Jan 15, 2009

Laundry Soap Research and Recipe

Ok I know, I know there are already about a million posts on the internet about making your own homemade laundry soap...so why the good gravy do I need to add yet another to the mix?

Well, I've learned a few things while researching and thought I would share that information with you all as well as what recipe I find works best for me.

First the research findings

  • Fels Naptha should not be used as an overall body soap or regular laundry additive since it contains Stoddard solvent, a skin and eye irritant. Stoddard solvent is another name for mineral spirits, which are, like petroleum distillates, a mixture of multiple chemicals made from petroleum. Exposure to Stoddard solvent can cause eye, skin, or throat irritation. Also I worry about grating it or making it into a powder as breathing it in the air can cause headaches and dizzyness  (UPDATE - Fels Naptha no longer includes Stoddard Solvent in their ingredients list. Horray!!)

  • Sodium Percarbonate - is a water-soluble powdered chemical compound of sodium carbonate (Washing Soda) and hydrogen peroxide. It's the active ingredient in many powdered oxygen bleach products such as Shout Brand Oxypower. (Also note that adding household peroxide to your wash along with washing soda will not produce sodium percarbonate - the 3% peroxide we can buy is not strong enough)

    Oxy-Magic, OxyClean and most other Oxy brands have about 25% less Sodium Percarbonate than Oxypower does so it will be less effective. Also note: Don't use All brand Oxy-Active - it's a sodium perborate based product and not Sodium Percarbonate. Perborates work good in hot water but has very limited solubility in lukewarm and cold water so unless you always wash in hot water this will not work good for you.

  • Citric acid powder chelates the metals in hard water, letting the cleaners produce foam and work better. It also helps soften the fabric.

  • Washing soda is usually sold in gocery stores under the Arm & Hammer brand name. If you are having a hard time finding it at the grocery store, check a hardware or pool supply store for Soda Ash or Sodium Carbonate - it is exactly the same thing!

  • Borax works in conjuction with the Sodium Carbonate (washing soda) to soften hard water

  • Baking soda helps remove detergent build up and odors from clothes.

  • Bluing agents should NEVER be used with bleach or fabric softener and should ALWAYS be diluted in at least 2 quarts of cold water before adding to the machine.

  • Ok now with all that out of the way, here is what I find works best for us. I make up two batches as I wash DH's work uniforms at home.

    Everyday Laudry soap
    2 cups grated castile or homemade soap
    1 cup washing soda
    1 cup borax
    1/2 cup baking soda
    1/2 cup citric acid (optional - for hard water users)
    Combine all ingredients and store in a container with a tight fitting lid. Add 2 tablespoons to each load. I also add 1/2 cup vinegar to my fabric softener dispenser

    Dirty Icky Work Clothes Laundry Soap
    2 cups grated castile or homemade soap
    2 cups borax
    2 cups Shout brand OxyPower
    2 cup washing soda
    1 cup baking soda
    1 cup citric acid (optional - for hard water users)
    Combine all ingredients and store in a container with a tight fitting lid. Add 2 tablespoons to each load. I also add 1/2 cup vinegar to my fabric softener dispenser

    For dingy or yellowed Whites (1-2 times a year)
    Launder as usual. Fill washer again with cold water for a second rinsing.

    Mix 1/8 tsp laundry bluing into 2 qts cold water. Add this mixture to the second rinse cycle Dont use fabric softener or vinegar in this bluing rinse!

    If you can't find bluing at your store go here to find a retailer near you: http://www.mrsstewart.com/pages/wheretofind.htm

    What is bluing? Manufacturers of sheets, towels, linens, shirts etc., put their white fabrics through a process of bluing before they sell them. After you use/wear the items for awhile soil and stains mar the color and you wash them. The detergent, bleach and water lift out the dirt and stains and the fabric is clean, but after a few months it is not "snow-white" anymore. 

    To counteract this yellowing, you need to re-blue the items. A little diluted bluing in the washing process or in the last rinse water adds the necessary tint to restore the fabric to a snow-white color. (and now you know why most liquid commercial detergent is blue!)
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    1. Hi!
      I find it interesting that you said not to use vinegar or a softener in the rinse when you used this soap. I have made homemade laundry powder in the past and used the vinegar to help it rinse out better, but in warmer weather, we all got a funky, sour smell in our clothes.

