The Ultimate Guide To Making Your Own Eco Friendly Washing Powder

February 19, 2008 at 8:28 pm 2 comments

The case for making your own washing powder is strong; it saves the environment and it saves money. Bar soap, the main ingredient in your home made washing detergent, is extremely compact and transporting it from A to B is way more energy efficient than dry commercial washing powder or the liquid equivalent. Why ship expensive boxes of washing detergent for miles if you can make your own washing detergent with a few simple ingredients for next to nothing?

If you decide to make your own detergent, do it the best way possible; phosphate free and make sure your soap consists of vegetable (not animal) derived fats. In a previous post, I wrote down a short make-your-own-washing-powder recipe in which the main ingredient was Sunlight Soap. I swear by Sunlight, but noticed that this soap is less regular in the US and Canada than it is in Europe. Unilever’s info pages don’t reveal anything about the bar soap, so you’ll have to shop around or contact the company directly.

Because so many people are interested in making their own washing powder for as little money as possible, I examined some alternatives in case you can’t find Sunlight bar soap.

This is the ultimate guide:
woman doing some sound ecological washingBefore I launch into a Step-by-Step explanation, first this; there are two ways to get your soap bars liquified. Some people ‘cook’ the soap. In my view, this is totally not necessary. Soap does not melt! The trick is simply to get it liquified by soaking it and that doesn’t require hot water at all. You’d even be better advised to use your microwave for this. There are some cool videos on YouTube demonstrating this process. But honestly, all you need is a grating rasp and a bit of patience. Or if you want to use your kitchen blender, some people recommend it too.

What you need for the full recipe:
*A bar of soap (for types of soap, see STEP one).
*Washing soda (four or five spoonfuls). Washing Soda, or SAL Soda, is sodium carbonate decahydrate. It’s a mineral. It fights grease, stains, but more importantly; it softens water. Click here to find out more about its environmental credentials (as well as eco info about borax).
*Environmental bleach. Click here to find the eco bleaches available on the market.)
*Vinegar (half a cup) Use the cheapest type you can get. Reduce the amount or change brands if you find it’s smelly. I only use vinegar to reduce soap residue in the machine.
*Salt (Big soupspoonful). Does the same as vinegar but without the smell. If you still smell the vinegar after your washing has dried (often the case in ‘soft’ water areas), just use salt only.
*A big bowl (you will understand that it should not be the same one you used for cleaning the toilet/the outside/the floors)
*A rasp or cheese grate (alternatively a kitchen blender)
*Around two gallons of water (7 litres)
*A 12-inch diameter siff
*A whisk

STEP one – Choose your soap. You need a big bar of eco friendly (ie bio degradable) soap of around 300 grams to make 2 gallons of washing detergent. Consider using the ecological soap you already use for your hands and ask your retailer if there’s a laundry bar version. If you can’t find one, shop around for pure Castile Soap which is made of coconut oils (visit my shop) to for a store locater or to buy it online). Alternatively buy soap that it is made only of vegetable based fats/oils and sodium hydroxide. This usually will be ecologically friendly. For more information about ecologically sound soaps, check out Castile Soap’s information.

If you find these are too expensive or are just trying the method only, opt for these alternatives:
*Fels Naptha (a laundry soap). It’s a good solution for US people. It contains no phosphates, which is the most important criterium.
*Zote. A laundry bar soap, which costs very little. Also available in the US and Canada. It is similar to Sunlight soap, costs 65 cents, and also comes in large, often hand-breakable, bars. If the soap bar is heavier than 300 grams, just adjust the water quantity and also add more washing soda and or borax. For this recipe you can do with a bit less than one big bar (or you can just add some more water to the mixture at the very end).

STEP two – Get a big bowl of water and grate the soap in it, stirring occasionally, so the grated soap doesn’t lump into one big bal but rather becomes a kind of lumpy stew. Let this sit for a week. After the week is over, throw the mixture through a siff, push through the lumps with the back of a spoon so it dissolves into a smooth sludge. Use enough water but no more than one gallon at this stage (2.3 litre) and move onto STEP three.

If you insist on using hot water to ‘melt’ the soap;
Some people insist on heating the liquid. This goes quicker and also the method allows you to judge the amount of sludge/residue that builds up from the soap you use. In my opinion this is a total waste of energy. Whenever I switch soap types, I simply check my washing machine to see if a lot of residue (undesirable) builds up. But if you had a grandmother who always did this and it makes you feel better to play slave over a hot stove, then be my guest. This is what you do; Grate your soap. Take a limited amount of water (around four cups), bring this to just below boiling point and add the soap into the water. Don’t lump it all in at once, because the effect of your grating will be totally ruined. Slowly sprinkle the soap in and use a whisk to whittle the mixture firmly. The better you whisk the stew, the quicker the soap will liquify. When you’ve done this, turn off the heat and continue with STEP three.

STEP three – The mixture is almost complete. Now you need to add washing soda, salt and vinegar. The latter ingredient is optional, but vinegar (choose a transparent type) softens the washing and keeps colors bright. Salt is also optional, but it also works miracles for your colors. Add these ingredients, stir extremely well and then you’re almost done. The only thing you need to do now is to dilute the mixture to two gallons (around 7 litres) with water. This should leave you with a washing liquid of similar concentration as normal (commercial) washing detergents, but you can play around with the ratios of water per bar of soap as you test your concoction.

Using your eco friendly washing detergent: Use 1 to 1.3 cups (not more) for each load of washing. Mix in the borax only at this point and due it according to the instructions on the package. A good alternative to bleach is the use of half a lemon in white washes; it bleaches perfectly. Having said that, it IS a good idea to use bleach from time to time. Click here to read about the health hazards involved in not using bleach in your washings.

Cost savings: There is no reason not to go environmentally friendly on your washing. People claim that the cheapest (non-eco friendly) washing detergent at Costco sells at $12 for a big bucket. That’s less than 0.10 cents a wash load. My method is probably as cheap or cheaper and ecologically sound.

Another cost saving tip: If you are into cost efficiency in your washing consider soaking your laundry overnight in a bowl of cold water with a few spoonfuls of washing detergent. If you do this, you can reduce the amount of washing detergent for your washing drastically. Also, you will be able to lower the washing temperature. This way, you save on detergent and energy.

Alternative Eco Detergents: Don’t feel like making your own detergent, but still want to wash 100% eco friendly? Go and check out local organic food stores. Prices of good products are around $20 per gallon. Castile Soaps offers a liquid form of olive based oils that’s suitable for laundry use. Check it out here. My favorite regular environmentally friendly washing powder (available anywhere in the world) is Ecover. Unilever launched a liquid Sunlight Soap that is 100% phosphate free in 2006. Check the company’s product page to see if you can buy it anywhere.

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

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. julia  |  July 7, 2008 at 6:18 am

    you did not include in your recipe the right amount of the oxygen bleach. may i know how much hydrogen peroxide (30%) should i add in your recipe mentioned above, if i am to use hydrogen peroxide?

  • 2. habbullah  |  July 5, 2012 at 7:28 am

    it is good to use liquid soap but commercially people like to purchase bar soap which made by hot process


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