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Making your own detergent – pt. 2

May 31, 2010

Some good points were raised about the ‘why’s’ behind why I wanted to change my laundry detergent and what the benefits were. Using Tide free for HE costs roughly 0.30 cents a load, whereas I’ve roughly calculated that making my own detergent will cost me about 0.08 cents a load. Now, I’ve only just made my first batch so I’m not exactly sure how many loads I’m going to use but I did a rough calculation when I started just by adding all the cups together and then dividing by the 1/4 cup I use per load and there you go but I’m sure that’s what the tide people do too and I never seem to get 96 loads out of the big container of detergent so who knows what will happen. I’ll let you know once I figure it all out!!

As for the environmental benefits I’ll explain it as I understand it, I don’t purport to be any kind of chemist and the internet is my entire source but I feel good about the information I’ve collected.
There are a few main ingredients to a detergent that both mine and the companies use:
Surfactant: or wetting agent, it lowers the surface tension of liquid and allows penetration. This is carried out by the soap bars or (if you can find it) fels naptha. Surfactant can be found in many things like shaving lotion, sanitizing products, emulsifiers, etc. Surfactant can be harmful if used in the wrong way when some of the molecules are changed but since I already told you I’m no chemist I’m going to leave it at that and if you’re interested further please feel free to google the chemical functionalities of surfactant and report back!!!

Enzymes: These are the chemical catalyst that allows the interacting between the water and the surfactant to be sped up and when the surfactant is bonded to the dirt to be washed away.

Insoluble Ash: This is your washing soda, or washing ash. I have to say, I find this stuff incredibly difficult to find and because of this may have to keep some Tide on hand just in case I run out of my own detergent. This past weekend I went shopping in Syracuse and several of the stores I visited looking for this looked at me with a strange look in their eye. One of the staff at Walmart accusingly said ‘Is that a Canadian thing’ dripping with disgust.  When I said no, that I had found it on American websites he changed his tune but let me know he had never seen such a thing or heard of it, so the search continues.  You can also substitute Baking Soda but I don’t suggest that as a long term solution since baking soda isn’t as alkaline and you need that to get the dirt to actually wash away!

Whiting agents and Fragrances: I don’t add these in extra as they can leave a residue and are often not biodegradable and will leave residues on your clothing.  I have used the sunlight bars which do have a lemon fragrance in them but is a considerably smaller amount than what is in the tide detergent which still smells of febreeze even after they’ve been hanging on the line outside for 4 hours!

** A note about washing diapers: I actually still use a soap called ‘Nellies’ for my diapers.  I bought the package a few weeks before I decided to switch but Nellies is crazy expensive so I only use it for my diapers.  Before Nellies I used a laundry powder called Charlies and LOVED it but couldn’t find it in Canada.  Charlies did an amazing job at getting the stains out even during the winter months when I was using the dryer.  Nellies is alright even though I’m drying them with the line but since I paid $21 for just 3lbs I’m going to use it up.  I only use about a tablespoon of detergent for a full load of diapers but I have to do a full rinse before to get enough water in my HE machine to get them really clean.

So there it is, any questions?  I seriously hope not, because this is all i know!!!  But if anyone out there knows where to buy any of this stuff in Canada without shipping (because amazon doesn’t ship to Canada) please let me know!!!



*again, I am no chemist and if any of my info is off, please LET ME KNOW!!!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 31, 2010 4:11 pm

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen washing soda at the grocery store and at walmart. My mom is a big fan of it, and adds it as a booster to her regular detergent.

    I use the sunlight fragrance free enzyme free formula in a white bottle. Something a lot of people don’t realize is that the detergents labled “free and clear” or similar are not actually refering to the detergent being free of anything, but has to do with killing dust mites. Which, like the optical brighteners, is achieved by adding even more stuff to your laundry. From what I’ve read, you need to look for “enzyme free” on the label. That’s what The Internet sez, at least 😉

    I will definitely look up the sunlight bars and see if i can find out what’s in them. I have perfume allergies and some detergents give me hives so i have to be careful, but i remember using sunlight as a kid and it being fine. We used to use the bars in the summer to prevent “The Itch” when swimming in the lake, so I wonder if it leaves some kind of residue?

    I’d love to find an environmentally friendly alternative to commercial detergents. All those chemicals in our home and water supply, ew… One of many reasons i would never use fabric softener or bleach. Nasty.

    • May 31, 2010 5:21 pm

      I did look at walmart in Kanata for the washing soda but perhaps they were just out that day 😦 Although I can’t imagine it’s a huge seller in that neck of the woods 🙂

      The sunlight bars list as the ingredients: sodium tallowate, aqua, sodium cocoate, glycerin, parfum, sodium chloride, citric acid, tetrasodium edta, sodium silicate, and then some colours. Definitely some things I could do without but with the lack of the fels naptha it’s the best option that I could find considering that I can control exactly how much actually gets into the wash. Since the borax is also a washing agent I’m not too worried. I do have to say though that it’s stain fighting is not at all as good as using tide or something to that effect. I did buy a container of oxyclean to add in to my mix when I’ve got a load of smelly bibs or when someone has an accident and I need a boost.

      I totally agree on the fabric softner, we switched to vinegar or nothing back in February and I was was worried about what would happen once we didn’t have the dryer to soften everything but I’m totally not even missing it. S. Geek has a big thing against perfume too it irritates his nose to no end so I always try to avoid anything with artificial smells (even though I really wish I could burn smelly candles in the house) and he seems relatively pleased with the small amount of perfume that comes from the sunlight bars. Let me know if you find something that’s a good alternative!

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