Make your own detergent and fabric softener
Traditional laundry detergents and fabric softeners contain chemicals derived from non-renewable petroleum that can contaminate drinking water supplies and endanger aquatic life when they leave your washing machine. Avoid the hazards of chemical-laden detergents by making your own at home with natural ingredients. (You might just save a few bucks too!)
How to make your own detergent and fabric softener
Recipes for all varieties of homemade laundry detergents abound online. We've chosen some of the most basic, using the most common household ingredients, to feature here.
Liquid laundry detergent
- Gather the following ingredients: 2 gallons of hot water, one bar of castile soap, and 2 cups of baking soda.
- Grate the bar of soap.
- Melt the grated soap in a saucepan with enough hot water to cover. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently until soap is melted.
- Pour the 2 gallons of hot water into a large pail. Add the melted soap and stir well.
- Add the baking soda and stir well.
- Use 1/2 cup per full load. You may use up to 1 cup per very soiled load.
Powdered laundry detergent
- Gather the following ingredients: 1 cup white vinegar, 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup washing soda, and 1/4 cup liquid castile soap.
- Pour the liquid soap into a bowl.
- Stir in the washing soda, then the baking soda, and then added the vinegar in small batches at a time (it will foam up at first).
- Continue stirring until the paste-like mixture breaks down into a heavy powder.
- Add approximately 1/4 cup of baking soda to the wash cycle in place of chemical fabric softener.
- Alternatively, add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the washing machine as a softener and to remove static cling, or soak a rag in vinegar and throw it in the dryer with your load to help reduce lint and static.
Making your own detergent and fabric softener helps you go green because...
- Homemade detergents and softeners do not contain dangerous chemicals, which can contaminate water supplies and endanger aquatic life, like traditional varieties do.
- Mixing your own laundry soaps cuts down on the need to purchase products with unnecessary packaging that would otherwise make their way to a landfill.
Traditional laundry detergents contain non-renewable petroleum-derived ingredients, the extraction and production of which have caused major environmental damage to soil, surface and ground waters, and local ecosystems, and contribute to global warming. Detergents also contain synthetic fragrances and chemical whiteners. These chemicals drain out of the washing machine and into groundwater, where they can react with other chemicals and contaminate drinking water supplies. For example, when chlorine bleach reacts with carbon molecules, it creates dioxin, a known carcinogen. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found high levels of dioxin in the San Francisco Bay in 2000, largely contributed by municipal gray water that included laundry water containing fabric-bleaching chemicals.
When the chemical ingredients in detergents enter water supplies, they also negatively impact aquatic life. Phosphates, which are used to soften water, for example, act as fertilizer for algae and encourage algae growth, which then depletes the water's oxygen supply and kills off fish and other aquatic life.
- washing soda: Scientifically known as sodium carbonate, washing soda is in the same family as baking soda, but is processed differently to make it more caustic and alkaline. It is found in the laundry section of most supermarkets.