Sunday, September 30, 2012

homemade laundry soap revisited


I've been using this laundry powder for quite some time now, but have noticed some clothes slowly becoming dingy. And occasionally a bit musty. I wonder why this is? Do the powdered ingredients not mix together well? Is my water-saving, front-loading machine horribly inefficient at cleaning? Is my hard well water just difficult to clean with? Are all people who use homemade laundry soap relegated to having slightly dirty-appearing clothes? The whole thing kind of has me wanting to run out and buy some Tide.

But I'm not giving up quite yet. I did a little more research, and I'm pretty sure the issues I'm having are related to our hard water. So, I've switched things up a bit for the past month, and so far I'm liking the results much better. Here's a run-down of my current routine:

*I've started making this liquid soap, which I've found to be far superior to the powdered version. I still use the Dr. Bronner's soap, but dissolving it in this way seems to make it more effective. 
*I use a whole cup per load, rather than just 1/4 cup.
*I put a little white vinegar in the rinse cycle.
*I use the shortest cycle possible to minimize the time my clothes are in the water.


There's an ancient washing machine in the basement that, truth-be-told, I'm now favoring over my front-loader. The cycles are much shorter, and although I know it uses more water, the soap seems to be in contact with the clothes longer, and I think it gets them cleaner.

Do you make your own laundry soap? How has it worked for you?

**Edited to add: Check out my updated formula HERE

28 comments:

  1. I haven't used homemade laundry soap since I got my new HE washer and I've been afraid that I would ruin it somehow (the instructions make it sound like if you use ANYTHING other than HE specific detergent you'll destroy the machine.) But back when I was doing all of my laundry by hand (long story) I used a combination of borax, washing soda and a laundry soap called Zote. I found that I had to use a whole cup of vinegar in the rinse to get the soap scum out.

    I actually think that using an acidic rinse is necessary/desirable whenever you're using a soap based cleaner (as opposed to a detergent) in hard water. My experience is mostly with hair, but I think the same holds true for other things like laundry. My understanding is that the minerals in the hard water react with the soap forming soap scum - which is actually a kind of salt - instead of lather. This is why you need to use more soap in hard water than in soft. And you need the acid rinse because it dissolves the "salt" (scum) and allows it to rinse out. I actually read that when detergents were first introduced, one of their main "claims to fame" was that they cleaned just as well in hard water as in soft.

    At any rate... if the vinegar doesn't do the trick for you, you might want to experiment with citric acid - which is odorless and can be mixed to much more acidic concentrations.

    Good luck - let us know how it works out!

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    1. That makes a lot of sense! I'm going to increase the vinegar to a cup and see if that helps, thanks! (A lot of good my four years of college chemistry did me, huh? ;)

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  2. I don't make my own soap, but I do have hard water and I do have a front loader. I like it because it uses less water. The one thing I have noticed is that I can't get my white socks clean. I don't wear shoes in my home, but wear socks. I've come to believe the front loader doesn't clean as well as a top loader....just my humble opinion.

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    1. Oh Meggie, I gave up on white socks a long time ago! ;) I do think the top loader does clean better in my experience, too.

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    2. It's true, I put most of the time vinegar in the little "sostening part" of the washing machine. There is no vinegar smell after, and it always seems cleaner and more soft. It's very economic.

      I use also baking soda with the liquid soap, economic too.

      Bye
      Julie

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  3. I use a whole cup of homemade detergent...sometimes two if we have really dirty clothes. I have an old ancient type washer and love how it cleans:). I think you are right...more water makes a difference. My clothes do look dingy once in a while and I have found I really have to pre-treat the stains, use a whitener {like OXYCLEAN} for the whites, and be careful to not overload the washer. Vinegar does help, too:). Overall, I have been pretty satisfied with the homemade version and continue to make it:).

    Thanks for sharing your tips!!

    ~Julia

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    1. what do you use to pre-treat?

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    2. Thanks, Julia for taking the time to share all that!

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    3. Jules, I've pretreated cloth diapers with the laundry soap itself. For stains, dish soap works really well for me!

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  4. Jaime are you reading my mind? I am having issues with my homemade powdered soap as well. I have extremely SOFT water, and use a vinegar rinse. Whether line dried, or dryer dried, our clothing smells musty and (sweaty?). Even lightly soiled items still come out smelling Not Clean. I don't expect (or want) fragrance, but I do want clean with no smell! I'm going to give Rhonda's liquid soap a go, too. I've avoided it thus far because my kids do laundry, too and with liquid soap, there is a tendency to over pour/spill. If I put the liquid soap in really small containers with spouts, I suppose it would control that...

