homemade laundry detergent questions

Bumblebeez SC Zone 7May 4, 2009

I am about to make a batch of powdered detergent and need some advice- any comments appreciated.

Here is the recipe I thought I would use:

2 cups very finely grated Zote

1 cup washing soda

1 cup Borax

5 drops essential oil- probably lavender

Mix well and store in air tight container.

Use 2 tablespoons for a large load.

I have a top loader, btw.

I want to add some oxi-clean to the mix, but how much should I add? 1 cup? 2?

I don't want the hassle of having to add vinegar to the tub each time I wash so I'd rather not deal with vinegar.

I have used Gain for many years with great results but I thought I would try something cheaper now that a box is ten dollars.

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Hi Bumblebeeze-
I make my own laundry detergent- only I make the liquid kind. I don't add anything else to mine and it works fine.

I think to get the full effect of the oxi clean you would have to figure out how many loads that you can get from this recipe ( 64 if my math is correct) then add the amt. of oxi clean necessary for 64 loads.

Hopefully someone else on the board has done it and can tell you how much is really needed.

We just add Biz to my husbands chef uniforms and soak them for a couple of hours before laundering as usual. Everything else just gets the homemade soap.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 12:30PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Thanks veg! Right now, I can't find washing soda.
I went to Wal Mart, Walgreens, Family dollar and Bilo.
They are all right next to each other though.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 2:42PM
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bumblebeez -

If you have a problem locating Washing Soda, check swimming pool supplies for Sodium Carbonate (Soda Ash). It's the same thing as Washing Soda, and probably less expensive.

I read recently if you call Arm & Hammer and order at least 3 boxes of Washing Soda, they will send it - shipping free. You might check their web site for a phone number.

When I was using homemade laundry soap I was adding Oxi-Clean to the loads that needed it, not to the mixture. Why waste it on things that don't need it? You're only increasing the cost (and lowering your cost was your goal).

I also added 1/2 to 1 t. Cascade Automatic Dish Washing Detergent per load of really dirty clothes (dirty from yard work and gardening) to improve the enzyme action of homemade laundry soap. Automatic Dish Washing Detergent also contains phosphates that laundry detergents don't contain anymore.

I liked using ZOTE instead of Fels-Naptha in my homemade mixtures - it's MUCH cheaper and I loved the citronella scent. Fels-Naptha also contains petrochemicals, if that's a concern, and no longer contains naptha, which was a nerve toxin, but great at cleaning. ZOTE has optical brightners in it to keep those whites looking white. Using Fels-Naptha, whites eventually start to look dingy (especially if you have hard water). Soap mixes with hard water and form a soapy scum that turns clothes gray. Soap build-up is a given when using mixtures that include bar laundry soaps or bath bars. That build-up also causes fabrics to deteriorate. I understand from reading that commercial detergents include corrosion inhibitors, enzymes and chleating agents for better cleaning and not as much wear-and-tear on clothing as when using soap products.

You REALLY will have better results using homemade laundry soap if you add vinegar to the rinse. The vinegar aids in neutralizing the soap residue left in fabrics. Personally, I wouldn't use one without the other. Sam's Club always has the lowest price on vinegar (two 1-gallon jugs in a box). If you line-dry your clothes, they will be softer if you use vinegar in the rinse when using homemade laundry soap.

Use the hottest water possible for the fabric types being laundered, when using homemade laundry soap. It's not designed to work in cold water. If using the dry version, it won't dissolve properly in cold water. Detergent manufacturers and care lables define cold water as 80-85°F. Neither soap nor detergents clean effectively in water colder than 65°F. Many of the newer washers will add hot water to cold to maintain that 80°-85°F temperature for "cold" water washing.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 6:52AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Thanks you as always for your very helpful info!

What do you think, grainlady, of this recipe with the vinegar already added?

Recipe #10 - (Powdered)

Picture of Cup Of Powdered Laundry Detergent - Tipnut.com
1 cup Vinegar (white)
1 cup Baking Soda
1 cup Washing Soda
1/4 cup liquid castile soap

* Mix well and store in sealed container.
* I find it easiest to pour the liquid soap into the bowl first, stirred in the washing soda, then baking soda, then added the vinegar in small batches at a time (the recipe foams up at first). The mixture is a thick paste at first that will break down into a heavy powdered detergent, just keep stirring. There may be some hard lumps, try to break them down when stirring (it really helps to make sure the baking soda isnt clumpy when first adding). I used 1/2 cup per full load with great results.

I must have beeen washing clothes all wrong for the last 20 years according to everything I have recently read.
I use cold water and gain - the only detergent I use- for everything except whites, which get warm water. Everything looks and smells just fine. I only use hot water when I want to bleach out cleaning cloths or the load is really filthy.
I put everything in the dryer on low, except nice clothes, those get special treatments.

