By Coach KB
Starting out on a chemical free homecare journey can be daunting. All the pretty blogs say it is so easy and then you feel dumb for being scared to mess it up. Well, I think it is pretty dumb that all of the home “care” companies use toxic chemicals, dyes, and fragrances to trick us into buying expensive products we don’t need and actually do the opposite of “care” for us - Did you know that artificially scented products are one of the main causes of indoor air pollution? NOTHANKYOU!
If you want to dive into a more natural (and budget friendly!) approach to homecare, laundry detergent is the easiest place to start, in my opinion. It’s a bonus that I also think it’s one of the most important since our clothes rub on our skin all day long and the residual chemicals have to go somewhere! Hopefully this post will outline how to fearlessly make your own detergent. If it doesn’t answer all your questions just freaking ask me because I am human and I won’t make fun of you.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED, pictured from left to right (and I swear even though there are 10 things on the list it is not complicated - some items are optional):
A container to store your detergent in once you have made it.
A bar of Dr. Bronners (or similar) pure castile soap, any flavor you want (your clothes won’t actually smell like much of anything after they are washed, anyway, which is exactly how you want it!). Other options could be Fels Naptha or Kirk’s Castile.
A bag of Washing Soda (or Soda Ash). I get mine at the Portland Homestead Supply Co.
Good ol’ fashioned Borax, a traditional laundry booster and general cleaning supply. You can get this at Fred Meyer or probably wherever you get your groceries, honestly.
Baking soda (optional). Mine is a giant bag from Costco but the regular sized box from the grocery store is one pound, which is twice as much you will need for one batch of detergent, which means you will have enough leftovers to bake lots of cookies!
A food processor or a hand-grater if you like to work hard. You could possibly use a blender if you don’t have a food processor but if you are hand-grating your soap I wouldn’t go to the trouble of getting out another contraption. But don’t worry about getting so many dishes dirty… It’s all just soap so you can just rinse it off and put it back - easy peasy!
Essential oil (optional) if you really want to try to scent your laundry (no, you are not crazy - this is not actually pictured above, but it is in the photo below).
A mixing bowl, if using a food processor.
A kitchen scale (totally optional since we all know a cup = 8oz so when I say one pound you can just use two cups).
A dish towel (optional if you are using a food processor).
EASY STEPS TO MAKE LAUNDRY DETERGENT, as pictured:
Dump 1lb or 2C washing soda, 1lb or 2C borax, and optional ½ lb or 1C baking soda into the mixing bowl.
Grate the soap using the grater-disc insert in the food processor. Just push it down like you would any vegetable. If using a hand-grater, grate the soap on the finest grind… like a zest. The smaller the pieces of soap, the more easily they dissolve in water, especially if you don’t wash your clothes in hot water.
If you grate by hand into fine soap pieces, you are basically done - Skip to #4.
If you used a food processor, dump the grated soap in the bowl with the other “ingredients,” replace the grating blade with the regular blade, pour everything back in, add optional essential oil (20-40 drops), and blend. Stir once to make sure none of the soap got stuck on the bottom (I’ve never actually had this happen but I’m paranoid so I do it every time.)
PRO-TIP - Cover your food processor with a dish towel while blending. The detergent particles are very fine and float out the top of the processor and billow onto your countertops.
Pour everything into your container (if you hand-grated your soap this is where you would add 20-40 drops of essential oil), shake it up to combine, and VIOLA! Your detergent is ready to use. Two tablespoons per large load is all you need. Turn the water on and add the detergent first to make sure all the particles dissolve. It only takes a little bit of water for this to happen so you can pretty much add your clothes immediately.
Obviously this only works if your washing machine can use powdered detergent.
If you care, the washing soda and Borax are the primary cleaners; the soap does most of any stain-removing; and baking soda cleans a little but is a good fabric softener.
In this batch my soap was lavender and my essential oil was grapefruit. For soap I’ve also used citrus, almond, and rose varieties. For essential oils I’ve used rosemary, lavender, or none at all.
Consider if your clothes are ever actually dirty enough to warrant a "normal" wash cycle. I almost always wash my clothes on the "light" cycle to save on water and on energy.
Leave a comment to let me know how it goes or ask any questions you have. I’m so excited to do more posts on non-toxic homecare and take all of you down the rabbit-hole with me!