Do you ever wonder how people managed hundreds of years ago, without all the modern-day conveniences most of us take for granted? Did our ancestors forgo doing the laundry or did they employ a rudimentary means (relative to contemporary methods) to clean what had to be rather smelly clothing? They certainly didn’t walk, ride their horse, or take a covered wagon to their local supermarket to buy a large jug of laundry detergent!
Soaking laundry in cold or hot lye was how folks tackled cleaning white and off-white clothing. Called bucking, this involved soaking clothes for a lengthy period and was only done every few weeks or months. Ash and urine were the most important substances to have on hand to mix a good lye soap. Soap made from ash lye and animal fat was used by professional washerwomen prior to the 18th century, but became widely available thereafter.
Back to the Basics
In recent years, many companies have introduced natural laundry products devoid of potentially harmful ingredients found in standard detergents. Among these ingredients are petrochemicals, phenols (e.g. BPA), fragrances with phthalates, benzene, chlorine, and phosphates. Many people have embraced getting back to the basics—whether campers, survivalists, or those who wish to avoid exposure to possibly toxic chemicals. One solution is to make your own laundry detergent. There are hundreds of how-to tutorials online, but some use supplies that contain some of the same potentially dangerous chemicals, which defeats the point of making your own.
How to Make Natural DYI Laundry Detergent Powder
Washing soda is a powerful cleanser and water softener that is used to remove grease, oil, and wine stains. Rich in sodium, it is often made from seaweed, kelp, and other vegetation ashes, although these days limestone is the primary source. Also called soda ash or soda carbonate, it prevents magnesium and calcium in hard water from bonding with the laundry soap, which would render it ineffective. It is used as a booster to make homemade laundry soap more effective. If you cannot find it at your local store, it is fairly easy to make your own.
• 6 cups washing soda
• Three bars of 4.5-5 ounce soap, finely grated (soap with coconut oil works best).
• Optional: lemon essential oil for stains
• Non-GMO white vinegar
• Peroxide or OxiClean Free
• Wool dryer balls (you can make your own)
• Food processor
• Optional: Downy ball
• Cut soap into small chunks
• Put in food processor along with the washing soda
• Blend until the powder is fine
• Pour into a clean container
Helpful tip: Lay a dish towel over the top of the food processor to prevent a fine mist of powder from floating into the air. Let the mixture settle a bit before opening the container or the powder will land on the kitchen counter.
USING YOUR DYI DETERGENT
Instructions are for a top loader washing machine.
• Add 2-3 tablespoons laundry detergent per load
• If desired, add about five drops of lemon essential oil as a degreaser
• If washing whites, add a scoop of OxiClean or pour 1/2 cup peroxide in the bleach compartment
• Add 1/2 cup vinegar to a Downy ball or the fabric softener compartment
• Toss some felted wool dryer balls in the dryer with your clothes to increase fabric softness and decrease drying time
Helpful tip: When washing in cold water, dissolve detergent in hot water before adding powder. Or you can start the load with a little hot water to dissolve powder and then put laundry in.