I’ve toyed with the idea of using homemade detergents for a while now, and just always decided not to for one reason or another. Keep in mind as you read this that I am not a total tree hugger, and don’t buy into a lot of the hype about organic vs. non and all that jazz. However, I think there are some small changes that we can make as a family that will save us money and be better for us in the long run.
So this week, I sat down at the computer and really did some investigating into whether I wanted to do this or not. I started with dishwasher detergent, which has a simple recipe that several people seemed to like. However, after reading some comments, there is concern that citric acid (present in all homemade recipes in some form, either straight or as Kool-Aid packets of lemonade) damages 18/10 stainless silverware. Which I own. And I still really like. So, I decided against that.
However, I have continued using white vinegar as a rinse agent, and it’s still working great.
The other thing I’ve really wanted to get rid of, but hadn’t done enough research on, was dryer sheets. They are coated in unknown, unnamed-by-the-companies chemicals, and it just doesn’t seem like a good idea to have that against your skin all day long. However, I was not about to deal with staticky laundry.
Enter two things: vinegar (again!) and wool dryer balls (which I’ll talk about in a minute).
As a test, I had a load of sheets and a few small towels to wash, so I used my regular Tide detergent but added between 1/3 and 1/2 a cup of white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment. When I opened the washer after it was finished, there was a very, very faint vinegar smell. However, after the dryer cycle, there was absolutely no trace of vinegar. And even better? Without a dryer sheet, absolutely no static. I was so surprised…before, if I ever forgot a sheet of Bounce, the clothes would have been adhered to each other in a ball of electricity so strong it hurt to pull them apart.
I also bought dryer balls on etsy from a local seller, and I really think she has one of the best deals out there for these! Basically, it’s felted wool that won’t unravel in the dryer. You put 2-6 wool dryer balls in with each load, depending on the size of the load, and they help remove static AND reduce drying time. And, they should last for several years. These will definitely help with large loads of towels in particular, I think, in addition to the vinegar. I’ll report back on these sometime soon!
I generally hang things to dry when possible, just on a drying rack that is currently in my kitchen. It would be in laundry room if it was big enough, but it’s not, and it would be in the garage except it’s winter, and Matt won’t fund my dream of enlarging the laundry room to use some of the garage space (what a meanie).
So for instance, with a recent load of jeans: I washed them with Tide + vinegar in the fabric softener compartment, dried them without a dryer sheet for about 10 minutes to shake out some of the wrinkles, and hung them to dry. And not a hint of vinegar smell. And no static.
A couple of things:
-Don’t have a fabric softener dispenser in your washer? You can use a Downy ball with vinegar in it.
-I’m ordering some essential oils to add to the vinegar so that the laundry is scented a bit…you just add 10-20 drops of essential oils (peppermint you’re supposed to stay closer to 10; lavender and sweet orange or lemon you can use more of) to an entire jug of white vinegar, and keep it in your laundry room for that purpose only.
-I read a LOT of articles about mixing different things with the vinegar (salt, baking soda, conditioner, etc) and decided that the easiest, cheapest, most natural AND actually works solution was the vinegar (and essential oils if you like).
Next up is maybe actually trying my own laundry detergent. My SIL Michon let me use some of the liquid detergent she made and it did a pretty good job on grass stains (I think the detergent scrubbed on the stains + Shout is what worked), which is the real test in this house of whether something is going to make the cut or not.
However, I’m still on the fence about this…there’s a debate about the safety of Borax, and I’m leaning towards thinking it’s safe (info here) but also torn, after reading things like this. Plus, the Fels Naptha soap that many recipes call for is definitely not natural…so what am I gaining by making my own? Yes, saving money, but if it’s also not better for us and does at least as good a job, and requires more work, why would I bother?
I’ll let you know if I decide to try the detergent.
For now, I’m really happy with the changes we’ve made and how easy and cheap it’s been, and that it works…that’s key.