So, if I use these homemade recipes will I have to start using warm and hot water for everything now?

I've got the zote too, btw. It's called pink Zote and I bought it at Big Lots, 80 cents.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 8:38AM
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The purpose of the vinegar in the rinse is to make it slightly acidic, to dissolve compounds that are insoluble in the alkaline wash solution. Borax and sodium carbonate are alkaline. If you mix your original recipe with hard water, you will form insoluble calcium salts (calcium carbonate, calcium fatty acids, aka soap scum) because the pH is alkaline. If your drain and rinse with a weak acid they will dissolve and rinse away.

Your last recipe makes no sense to me, it has you combine acetic acid (vinegar) with sodium carbonate (washing soda). This will produce carbon dioxide, water and sodium acetate, which has the net effect of changing part of your moderate base to a weak base. This would be a little bit milder on your clothes, but would still be alkaline.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 2:03PM
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bumblebeez -

Doing laundry is a lot like cooking and baking. There are a lot of "rules" and a lot of "science", then there's what everyone actually DOES! From habit, experience, science, or without a clue - we all seem to do things a little differently when it comes to laundry.

If I say you MUST use hot or warm water with homemade laundry soap mixtures, there will be 10 people chime in to say they only use cold water with it; so you'll have to work this out for yourself, according to YOUR results. Hot water has always been suggested for removing dirt from heavily soiled items, until we decided to "save the planet" by only using cold water. Cold water washing works best with detergents designed to be used in cold water - Gain may be and that could account for your satisifaction with the product.

If you want a good test to see how well your detergent has been performing in cold water, wash a load of towels with nothing added to the washer but hot or warm water and see if there are a lot of suds.

I'd also say it will take 2- to 3-months of continual use of homemade laundry soap to see if your whites are dingy from hard water soap scum. It will take several weeks to rid your laundry of the accumulation from the Gain.

I got my best results using the hottest water I could for the fabric types being laundered. Hard water requires more soap or detergent, as a general rule, so you may have to alter the amount of homemade laundry soap you use depending on the hardness of your water.

Whites may turn gray if there isn't enough soap (or detergent) used, or if clothes are not thoroughly rinsed. To get clothes white again, this is a procedured to follow from a Cooperative Extension Service laundry guide sheet:

*Wash the clothes again in HOT water.

*Add enough water softener to make the water feel slippery.

*If the water becomes sudsy, the clothes were not rinsed enough. Wash them again adding only water softener.

*If the clothes do not whiten, add soap or detergent and rewash.

I've also used Cascade Dishwasher Detergent in hot water and a good soaking to remove the dingy gray hard water mineral deposits from white clothes washed in homemade laundry soap.

If you've always used cold water, I was wondering why you want to add Oxi-Clean to the mixture? Oxi-Clean works best in warm to hot water, not cold. So once again, that's wasted money in your homemade mixture.

Most people who use homemade laundry soap mixtures don't recognize the principal difference between a soap and a detergent - which is primarily the behaviour in hard water. Soaps tend to get together with the metal ions in hard water forming a scum, while detergents do not.

As chris8769 pointed out, soaps are not suitable for use in acidic conditions, and there is all kinds of molecular information on the subject when you study soaps VS detergents.

When you switch from a detergent (Gain in your case) to a soap-based mixture, you find the mixtures lack enzymes to attack stains, builders to soften water and assist surfactants, optical brighteners to make clothes look whiter, and a long list of other things.

Good luck in your trials with homemade laundry soap. It may suit your laundry needs, and budget, perfectly. If not, you can always go back to detergents. Here's a new combination I read recently: 1 T. Simple Green and 1 scoop washing soda (sorry, they didn't say how large a "scoop"). We're all getting creative trying to save a dollar these days.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 4:45PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I appreciate your replies. I am still considering what to do and trying to find out what our water hardness is.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 4:15PM
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I occasionally make detergent. I use STP from the paint section. It is 97% washing soda, 3% phosphate.

1 part ground soap
1 part STP
1 part borax
1/2 part uniodized salt

I use 1/8 c per load. I do this to use up the hotel soaps we accumulate. I also make dishwasher detergent at the same time which is equal parts borax, TSP and uniodized salt. Vinegar for the rinse aid.

This is what works with my somewhat hard water. Very hard or very soft water would likely need some tweaking.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 12:15PM
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TSP (trisodium phosphate) is not suitable for laundry, it generates a precipitate (basically a dust cloud in the water that settles on the clothes and washer tub) and is rather much harsh (it's commonly used to clean driveways and wash walls before painting).

STPP (sodium tripolyphosphate - similar name, different chemistry) is much better. It softens water and boosts cleaning but does not generate a precipitate.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 3:32PM
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