I used to make it. I thought it was amazing! It was easy, quick, and cheap to make. It did work on stains. But it was totally a waste. Homemade Laundry Detergent cost me much more than I saved.
About 6 months after I started making my homemade laundry detergent, all of our clothes started to stink. Adam noticed it before I did. And I ended up having to completely replace our wardrobe.
What I didn’t know at that point was that the bars of soap you grate, that’s supposed to be the main cleaning agent, does not easily wash out in a washing machine. It built up over the course of several months and turned rancid.
The following is a very simple explanation. I am going to avoid jargon for the interest of making this understandable.
Soap and detergent are two different molecules.
Soap is basically a bubble of fat. Fats don’t mix with water so the fat can surround dirt, and other fats, like putting it in a bag or even inside a balloon. Then we use water to wash it away. The problem is that it takes quite a bit of water.
Detergent is a stick-shaped molecule with one end that binds to dirt. The other end binds to water. This means that detergent needs much less water than soap to wash out. And there is the rub.
Washing machines just don’t use enough water to properly wash out the clothes.
Additionally, this will cause your clothes that you want to be absorbent like towels or cloth diapers, to lose absorbency.
So Why Not Use Extra Rinses?
Soap attracts other fats like oil and lubricants. The same oil and lubricants your washer needs to operate properly. With each wash, you are slowly ruining your washer. Using homemade soaps will void your warranty, too. Eventually, you will have to replace your washer. You may have to replace your wardrobe like me. This is why using homemade detergent is ultimately bad for your budget.
What about Washing Soda and Borax?
I highly recommend keeping these around for laundry, They don’t harm laundry or your machine.
These are NOT cleaning agents though. These are chemicals that soften your water.
Most waters have dissolved minerals like calcium and iron present in them. We actually pay higher prices to buy “hard” bottled water because of them!
But store-bought detergents will bind to these minerals, making them less effective at cleaning our clothes.
If you have hard water, use a store-bought detergent and add ½ to 1 cup of a water softener.
How do you know if you have hard water?
Red stains in the bathtub mean that you have iron. Calcium will block small pipes over long periods of time. Well water or untreated water tends to be hard while treated water tends to be softer.
The only way to know for sure is the get it tested. Take a small sample from INSIDE your washer, if possible, and use a hardness test kit found in the aquarium aisle of most pet stores. It is easy and takes only a few minutes.
Some pet stores will do it for free if you bring it in. You may also be able to find the kits at hardware and pool stores.
What if you have been using HMD and are having no problems?
I have a challenge for you! I would love you for take pictures or videos of your progress through this challenge then tag me on Instagram (@this_addictive_mess), and use the hashtag #stripyourlaundry and/or #largefamilylife so I can check it out! Tag me and use the hashtag and I will definitely reply!
Here is my challenge:
I feel confident that most of you who use homemade detergent will end up with nasty, black water with dirt visibly sitting in the water.
I do strip my laundry on occasion, especially my big king-sized comforter. Click here to see a pic of the last time I did it. This particular picture was only from about 5 minutes into the strip. While you are there, follow my Instagram.
If you want to learn more about the science behind detergent, read this great but slightly more technical explanation.
If you want more info about and an alternative method to strip, read this tutorial.
Hi! I am Ali, a homeschool mom who is passionate about science, managing my money and time well. Unfortunately, with an army of tiny faces, I am always still kind of a mess.
I was tired of not having a judgement free place to talk about money troubles with other moms. So I created one!
Click on the picture above to join my Facebook Group, Money Savvy Mommas.