A chunk of the toxins that bombard our bodies and the environment starts in our laundry room. Here we allow common petroleum-based detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets, most containing alarmingly high levels of toxic chemicals, according to public health watchdog Mike Adams, to permeate our clothes, before draining to pollute soil, air and waterways.
The clothing we put next to our skin counts because skin is our largest organ and the body’s most vital defense barrier supporting the immune system. Skin also serves as the body’s most efficient path to eliminate waste. “That’s why widely marketed products containing harmful petroleum ingredients (and that’s most of them) can plasticize and ‘constipate’ skin, making it more likely that germs will get in and stay in and less likely that toxins can get out,” says Dale Schock, founder of Toxin-Free Basics.
Schock has spent the past decade collaborating with a corps of chemists researching, formulating and testing toxin-free products for family use. And she’s found that of 17,000 common chemicals, “few have been tested for toxicity, and fewer still have been tested in combination with each other.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that such chemicals have been linked to health problems such as allergies, birth defects, cancer and psychological abnormalities.
The good news is that any eco-conscious consumer now has easy access to more biologically compatible, more sustainable, toxin-free alternatives. Laundry products like Toxin-Free Basics, Seventh Generation and Maggie’s Soap Nuts not only are kind to humans, animals, fish and birds, they also encourage recovery of the planet. Soap nuts, which grow on Chinese Soapberry trees, have been used in India and Indonesia for centuries. Tests show that they leave clothes clean, unscented and soft.
1 bar of soap (whatever kind you like; I used Lever 2000 because we have tons of bars of it from a case we bought a while back) ****PLEASE USE AN ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND SOAP LIKE DR BRONNERS******
1 box of washing soda (look for it in the laundry detergent aisle at your local department store - it comes in an Arm & Hammer box and will contain enough for six batches of this stuff)
1 box of borax(this is not necessary, but I’ve found it really kicks the cleaning up a notch - one box of borax will contain more than enough for tons of batches of this homemade detergent - if you decide to use this, be careful)
- A five gallon bucket with a lid (or a bucket that will hold more than 15 liters - ask around - these aren’t too tough to acquire)
- Three gallons of tap water
- A big spoon to stir the mixture with
- A measuring cup
- A knife
Put about four cups of water into a pan on your stove and turn the heat up on high until it’s almost boiling. While you’re waiting, whip out a knife and start shaving strips off of the bar of soap into the water, whittling it down. Keep the heat below a boil and keep shaving the soap. Eventually, you’ll shave up the whole bar, then stir the hot water until the soap is dissolved and you have some highly soapy water.
Put three gallons of hot water (11 liters or so) into the five gallon bucket - the easiest way is to fill up three gallon milk jugs worth of it. Then mix in the hot soapy water from step one, stir it for a while, then add a cup of the washing soda. Keep stirring it for another minute or two, then add a half cup of borax if you are using borax. Stir for another couple of minutes, then let the stuff sit overnight to cool.
And you’re done. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll have a bucket of gelatinous slime that’s a paler shade of the soap that you used (in our case, it’s a very pale greenish blue). One measuring cup full of this slime will be roughly what you need to do a load of laundry - and the ingredients are basically the same as laundry detergent. Thus, out of three gallons, you’ll get about 48 loads of laundry. If you do this six times, you’ll have used six bars of soap ($0.99 each), one box of washing soda ($2.49 at our store), and about half a box of borax ($2.49 at our store, so $1.25) and make 288 loads of laundry. This comes up to a cost of right around three cents a gallon, or a savings of $70.
I have saved a ton of money by making my own laundry detergent. I grate a bar of Fels Naptha soap (I buy it in the grocery store for about 79 cents) and add 4 cups of water to it. Heat it on low until the soap is dissolved. I like to add some extras (I think it adds extra cleaning power ) like white vinegar, dish detergent, or if I think I'll need extra, extra power Oxy-Clean. I put the soap mixture in a 5 gallon bucket and add 4 gallons of hot water. Stir, put on a lid and let it set overnight and it becomes thick. I use 1 to 1 1/2 cups per load. It works great.
1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda—see sodium carbonate)
4 1/2 gallons HOT tap water
1-3 oz. essential oil (in preferred scent)
Grate bar soap using a hand-held cheese-grater. Place grated soap in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover it. Heat on low, stirring until soap is dissolved. Fill 5-gallon bucket with HOT water and add dissolved soap solution; stir to combine. Add 1 cup washing soda and optional essential oil and mix well. Mixture will thicken to gel-like consistency as it cools. May be used immediately. Use 1-2 cups per load.
A QUICK & EASY VARIATION ON THIS RECIPE:
1 bar Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 c. Washing Soda
1/2 c. Borax
Grate bar of soap. Combine grated soap with soda & borax. Use in place of laundry detergent. it only requires about 1/4 c. per load. VERY good & very inexpensive. (I actually use my food processor to grate the soap....works awesome!)
RVM's NOTE *****I used the Quick & Easy Recipe for months -- even worked well on cloth diapers! We wil be using that again soon!********
This is the recipe that I used. I love it. I added a few drops of Peppermint, essential oil to the mixture, it is great. The clothes are soofter than ever before and smell great. The whites are actually white as well.