Homemade Detergent: The Dirty Truth

December 3, 2015 Dry Cleaning

It’s a thing that happens. Is this trend really better for the environment and your clothes? Find out…

Everyone is environmentally conscious these days and that’s a good thing. But there are a couple fads that you should know more about before you jump on the wagon. We’re talking about homemade detergent. Some of the recipes we’ve seen will not clean your clothing, and might actually harm it. We did some research and here’s what we found.

The Common Recipe

The first thing we noticed is this thing called borax. After checking our Dr. Seuss library, we realized that this wasn’t related to the Lorax, (though we hear he’s very environmentally focused as well). Borax, it seems, is a chemical compound – a mixture of a mineral, and a salt of boric acid. It’s also called sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate. Whoa! Are we making soap or rehashing Chemistry 201? Well, borax is a common additive to detergents and cleaners, used in bathrooms and kitchens. We’re not too sure that’s natural, but it still counts as homemade, mostly.

The next ingredient is a thing called Fels-Naptha. This isn’t included in all homemade detergent recipes, but a fair few. Enough for us to ask, “What is that?” Well, it’s a pre-treating soap in bar form. The trademark is owned by Dial. Less and less homemade every minute. Fels-Naptha is also a known skin irritant. Not for baby, the little ones or anyone with sensitive skin.

Of course, any bar of soap will do. Pick your favorite. We went with something Green for March.

Many of the recipes for homemade detergent also called for “washing soda.” This is similar to baking soda;washing soda is also used to remove stains. Washing soda can be made from baking soda (by cooking the latter for up to two hours in your oven – we’re suggesting you do your own research first – chemicals and ovens are usually a no-no) or purchased from Arm & Hammer.

The end result, depending on the recipe you choose is either a powder or a liquid, used in teaspoon increments. The DIYers we researched show clearly that DIY detergent works, but not much better than any store bought brand. The total cost is a little over ten bucks – cheaper, but that’s before you count in your time and chemistry set.

Another important factor is that store bought detergents have water softeners blended into them. So, if you have hard water problems, maybe homemade detergent isn’t the way to go! As well, if you have to go to the store to pick up Fels-Naptha, Borax, Washing Soda and a few bars of Irish Spring, why not just grab some pre-made detergent?