Wednesday, February 9, 2011

So Fresh and So Clean, Clean!

I'm going to talk about laundry again. Now I realize that I blog about laundry quite a bit but hear me out. Changing the way you wash and dry your family's clothes is one of the easiest places in your life to green up. We've talked about washing in cold water, line drying and the resulting contraband clothesline, washing only full loads and using biodegradable laundry detergents. I am completely comfortable with all of these subtle changes in my laundry routine but that last point has been causing me some grief lately.

Laundry detergent. There are several brands of "eco friendly" laundry detergent on the market that work great, smell heavenly, and allow your mind to rest easy knowing that when you are washing a pair of poopy stained pants for the 100th time, at least you aren't polluting the environment when you do it. The problem lies in the cost of these products. My personal favorite is one put out by Method. It comes in a teeny tiny bottle (less packaging!) and has a handy dandy pump that can be operated with one hand in case, say, you have a little of the aforementioned poopy on one of your hands and don't want to contaminate the whole bottle. Each bottle washes about 50 load and smells lovely. But paying $15 every 50 loads is starting to get on my nerves. I did a little math and I figure it costs me about 30 cents to wash one load of fresh smelling, environmentally friendly, everyday laundry. However, a bottle of planet pollutin' Gain does 64 loads and costs about 19 cents per load. Not a huge difference but big enough to put a hiccup in my budget. Again, I'm being forced to choose between price and planet.

My tutu clad soap stirrer.
Most of the time, this little conundrum of price versus planet can be solved by making your own. I've found this to be true with cleaning products, food, and a number of other items that make my family's world go round. I have been toying with the idea of making my own laundry powder for a while now but was worried that a)it wouldn't clean my clothes, b) it would smell funky, and c) it would gunk up my washing machine. Lots of research  has assured me that none of these issues are a problem, except maybe the smell. Not that the homemade stuff smells just doesn't make your clothes smell like much of anything which is a bit of a turn off for people like me who like their clothes wafting with fake fresh scents. 

I used a recipe I found here at Soulemama, and also one that my grandmother sent to me. It's a combo of the two. The main difference between them is the kind of soap flakes used.  One uses Fels Naptha and the other Dr.Bronner's castile. I prefer to use castile because it's petroleum free and comes in a variety of scents to perhaps leave a little lavender (or rose, or peppermint or whatever kind you buy) aroma on my clothes. It came out something like this:

(Makes approximately 5 cups)

2 cups (finely) grated castile soap(I used Dr. Bronner's lavender)
1 cup borax
1 cup baking soda
1 cup washing soda
10 drops lavender essential oil

Mix all the ingredients together. Store in airtight container like a mason jar or in my case, a pretty glass canister I got at Goodwill. Start with about 1/8 a cup per load and go from there. You may need to give the jar a shake or a stir once in a while to prevent the soap flakes from settling to the bottom. Recipe doubles well!

I didn't end up using the lavender oil pictured...the soap was lavender-y enough!
So there it is. All mixed up and ready to wash. Cheap, eco-friendly, and hopefully, a fully capable detergent strong enough for grass stains, diaper explosions and spaghetti night napkins. There's about six or seven pairs of potty training undies being washed with my new homemade detergent as we speak. We'll assess effectiveness once they're done.  What kind of detergent do you use?

Sitting above the washer, ready for action!


  1. A woman who lives near here just started her own business selling liquid laundry detergent based on a recipe of her grandma's! I'm thrilled to a)support a local businesswoman who is also a mom, b)use soap from an old recipe, and c)be "green". I do love the idea of making my own, husband's skin reacts to anything "commercial" (ie. scented) so he likes the natural stuff, too.
    I'm wondering...what was your cost breakdown per load with your homemade stuff? Good for you! Love your blog. Always so informative and real, not self-righteous at all.

  2. I just blogged about this last week, too funny! I also make my own detergent, and I love it! My recipe is slightly different, but it does a great job. I agree that laundry is one of the easiest things to change for the better of the environment.


  3. Never thought about doing this, but it makes a lot of sense! I also buy the Method pump stuff, and you're right, that's pretty expensive! Where can you find grated castile soap?

  4. I have had great success with my homemade soap (similar recipe)... only thing I dislike is all of the soap grating... it hurts my wrists!