As we mixed the third batch for our DIY Suds, we realized that (shame!) we should have been keeping you updated. Because, well, that’s 3 batches since February. And with each re-occurring batch, we spend nothing but a buck for the Fels Naptha soap. So, that would mean we’ve spent a total of $12 on laundry soap since last winter (and we still have enough for at least 2 more batches of the washing soda and borax). I’ll tell you right now, we love it. We’ve no plans to go back to the big box brands (or my cost-of-cleaning fits either).
Since then, it’s become this… um, thing. Of course we thought it was oddly fascinating, but we’ve come to find that many, many of you do, too! And that makes us happy. Over the last 5 months, your comments, emails and quips to all things DIY suds have made us realize that there are multiple sides, thoughts and opinions to this soapy solution. You’ve had a lot to say (good and bad), from H/E washer usage (yes, it’s okay!), to swapping soaps, adding oils and vinegar, and saving your sensitive skin:
I too have been making my own laundry detergent. Instead of FelsNaptha soap, I use Dr. Bronner’s Almond Soap. The smell is heavenly! – Susie
You can use about 1/3 cup white vinegar in place of the bleach and fabric softener. That eliminates the need for a dryer sheet too! – Rene
Last month we switched to a front load, high efficiency machine and it works like a charm because it generates very little suds. – Kelly
I’ve been making my own detergent for a few years now and have notes to add: 1) Borax cannot be used if you want to recycle your grey water; 2) You’ll need to use vinegar as a fabric softener every now and then to stop build-up in your machine; and 3) I always put 50ml (almost 2oz) of Eucalyptus or Tea tree oil in my mix. It adds some scent but has the beauty of being anti-bacterial. My recipe is adapted from here. – Cate
Works really great, especially if you or your kids have allergies or problems with eczema. – Jamy
For my first load I used 1 tbsp, and I didn’t feel it was enough. The 2nd load I used on whites and upped it to 2 tbsp. My whites were glowing! Stains that were in my dish rags are gone! Don’t expect sudsy bubbles or your clothes to smell nice. They will have no scent. They were definitely clean though! – Just Hugg
I use Ivory and Oxi-Clean as a boost as well. After I grate the soap, I put all the ingredients in the food processor and pulse until fine. I’ve had no problem with settling or clumping this way. – Becca
Every member of my family has ultra sensitive skin and had what seemed like permanent rashes where their clothing made skin contact. Once I got everything in the house that would touch them washed with the homemade detergent, the rashes miraculously disappeared! – Donna
I was initially getting a scent on our clothing and decided to see how much I really needed to get our clothes clean. So I spent a whole day doing laundry and I decreased every load by 1 tsp to see how much I needed to use for cleanliness – and as little as possible to have no scent. I have city water, an ancient Maytag top loader, and the hubs, me and 1 toddler. We only need 1 tsp, and our clothes come out clean! – Erin
I made my own laundry detergent for about 3 years, while my husband was in college. [...] I found that the detergent worked very well, and in fact, would lift impossible to remove stains if I applied the detergent directly to the stain and left it overnight. However, I found the homemade detergent to be very harsh on our clothing. The clothes faded very quickly and dramatically, and the fabric deteriorated much more rapidly. [...] I thought I’d just share my personal experience with this detergent, for you to take with a grain of salt! – Chrystal
Our note: Oh, no! We’ve yet to notice any fading, however, the majority of our wardrobe is hung to dry. I’ve always found that to be a big color saver for dark blouses, jeans, and tees.
I have had no problems with this in our HE washer. As a matter of fact, I asked the repairman working on our dryer about this recipe, and he said he recommends it to people all the time. I also make my own liquid fabric softener, and love it [...] I got the recipes for the liquid softener and detergent at http://www.tipnut.com. Happy washing! – Kim
I went to the Fels-Naptha website, and that stuff is toxic. No wonder it fades and degrades fabrics so quickly. It’s probably good for de-greasing engines. – Hester
Our note: Hester, we’re unclear on your source. We’ve also looked up the ingredients, and many of the natural acids are found in plants. The good thing is that if you’re not a fan of Fels Naptha, you can use Ivory or Dove soaps as an alternative.
Made this for a young couple getting married with a super tight budget. I calculated it out and DIY comes to $0.05/load compared to at least $0.15/load with the cheapest of store bought detergents. – Margaret
A few comments on the eco-friendliness of borax. It’s very dangerous if ingested. It can also be troublesome if it contacts your bare skin, so gloves are recommended before handling it. On the up side, it’s helpful as an eco-friendly ant & roach pesticide. (mix some with honey and set as a trap). It’s environmentally friendly, but the mining process for obtaining it is not. – Jane
There has seemed to be a great deal of confusion on the safety of borax, and for every puzzled comment, we’ve received input that has provided more information on why it really is okay for laundry use. As one reader, Mimi, says, for those who have “heard” borax is toxic, please read the actual safety data sheet. Borax is poorly absorbed through intact skin. Even a healthy adult ingesting 1 tsp of this isn’t harmful [...] After using this for MANY years, I can say its one of the better cleaning products on the market!
But another reader, Anke, had this to say: It turns out that borax is not very safe, in Germany it is even prohibited to sell it to private households as it classified as being potentially harmful to your unborn child and not safe for infants.
Yikes. We’ve noticed that the largest concern for borax has come from readers in European countries, but regardless, the alarm bells sounded in my mind. Scott and I were left to wonder, where are their sources? In the United States, borax is banned in food (some uses could have been used as an additive for food texture in other countries), and the almighty Wikipedia suggests harm in infants when used as an eye wash – especially after repeated use. Which, by the way, we’re not planning on doing.
On the other hand, I had a shmancy lunch date with a few girlfriends not too long ago, and the restaurant restroom provided borax as a hand soap! My dorky brain thought back to reader concerns, but in the end, all I can say it that is works for us. The positive feedback far outweighs the bad (with more tips and tricks found right here), and, well, we can honestly say we’re on board. F’reals.
If you’re a DIY-er of the homemade soap, how do you feel? And for goodness sakes, if anyone is willing to divulge candid details on the hot borax debate, please (kindly) tell.