The nitty gritty of it all is this: I chose to use natural cleaning solutions over commercial ones so that my family could live a better, healthier life. In this transition I have used many different recipes for laundry and many natural brand products as well. Not all of them met my expectations. Let me share my journey.
I began by trying the typical recipes that can be found online:
Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe
- 1/3 bar of soap
- ½ cup washing soda
- ½ cup borax powder
- 6 cups water
- I gallon plus 6 cups of water
Use a grater to shave the soap into a stock pot. Add the first 6 cups of water and put the pot on low heat it until the soap is melted. Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it dissolves. Remove from heat and pour it into a 5 gallon bucket. Slowly add the rest of the water stirring completely. Allow it to sit for about 24 hours so that it can gel. Use ½ cup per wash cycle.
Powder (Dry) Laundry Detergent Recipe (Get the Borax Free Laundry Soap Recipe here)
- 1 bar of shaved bar soap
- 1 cup of borax
- 1 cup of washing soda
Mix all together in a container. Use one tablespoon per wash cycle.
My Natural Laundry Recipe
Both recipes worked fine to clean my clothes. I didn’t use the Fels Naptha bar soap because I’m not completely convinced that it is free of harmful chemicals. If you look at the ingredients and research them, you’ll see it contains hydrocarbons which the US Dept of Health Household Products Database states as being very harmful if used over an extended period of time. No, thank you.
Then I tried Zote. Although it is touted as being safe and completely natural, I wasn’t fond of the overly powerful smell. There has to be some chemicals hidden in the “fragrance” ingredient in order to produce a smell that lasts through two rinses. Yes, I rinsed them twice and they still had that strong smell. I finally decided that if I was going to stick with making my own detergent then I was going to use a more expensive soap like bar castile. I did it and it worked out much better for us, but it was more expensive.
That is when I decided to try soap nuts/berries.
I kept coming across soap nuts in my search for natural cleaners. I thought they were a joke, really. But, after spending so much time and money making my own soap I decided to give the nuts a try. They are a real, natural berry that contain the components used for cleaning. And they work!
For $18 I can get enough soap berries (nuts) to wash 160 loads. Mine go further than that the way I use them. That means it costs less than the commercial stuff AND I didn’t have to shave my fingertips off and find space for a 5 gallon bucket of soap to save the money! I told you. I’m all over natural and homemade, but not at the expense of wasting time and energy. I know I get better results with the soap nuts. Here is how I use them.
They come with small canvas bags that hold the soap berries/nuts in the washer. You place about 5 inside of the bag, draw the string, and toss it in the wash. Then, I also place a tablespoon of Borax in the soap dispenser. This is how I stretch the soap nuts/berries further. If you have hard water you can use about 1/4 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle (fabric softener dispenser). This softens the water and the clothes. Run the wash cycle as usual and then when you toss the clothes in the dryer toss the bag of soap nuts/berries in too. That dries them before the next use. You don’t want them to begin to mold or mildew. Drying between uses helps with that.
Each batch of 5 soap nuts/berries will last through 5 washes. And, I love that I can store them in my Ball Canning Jar. I tried that with powder and liquid and it just made a big old mess. I retired the idea faster than I implemented it. I’m so glad the soap berries/nuts work well in the jar. I love the way it looks!
In the Dryer
You can use the soap nuts/berries alone and have a good, clean smell on your clothing afterward, however I like to take it one step further. I use organic wool dryer balls. These work to benefit me in two ways: 1) they decrease drying time (especially of sheets!) because they bounce around creating air pockets and 2) I add a few drops of essential oils to them once every 5-7 cycles and my clothes come out smelling divine! My favorite is using the lavender essential oils on our bed sheets. You will sleep so much better, I assure you!
Now, my boys would tell you that they make great toys too. If you buy these I suggest you hide them from your children. If not, like me, you will have to hunt them down when you want to use them.
I also use Dryer Max Anti-Static Balls to reduce the static. I have had all of these balls for over a year now and have been more than happy with the results they give my clothes. And they still have plenty of life left in them. The overall savings is tremendous when you figure that they are a one time purchase (for at least a year) and they cut down on drying time.
I don’t line dry all year long just because we live in a humid climate. On the days when do line dry I only leave the clothes out for about an hour or two. Then I bring them in and let them run through the dryer for 10 minutes with my wool and static balls. This softens them up and leaves them feeling fresh and clean without them feeling “crispy”.
The line I use is retractable so that it isn’t a safety hazard and isn’t exposed to the elements which can cause premature deterioration.
Other posts in this series: Homemade All Natural Cleaning Products