DIY Natural Laundry Soap

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These formulas don't have any magical components that you can't pronounce. Instead, the cleaning power of these natural laundry soaps come from combining clean, pure ingredients.
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Banish harmful chemicals from your laundry with natural laundry soap recipes from “The Naturally Clean Home.”

Pair nontoxic ingredients such as baking soda, lemon and vinegar with essential oils to clean, disinfect and freshen every room. With more than 150 recipes for all-natural, easy-to-prepare solutions in The Naturally Clean Home (Storey Publishing, 2008), you can clean wood, glass, tile, porcelain, fabric, carpets and much more — naturally and safely — including laundry. In this excerpt taken from chapter 4, “The Laundry,” learn how to craft your own natural laundry soap.

You can purchase this book from ourMOTHER EARTH NEWSstore: The Naturally Clean Home.

The Herbal Touch

Herbal essential oils can be blended into laundry formulas (liquid or powder) or added to the softener dispenser of your machine. Essential oils not only boost cleaning power, they also provide a fresh, clean scent.

Essential oils can also lend therapeutic qualities. For instance, add tea tree essential oil to your laundry if you suffer from frequent yeast infections. Eucalyptus essential oil can be used when someone in the household is fighting a cold. Jasmine, rose, or ylang-ylang essential oil will impart a romantic scent to fine washables. You are encouraged to experiment! You can even create your own unique blend from the essential oil chart below.

Herbal-scented baking soda is another way to use essential oils in the laundry. Baking soda adds whitening power and is a natural water softener. For a 16-ounce box, use 15 to 20 drops of essential oil. You can mix it right in the box! Simply add the oils to the box and shake well. Or add 3 to 5 drops of essential oil to 1 cup of white vinegar; the oil lends additional cleaning power and helps to remove odors.

Be creative in your thinking, and you’ll soon find that you don’t miss store-bought detergents at all.

Essential Oil Chart for Laundry

All of these essential oils help clean and freshen the laundry. They offer other benefits as well.

CEDAR: Adds a clean, woodsy scent
EUCALYPTUS: Excellent for colds and sinus trouble
LAVENDER: Relaxing
LEMON: Stimulating, helps whiten laundry
PEPPERMINT: Good for colds and sinus trouble
ROSE GERANIUM: Adds a romantic scent
ROSEMARY*: Calming (but often stimulating on its own)
SWEET ORANGE: Helps remove stains and whiten laundry
TEA TREE: Antibacterial and antifungal

* Not suitable for wool, silk, or satin

Making Natural Laundry Soaps

These formulas don’t have any magical components that you can’t pronounce. Instead, the cleaning power of these soaps comes from combining clean, pure ingredients.

Basic Liquid Formula
Dr. Bronner’s, one of the most popular liquid castile soaps, is available in a variety of scents today, if you wish to skip adding your own essential oils.

2-1/4 cups liquid castile soap
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon glycerin
3/4 cup water
10-15 drops essential oil of your choice

Combine all ingredients into a plastic container or squirt bottle. Shake once or twice before adding to the wash. To use, add 1/4 cup per average load; 1/2 cup for extra large or heavily soiled loads.

Basic Laundry Soap Powder
This recipe will wash six average loads, but you can easily double it.

1 cup washing soda
1 cup scented baking soda (see essential oil chart for selection)
1 cup soap flakes or finely grated pure bar soap

Combine all ingredients and store in a heavy plastic container. Use 1/2 cup for an average laundry load.

Lemon Fresh Linen Wash
This formula can be used for any type of laundry, but it’s especially nice for cotton linens that have been allowed to dry naturally in the sun after washing. The aloe vera juice and vinegar soften, while citric acid and grapefruit extract brighten and sanitize.

2 cups liquid castile soap
1/2 cup aloe vera juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon powdered citric acid
2 teaspoons grapefruit seed extract
15-20 drops lemon (or lemongrass) essential oil

Combine all ingredients into a plastic container, preferably one with a pour spout. Give this formula a gentle shake, or just turn it upside down once or twice to make sure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed before adding it to the washing machine. For an average load, use 1/4 cup.

Hard Water Formula
Hard water can affect the performance of your laundry soap. This formula uses borax and vinegar as natural water softeners.

1 cup soap flakes or finely grated pure bar soap
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
2 cups vinegar
10 drops essential oil of choice

Combine the soap, washing soda, and borax in a heavy plastic container. Blend the vinegar and essential oils in a separate container, preferably one with a pour spout. Use 1/2 cup of the soap mixture for washing; add 1/2 cup of the vinegar mixture during the rinse cycle.

Fine Washables Formula
Rosemary is an old favorite for freshening delicate knits and lingerie. Note: Do not use on items that are 100 percent wool, silk, or satin.

1 ounce liquid castile soap
1 cup rosemary infusion

Steep two sprigs of fresh, bruised rosemary (slightly crushed between the fingers to release the oils), or steep 1 teaspoon of dried, crushed rosemary leaves in 1 cup boiling water for 15 minutes, then strain. If using essential oil, add 3 drops to 1 cup of hot water. Place the clothes in the washer and add the castile soap and rosemary infusion. Launder in cold water on the gentle cycle.

Baby Laundry Soap Formula
Babies can sure get their clothing messy! Borax and vinegar will help to whiten and soften fabrics.

2 drops essential oil (optional)
2 tablespoons liquid castile soap
1/4 cup washing soda
1 cup baking soda
1/4 cup borax
1/4 cup white vinegar

If using essential oil, mix with the castile soap. Add this mixture to washer along with the washing soda, baking soda, borax, and vinegar. Launder as usual.

Diaper Whitener

Add 1/2 cup borax, 1/2 cup vinegar, and 6 to 8 drops of essential oil to a pail or bucket of hot water. Soak diapers for 20 to 30 minutes, or more if heavily soiled, before laundering.

Pretreatments for Stains

Since vinegar can remove some dyes, test these formulas on a small area of the fabric before treating the actual stain.

Tea Tree & Salt Presoak
This stain remover is another great vinegar-based solution.

1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup salt
3 drops tea tree essential oil

Place clothes in washer and add enough warm water to cover them. Combine all ingredients and add to washer. Let clothes soak for an hour or more, then wash as usual.

Sweat Stain Remover
Use this formula to pretreat ring around the collar and perspiration stains.

1/4 cup vinegar
4 drops lemon, lime, or eucalyptus essential oil
1 tablespoon baking soda

Combine all ingredients. Rub the mixture into the stains with your fingers, a soft cloth, or an old toothbrush. Launder as usual.

Lemon & Tea Tree Perspiration Presoak
Try this fresh-smelling pretreatment before you wash.

1 cup vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 drops tea tree essential oil

Combine all ingredients and add to the clothes in a washer full of warm water. Allow to soak for an hour or two, then wash as usual.

Excerpted from The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier with permission from Storey Publishing, 2008. Buy this book from our store: The Naturally Clean Home.

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