Have you been thinking about getting rid of toxic chemicals in your home? One of the best places to start is by making your own laundry detergent. It’s actually very simple, takes very little time, works as well, if not better, than store bought detergents, and it also saves you a considerable amount of money.
Store bought laundry detergents typically contain hazardous ingredients, including: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)/sodium laureth sulfate (SLES); 1,4-dioxane; NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate), and phosphates.
What are these chemicals, and how do they affect you and your family’s health?
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/Sodium Laureth Sulfate
According to studies shown at EWG, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate causes:
- Irritation of the skin, eyes and lungs
- Organ toxicity (nonproductive)
- Environment toxicity
It may also show up on ingredients as: MONODODECYL ESTER SODIUM SALT SULFURIC ACID; SODIUM DODECYL SULFATE; SODIUM DODECYL SULPHATE; SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE; SODIUM SALT SULFURIC ACID, MONODODECYL ESTER; SULFURIC ACID MONODODECYL ESTER SODIUM SALT; SULFURIC ACID, MONODODECYL ESTER, SODIUM SALT; AI3-00356; AKYPOSAL SDS; AQUAREX ME; AQUAREX METHYL
- 1,4-dioxane is considered by the State of California to cause cancer and
- has been found to be potentially toxic to your brain and central nervous system, kidneys, liver and respiratory system
- Toxic to environment/ground water
The National Institute of Health (NIH) substance profile sheet confirms that 1,4-dioxane is “reasonably expected to be a human carcinogen” based on the research to date, and even trace amounts bring cause for concern.
NPE (Nonylphenol Ethoxylate)
- NPE is an endocrine disruptor and estrogen mimicker that can potentially cause hormonal problems, or even cancer. When you absorb NPE, your body can’t tell the difference between NPE and estrogen.
- Organisms exposed to NPE show kidney and liver damage, decreased testicular growth and sperm count, disrupted growth and metabolism, and increased mortality.
According to a Sierra Club paper, researchers now believe that:
“NPE pollution is likely to be at least partly responsible for a variety of odd gender bending phenomenon now being seen in aquatic species. And while human effects remain unknown, scientists believe it may be affecting people, too.”
Phosphates are used in laundry detergents to help soften water and remove soil, oil, and grease. Sounds innocent enough, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, Phosphates also can cause algae blooms, low oxygen levels and even fish deaths when they makes it into waterways
And here are a few other commonly found chemicals in laundry detergent:
- Linear alkyl sodium sulfonates (LAS), a.k.a. anionic surfactants
- Petroleum distillates (a.k.a. naphthas), which have been linked to cancer
- Phenols, which can cause toxicity throughout the entire body
- Optical brighteners, which cause bacterial mutations and allergic reactions, and can be toxic to fish
- Sodium hypochlorite (bleach)
- EDTA (ethylene-diamino-tetra-acetate)
- Artificial fragrances, which have been linked to various toxic effects on fish and animals, as well as allergic reactions in humans.
So now that you are armed with plenty of reasons to toss out that store bought chemical-ridden laundry detergent, how do you make your own laundry detergent? It’s actually very simple.
Homemade laundry detergent is made up of only three ingredients:
- Borax – Available from 20 Mule Team at most drug stores.
- Washing Soda – Available from Arm&Hammer at most drug stores.
- Soap – Fels Naptha, Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, or most all natural soaps will work. My favorite is this homemade laundry soap made from coconut and olive oil.
What is Borax?
Borax is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. Powdered borax is white, consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water.
Borax has a wide variety of uses. From it’s use in detergents, cosmetics, to being used as a fire retardant, as an anti-fungal compound, and many more.
Is it safe?
Borax is completely natural. It comes from the ground. 20 Mule Team Borax is actually mined in a town called Boron in the high desert of California. It is not cancer causing, it does not accumulate in the body, it can’t be absorbed through the skin, and it is completely safe for the environment. However, it is not safe for consumption. So it should be kept away from small children and animals.
Where can I buy it?