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    1. Argggh! So frustrating, isn't it? I wonder if adding 1 part baking soda (to neutralize the odors) might help if you don't already do that? The liquid soap really has improved the musty smell for me. I do have a tendency to use it like monopoly money, though, for some reason; pouring a lot more into the machine than my carefully measured tablespoon of powder, lol.

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  5. I've been using Rhonda's liquid recipe for over a year now with the family wash and nappies and the only problem i have noticed is some greying of whites so i add some napisan (oxygen bleach powder) to a load every now and then. The vinegar helps soften clothes but also cleans the soap scum from your machine making it more efficient.
    I have heard that using a higher ratio of washing soda in hard water areas helps Jaime. I have actually just started using Rhonda's heavy duty powder recipe as i am short on time to mix the liquid so changing over for a bit.I did find i needed to use at least 3/4 cup of the liquid for a large soiled load though...1/4 wouldn't cut it here! Good luck x

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    1. Thanks, Jode! Definitely going to increase the washing soda when I make my next batch :)

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  6. I make my own soap too and we have crazy hard water (hard enough to stand on -haha). I have a regular machine and haven't found any difference, some things I think are cleaner than with Tide. I make a really concentrated version so I don't have a pile of detergent sitting around. All it takes is a spoonful dissolved in hot water. Even the barn clothes come fairly clean.

    http://fletchingtonfarms.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/farm-girl-friday-25-may-2012/

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience and humor, Paula :) Dissolving the powder before use is a fantastic idea!

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  7. I make my own soap when I have some time. (I'm taking care of two households now) i love how it cleans and smells. my middle daughte's skin is sensitive to it though! I use Borax, Wahing Soda and Fels Naptha.

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    1. Thank you, Claudia. I'm thinking of trying a different bar soap next time to see if that makes any difference as well.

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  8. the laundry soap dilemma... we also have the dilemma with our dishwasher soap as well.

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  9. I actually gave up on the homemade powdered detergent for just the reasons you stated. The dingy whites were really getting to me!! LOL!! Maybe you could give us an update in a month or so and let us know how it's going...

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    1. I gawk enviously at people who have white clothes and towels and sheets! The sun only whitens so much. I'm thinking of trying the oxyclean, or maybe a homemade version of it. I'll definitely keep you updated on the saga, and whether or not I throw in the towel - ha!

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  10. I think the dingy whites are the sacrifice for using the homemade detergent :) But when mine need a real freshen up I just do an overnight soak with a Napisan like product. There are more environmental ones out there now, and while not as strong as the more chemical ones, I find a longer soaking time if necessary gives similar results.
    I just can't go back to the chemical smell of the commercial powders anymore.

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  11. Hi Jamie,
    I have found that the new washers don't get my clothes as clean as the old ones.
    I caved and went back to Tide. I have allergies and have to have clean clothes.
    xxoo
    Elizabeth

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  12. I have tried the powder and found it had to be dissolved in hot water first....BUT I grated the laundry bar soap on a normal size grater, I would try a FINE grater if I did it again.I weighed what was left and boiled it up with some water and then added the correct ratio of water from the liquid recipe.

    I have been using the laundry liquid for 3 months now and found it does a good wash in a front loader, I don't do big loads and I think the result could depend on what soap is used in the recipe, maybe try halving the recipe and trial different soaps until you get the result you are happy with.
    In Australia we line dry our washing, this could also make a difference to the look and smell of the end result.

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  13. I've considered making the switch to homemade, but have not. I've heard all the concerns you just listed and I have a source for commercial eco-friendly detergent that doesn't break the bank (but it does come in a plastic bottle so I keep thinking I want to ditch it), so its been harder to convince myself to take the plunge.

    I've read all the comments though and am once again thinking maybe I should at least try. I guess I could always switch back.

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  14. Love all of these tips...I have been trying to find a good homemade detergent. It is an ongoing saga for sure.

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  15. never. i love homemade/handmade. but there is no way i am washing my kids' clothes in anything but tide free and clear. :) have tried and always regretted it. we use all natural everything else. but laundry detergent is a no go for me. :)

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  16. This is nice. Thanks for sharing with us. This is good to know
    Housekeeping Products Suppliers in Chennai

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