Go Green to Save Green: home made laundry cleaners

April 19, 2013 by
Filed under: Energy, News 

April is Earth Month, so Green Bay Consumer wants to give you tips and tricks that are not only good for the earth, but save money, too!

Today’s Go Green to Save Green posts is about making your own cleaning supplies.   Not only do they contain infinitely less chemicals than many commercial brands, they can cost a lot less, too!

It was when I was pregnant with my first child that I started to seriously reconsider my cleaning habits.  Here I was in full-blown first-time mom mode, trying to eat perfectly, painting the nursery with low VOC paint, etc.  The light bulb went off that commercial cleaners might not be the safest thing to play with while pregnant–or EVER.

I ordered Eco-friendly cleaners from online stores; at the time, I had a very hard time finding them in Green Bay! Lucky for everyone the “green” movement caught on and you can find them at most grocery and big box stores now.   I also found some great books on the subject that I continue to use to this day:

I’ll be the first to admit that I do not make my own cleaners all the time.  But I have made everything from bathroom cleaners to an easy and safer method of oven cleaner when I’ve needed it.  And now  make my own laundry soap, too!

If you’ve never made your own cleaners before, here are some important things to remember:

  • Save the containers from the cleaners you currently have so you have something to put your homemade cleaners in.
  • Remember the things your ancestors used to clean–if it worked for them for hundreds if not thousands of years, they’ll work for you, too.  Vinegar, baking soda, borax, washing soda, etc.  If you want to get fancy, buy some essential oils and use a few drops in your recipes. (I get mine at Streu’s/Bay Natural Foods)
  • Most of the home made soaps do not suds up as much as commercially-made products.  The suds aren’t what do the cleaning, they’re a marketing gimmick added to those products to provide good visuals.
  • Your sink my not be day glow sparkly WHITE because you’re not using bleach, but it will still be clean.
  • You will have to experiment on how much cleaner you truly need for your cleaning needs and what type of washing machine, whether you have hard or soft water, etc.
  • The only fabric softener you ever need is vinegar.  Just add 1/4 – 1/2 cup to each load. No, your clothes do not come out smelling like Easter egg dye.

Liquid Laundry Soap (courtesy Why Not Sew)
1 bar of any kind of soap, not “detergent bars”–there’s a difference!  And to be more earth-friendly, use a plant-based soap, like ones made by local company Soaps by Nature!
1 cup of Borax
1 cup of washing soda
a big pot (needs to hold at least 3 gallons)
a grater
a funnel
a long spoon
3 empty gallon jugs/containers

Grate your bar of soap into your pot.  Fill one gallon jug and pour water into pot with grated soap. Cook until the grated soap dissolves.  Add the Borax and washing soda.  Bring to a boil. It will coagulate.  Turn off the heat. Add 1 gallon of cold water. Stir well.  Pour 1/3 gallon water into each of your three containers.  Use 1/2 cup per load.

Powdered Laundry Soap (courtesy Little House in the Suburbs) This is the soap I made on Good Day Wisconsin’s Thrifty Thursday last year—click here to see it)
2 cups finely grated soap (Ivory, Fels Naptha, Zote, etc)
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda

It’s recommended that after you grate the soap, throw it in a coffee grinder or food processor to make the soap more fine.   I used my grater attachment on my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, then threw it into my Cuisinart Food Processor.  Mix and store in a coffee can or what have you. Use anywhere from 1 Tablespoon – 1/2 cup per load depending upon your water source.

I went and priced the items at Woodmans (2012 prices):

  • 1 bar finely grated soap like Fels Naptha or Zote $.99/bar
  • 1 cup borax $.34 ($3.29 for 76 oz)
  • 1 cup washing soda $.42 ($2.89 for 55 oz box)
  • = $1.75 for the batch which is about 4 cups
  • $.02 a load!

Does the idea of grating soap turn you off?  No worries!

No Grate Laundry Detergent (adapted from One Good Thing by Jillee)
3 Tablespoons Borax
3 Tablespoons Washing Soda
2 Tablespoons Dr. Bronner’s liquid Castille Soap (check your favorite “Green” store–I’ve also seen this at Festival Foods in the Natural/Organic Department)

Put these ingredients in a one gallon jug. Pour 4 cups boiling water into the jug. Swirl until ingredients are dissolved in the liquid. Let liquid cool. Then fill almost to the top with cold water. The bubbles will overflow out of the bottle.  Use up to 1/2 cup per load.

Want more ideas?  If you’re on Pinterest, you can check out my board called Cleaners.

Want more ideas on how to save money on laundry?  Click here.

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