Monday, February 15, 2010

Homemade Laundry Powder

Let me begin by clarifying. I'm green-friendly but not extreme. I have been slowly, over the past few years, been making choices that made sense for our family and are better for the environment. So, before you think I'm making our clothes out of hemp and eating all organic, that is not the case. Maybe someday *wink wink*.

So, I consider myself Tree Hugger-ish.

There are an alarming number of incidents of cancer where I live in proportion to the population. Alarming. And, I'm no scientist, but wondered how much of it is affected by environment. So, to that end, I thought I could make at least some common sense changes.
I got one of those Brita water pitchers (no bottled water, all those bottles end up where? Landfills, yes...) so we're drinking filtered water and cooking with filtered water. I also wondered how many toxins are making their way into our soil, our water, etc.

One of those things that was easily changed was making a different choice about my laundry soap. I could wash my family's clothes with stuff that had a fraction of the toxins, right?? Sure...I just needed to find a combination of stuff that was more natural but also got our clothes clean. Here's what I came up with, after scouring the internet for "recipes".

2 bars Fels-Naptha soap
1 box (4 lbs. 12 oz.) Borax
1 box (55 oz.) Arm & Hammer All Natural Super Washing Soda

1 box (4 lb.) Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda

Seems kind of silly, huh? Just that stuff. Here's how you prep it.
  • Get yourself a tub with a lid, should be easy to find a size that you can put with your laundry supplies in whatever size with spring cleaning boxes out in abundance. Mine is about a foot square or so.
  • Take the Fels-Naptha bars and cut each bar into about 8 squares. Using your food processor, pulse about 4 squares at a time until it is finely chopped up, but not a powder. This will take some time. When you've done both bars in the food processor, put the stuff in a bowl or something and just leave somewhere to dry out a bit. Half a day or overnight is fine.
  • Once you've done that, mix all the components together one box at a time and a little bit of the soap inbetween each box. I use a wooden spoon to mix well making sure the whole mixture has all the ingredients evenly distrubuted. This will create some dust flying in the air and going up your nose...take your time, pour slowly or you'll be hacking and coughing and there'll be dust everywhere.
That's it! I have a high efficiency front loading washing machine. I use about 2 1/2 tablespoons for a load. Honestly, my clothes don't smell like anything, and it gets everything except super horrible stains clean. For that, I resort to liquid evil (like Clorox Color Safe Bleach). Everything else the homemade powder works just fine. And this batch will last me many many many months doing laundry for a family of 6. For real.

So....let's compare the two big points here.

Fels-Naptha laundry bar soap $1.00 each at Hy-Vee
Arm & Hammer 4 lb. Baking Soda $4.04 at Ace Hardware
Arm & Hammer 55 oz. Washing Soda $3.79 at Hy-Vee (finding the washing soda can be tricky)
Borax 4 lb. 12 oz. was $4.93 at K-Mart

GRAND TOTAL: $14.76 (this will last my family of 6 many months at 2 1/2 tablespoons per load)

A 33 oz. box of Tide with Bleach costs $14.02 and does a measly 15 loads.

The "greener" option. Compared to using the alternatives, my soap is way more natural and I feel better about it than using something else. See the websites for more information.

Fels-Naptha - packaged like a bar of hand soap, this laundry bar soap has been around for over 100 years
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda - like I really need to explain baking soda since it has so many uses, but ingredient-wise, it is 100% sodium bicarbonate.
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda - the box has written on it "Pure and Natural since 1874 - 100% fragrance and phosphate free" is a sodium carbonate and is also called soda ash (a cleaning agent for swimming pools, much cheaper than pool company cleaning stuff) or soda crystals. It behaves as a water softener and gets everything sudsy and removes some of those pesky stains.
20 Mule Team Borax - you've seen this stuff at your grandma's house, remember? It's been around since 1891, people. Benjamin Harrison was President then. It's sodium tetraborate, for you home chemists.

Here's the stuff in Original Tide with Bleach (not that I hate Tide or something, but I'm just using it as a popular option):

Bleach Activator - Nonanoyloxybenzenesulfonate
Chelan - Diethylenetriamine Pentaacetate (Sodium Salt)
Colorant - FD&C Blue 1
Dispersant - Sodium Polyacrylate
Enzyme - Amylase & Protease
Fragrance - Fragrance
Oxygen Bleach - Sodium Percarbonate
Process Aid - Palmitic Acid, Sodium Sulfate, and Water
Removes Water Hardness - Sodium Aluminosilicate & Sodium Carbonate
Stabilizer - Polyethylene Glycol 4000
Suds Suppressor - Silicone
Surfactant - Alkyl Sulfate & Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate
Whitening Agent - Disodium Diaminostilbene Disulfonate

So, that's it. It's a lot cheaper doing the "homemade" version and I think I'm putting less toxic junk on my clothes and back into the water supply. And saying Fels-Naptha is super cool.


Frisbies Forever said...

We have been doing that too. I make the liquid as well with fels naptha and use it to soak the collars of whites. I think it works better too. You go girl!

Nicole said...

This reminded me that another friend had posted a similar recipe a little bit ago:

Looks like the same basic ingredients, but its good to know that those soaps are interchangeable in case they're hard to find!

Now, I just need to do it!

AndyK said...

I am trying this asap

adventure grrl said...

loving your blog!