I started using Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day aroma-therapeutic laundry detergent in my efforts to live a sustainable and paleo safe lifestyle. While I love the brand, I don’t like the price and the good fragrance disappears on me in the dryer. A hard lesson I am learning about my organic lifestyle choice is that natural products are much more expensive than synthetic ingredients.
So in the spirit of my “keep it simple stupid” Army motto, I learned to make my own natural product. I choose to use Fels Naptha laundry bar and stain remover for my heavily soiled farm clothes, but a bar of white Zote soap is just as safe and effective. If you have sensitive skin, you can also use a grey water safe organic bar of Dr. Bronner's castile soap.
The Fels Naptha laundry soap I use for heavily soiled clothes isn't organic, but it is the safest natural alternative that I can come up with thus far to keeping my farm clothes clean. If you ever have questions about ingredients in your personal care or cleaning products, I recommend running a search for them in Environmental Work Group's (EWG) cosmetic database.
What I like about this DIY product is that although it isn't organic, it doesn't contain any artificial fragrances, dyes, or harsh chemicals (because it is a soap not a detergent) that are bad for me or the environment. As a former corporate Safety Officer, I can't help but to read the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). The ingredients come from natural sodium soap, emulsifiers and terpenes (plant resins) and are non-toxic/non-carcinogenic. Some ingredients may irritate skin (so don't bathe with it) but they are used in minimal amounts and this old fashioned soap bar has been used safely for over 100 years.
My recipe calls for:
- 2 bars of Fels Naptha Laundry Bar & Stain Remover
- 2 cups of Arm & Hammer Washing Powder
- 3 cups of 20 Mule Team Borax
Buy the ingredients as laundry kits here:
I grated the Fels Naptha soap bar with a cheese grater (but you can use a food processor), mixed the ingredients in a bowl, and funneled the powder into an empty mason jar. You can also dissolve it in hot water and make a liquid detergent if you are motivated enough. This mix is safe for all washing machines, even top loaders and high-efficiency types.
I use 2 heaping tablespoons per large load because I have hard water and dirty/oily/smelly farm clothes. Sometimes I add a cup of 5% hydrogen peroxide (non-chlorine bleach) for good luck. It didn’t seem like enough at first but the bar is very concentrated. I have been using this mix for several months and now I share it with confidence with you - my friends and family. Let fully dissolve in warm water before adding clothes to avoid any possibility of color fading.
Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap Bar: Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Palm Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Water, Organic Olive Oil, Lavandin Extract, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Lavender Extract, Sea Salt, Citric Acid, Tocopherol
Fels Naptha Soap Bar: soap (sodium cocoate*, sodium palm kernelate*, sodium palmate*, sodium tallowate*), water, talc, dipentine, coconut acid*, palm acid*, tallow acid*, palm kernel acid*, peg-6 methyl ether, peg 8, glycerin, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate, tetrasodium etidronate, fragrance, triclocarban titanium dioxide, yellow 5, red 40, benzyl salicylate, d-limonene, linalool *contains one or more of these ingredients
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda: sodium bicarbinate
20 Mule Team Borax: sodium borate
PALEO TIP: If this is too much DIY for you, go totally organic with Wildcrafted Soapnuts, the original paleo soap source of saponin (soap).They are the dried fruit of the Chinese Soapberry Tree (Sapindus Mukorossi).
Soap nuts contain saponin, a natural detergent. The soapnut shell absorbs water and releases the saponins which circulate as a natural surfactant in the wash water, freeing dirt, grime, and oils from clothing. To get a fresh smell, add your favorite essential oil to a wool ball when the heat cycle finishes on fluff for 10 minutes.