For a long time I used the “green” products found readily in the grocery store, though with a bit of research, it became clear who was greenwashing and who was not… and all for a very pretty penny. (Those “natural,” store-bought solutions never come cheap!)
So for a while, we used Seventh Generation – and I never felt like it got the laundry entirely clean. Also – it was EXPENSIVE. Then I switched to soap nuts. They were less expensive and absolutely natural… but after about 4 months of use, I had to admit they were still leaving the laundry slightly soiled and a little too stinky.
Determined to find a better way, I set about trying to make my own. The first recipe I tried came from a resource available through the makers of Chemerical. The Pow Pow Powder Laundry Soap worked well, though it was a little tricky to assemble (mine always came out more pasty than powdery).
But after about 4 more months, I began to feel like I still wasn’t getting that fully “clean” smell I was after – and using liquid castile soap in each batch felt like a still-somewhat-too-expensive option.
Luckily, I stumbled on a recipe posted by Katie at Wellness Mama that utilized everything I already had on hand: soap, washing soda, and borax. I whipped up a batch, using one of my homemade soap bars (recipe coming soon!!), added a bit more baking soda than she recommended, and scented it with some essential oils.
The result has been fantastic. The ingredients are cheap and something I always have sitting in the basement for DIY projects; the ability to use homemade soap ups the frugal factor and helps me feel even better about the safety of what I’m making; and the essential oils mean I can make it smell exactly as I might want to – leaving my already clean-smelling laundry (I did one batch with no oils) smelling even better!
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The best soap to use is an all-natural brand, such as Dr. Bronner’s castile bar soap, or Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil soap. Even better is to make your own. In that case, a homemade olive oil castile bar will work well (recipe coming next week)… or one day I will try out a recipe specifically for laundry that I can share. 😉
What I love about this recipe is that you can make a batch based off of how much shaved/grated soap you end up with. So you can grate some or all of any size bar and adjust the rest of your ingredients accordingly.
soap, grated or shaved
2 Tbsp to 1/4 cup baking soda
15-20 drops essential oil(s)
- Grate your soap bar using a hand grater or food processor. You’re going for a fine grain here… something more sawdust-like in consistency than pencil-shavings. (Although if you end up with very thin ribbons, you’ll probably be fine. You just want them to dissolve easily in your wash water.)
- Measure the amount of your grated/shaved soap and dump it into a bowl or large container.
- Add to that double the amount (e.g., twice as much as you had of soap) of both borax and washing soda. You’re going for a 1:2:2 (soap:borax:washing soda) ratio. So 1/2 cup of grated/shaved soap means you’ll need 1 cup of borax and 1 cup of washing soda.
- Next add in 2 Tbsp of baking soda (if you ended up with a cup or more of grated/shaved soap, go ahead and increase the baking soda to 1/4 cup).
- Mix all the ingredients well using a large spoon.
- Add 15-20 drops essential oil(s) of your choice. I like to use 10 drops of lavender and 10 drops of rosemary. So yummy!
- Stir again, making sure the essential oils are well-incorporated into your mix and transfer to an airtight container (if necessary).
- Use approximately 1/4 cup per load (less if it’s a small load, slight more if it’s enormous) – adding it in prior to the clothes as you start the wash cycle. (Once the bottom of the washer is covered with a thin layer of water, you can add in your clothes.)
If you’re looking to be über frugal, you can even do what I did today. I’ve been collecting all our little soap scraps (the ones left over at the end of each bar that you have to put somewhere so they don’t go down the drain) in a little glass jar I keep on our bathroom shelf. I had a good-sized handful in there… and when I grated most of them down, it yielded a half cup of soap shavings. I knew those little bits would come in handy eventually!