My one concern about homemade laundry detergent

Some of you may remember that I decided to start making my own laundry detergent, mostly to help my now-7mo baby Fiala.  I was really sold on the idea when I saw how cheap it was to do so!!  Even though the new detergent has only partially healed her skin (her body is now 90% healthy, creamy skin, but her face is still really bad), I’m still loving my homemade detergent, one month into the experiment.

I still can’t believe that a mere 2 tablespoons will clean an entire, dirty load of laundry, and clean it well.  I still do an extra rinse with 1/2 cup of white vinegar.  But, even with the vinegar, it’s running me roughly $0.16 per load.  That’s amazing, and a savings of fifty cents per load.

About every other load, I will find a piece of clothing with a really bad stain, and will pre-treat it.  And, about once every three loads, I will come upon a piece of clothing that had a stain (pre-treated or not) that did not come out during normal laundering.  But, all in all, the vast majority of my clothing — THREE BOYS, remember!  plus a crazy 3yo girl and a baby — is coming out completely fresh and clean.

My ONE concern is this:  I used to empty the lint filter in my gas dryer once every 3-4 loads.  Now, I have to empty it every 1-2 loads.  My laundry appears to be producing twice as much lint as before.  Does this mean that the homemade detergent is causing the fibers to wear down more quickly?  I don’t know.  There are other theories, I suppose, as to what might be producing the extra lint.  But, even if our clothes wear out a tad faster than with store-bought detergent, I’m still sticking with my homemade.

About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on May 26, 2009, in Babies, Budget, Clothes, Housework. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I’m not sure why that would be. I can tell you I read somewhere that emptying the lint trap every load helps with the energy efficiency!

    I’m 3 loads into my new detergent. Anxious to see how it affects the skin of my babe and preschooler!

  2. I have never tried homemade detergent, mainly because I don’t know where to find borax in Japan. I use a palm oil soap from our food co-op. I do notice dingy whites, and I have to treat stains really well with that one, or they don’t come out. I do a light bleach of our towels if they become way too dingy. Anyway, I recently read a post about some dangers of borax here

    Just thought it might be something you should be aware of if you are not already.

    By the way, I have not been able to find any soy sauce without wheat at the regular store. We do have things available at health food stores, but they are very pricey, and probably similar to what you are already using. I will continue to keep my eye out for you.

    • Sue, PLEASE stop looking for wheat-free soy sauce. I feel so badly for even asking you now. I thought you had your son on a GFCF diet (I must have assumed that, instead of reading it, and now I feel extra-badly!!), and would just know offhand what brand to buy. I have visions of you combing through every store, hunting for the right brand. Ack! You’ve already gone above and beyond the call of duty. Thank you!

      Thanks for alerting me to concerns about borax. I definitely know that it is not safe to ingest. I read through the OP and most of the comments. I would say that I’m most closely aligned with comment #30. ANYthing is unsafe — even water! — if not used correctly. Some of the concern is hype!! I found it alarming that based on the one post (in which she admittedly didn’t research it thoroughly), 95% of the responders were ready to throw out their homemade detergent!! And, like comment #42 said, she has some misinformation there. Borax is NOT “boric acid.” Borax is a base, sodium borate. So… while borax is definitely toxic if ingested, it’s not boric acid, and the site from which she quotes, about 5 g of borax being toxic to a child, is simply incorrect. It appears to be 5g/kg or something like that… but there’s no way a child of, say, 16 kg (35 lbs) is going to eat 80 g of borax.

  3. I have been using homemade detergent since the end of January. My recipe only uses washing soda, grated laundry soap and borax. Though apparently you can leave the borax out–for example if you use grey water for your garden (borax is very salty). I rise with white vinegar and 3-7 drops of tea tree essential oil (cos it is the only essential oil I have lol). I am really pleased with it–it works super well, though the first wash I did (in which I didn’t use the rinse) was strange as the clothes smelt so different–so nothing.

    My washing machine is a frontloader, and I think they can clean better than top loaders (more agitation?) so I don’t know how that has effected the efficenecy of the washing powder. (I also don’t have kids making things super dirty/stained.) I don’t use a front loader, so I can’t give you any sort of comparison on that. But, like you, I love using my homemade detergent–and as there are only two of us, I am still using the same batch I made back in January!

    • I’m leaving the borax in. The reason it’s put in detergent is because some of it turns to hydrogen peroxide in water, and has a bleaching/whitening effect. So, it’s likely that homemade detergents that don’t include borax will end up making clothes look dingy.

      Ah… front loaders!! I can only dream at this point. 🙂 I have entered a couple of contest — willingly giving away my personal information to marketers — in hopes of winning one! But, no dice. 😦

  4. I second the motion to clean the lint filter after every load. Good air flow is important for the dryer to operate efficiently. I’ve always thought it was kind of fun to do, too.

    Dryer lint makes really good tinder for starting a campfire with flint and steel, by the way.

    • Funny – I had thought, previously, “I bet lint would make good tinder” but I had never heard anyone say it. But, I bet $100 that if we were preparing for a camping trip that I would not remember to pack the lint.

  5. I empty the lint thing after every load and it is crazy full. I have tried pretty much all the laundry detergents so I don’t think that is it.

  6. glutenfree4goofs

    Well, if it really is drying the stuffing out of your clothes there’s always hanging to dry! 🙂 In AZ you would probably sun bleach everything in 10 min though so that leaves indoors and who has room for that?

    • Believe it or not, I live in a neighborhood that has an HOA ordinance forbidding people to dry their clothes outside. Clotheslines are illegal. I’m not kidding.

      I do dry some things indoors, and I do still dry a few things outdoors. Previously, we always lived in the middle of the city, or close to a freeway, or something like that, so my freshly dried items would smell like exhaust. Ew. But, now we live far enough outside of the city that it doesn’t smell like cars, and it would be really nice to have a clothesline. It’s really windy where I live, too. However, you’re right — sunburn/fading would be a real issue. Dust, too. Everything is SO SO SO SO SO SO dusty. It swirls through the air and coats everything. ~sigh~ Especially since I live where there’s still new construction going on. It is crazy dusty.

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