Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cleaning Clothes with Science!

About a year ago, I read and reviewed a cool book from New Zealand about a lady who went completely chemical-free in her home.  She handmade all cleaning and personal beauty products and eventually made a living off of it.

Since reading the book, I too have slowly starting phasing out chemical products in my home.  I haven't bought toilet bowl cleaner since then, as well as all-purpose surface cleaner and glass cleaner.  All of these things have been replaced by the very cheap and effective team called baking soda and vinegar.  It's been awesome.  Not only are these things super cheap (I buy baking soda by the pound now, just 2 bucks!) but it feels good knowing that these cheaper options are also much less harmful to the earth as well as all the lovely inhabitants of my home.

Yesterday, I took the next step and made my own laundry detergent.  The recipe I used is a combination of the recipe in the aforementioned book as well as other instructions I've read in earth-friendly blogs:

I used Boraxo, not Borax, I hope it works.
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 bar of soap, finely grated  (this comes to about a cup)

Mix 'em all up and use 1/4-1/2 cup per load in a top loading machine.  (The water needs to be warm or hot to melt the soap.)  More efficient side loading machines only have to use 2-3 tablespoons.

I made a small batch this time to make sure I liked it, and next time I'll make a larger batch.  The soap I used was Dr. Bronner's, made of all fair-trade ingredients, and I got the rose-scented one since that's Shawn's favorite smell.  The borax I had left over from our epic ant-war of 2008, and the baking soda... well duh.  The biggest problem was the Washing Soda.

Before I go into the deets of my quest for this elusive product let me tell you a little bit about it.

Washing soda is Sodium Carbonate, or Na2CO3.  (The science nerd part of my brain is totally excited right now.)  It can naturally be extracted from the ashes of plants, but is synthetically produced though a process called the Solvay Process from salt and limestone.  Washing Soda is used in all different kinds of ways, from making glass to developing film, and browning German pretzels to getting all the tissue off of skulls in taxidermy.  (OMG, so cool!)  The reason it works so well in laundry is because it's a natural water softener, by competing with the calcium and magnesium ions in hard water which prevent laundry detergent from working.  By doing all this, it helps get out grease, alcohol, and oil stains.  (My head just exploded with the awesomeness.)  Washing soda to the rescue!  It's a bird, it's a plane, it's WASHING SODA!

This basically explains why I went through all the trouble of getting this stuff.  I had a feeling it wouldn't be easy to find, since I've never seen or heard of it before I read about it in the book.  A little bit of research online resulted in a lot of old discussions on blogs of people asking where they can get it.

I started my quest at Central Market to no avail.  I didn't see it on the shelves, so I got home and called them just in case, but the lady had never heard of it so I knew they didn't have it.  The people at QFC, Fred Meyer in Shoreline, or Safeway had never heard of it either, (they all responded with: "washing.... soda....?") so I felt a little sad that maybe my laundry detergent dreams were never going to be fulfilled.  Then I read online that someone found it at Fred Meyer in Ballard so I called them and the got the response of "oh yeah, we have it.  It's right next to the borax in the laundry detergent aisle."  YES!

So I drove to Ballard and got it.  And I was happy.

I calculated the price of this detergent to see if it was cost efficient compared to just buying it, and came up with the price of this home-made kind to be about 28 cents per load.  Compare that with a similar earth-friendly detergent that is 35 cents a load, and I think I have a reason to keep doing this!

The results?  It's totally awesome.  The clothes were not only clean but they smelled like.... nothing!  All the usual smells that accompany well-worn clothing was gone.  If you're the type to want your clothes to smell all perfumey, then you might want to add some essential oils to the recipe but I like it when my clothes smell like nothing.  To me, that's clean.  And they seemed softer too, but that may just be something I wanted to notice.  Either way, I'm happy with the results and will make a bigger batch next time. 

Added note:  Even if you don't want to go through the trouble of making detergent, adding washing soda to your regular load with regular detergent will make your detergent work better, thus resulting in you having to use less detergent.  So if you find yourself in Ballard, you should pick some up.  Just saying.

1 comment:

  1. i might have to seek out washing soda and do this too! have you gone no 'poo yet? I'm giving it a go again, not sure why I fell off the wagon.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...