Now that I know how easy and inexpensive it is to make, I probably won't be going back!
This recipe actually comes from a good friend of mine. Renee and her family have lived overseas as missionaries for years and hope to be back on the field in the near future, so she's always looking for frugal and homemade ways to do things. Since we both love nutrition and healthy living, we are forever sharing recipes, ideas, swapping books, and planning days to try out new things that we want to make.
Renee's laundry powder was something that had been on my list for a while, so this week we buckled down and did it. The whole process took us about 15-20 minutes, and that was only because we were chatting and stopping to take pictures. There is no way that this would take me longer than 10 minutes to make by myself.
Does it really work?
Renee has been using this recipe for about a year and a half, and she LOVES it. She told me that she won't even consider going back to a regular detergent anymore.
This summer she spent a week staying at someone else's home and used their detergent to wash several loads of laundry. She said that she could actually feel the difference in the clothes, almost like there was a bit of soap residue and that they weren't as clean.
We were discussing what makes this laundry powder work so well, and this is what Renee thinks each of the ingredients do:
- Borax- stain removal and whitening
- Washing soda- odor removal
- Soap bar- degreasing
She wanted me to note that this powder won't suds up. This may be disconcerting to some of you, because we've been taught to think that bubbles = clean.
That equation just isn't accurate. You can definitely achieve clean, whether it's with your laundry or your teeth (think toothpaste without foaming agents), even without those desired bubbles. Look for the results of a product, not for something like suds to tell you whether it works or not.
I hesitate to add my two cents, because I just began using the powder this week, but the first three loads that I've washed have been very clean and fresh smelling and my whites look white. I'm excited to continue using this and to see the same results that Renee has!
Here's what you need to make it:
- 1 bar of soap (Fels Naptha is Renee's usual brand, or a bar of plain Castile soap also works, like the Dr. Bronners bar that I used)
- 1 cup washing soda
- 1 cup Borax
Of course, you can double, triple or quadruple this recipe to make a large batch all at once. It can just be stored in your laundry room cupboard and will not go bad.
If you're wondering about my washing soda in the big tub, it's because I didn't buy it. I made it. That's right, you can make washing soda! I had tons of baking soda but no washing soda, so I decided to give this tutorial a try. It worked!
Grate the entire bar of soap.
This is what mine looked like. A nice, fine grate will mix up easier than larger pieces, but you can use any grater that you have.
Add the grated soap to your blender, with 1 cup of either the washing soda or the Borax (it really doesn't matter which one).
If you don't have a great blender, you might want to process this in smaller batches. In my Vitamix, I did it in two batches which was perfect.
Basically, you just want to blend it until the pieces are cut more finely, so that you'll be able to get a good mix of all the ingredients in each scoop, and also so that the soap dissolves easily in the washing machine.
Renee noted that when she uses her older style glass blender, the blender can be difficult to clean, so she puts it into the dishwasher immediately after making her laundry powder.
Add the blended mixture to a bowl, and mix in the remaining 1 cup of either washing soda or Borax.
Use a spoon to mix it thoroughly and break up any large chunks.
This is what mine looked like after I mixed it up. There are still a few very small chunks, but those won't make a difference.
Can you believe how fast and easy that was?
I stored mine in a glass mason jar. One recipe made almost 1 quart of laundry powder.
Directions for use:
Add 1 heaped tablespoon to the washing machine as you fill it with water (it's always best to add powder before you add your clothes, so that it begins to dissolve first).
For extra dirty loads, use 2 scoops instead of 1.
Renee usually uses hers with warm water, because that's just how she prefers to wash her laundry, but she said it still works in cold or hot as well. I've been trying it with cold this week and it seems just fine.
This is based on the ingredients Renee regularly buys from Trader Joes. I paid a little bit more than this because I bought my Borax in Canada (I think I paid more like $7 for the box), and I used the Dr. Bronners castile soap bar which was $3.40.
- 1 cup Borax= $0.44 (1 box is $3.99, about 9 cups to a box)
- 1 cup washing soda= $0.44 (same price and amount as Borax)
- 1 bar Fels Naptha soap= $0.97
Total cost = $1.85 per batch
Based on 1 Tbsp this works out to 40-50 loads.
Cost per load: approximately 5 cents!
That's incredibly cheap for a simple, non-toxic and effective laundry powder. A couple of years ago, I did a review comparing some major brands of natural laundry detergents, and you can see the price comparisons here. Those brands ranged in price from 10 cents to 30 cents per load.
My cost, based on the more expensive Borax and castile soap bar was more like 10 or 11 cents per load.
If you try the soap out (or if you've been using a similar recipe) we'd love to hear how it works for you!
What do you currently use for your laundry detergent? Would you try a recipe like this?
This came up frequently in the comments below, so I thought that I would just address it in this post.
Updated: Is Borax safe to use in cleaning products?
Chemically speaking, Borax is "sodium borate". It is the naturally occurring mineral, and is more like a salt than anything else. The store-bought product Borax is often mistakenly (see here and here) thought to be "boric acid" and then vilified as a toxic and dangerous substance. This is an entirely different chemical. Sodium borate is alkaline, while boric acid is acidic (makes sense, right?).
There is good reason to be concerned with the household use of boric acid. It rates very high on the toxicity scale at Environmental Working Group, is known to be an eye and respiratory tract irritant, and has concerns for developmental and reproductive toxicity. I wouldnt' want to use boric acid, either!
Sodium borate, however, is a different story. It rates significantly lower on the toxicity scale, with specific mention that it depends on use. And that is what I have come to with Borax... it all depends on use. I would not put Borax in anything that would be consumed, nor do I leave it anywhere that my children can get it. Mountain Rose Herbs suggests that it is not to be ingested or used in large amounts and should be handled with caution. Another blogger also looked into it, as it was coming up as an area of concern for those with Etsy shops, and her conclusion was that it is safe for household cleaning. I have read comments about it being toxic to animals and insects, and this may be true (now we're back to ingesting it- bad idea, but one interested thing I noted in my online research was this thread, where a commenter actually posted a close-up picture of a sodium borate crystal, and suggested that it is harmful to insects partially because it happens to be particularly sharp and pointy in shape.
All that said, I can't and won't tell you which way to go with it or how you should use (or not use it!) in your home. I'll just tell you my own personal decision regarding it's use. I only use it in something that will be rinsed away, so for me, laundry powder is perfectly acceptable. Each scoop (1 load) includes about 1 tsp of Borax (a very small amount!), which is then rinsed away after. I'm absolutely fine with that. I also sometimes use it on carpet stains, which I then rinse and scrub very well. I have a friend who uses it in her homemade dishwasher detergent, because she also feels that due to the rinse and her use of vinegar in the dishwasher's rinse cycle, she isn't concerned about any residue (personally, I'm not 100% comfortable with that use). I have chosen NOT to use it in things like all-purpose spray which I would use on counters or tables, because it would leave residue in a place where we eat or cook.
Take this all with a big grain of salt. These are just my opinions, and there are plenty of people out there who have done more research, who understand the chemical compounds better than I do, and who would come to a different conclusion than I have. But hopefully that answers some of the questions about why I have personally chosen to consider it safe! I don't want the comments to become a huge debate about the safety of Borax, but I did think it was worth it to address those concerns as thoughtfully as I could. :)