I mentioned on twitter yesterday that I'd just finished whipping up a batch of homemade laundry detergent and a bunch of people showed interest in my recipe, so I thought I'd post it here.
Making my own laundry detergent seems so random, but it was a natural progression, in fact! We decided to use cloth diapers before Fry was even born, but you can't use regular laundry detergent with them, because the chemicals eventually break down the absorbing properties of the diapers. You can buy special chemical-free detergent at most health food stores, but they are really expensive, nearly negating the savings we were making with the cloth diapers themselves! Around the same time, I started using soap nuts for cleaning our clothes. While I really appreciated that our clothes no longer smelled like chemicals and they were indeed clean, soap nuts don't have natural bleaching properties and our clothes started to look dingy. Plus, they didn't do anything against the extremely hard water we have here.
In looking around for alternatives, I found loads of recipes for homemade detergents that are suitable for cloth diapers and for clothes. Unfortunately, if you live outside North America, you will have to have a hook-up for the Borax. If anyone knows of a source for Borax in Europe or a good substitute, please let me know! My sister brought me a box when she visited last summer, and I brought back a box as well after our visit, and we've been using it ever since. I haven't even opened the second box yet, though I think I will have to for the next batch. I based my recipe off of this one, and here is my current recipe:
Homemade Laundry Detergent
You will need:
1 bar laundry soap*
1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda**
1/2 cup oxygen cleaning powder
*I use savon de Marseille, which has a lovely subtle scent that I quite like, but you can get unscented and even add a bit of essential oil if you like.
**Washing soda is called cristaux de soude in French
First, I mix together the Borax, washing soda and oxygen powder, since they are all powdered anyway. Then I start to grate the laundry soap and folding it into the powder as I go. I find it mixes together better than grating all the soap at once and trying to mix it together at the end.
You only need a heaping tablespoon for a load of laundry and one batch should last several months! I find this works really well, and even Fry's clothes that has suffered from... accidents (ahem) come out perfectly clean and stain-free. As you can see from the photo, I keep mine in a very large jar with the recipe taped on so it's always handy.
I hope this helps those of you that have asked; please do let me know if you try it!
OH one more thing! This is not the same recipe to use for cloth diapers! There is some concern that the laundry soap can cause build up, which can be bad for the diapers. I used the recipe that I linked above, which is equal parts Borax, washing soda and oxygen cleaning powder, and they still look brand new! We aren't using them right now (kind of a long story), but we are hanging on to them to use with the next little person that comes along.