Don’t get me wrong: I have every appreciation for modern machines that have made my laundry chore soooo much easier! If you doubt my appreciation for these machines, check out my article reminiscing laundry day from my childhood.
Along with modern advances in how we do our laundry, there are many advances in what we wash our laundry with…not all of them being good.
It is important to remember that our skin is our body’s largest organ. We absorb and detox through it. No substance that comes in contact with our skin remains neutral. We will either absorb it into our body or it will have a drawing effect and pull toxins out of our body.
Out of my cheap-skateness, I began making my own laundry soap soon after I got married. As I was researching for the perfect recipe I began learning about all the harmful ingredients in commercial detergents and softeners.
All this information gave me the extra boost that I needed to make sure that I didn’t slack on making my laundry soap. Even though it was just my husband and I at the time and we really didn’t generate that much dirty laundry, I wanted to start this habit so that once children came along it would be easier to stick to.
I’ve always been easily overwhelmed with artificial scents, air fresheners and perfumes. The scent coats my tongue and seems to get stuck in the back of my throat. If they are strong enough, I quickly get a headache. Read more details about the dangers of synthetic fragrances here from Melinda at The Healthy Farm Girl. Melinda’s focus is on cosmetics, but her information is also relevant to laundry because our skin is in contact with our clothes all the time. Opening up a box of dryer sheets is one of the worst waves of scent for me
I don’t know why detergents and softeners have to have colors. When I pour blue/green/pink liquid into my machine it doesn’t make me feel like my clothes will get that much cleaner. Really, I wonder if my whites will still come out white! (Oh wait, I try not to wear white…). And if the artificial fragrances are strong enough to cling to laundry through washing, I can only assume the colors are clinging on, also. I just don’t need that extra junk touching my skin all day.
My Natural and Affordable Laundry Detergent
Let me clarify, there is a chemistry difference between detergents and soaps. Detergents are synthetic or partially synthetic and formulated to dissolve and clean in any type of water; specifically hard and cold water. Soaps are fat and lye based and don’t work as effectively in hard and cold waters.
What I make at home is technically laundry soap but for ease of discussion, I call it detergent.
My laundry detergent needs keep changing over the years and I try to go with the flow. When I was single and my money did jingle I bought a natural/organic/sustainable/yada, yada, yada… detergent because that was the “healthy” thing to do and I didn’t go through that much of it.
After I got married I realized that I could be a small blessing in our finances department by making my own detergent. During our first years of marriage we lived in a house with a water softener system.
Having a water softener was amazing! My husband’s white socks stayed white without me even trying! [I try not to wear white because 1.) I will inevitably spill something on it and 2.) I sweat. A lot. As you may have read about previously. And pit stains just don’t need to keep haunting me.] At that time I was making a liquid detergent recipe.
Two years later we moved into the house we own now. Our water here is hard. No doubt. But it doesn’t cause staining so a softening system really isn’t necessary.
I felt like my liquid recipe just wasn’t cutting it. Plus, that huge bucket took up a lot of space in my laundry room. So I went hunting again for another recipe and kept asking around to people I knew who also made their own laundry detergent.
Eventually I settled on a powder recipe:
[Edit 8 months later: Check out how I tweaked this recipe even further to work with my laundry routine and learn how to make your own laundry soap!]
I add my own essential oils of either lemon or lavender or a combo of the two. I don’t even remember where I found this recipe so I can’t give due credit. But there are many similar powder recipes out there.
I recently came across Joanna Gaines’ laundry detergent recipe in issue #6 of her magazine The Magnolia Journal. It is similar to what I use now except it has a better soap to washing soda ratio.
My Natural Fabric Softener
I go two ways with fabric softeners. If I am line drying my laundry I like to add about 1/2 a cup of white distilled vinegar to the softener dispenser of my washer. Not only does this soften the clothes nicely but it also gives an extra cleaning boost.
If I am drying my laundry in the dryer, I use wool balls. I have Nellie’s wool dryer balls in my dryer right now. The package says they are good for 2 years.
My Attempt at Whites
For the few whites I do have, I give a little extra effort. If they have stains, I’ll pre-treat them with regular ole’ Kirk’s Castile bar soap that I use in my detergent. Otherwise, I use my detergent, vinegar in the softener dispenser and household 3% hydrogen peroxide in the bleach compartment. I buy this by the gallon. Make sure you DO NOT get the much stronger hydrogen peroxide for water treatment systems!
If all of this is too overwhelming right now and you can’t change any laundry routines, just wear your clothes a little longer to lessen your exposure to the ingredients in your laundry products. Your jeans don’t have to be washed after one wear. Your Sunday dress was only worn a couple hours – hang it up and wear it again.
Hopefully my natural and affordable laundry routine has given you a few ideas for your laundry! It can be hard to find time to do everything at once so just pick one thing to implement today. Switch out your softener for a jug of vinegar. Maybe next week you will feel like adding another step!