Sunday, June 10, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent for High Efficency (HE) Machines

I have grated the tiny bars of soap.  I have mixed giant vats of liquid goop detergent.  I have even used my pans on the stove to cook (yes cook) soap on my stove.   In short readers, I have put in the time and trial and error to test some of the most popular homemade laundry detergent/soap recipes around.  And I present to you what I consider to be the BEST...yes THE BEST homemade laundry soap recipe ever.  I would love if you would try it out and let me know what you think.  

But before I go into all of the details, you may be wondering WHY someone would go to all of the hassle of making their own laundry detergent.

There are many, many reasons...but here are just a few:
1)  Making your own detergent is a very easy way to go green.
Most commercial laundry detergents contain phosphates and other ingredients which are harmful to both you and the environment.   According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, the average family does 416-520 loads of laundry per year!  Think for just a second how much water and energy is used up in this country just through trying to clean our clothes.  Seconldy, think about where all of that water is going after it cleans your clothes.  Simply switching to a more natural detergent could have a huge impact on the environment....and trust me it is an easy change.  (Even I can do it and I am lazy!)
Also, think about how many empty containers you are throwing away each time you run out of laundry detergent.  Even if you recycle those containers, think about the energy that is used in that process. 

2)  Making your own laundry detergent and other cleaning supplies can save you a boat load of money.
We have a high efficiency washer and so every month or so we were spending a TON of money buying Tides HE detergent.   (It really is expensive!) This recipe uses a lot of low foaming ingredients so it is perfect for HE machines.  Also, you are not having to pay for all of the packaging and marketing that goes into a conventional detergent.  And I promise you, the cleaning power of this detergent is fantastic.  I have very young children.  We get really dirty.  (Seriously...look at my blog pictures)  And this detergent has been able to clean just as well if not better than our standard Tide HE detergent.

And even if you don't have a HE washer machine, you have to admit that laundry detergent is not cheap.  At least not compared to how cheap this recipe is.  Using this recipe, you can make an entire years worth of laundry detergent for less than $5.  (Prices vary depending on costs in your area...but I know it will be much cheaper than the pre-packaged stuff you are buying now.)

3)   When you make your own supplies, you don't have to keep running to the store to pick up more detergent (or windex or "scrubbing bubbles" or any of that stuff!)  ---And that is kind of freeing and cool. 
See the thing that hangs most people up about making your own cleaning products is the discipline it takes.  No matter how easy the recipe is,  making something from scratch does take more time than simply opening up a container of commercial product.  So the thing that would always throw me off track would be I would a) run out of detergent and then b) be having "one of those days" where the last thing I wanted to do was MAKE laundry detergent.  So I would always end up running to the store to pick up a commercial product.  However, with this recipe, you only have to spend a couple of minutes one afternoon making it, and then you have a WHOLE years worth of detergent.  (If you have an HE machine, you will actually have much, much more than a whole years worth!)  This is also a powdered detergent.  So, unlike the other homemade liquid forms of laundry detergent (which can sometimes get moldy)--this one will last indefinitely.  

4)   Using recipes like this is an easy way to give your cleaning supplies a makeover--Simplify! Simplify!  Simplify!
Do you open up your cleaning supply cabinet to see a ton of different bottles and boxes?  Do you have a bottle for glass cleaner?  Another bottle of stuff for cleaning the toilet?  Another for the counter tops?  Another for the stove?   In fact, do you have an entire cabinet full of boxes and bottles claiming to be the 'next best thing' when it comes to cleaning.   Chances are that your grandmother (or maybe great grandmother depending on your generation) didn't need to have 50 million bottles and boxes of stuff to get her house clean.  She probably relied on a few basic essentials such as vinegar and baking soda to get her whole house clean.  So if women have been keeping their house clean and tidy for years with those things....why of why do we spend hundreds of dollars buying all of those boxes and bottles of cleaning supplies?  The answer is marketing.  We all fall victim to it.  (At least I do!)  But the truth of the matter is that these simple ingredients used in previous generations still work just as well for cleaning and cost a fraction of the price.  Most of them are also better for the environment.