      I quit making my own laundry soap then. Could it have been the vinegar?

    2. I use vinegar in the rinse after using the soap. When I use the Bluing for the dingy whites I do not use it then.

      If you incorporate more citric acid into the powder you can probably forgo the vinegar rinse - it works as a fabric softener as well as cheleating the metals.

      Not sure about the funky sour smell...I can't say I've ever had that happen. Is it humid where you are? It might be mildew - I know here in summer the towels on my shelf will get that just from the humidity occasionally

    3. Yep. I am in Georgia and it is unbelievably humid. But, I make sure that the clothes dry completely before I put them away.

      I've never found an explanation for the problem or a solution so we could avoid it.

      BTW: I made the laundry powder and used 1 tablespoon per load.

    4. great, let me know how it works for you too. Yea I can probably get away using less per load but were a pretty messy bunch j/k...actually i still used to commercial stuff where you throw in half a scoop its hard to break the habit.

    5. How well would this work with cold water? Is there an effective step that can be added to make this a liquid soap to add to my front loader? Power soaps do not do well in my washer...

    6. I normally wash my clothes in cold water but I dissolve the powder first. I have a top loader, I start it on warm water, let it fill with about an inch of water, add the powder, swish it around with my hand to dissolve it then switch the washing machine over to cold water.

      I have never tried to make this formula into a liquid. If you wanted to experiment you can. The basic directions would be as follows:

      (I would leave out the citric acid as I don't know how it would react)

      Get a 5 gallon bucket, set aside.
      Take a pan and put about 6 cups water in it. Add the grated soap and place on stove over medium heat, stir this until the soap is melted and completely dissolved.

      Add washing soda, borax, baking soda (and oxypower if using) and stir until thickened. Pour this mixture into the bucket. Fill the bucket with hot water from the tap. Stir well. This should thicken up more as it cools. Give it a day.

      Like I said I have never tried to make this into a liquid, so I can't guarantee the results. You may want to halve the recipe if you experiment

    7. You are fantastic! I had made the many laundry recipes out there and was researching adding citric acid or salt to our crazy hard water situation. So glad to read that you have tried it and found an effective recipe. Yay! No trial and error for me now :) Also good to read that you found a great recipe for icky husband clothes. I actually told my husband to keep his clothes separate from ours because they get so funky. I dissolve my powder it in hot water before switching it to cold too. Thanks so much!! -Brittany

    8. The funky sour smell one user experienced may be attributed to cold water washing clothes or other items that were damp. When damp items start to mildew, only a hot wash cycle can get the smell out by killing all the bacteria and funk. I used to wash only in cold water to save money etc, but I could never figure out why the towels and kitchen cloths stunk. Voila!

    9. Wow! Great! I have been searching to find out how much citric acid to add to my homemeade laundry powder. I will add a little more than you stated, probably a cup (double what is in your's) because I am using it to avoid having to use vinegar in the rinse. I am loving using my own homemeade laundry detergent powder, but I need to stop residue from accumulating. Thanks much!

    10. This is the first laundry powder recipe that I have ever seen that uses citric acid. Luckily, my hubby has access to some lab grade citric acid, so I can give it a try without having to commit to buying an entire huge tub of it at Amazon. As we have really hard water, this is interesting stuff!

      Oh, and I've had really good luck using my food processor and the shred blade to shred the soap (I use Dr. Bronners), then measure that out and use the normal blade to pulverize it and mix the other ingredients. Tends to dissolve much better that way and so should be good to go in cold water. It's the only temp of water that I use...

    11. I read somewhere where you shouldn't mix baking soda and citric acid. Is that true?

    12. When citric acid and baking soda dissolve in water, they react with each other forming sodium citrate, carbon dioxide and water.

      In concentrated measures this can cause an endothermic process (a chemical reaction in which heat is absorbed).

