I feel like this post should come with a disclaimer: I am no washer woman.
I am not particularly good with laundry. There are a lot of times that I put a load in, and forget about it for three days.
But I get kind of crazy excited about green laundry.
This really started for us when we began cloth diapering after Owen was born.
The kid went through a lot of diapers, which meant that we were doing a lot of laundry. But we had chosen cloth diapers in part to avoid chemicals, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to clean them with chemical detergents.
Instead, we started making big batches of our own detergent, and drying them in the sun to remove spots.
Of course, this was harder in the winter, so on really tough stains we made a paste of washing soda and club soda. All those sodas got out most stains, including, ahem, “diaper-related” stains.
Now comes the time to confess that although I don’t use Downy, I do have a Downy ball. I mentioned above that I sometimes forget about wet laundry for three days, so there’s pretty much no way I am going to remember to dash downstairs during the rinse cycle to throw in vinegar. But vinegar is a great natural fabric softener, and helps remove odors, so I put some in the ball sometimes.
That brings me to my overall feelings on actual fabric softeners, which can be summed up as: “Who needs ‘em?”
Really — I am guessing you are a lovely smelling person all on your own. But just in case, I will share my homemade dryer sheet recipe.
Put some essential oil on an old, dry washcloth or unused cloth baby wipe and throw it in the dryer.
That’s it. It will not make your laundry smell like a “field of fresh daisies on a spring day,” but it will smell kind of nice in the background.
Even better, I LOVE line-drying just about anything. It smells so fresh and clean, like actual sunshine, not the purple “sunshine” that comes in a bottle.
Finally, I’d like to share the recipe we use for homemade laundry detergent. My husband mixes this up in big batches during the weekend (a batch usually lasts our family of 4 about a month). We put it all in an old five gallon water jug, but any bucket or really big tub will do.
I like this recipe because unlike the powdered versions I have also tried, it can be used with cold water.
We try to wash all of our laundry using cold water. We did do a hot water “sanitizing” rinse with diapers, and sometimes sheets and towels need a little sanitizing too. But as a rule, we wash on cold, using this soap, and line dry when we can.
A note about the ingredients: Washing soda and borax can be found in the laundry aisle of big grocery stores. The 20 Mule Team Borax folks recently did a super update on their packing because suddenly the stuff is hip again. But there’s lots of good tips on there about how to use it and it is definitely worth the investment.
By the way — did I mention that this soap is super cheap? Like cents per load! Single-digit cents if I remember correctly.
About the “bar of soap” … I love using a bar of Dr. Bronner’s. Peppermint and lavender are both really nice. But in a pinch, you can use Ivory.
Homemade Super Cheap Laundry Detergent
1 bar grated soap
1 cup borax
1/2 cup washing soda
(if you are using a scented castile soap, you can skip the essential oils. But I like to add a little tea tree for its disinfecting properties anyway. Just about any oil is nice as long as it blends with your bar soap scent.)
Big container (enough to hold five gallons)
Stick or long-handled spoon
funnel (not necessary with a bucket, but helps a lot with a water jug)
Bring 4 to 5 cups of water to a boil on the stove.
While water is boiling, fill a large jug or bucket (enough to hold 5 gallons of soap) with about 3 gallons of warm water.
Grate soap bar. When the water boils, add the grated soap and stir into it is mostly dissolved.
Add soap mixture in jug/bucket, and stir in washing soda and borax. Stir well to combine. Add essential oils.
Put in a place to cool (we usually set ours outside)
You may want to put some in a smaller container for easier use. And old liquid laundry detergent bottle actually works well for this. So does an old milk jug. Just mark it clearly!
This mixture may separate and look a little funny. Just give it a stir or shake. It will be OK.
This works well in all kinds of washers and is low-sudsing. It’s totally safe for diapers, and helps to prevent build-up, but if you are going to use it on an antique tablecloth or your grandmother’s wedding dress or anything, maybe test it on a small area first.