5)  Making your own cleaning supplies allows you to customize your scents and blends.
One of the unexpected benefits to making my own cleaning supplies is that I have enjoyed experimenting with essential oils.  I can choose exactly what "smells" I want my own special blend of cleaning supplies to have.  And to be honest, it makes cleaning a whole lot more enjoyable!  Instead of breathing in those toxic fumes like I was before, I am now smelling a faint and lovely "lemon verbena" smell as I wipe down my counter tops.  Or--perhaps I might have "lavender vanilla" sheets to sleep on at night.  I can even change my scents with the seasons.  Last autumn, I made a lovely general purpose cleaner and scented it with Sweet Orange, Cinnamon, Clover, and Ginger essential oils.  It made deep cleaning in the fall an almost enjoyable experience.  Almost. :)   At least it was better than the noxious, over powering smell most commercial cleaners have!

So those are just a FEW of the reasons you may want to consider making your own laundry soap and cleansers.

Making your own Laundry Detergent:
Now, when you start experimenting with making your own laundry soap, you will basically have two different choices:  liquid or powder form soap.   I typically bought commercial liquid detergent when I went to the the first recipe I tried was for a homemade liquid detergent.  The liquid detergent cleaned just fine...but it sort of had a strange consistency which kind of freaked me out.  (Its difficult to describe in words, but if you have ever made it yourself, you will know what I am talking about.)   I have also read reviews online of mold even growing on liquid detergent if it was stored for long periods of time.  That wasn't going to work for me.  I wanted a recipe that was easy to make and that would last indefinitely so I didn't have to keep making it over and over again.  So I ruled the liquid version out.

The next several versions I tried were for powdered laundry soap.  All of the powdered laundry soap recipes out there basically involve some ratio of the following ingredients:
1)  Borax
2)  Soap Flakes or Grated Soap
3)  Baking Soda
4)  Washing Soada
5)  Oxi Clean

I test several of these recipes out.  But the BEST recipe by far was in the book Clean Naturally by Sandy Maine.   Ms. Mains book is a great read.  She is an authority in soap making, so it didn't surprise me that her cleaning supplies worked so well.  However, the thing I enjoyed most about her book is her overall philosophy about cleaning and life in general.

This recipe seems to work fantastically in both hard and soft water.  This recipe also doesn't have any of the more expensive or hard to find ingredients (such as washing soda and oxi clean).  It smells great.  It is low foaming.  It is gentle enough for our clothes, yet tough on stains.   So the recipe that I use today is a sort of modified version of Ms. Sandy Maine's.
So---Now...without further is my FAVORITE laundry soap recipe.  (Perfect for regular or High Efficiency Machines).

Simple Washing Powder Recipe
16 cups of baking soda
12 cups of borax*
8 cupts of grated soap**
3 tbsp of your favorite essential oils (optional)

* BORAX Note:  You will typically find borax in the laundry detergent aisle of most any grocery store of home goods store.  (I know that Meijer's, Walmart, Kroger's, and Giant Eagle all carry it.  If you are from another part of the country, please feel free to use the store locator on their website to find it.)

**SOAP Note:
--IF you are making your own laundry soap for environmental reasons, it is best to use a grated castile or glycerine soap.  You can buy these soaps at locally at a health food store or online.
--IF you are making your own laundry soap as a means of saving money, I have found that a regular bar of grated soap works just as fine.  HOWEVER (and this is important) you want to buy the most plain and simple bar of soap that you can find.  Anything that looks like it would be good for your skin will be bad or your laundry.  You want to avoid anything with added moisturizers or aloe as they often leave a film on your clothes or laundry machine.  I have found that the brands Ivory and Feliz Napa works best.

1)  Grind or grate your soap. can grate the soap using a cheese grater.  But I have found that  Ivory soap grates VERY will in a food processor.  Cut the soap up into small 1" cubes.  (Ivory soap is very soft and easy to cut.)  Then place it in your food processor one bar at a time and grind it up.  Wash your food processor well after doing this.  ;)
2)  Mix the grated soap, baking soda, and borax into a large air tight container.  (A wire whisk makes mixing very easy.)
3)  Add the Essential Oils if desired.  (If you are making this for purely budget reasons, you may want to skip the essential oils.  It smells great without them.  They are just a fun bonus.)
4)  To make more of less of this soap, just mix ingredients sticking to the same general ratio of 4 parts baking soda, 3 parts borax, 2 parts grated soap.   This recipe yields enough to do aprox 144 loads in an HE machine and 35 loads in a regular machine.  I suggest that you make a small batch at first to try it.  THEN, later, when you see how much you love it, make enough to last a year.  

To use:
Use 1/2 cup for Regular Machines for regular soiled loads.  For heavy soiled loads, you can up this to 1 cup. 
Use 1 Tbsp for HE Machines for regular soiled loads.  For heavy soiled loads, you can up this to 1/4 cup.

For a printable version of these ingredients and directions, click here.


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