homemade laundry detergent success

jollyrdJuly 16, 2013

I made a dry mix, - 2 parts borax, 2 parts washing soda and 1 part fels-naphta soap.

I washed one batch of darks and one batch of whites. The first batch of darks did come out with minor white speckles on it -- probably because I did not wait long enough for the powder to dissolve before I put in the clothes. But it all came off during the drying.

The whites were socks, towels and kitchen rags, and I waited for the power to dissolve well. It is amazing how clean it all came out, and it smells very nice. The smell did concern me because the dry mix does not smell very promising or pleasant - must be the fels naphta soap. It looks like grated cheddar cheese! I might want to check the local herbs store to see if they have a natural lavender or orange soap -- to get me choice of flavors. But anyways, all the whites came out very clean, white, no nasty smell on the kitchen rags. I did not have to use Oxiclean or vinegar. That is good in my book since I always dread the socks stains.

I need to do the math to compare the cost per load.

I am storing the dry mix in the same type container I use for sugar and flour. But I will keep my eyes open at the thrift stores or goodwill for some more containers - maybe some old cute jar with 'laundry' on it?

Just wanted to share with all.

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Your results may vary..... From personal experience, it's not as simple as the cost factor alone.

Although this, and similar mixtures (both dry and liquid versions) are generally very cost effective, there are other "costs" you need to take into consideration than just the price of the ingredients due to cause and effect. Not everyone has great results using homemade mixtures, especially the longer you use them and if you have hard water. These are things I experienced when using homemade laundry mixtures on-and-off over the last 25-years, and things I learned when I studied the science of soap and detergents and what was happening to my laundry when using it. Using it for one wash, one week, or even one month isn't a good test. See how things go after using it for 3-months or more.

1. This formula is missing a lot of chemical ingredients you've enjoyed in your commercial detergents, such as: corrosion inhibitors, enzymes, whiteners/brighteners, surfactant formulations that reduce foam, and chelating agents (bind things together) that are found in commercial detergents. What this means is after prolonged use of the homemade mixtures you may find the life of your clothing diminishes, it doesn't clean as well, your clothes are stiff when you line-dry them, and numerous other possible issues. This is why detergent was overwhelmingly chosen for laundry over old-fashioned soap products after WWII when all these chemicals were formulated. Detergents just worked better than soap, and these formulas are changing all the time to keep up with today's laundry needs.

2. $$$ If you use ZOTE (a bar soap formulated for laundry) instead of Fels Naptha, not only will you save money (ZOTE is 90-cents at Big Lots and it doesn't take the whole bar for a batch of laundry soap), it also has some brighteners (bluing agents) in the bar that will aid in keeping whites looking white better than Fels Naptha. Fels Naptha, which once contained Stoddard Solvent - a great cleaning agent, was removed years ago because it turns out it's pretty toxic stuff. Fels Naptha was basically used as a pre-wash (wet the bar and rubbed directly on stains), rather than as a laundry soap. I believe Stoddard Solvent is used in dry-cleaning chemicals. Most people used homemade lye soap for laundry and Fels Naptha for pretreating.

3. The ingredients used in these mixtures may NOT be good for your washing machine, and may actually diminish the life of it. There are reports that washing soda and Borax can damage washing machines. If you have an HE washing machine, check with the manufacturer for information about using homemade laundry detergent mixtures. Some of the bar soap products people use in the mixtures have fat in them that can build-up in the washer drum and cause that awful stinky smell and black mold growth front-loaders are famous for. This happened to a friend who used Oil of Olay in the mixture because she had sensitive skin and it was the only soap that didn't bother her. She had to replace her machine because of black mold. Use of a homemade product may cancel your warranty, so be sure to check. Washing machines aren't cheap compared to the cost difference in soap and detergent.

4. For optimal cleaning performance with homemade mixtures use hot water for the wash cycle to give you the best cleaning for whites and heavily soiled clothes. If you are going back to pre-WWII laundry products, you will get better results using the prescribed hot water that went along with their use, and you may also benefit from soaking some heavily-soiled items overnight. So use the hottest water possible for each fabric type for optimal cleaning. By using hot water, that will increase the cost of utilities, but will also increase the performance of the soap mixture.

If you normally use cold water for washing and your cold water is really cold in the winter (65-degrees F or colder), the soap mixture will not activate and clean effectively. Cold water detergents are formulated for use in cold water, and detergent manufacturers define cold water as 80-85-degrees F. Some washing machines actually mix hot water with cold to achieve this temperature for the wash cycle, even when it's set on "cold". Wet clothes aren't necessarily "clean" clothes. Your soap or detergent needs to perform that first 5-minutes of the wash cycle in order to clean well.

5. If you have hard water you may find you need to use more than the normal 2 T. per load to get your clothes clean. More is needed for extra-large loads as well as extra dirty loads. You may need as much as 1/2-cup at times. You may need to add an oxygen-type cleaner (Oxi-Clean or Sun from the Dollar General) to the dry mix or add it to the laundry if using the liquid version, to aid performance. With each add-in or larger amount needed to do each load, the cost increases.

6. You are now using a soap-based product. Soap reacts with minerals in the water and can leave soap scum residue. You may find you need an extra rinse or need to chemically soften your water (Calgon or vinegar in the rinse, or a whole house water softener) in order to avoid soap scum build-up. That adds to the cost of use.

Soap scum will eventually cause your whites to yellow or gray, and light colors will look dingy. If you line-dry your clothes they will be stiff because of the soap scum build-up.

Dried soap scum build-up is like leaving sandpaper in your fabrics. It will actually be abrasive and reduce the life of your clothing, and can actually cause holes in fabrics. It can also cause skin outbreaks for anyone who may be sensitive to this soap residue in fabrics. If you launder cloth diapers in homemade laundry mixtures, it may contribute to diaper rash and will reduce the absorbancy of fabrics. You may find your clothing doesn't wear well or may wear-out sooner than they once did.

7. When I used these formulas years ago I would have to switch to regular detergent about every 3 months to remove the soap scum build-up and to brighten the clothes again. This is because of our extremely hard water. It worked best when I had a whole-house water softener unit. Eventually I was increasing the add-ins and using softener, so I really wasn't saving money at all. Especially since our clothes weren't lasting as long.

8. Off-season clothing would smell acrid/rancid after being in storage from the fats found in the bars of soap used for the mixtures. All off-season clothing had to be laundered before they could be used again because of this smell.

9. It takes several washings to remove your old detergent from your clothing, and then a couple months of using the homemade version to really show it's true results. I'd give it three months trial and see if you notice a real difference. Keep some "samples" for comparison. Save back a washcloth, a white T-shirt, etc., to compare before and after.

10. If you are laundering baby and children's clothing, homemade mixtures may destroy the fire-retardant coatings on fabrics. Charlie's Soap, which is what I use now, has been shown in testing to improve the the flamH retardant properties after each washing to the point where the fabric would not catch fire at all. No other detergent tested improved the flame retardant properties of children's sleepwear at all.

Just some things to consider....


    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 5:20PM
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okey dokey, Thanks for the information

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 9:12PM
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