For the past (almost) four years I've been using a homemade powdered laundry detergent. I started using it because we went with cloth diapers for my little bird and then with our second stinkerbelle, too. Since I was using it for the diapers, I just started using it for everything. It was a blend of Superwashing Soda, Oxiclean and Borax. It worked well for us in Minnesota.
Lately I've been feeling like things aren't quite so clean. Whites aren't quite so white. Maybe it's the water here in Colorado. Perhaps I should blame the machine that came with the house. But, because of it, I've started looking into alternatives to wash our clothes. No one is in cloth diapers anymore, but we still need to wash our stuff, and I don't want to be buying commercial detergents when I don't have to.
Why? Many, because of their chemical ingredients, function as endocrine disruptors, which means that they act as synthetic estrogens, which can increase the amount of estrogen-like activity in the human body. I tend to think my hormones don't need any help at the moment! Many also have warning labels to indicate you should avoid direct skin contact. That's because they contain surfactants. Surfactants are the main agents that strip away oils, which is great if your child got some ketchup on their shirt, but they can seriously irritate the skin and aggravate skin issues. And, like so many other allergies, laundry detergent allergies are on the rise. Use too much and it doesn't rinse completely out of your clothes, which means you're just putting the chemicals directly in contact with your skin!
Another good reason to avoid commercial detergents is environmental. After our washing is done, the water goes down the drain. So, the detergents run into the water supply and have been shown to interfere with aquatic life. This stuff is not natural and many plants and animals cannot process the chemicals they contain, such as sodium triphosphate and trisodium phosphate. (source)
Many also contain "fragrance" which, according the Environmental Working Group, "The word "fragrance" or "parfum" on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system."
And, of course, the pods. If you have kids, please rethink pods or at least make sure they are completely out of reach. According to a recent study, children ingest pods at a higher rate than powdered detergents, and some of the health complaints (digestive distress, breathing difficulties, and lesions) result in ER visits. (source)
I'd like to avoid that at all costs please!
So, what's the deal with borax? Well, it's not only in cleaning products, but it can also be found in slimy toys and some nutritional supplements, which is CRAZY to me! It's got some potentially serious side-effects that are easy to avoid, such as:
And, since there are other alternatives, I thought I had best ditch the borax and go on the search for something safer. Enter HolFit. I stumbled onto Ange Peters' blog after being invited to check out her Periscopes. If you're not following her and you're into holistic living, go check her out! She had a recipe for a liquid DIY detergent that did not contain borax, so I gave it a try. The verdict? Six thumbs up! Well, maybe more like four thumbs and 2 fingers.
Her recipe calls for 1 cup liquid castille soap, 1 cup baking soda, 1/3 cup coarse salt, 7 liters of hot water and 20 drops of essential oil. Yes, liters. She's from Canada ;)
So, here's my adapted recipe, for a US, cup/gallon-centric population! I didn't want to make a ton of it at once, since I tend to vary the essential oils I use. So my adaptation is as follows:
1/4 cup liquid castille soap
1/4 baking soda
1 Tablespoon plus 1/2 tsp coarse salt
8 cups hot water
8-10 drops essential oil
Combine all ingredients into a glass container. I bought mine from Ikea. Whisk to dissolve. That's it! When you wash, you will need about 1/4 cup for a small load, 1/3 for a medium and 1/2 for a large load. I keep measuring cups in the laundry room to make life easier.
Now, don't be scared, but if the first time you make this detergent, it will look like this.
Then, when you're ready to do laundry again, it will look like this.
Yes, it separates. But, that's an easy problem to solve. Just give it a good shake! Not only is it a good detergent, it's also much more cost effective. It's about $1.54 for 15 loads, or $.10 per load. In comparison, Tide Free and Clear is about $.62 per scoop. (source). So really, why wouldn't you use it?
I like to use a Protective Blend of essential oils in my detergent, especially when sickness is running rampant. Other oils I like are citrus-based, like the Cleansing Blend or Melaleuca and a citrus. If you are interested in the oils I use, please contact me here!
So, what are you washing your clothes with? Try this out and let us know what you think!