      Spilling this mixture on your skin is about as harmful as lemon juice would be and is generally considered very safe. In fact, many elementary science classes use this as a method to teach students about chemical reactions safely.

      Many natural cleaners include both ingredients in them. In fact Green Works by Clorox uses citric acid as one of their main ingredients.

      Hope this helps!

    13. Do you have a recipe for homemade soap instead of the castile soap?

    14. the homemade soap I make is castile, but you can use any natural homemade soap, lots of people sell it on Etsy or you can find lots of recipies online at mystic mountain sage

    15. You make castile soap? Do you make it from the castile liquid soap? I was checking the price and the castile bar soap is $4 or more a bar. That makes the laundry soap about the same price as buying it from the store. I looked up the web site for homemade soap but I have never made it before and don’t know which one would be good for laundry soap. Thanks for all your help!

    16. I make cold proccess olive oil soap. You can use bar Ivory or Zote soap if you wish, I just have very sensitive skin so prefer homemade soap

    17. Can I have your recipe?

    18. here is the recipe i use


    19. I was wondering why you don't use the ivory soap. It is good for sensitive skin, isn't it?

    20. Ivory is a fine soap for most people. I used it for years in the bath. If you like it by all means use it, the laundry soap will turn out well with it.

      I personally do not use it anymore because it does contain fragrance. I also found out they use animal fat (beef tallow).

      I prefer my soap be made with no added fragrance (since I developed allergies) and one that uses vegetable fat (olive oil)

    21. hi, new to the site, thanks.

    22. Just a heads up, but Fels-Naptha is safe. It no longer contains any Stoddard solvent which used to irritate skin etc. It is now completely safe.

      Health Considerations

      Fels-Naptha used to contain Stoddard solvent, a skin and eye irritant. According to the ingredients list on the Fels-Naptha website, Stoddard solvent is no longer included in the soap.[1]
      According to the "Chronic Health Effects" section of the National Institutes of Health's MSDS for the original formulation of Fels-Naptha:
      Chronic toxicity testing has not been conducted on this product. However, the following effects have been reported on one of the product's components. Stoddard solvent: Repeated or prolonged exposure to high concentrations has resulted in upper respiratory tract irritation, central and peripheral nervous system effects, and possibly hematopoetic, liver and kidney effects.

      Stoddard solvent is another name for mineral spirits, which are, like petroleum distillates, a mixture of multiple chemicals made from petroleum. Exposure to Stoddard solvent in the air can affect your nervous system and cause dizziness, headaches, or a prolonged reaction time. It can also cause eye, skin, or throat irritation.[3]

    23. Thanks Suny_Mama , good to know that they have changed the formula and made it a healthier product!

    24. I a allergic to borax. Any ideas on what I can substitute? Or can it be left out entirely?

    25. Does anyone know where you can buy Citric Acid powder?

    26. Citric acid powder can be found at your pharmacy, health food stores, sometimes even the grocery store carries it

    27. To use Citric Acid with washing soda, you have to overwhelm the citric acid with washing soda to make sure there’s enough left to do it’s high pH cleaning thing and avoid the possibility of deposits. Consider using only 1/4 cup of citric acid to every 1 cup of washing soda.

    28. Hi there. I have read all the posts and I was wondering if anyone has made this mixture/recipe into a liquid?

      1. I don't think so Deborah but I know there are a few liquid laundry soap recipes out there in the blogsphere

    29. I made my own homemade soap by just randomly adding ingredients. I used citric acid, baking soda and vinegar. It caused a nice liquid soap that work amazing. Now since I found your recipe I was wondering how would the vinegar work with the borax and washing soda? My recipe was about 1/4cup vinegar, 1/2cup baking soda and
      1/2cup citric acid. Also I make my own homemade soap, should I make a lye heavy bar next time or use a low PH one? Thanks!!

      1. the vinegar is fine to mix with borax and washing soda but I usually save the vinegar for in the final rinse (but thats me). I don't forsee a need for a lye heavy bar, your normal ones you use on your body works well.

    30. I have been reading that vinegar is corrosive to the insides of the washing machine (and dishwashers). Stick to citric acid crystals which are called sour salts in the grocery store.