Sunday, March 25, 2012

Stain busting laundry detergent

There are TONS of recipes out there for homemade laundry detergent, and after trying a good number of them, I have finally found my favorite. I've been using this concoction for several months, and am so happy with it that I'm pretty sure this will be my new standard from now on.

I have a busy little boy who loves to play hard and get messy. Dirt, food, paint, markers, popsicles, blood, you name it - it's been on his clothes. My husband is a middle school drama teacher, and has been known to come home from work with paint on his clothes, too. Building sets and making props is dirty work!

So I need a laundry detergent that works HARD. Because the last thing I want to deal with is pre-treating or re-washing. I want a detergent that gets out the stain the FIRST time.

Enter the humble Fels Naptha soap. Fels Naphtha was developed in 1893 as a home remedy for treating skin troubles caused by poison oak, poison ivy, and other oil-transmitted organic skin-irritants. Savvy homemakers quickly realized that not only would it wash away itch-causing oils from the skin, but it was also extremely effective at washing clothes. Folks have been grating Fels Naptha soap into their laundry water ever since. It's stain-busting power is unmatched in my opinion. Plus, it's only 97 cents a bar. You can't beat that!

Ready to wash some dirty clothes? Here we go! This is what you'll need:

Round up some super washing soda, borax, and fels naptha soap. These items should be right there with your regular laundry detergents at the store. You'll also need a grater and a container to keep your detergent in. A big glass mason jar works well, as does an old yogurt container, which seem to multiply like bunnies around here.

Step one - grate your soap. You need half the bar. Looks kind of like cheddar cheese, doesn't it? I think a finer grate works better, but if you're using a microplane grater get ready for a major tricep workout. The soap bars are pretty dense. Usually I get my handy husband to grate the soap for me, but I needed detergent in a bad way so I used my plain old box grater and did it myself. The detergent works fine, but I prefer a finer grate because the final product mixes together a little better that way.

Grate the soap and put it in your storage container. Then measure out one cup of borax, and one cup of super washing soda. Add to the container, put the lid on tight, and shake shake shake!

Ta da! Here's the finished product. I use an old 1/8 C measuring cup, and a scoop with that per large load gets the job done to my satisfaction. A couple tablespoons would probably work, too, if you don't have an 1/8 measure laying around. (PS - if you have a bigger container, by all means make a bigger amount.)

Here is the basic recipe in copy/paste-able form:

Stain Busting Laundry Detergent
1/2 bar of Fels Naptha soap, grated
1 C borax
1 C super washing soda

I honestly cannot vouch for the safety or efficacy of using this on cloth diapers. I have looked all over the internet and as with most things, opinions abound. Some say it is not cloth diaper safe, others say they use it all the time. Some say it's great for busting the stinkies, others say it makes it worse. I LOVE it for our clothes, but can't say from personal experience how it would work on diapers.

If you are looking for a cloth diaper safe homemade detergent, it's an easy substitution - switch out a bar of Dr. Bronners bar soap for the Fels Naptha. Perfectly safe, and widely used.

Since we are long past diaper washing days, I'd love some anecdotal evidence. Do you use homemade detergent? What recipe do you use? Do you use it on clothes AND on diapers?

Claire Williamson
Ecological Babies
(850) 228-8322


Krysten said...

Best detergent there is!

Mama Frog said...

Ohhh! I'm going to try this. And I had never heard of Fels Naphtha soap before. Poison ivy and I don't get along (am tending to a new case of it as I type), so I am interested to try it out for that too. Thanks for sharing!

Tanashia said...

I've used this before. It didn't work for us. Don't know if it was due to hard water or our HE machine.

Amy said...

I make a similar homemade detergent, but with Ivory instead of Fels, and with the addition of baking soda. It works great on our cloth diapers and clothes (except whites). However, I gave a scoop to my friend for her diapers and it left a film on them. We're Monticello; she's Tally...different water, different results?

Samantha Glenn said...

i've been making my own laundry detergent the past couple months too. I use 1 bar of dr. bronner's castile soap (lavender), 1 cup washing soda, 1 cup borax, and 1/2 cup baking soda. My husband loves it and it's WAY cheaper than the Method laundry detergent we were buying. Haven't used it with my cloth diapers, didn't want to chance anything, so I buy RG or Ruby Moon for my dipes.