Thursday, June 7, 2012

DIY Laundry Soap: An Update

When the girls and I started making our own powdered laundry soap a year and a half ago, people had a LOT of questions, and even more opinions:

  • Would it really be cheaper than purchasing detergent?
  • Would it really get our clothes clean?
  • Would it fight stains?
  • Would our clothes become dingy over time?
  • Would it ruin my washing machine?
Today, 18 months later, I've got all the answers.

1. Is making our own powdered laundry soap cheaper than purchasing detergent?

Yes and yes and yes! Although I haven't kept track of how often we wash how many loads, I will tell you that in early January 2011, I purchased one box of borax, one box of washing soda, one tub of Oxyclean, and two bars of Fels Naptha; that, plus baking soda, is what I use to make our laundry soap, sometimes using my homemade bar soap instead of Fels Naptha. I've been using only homemade laundry soap since I started, and I gave a Mason jar full of homemade laundry soap away at Christmas, and I haven't run out of any of those original supplies yet; price the cost of those supplies in your area, estimate how much laundry I might do for my family of four each week, and you can get a pretty good estimate of what you'd save.

As for me, I'm thrilled. When I first started making this soap, I estimated that it would cost 3 cents a load--for me, it actually costs SO much less when compared to purchasing conventional detergent.

the kiddos making a big batch of laundry soap last week
 2. Does homemade laundry soap really get our clothes clean?

Yes! No matter whether or not I use Fels Naptha or my homemade bar soap, our clothes come out of the wash clean and fresh. They smell good, and regular dirt and food (oh, those girls!) disappears.

3. Does homemade laundry soap fight stains?

Nope, not at all! Unlike conventional store-bought detergents, this homemade soap seems to have no stain-fighting power. Regular dirt and spills and whatever wash out, but mud, and spaghetti sauce, and other stains that deeply penetrate the fiber of the cloth don't. Fels Naptha does better at getting out grease stains than my homemade bar soap does--I know this because I saw more of that type, in particular, coming out of the washing machine when I used my homemade soap--so it's possible that there's a soap out there that would work really well at stain-fighting, but neither of the bar soaps that I've tried have much to offer in that regard. I'm okay with this, both because I'm saving a crazy amount of money with this homemade soap, and because I can still get rid of the stains completely, but just with a little more work. I treat all stains as soon as the item of clothing is removed for the day by wetting the stain, rubbing a bar of Fels Naptha onto it, and rubbing the Fels Naptha in. I also pre-soak stained clothing for several hours by putting a bucket in the bathtub, scooping in a couple of tablespoons of laundry soap, filling the bucket with water from the tap, and submerging the stained clothing in it. Finally, in the summer I try to hang laundry to dry on the line--not every load, but every few loads, so that everything gets hung dry at least a few times during the summer--to sun-bleach everything.

Mind you, this is only necessary if something is truly stained; most of our clothing, including normal spills and stains, wash out without extra attention.

the jar of laundry soap that lives in the bathroom, used for pre-soaking stained clothing
4. Have our clothes become dingy over time?

Nope, not at all! We have an he washing machine, and I'm pretty militant about clean rinsing, anyway, so I put vinegar in the rinse agent compartment every time I wash, and I set my machine for a second rinse every time, as well. I don't know if that's the secret, or it's our water quality, or what, but nothing is dingy, not even our whites.

5. Has homemade laundry soap ruined our washing machine?

Most of the criticisms that I've received on my posts about my homemade laundry soap have had to do either with dingy clothes or broken washing machines. A lot of people seem really afraid that homemade laundry soap will ruin a fancy he washing machine. If homemade laundry soap had ruined my washing machine, I'd totally tell you, but our machine works fine. Mind you, Matt occasionally cleans out that pipe thing that runs from the washing machine to the wastewater pipes, because we have such pathetically crappy plumbing that we have to really be on top of its maintenance if we don't want to pay to have our main line unclogged every month, so if that's the part of the machine that people are worried about then it does get cleaned regularly (which Matt would do even if we used conventional laundry detergent), but since I've never really heard what people specifically think could happen to a washing machine that uses homemade soap, and I've never heard from anyone who actually had their washing machine ruined with homemade soap, all I can say is that ours is fine!

Conclusion: I'm really happy with our homemade laundry soap. If I learned of a recipe that claimed to fight stains better than ours does, I'd try it out, but I wouldn't consider going back to conventional detergent.

2 comments:

TeresaR said...

I second that it's fine for washing machines. We also have an HE washer, and I've been using hand-made laundry detergent in it for a couple of years now.

julie said...

Teresa, I want to hear your opinions about everything! Does your detergent get out stains?

You'd be surprised about the number of people who throw a fit about homemade detergent ruining washing machines. You'd think it's a national epidemic for all the freaking out it causes! Hmmm....should be a Mythbusters!

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