Chemistry in the Kitchen: Creating Laundry Detergent


| 8/15/2013 4:33:00 PM


Some things in life are certain: death and taxes. Add to that list laundry. The never-ending chore, laundry is a labor and resource intense process aimed at keeping people the world over smelling fresh and looking nice. Since forgoing laundry isn’t an agreeable option (for most), steps must be taken to make it more pleasant. Enter a little chemistry project: Creating Laundry Detergent.

Laundry detergent and fabric softener can be both shockingly expensive and chemically scary. MostChemistry In The Kitchen Creating DIY Laundry Detergent mainstream brands contain ingredients not easily understood or pronounced by the average consumer and the companies that make them strive to convince you it’s the only way to clean your clothing. Not true! Simple, safe and cheap, homemade detergent and softener can be yours for an investment of around $10 and 15 minutes.  Ingredients can be found at most big box stores, small general stores or grocery stores.

In addition to mixing ingredients, you’ll need a food processor or cheese grater, a spoon, and two storage containers (one needs to be liquid safe).  You may also want to label your creations, which can be done any way you like: chalkboard sticker and chalk, duct tape and permanent marker or white sticky label.

DIY Laundry Soap

Ingredients

For this project you’ll need:

½ cup borax
½ cup of washing soda
1 bar natural soap (suggestions: Dr. Bronner’s or Fels-Naptha)
3 drops essential oil (optional)



Directions

  1. Shave bar of soap. Using either a food processor or cheese grater, shave entire bare of soap into flakes.
  2. Mix ingredients. Pulse lightly in food processor or mix with hands in bowl, ensuring even distribution of all ingredients.
  3. Store and enjoy. Store indefinitely in an airtight container. Use 2 tbsp. per load of laundry.

No laundry cycle is complete without detergent’s constant companion: fabric softener.  Often eschewed by people with heightened environmental knowledge, homemade softener can be as “green” as you like. To give this solution the smallest footprint possible, use ingredients without sulfates, phthalates or parabens.

Alinda Harrison
8/23/2013 10:16:35 AM

VickiR, washing soda is basically just a granulated form of baking soda (same chemical, different texture). It can be found in the detergent/soaps aisle of most grocery stores, often on the top shelf right next to the Borax.


Alinda Harrison
8/23/2013 10:03:52 AM

VickiR, washing soda is basically just a granulated form of baking soda (same chemical, different texture). It can be found in the detergent/soaps aisle of most grocery stores, often on the top shelf right next to the Borax.


Alinda Harrison
8/23/2013 9:59:40 AM

buffnybiker, "essential oils" has always been the term referring to naturally derived fragrance oils. However, they are optional in this recipe anyhow. If you don't want to add fragrance - or if there is fragrance already in the soap you use - then don't use it. I don't and it works fine. Also Borax and washing soda are simple single ingredient products that are less toxic than most other cleaning products. I suppose you could wash your clothes with nothing but soap, but even soap (real soap, not detergent) has the caustic chemical lye in it, necessary for the saponification process. I agree with others that Fels-Naptha isn't the best choice of soap. Although most of the chemicals listed on its label are just the chemical names of the natural ingredients, it uses palm oil which had led to too much loss of rain forests. Personally, I use the comparably priced Kirk's Castile Soap (which has four ingredients: coconut oil, lye, glycerine, and fragrance) when I don't have access to just plain unscented homemade style soap.






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