Mark (my fiancé) and I are constantly learning about how we can change our lifestyle to one that is healthier for the environment. We recently read about ingredients in laundry detergent and how they harm the environment in the book, Easy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home.
After doing some extensive online research, I realized it was easy, cost-effective, and better for the environment to make our own detergent. I wanted to be sure it worked well before writing an article about it and recommending it, and we finally had the big test a few days ago. Mark played paintball while it was raining a few days ago (I realize paintballs are probably not eco-friendly). When he arrived home, he had mud all over his clothes. I saw more mud than I did clothing, so I decided this would be the true test of our detergent. When I removed the clothes from the wash, they were good as new and smelled fresh! Yea! I was so excited! So now I will share with you how to make your own.
1/2 cup borax (powder found in laundry aisle)
1/2 cup baking soda
1 bar castile soap
We chose Dr. Bronner’s castile soap because every aspect of it is as environmentally friendly as they can make it, including the packaging. Castile soap is gentle on skin and made from olive oil. Many soaps are made from animal fat, which I don’t support. However, if you can’t find castile soap, you can use any other vegetable based soap that doesn’t have lotions and other “stuff” in it (no beauty bars because they can leave a film or stain on your clothes). Borax and baking soda are both natural ingredients. Borax is mined, which is probably not so eco-friendly, but compared to the effects of using traditional detergents, I feel that it is better to use.
- Grate the soap. We used the smallest size on a cheese grater. You can also use a food processor, but that seemed like too much clean up to me. (*UPDATE – Now we always use a food processor, and it is definitely the way to go! It makes a fine powder detergent and is so fast! Holy cow!) Once the entire bar has been grated, crumble the soap even more using your fingers.
- Put the grated soap, borax, and baking soda into a small container with a tight lid. Shake for several minutes to mix. Because this is powdered detergent, it’s best to mix everything in a sealed container so you don’t breathe in the powder.
- Use 1 tablespoon for small/light loads and 2 tablespoons for large/heavy loads. We begin our washing on the hot water cycle, put our powder in, and let it dissolve. Then we add our clothes and change it to the warm/cold cycle for the rest of the time. You can also dissolve the amount of powder you need in a cup of hot water before adding it to the washer.
How is this detergent eco-friendly?
- All natural ingredients.
- No large, bulky plastic packaging that is only used once (we used a small reusable container).
- Cut down on shipping (we were using liquid detergent, which is heavy and costs more to ship than the light ingredients in our soap. Also, the ingredients we bought will last us a lot longer than one bottle of normal detergent would).
- Saves water (changing from liquid detergent to powder).
- These ingredients can be used to make many other eco-friendly housecleaning products.
As a bonus, we know exactly what is in this soap. What we’ve learned is that a lot of being eco-friendly is looking closely at ingredients, even in products that say they are eco-friendly. We know there are no artificial colors, preservatives, or scents in this soap. Also, we had a great time making it together. It was a fun family activity. To top it off, it was QUICK (15 minutes) and EASY!