20 Mule Team Borax is the largest producer of Borax, and can be found at many department stores. Here is a list of stores that generally carry it. Generally, the cost is about $3.99 to $4.99 for a box in most drug/department stores. It is a bit higher on Amazon here: 20 Mule Team Borax Natural Laundry Booster, 75 oz
What is Washing Soda?
Washing soda is sodium carbonate, Na₂CO₃, a highly alkaline chemical compound that can be used to remove stubborn stains from laundry, and it is made by heating Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate) to 400 degrees, until it becomes Washing Soda. Making it yourself is another cost saving option, as Baking Soda is about three times cheaper than Washing Soda. Here is a link to a tutorial that will show you how to make it yourself.
Where can I buy it?
You can find Arm&Hammer Washing Soda at most drug stores, and many department stores such as Target and Walmart. Cost usually runs around $3.99 per box. It is also available (slightly higher) at Amazon here: Church & Dwight Co 03020 Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda 55 oz.
What kind of soap?
The most commonly used soaps for laundry detergent are Fels Naptha, and Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap. My preference is a coconut and olive oil soap that works wonderfully for laundry detergent. You can find that recipe and instructions here.
Where can I buy it?
Fels Naptha and Dr. Bronner’s soaps can also be found at most drug and department stores. Cost is generally $1.99 per bar. You can also find it on Amazon here at the same price: Fels Naptha Laundry Bar and Stain Remover, 5.5 Oz
Before you begin
Before you start making your laundry detergent, you will want to gather the tools, and ingredients. You will need:
- Measuring Cup
- Wooden Spoon
- Cheese Grater
- Non-corrosive, preferably glass, ceramic-coated or stainless steel pot
- 2 Gallon Bucket with Lid
- Washing Soda
- Purified or distilled water, 1 3/4 Gallons, 1 Quart
- Essential oils (optional)
- 1 Cup Borax
- 1 Cup Washing Soda
- 1 5 oz. Bar of Soap, Grated
- 2-5 drops of essential oils (optional)
First, heat up 1 3/4 gallons of purified or distilled water. Once it is heated almost to boiling point, pour it into your white bucket. Next, measure out your cup of Borax, pour it into the scalding water, and stir with the wooden spoon. Now, measure out the cup of Washing Soda and add to the bucket. Stir well until Borax and Washing Soda are completely dissolved into the hot water.
Turn stove on to it’s lowest setting.
Stir gently as the soap melts. It should be completely melted within 10-15 minutes.
Once the soap has melted, pour soap/water mixture into the bucket, and mix slowly and gently until it is fully mixed. If you want a little scent in your laundry detergent, now would be the time to add your essential oils. A little bit goes a long ways. Also, don’t be tempted to add synthetic scents. They may smell great, but they can have a detrimental impact to your health. Here is an interesting article that explores this more in depth.
Allow this to set overnight.
Stir again in the morning, and cover tightly with lid.
This is the concentrated version of the liquid laundry detergent, so a little goes a long ways. You will only need 2 ounces of liquid laundry detergent per wash load.
What is the cost savings?
Typically, store bought liquid laundry detergent runs between 11 cents per load (All Free & Clear) up to 19 cents per load (Tide) for an average price of 15 cents per load. So how much are you saving?
Well, let’s add it up:
A box of Borax generally costs approximately $4.21 per box. A box of Washing Soda costs approximately $3.99 per box. A bar of soap (Fels Naptha) generally costs $1.99.
Washing Soda: $3.99 Ounces per box: 55 Cost Per Ounce: .0725 Cost per Cup: .58
Borax: $4.21 Ounces per box: 65 Cost per Ounce: .064769 Cost per Cup: .52
Fels Naptha Soap $1.99
Cost to make 2 Gallon Liquid Laundry Detergent: $3.09
This would give you 128 wash loads at 2 oz or 1/4 cup per load, and works out to about 2.5 cents per load. So your overall savings would be about 12.5 cents per load.
But the biggest savings is to you, and your family’s health, by eliminating dangerous chemicals from your home’s environment!