Although my 6-year-old daughter is a self-proclaimed scientist (I’m her trusty lab assistant), laundry detergent isn’t among the list of concoctions we will be mixing up in our kitchen. When I researched the subject, I so desperately wanted to be wrong in my conclusion. After all, the homemade stuff is dirt cheap! Unfortunately, the operative word here is dirt and traditional soap simply doesn’t do the trick. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of homemade products out there that are super efficient and cost effective to boot. Sadly, homemade laundry detergent isn’t one of them. Luckily, there are also some green options when it comes to laundry detergent.
What’s In Homemade Laundry Detergent
There are some very practical items that can be found in just about every homemade laundry detergent recipe out there. While some of these ingredients make perfect sense, others are not the inexpensive answer to your laundry dilemma. So what’s inside your homemade concoction? What works and what may actually cause more harm than good?
- Water Softeners such as baking soda, washing soda or Borax make up the greatest portion of your homemade laundry detergent. Unfortunately, baking soda doesn’t really do a great job at softening hard water, but the others are better choices. There are also water softeners found in your store bought laundry detergent.
- Laundry Boosters are often suggested in your homemade recipe. One of the more commonly knows boosters is OxyClean. This is a perfectly logical thing to add to your mixture. This can also be found in store bought detergents.
- Soap is always an ingredient in homemade laundry detergent. This one seems like a no brainer. Of course, you need soap to wash your clothes, right? Isn’t that the ingredient in the detergent I purchase from the store? Nope! Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it sounds and soap that is grated or melted into your detergent may hurt more than it can help.
Soap Vs. Detergent
Soap and detergent are very different things and soap cannot effectively replace detergent in the cleaning supplies used to clean clothes. Soap is a very simple alkaline compound that can even be made at home. Detergent, on the other hand, is the result of a complex chemical reaction that takes place under high heat with several chemicals. The conditions required to make detergent would not be safe to perform at home without blowing the place up. Both soap and detergents contain surfactants whose job it is to capture dirt so it can be washed away. However, the surfactants in soap are oil based and don’t do a very good job at capturing dirt and carrying away. The surfactants in your store bought laundry detergent actually grab the dirt particles and hold onto them while allowing them to float away in the water that your washing machine sends spiraling down your drain. In other words, the conventional soap in your homemade detergent won’t do a very good job at cleaning your clothes.
Still Prefer The Homemade Stuff? Better Grab A Washboard!
Conventional soap doesn’t get into the fibers of your clothing in your washing machine. This modern day appliance simply doesn’t have the agitation powers to get into those nooks and crannies and get rid of the dirt. If you want to use a soap based product, you had better grab a washboard and be willing to put in a lot of elbow grease! Otherwise, the surfactant from the soap will stick to your clothes and it will hold on tight to your clothing, along with the dirt and grime you wanted to be washed away. That translates into some stinky clothes over time. I can only imagine what my kids’ baseball uniforms would smell like!!!
Unfortunately, smelly clothes aren’t the only drawback to using soap based laundry detergent. That residue we were talking about will build up in your washing machine the same way it does on your clothes. It’s one thing to toss a nasty shirt in the garbage, but washing machines are far too expensive to fix or replace.
If you really want proof that your clothes washed in homemade laundry soap are still dirty, then you should try stripping your clothes to see all the nasty grime and residue that is left behind. You can purchase a stripping agent such as Grovia pods (a bit more powerful) or make one on your own. You soak your clothes in a large basin or bathtub with hot water and your stripping agent for about four hours and you will be astonished by the site of the brown, murky water. Drain the water and wring the clothes out well before putting them in the washing machine on a water only cycle to remove any remaining gunk. Finally, you can clean them with a store bought detergent. But what is the best natural cleaning product that will get your clothes clean?
Natural Laundry Detergent: What Are The Options?
When it comes to using a laundry detergent that gets the job done without breaking the bank, I usually turn to Seventh Generation Free and Clear Detergent. It is a great eco-friendly option that doesn’t have any toxic dyes or perfumes. Its plant-derived ingredients make it a safer option for something that is in direct contact with your skin. If you prefer a scented option, Seventh Generation also has those options, such as the Eucalyptus and Lavender. Or you can use essential oils on your dryer balls to add a fresh, clean scent. Lavender is my go to for the dryer, but my kids prefer their clothes to be scent free. The Free and Clear option allows me to make the choice on a load to load basis.
Burst Your Bubble
Sorry to have been the bearer of bad news. Unfortunately, that homemade laundry soap simply doesn’t do the trick. Stinky clothes are one thing, but it’s definitely not worth ruining your washing machine. If you have been using homemade laundry soap the best thing to do would be to STOP! You probably want to strip the clothes that have been washed with the homemade soap and move on to an eco friendly store bought laundry detergent.