothes, but it's against the rules and regs where I live. It's frustrating.

    I like the dryer sheet option. We've gone without dryer sheets for about a year, and we don't really miss them, but it'd be nice to get a little extra scent from the essential oils. I'll have to give it a shot. :)

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  2. where do you buy baking soda in such large quantities?

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  3. borax is not biodegradable and is very toxic. Its largely miss marketed as a healthy cleaner. Look it up its a mined mineral that kills aqua life and DOES not BIO DEGRATE!

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  4. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral but it is not safe or eco-friendly. Borax is also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate. It is a boron compound and a salt of boric acid.

    Borax is listed as a poison, pesticide, and an fungicide. It is poisonous, especially to young children. Even as little as a teaspoon could prove fatal if swallowed by a young child. For this reason it is not safe to use around children or on surfaces that come in contact with food.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this important info! I had no idea about the toxicity of Borax. I'll update this info!

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  6. Hello, so here is a great Blog article on whether Borax is safe or not: http://www.crunchybetty.com/getting-to-the-bottom-of-borax-is-it-safe-or-not

    My conclusion: SAFE

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