How to Make Your Own Dirt Cheap Eco-friendly Washing Powder

January 5, 2008 at 10:43 pm 1 comment

My mother told me today that she’s figured out a way of making her own washing powder. She’s tried and tested it and it is as good as the top brands, she assures me. This is how you can do it too.

The formula is simple. She puts a bar of old fashioned Sunlight Soap (weight:  just over 12 ounces or 150 g) plus three spoonfuls of soda chunks in a jerrycan with one gallon (just over 2 litres) of water.

She waits for a week until the soap bar is totally dissolved, then shakes the mixture thoroughly and Ta-Da… ! She has created an old fashioned style washing detergent that couldn’t be more powerful than synthetic washing powders.  Without the toxic contaminants!

And my mother’s mixture is way cheaper than Unilever’s 2006 launched liquid Sunlight detergent.  She uses around three cups of the stuff  for every load of clothes she washes. That is rather a lot; you can use less. The clothes come out totally clean and smell fresh. If you find sludge in the machine, add a quarter cup of vinegar in the individual load and you’ll see it’s disappeared by the end of that washing.

The bar of soap costs around 1.29 euros here the shops (Netherlands), and if you live in the UK, you can buy it online here. My mother claims the bar of soap lasts her as long as around 500g of ordinary washing powder; some seven or eight machine loads.

Having invented her own washing powder, my mother completed the circle that was started over 100 years ago by the Lever Brothers, the UK company now known as Unilever, that produced, but more importantly, marketed this soap to the world.

The Lever brothers are credited with making two important changes to the first commercially available soap bar; they changed the shape into usuable, dividable blocks and they pioneered the first marketing techniques, by the block in radiant blue and yellow colored paper. This made Sunlight soap one of the world’s first marketed products. Incidentally, the soap was also about the very first product placement in the movies. Watch the YouTube film here.

Prior to the commercial sale of Sunlight soap, people used to create their own soaps at home. Sunlight soap derives its name from the village for Lever workers, Port Sunlight.

Apart from my mother (and as of next week my sister, me, the neighbors, the local mp for the green party and hopefully a bunch of readers), people use sunlight as a personal soap only. It is still around in many countries. In the Netherlands and Belgium it’s sold under the original name.

According to Wikipedia, in the US and Canada, the soap is manufactured by JohnsonDiversey. The story goes that when Sunlight initially hit the US market, the marketing campaign that accompanied was disastrous. Swamping the US market with millions of free samples of the soap, many Yanks were misguided by the colorful wrapping and mistook the label for a lemonade drink mix. Apparently numerous -mainly senior citizens- fell ill, drinking dish soap.

Now, over a millennium and many wise lessons about the negative effects of marketing-driven myth making later, a dissolution of the Lever brothers’ legacy might be as easy as their packaging revolution trick was simple.

Throw the bar in a bowl of water, scoop in some soda chunks and do absolutely nothing. When, a week later, you’re applying your home made brew, I bet you, this revenge on the multinationals will feel like witchcraft of the first order!


If you decide to try this yourself, by all means, do forget it was my mother who pioneered this thing. I am not allowed to name names. Mind you, she’s not intent on repeating any mistakes by heady individuals who mess up the environment anyways. No no, my mum willfully sinks into oblivion.

PS If you can’t find Sunlight Soap, you can try other soaps. Check out my ULTIMATE guide to making your own detergent here.

Entry filed under: Green Concepts Explained, Green News. Tags: , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Peggy Gaggia  |  July 20, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    What is a Soda chunk? Peggy South Africa. (Wash Soda or BiCarb of Soda} How much is a chunk?Looking forward to trying this.


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