Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Laundry Detergent

I am going to post a series of recipes of a different kind. I could start this with a long rant about the exposure we're all getting from cosmetics and other personal-care products. It's not good news. Read what the Environmental Working Group has to say about that sort of thing. I just read in the book "Ready, Set, Green" that in the U.S., a total of 10 chemicals are banned from cosmetics. Compare this to 1,100 in Europe! As I said to my husband - imagine the bottles on the shelves of CVS and Sephora were required to read 'Made with ingredients outlawed in European Countries'. Would you buy it? I didn't think so.

I have been making my own laundry soap (technically speaking, soap and detergent are different animals) for a while now. I cannot possibly claim credit for the recipe, that's floating all over the internet. I follow this set of instructions

"Homemade Laundry Soap

1/3 bar Fels Naptha or other type of soap [I use 1 bar of a soap from vegetable oil and without fragrance, Fels Naphta has perfume but I hear it clean really well]

½ cup washing soda

½ cup borax powder

~You will also need a small bucket, about 2 gallon size~

Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan. Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts. Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket. Now add your soap mixture and stir. Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel. You use ½ cup per load."

However, I am posting it here to raise some awareness. There are a number of advantages to this recipe and a couple of FAQs that come up, so I will briefly discuss.

Why did I start this in the first place? I have a daughter who has crazy bad excema. In an effort to eliminate environmental triggers, I have reduced her exposure to all but the most basic things that can get to her skin. Making my own laundry soap allows me to control exactly what is in the stuff. Interestingly, I used to use a honey&oat soap bar from Trader Joe's because general wisdom is that oats are good for excema. Now it turns out that my daughter is allergic to oats! Go figure. Almost all OTC excema creams or bath soaps have oatmeal in them. I feel lucky that I am easily able to identify triggers and change recipe. Homemade means you know exactly what's in it. Be that for food or for other stuff (homemade playdough, homemade soap or creams).

Is it hard? What does it cost? It is not hard. The hardest part is grating the soap. There are posts online that compare the cost exactly, but one thing is for sure - this is a LOT cheaper than commercial detergent. Some people have reported difficulty finding wash soda but in my experience a well-stocked supermarket will carry it. I made a batch today which took me under 30 minutes, of which maybe 15 minutes were active hands-on time.

Does it work in a HE washer, aka Front Loader Washer? Yes it does. This soap does not produce a lot of suds (bubbles) which is typically the problem in HE washers. I have a front loader (like any normal European). In fact, good time to plug the German appliance brand Miele. Way the best. Can't wait till I get to redo my kitchen with all Miele appliances. As soon as the stock market rebounds :-)

Does it work as well as detergent? Hmm. I don't know. Since I get rashes from Tide, I have only ever used other 'earth friendly' hypoallergenic commercial detergents. Some of those I find suck. Seventh generation brand detergent doesn't work at all. Trader Joe's brand liquid detergent smells to high heavens. A brand I like is 'Sun and Earth' and I would say the homemade stuff washes as well or a little bit better than that.

Is it safe for babies? I couldn't imagine a reason why it wouldn't be and I have been using it on mine. I would not use a soap bar with fragrance or antibacterial ingredients if I was going to use the soap for babies. In fact, you should never use antibacterial soap for a variety of reasons.

1 comment:

  1. I make a very similar recipe for powdered detergent, and actually use TJ's oatmeal bar soap! I love it.