Sunday, July 4, 2010

Laundry, mom_of_4 Style

My approach to laundry has evolved from a desire to save money and reduce excessive chemical use in our household. I love finding simple housekeeping solutions that are effective, cost-saving, and demonstrate that we do not need most of the things that are advertised to us on television. I also became concerned about the long-term effects of things like fragrances and fabric softeners in our clothing. Our skin is a porous organ that not only expels toxins out of our bodies, but allows us to absorb them in to our bodies as well. I recently received an email about the many uses of Bounce dryer sheets. Mosquito repellent was one of them! If it's so toxic that it will repel bugs, what is it doing to our bodies?

1) So, I started researching fabric softener. Did you know that the best, most cost-effective, natural fabric softener is plain white vinegar? Use vinegar instead of liquid fabric softener in your washing machine and you do not need to use dryer sheets. The vinegar cuts through the soap residue in your clothing that the machine cannot rinse out completely. It is the soap residue and hard water deposits in your water that leaves your clothes stiff without fabric softener. Once the clothes are dry, they do not smell of vinegar. To add further fluffiness to your laundry, add a couple of dryer balls to your dryer. I know you can purchase rubber ones from Norwex, but you can also make them from pure wool. They gently bounce against your fabrics while tumbling and fluff them up. I haven't had any major issues with static cling either using them.

2) I also make my own laundry soap powder. In 15 minutes you can grind up your own laundry soap powder that is significantly cheaper and just as effective:

1 bar of Sunlight soap
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda

All these items are readily available at supermarkets and discount department stores, and can have many more household uses than just laundry. Grate the bar of soap by hand or in your food processor, then grind the soap flakes together with the borax and washing soda. In my HE machine, I use 1 Tbsp for a regular load, so a batch will last for weeks. You would need to experiment with a top-loader washer, but I would estimate around 1/4 cup should be sufficient. Many of us use far too much soap in our laundry, wasting soap and making clothing stiff and prone to static cling. Experiment with as little as you need to use to get the results you want - you will often be surprised at how much you can save!

There has been much debate as to whether you will ruin your HE washing machine by not using purchased HE detergent. This soap is low-sudsing and has not caused me any problems after a couple years of use. You will also extend the life of your HE machine by cleaning it periodically to remove soap residue, whether you use homemade soap or purchase HE detergent. There is also an option to make a liquid laundry soap instead of powder, but it looked like a lot more work and I am satisfied with the powder's results.

You can also adjust the components for the type of laundry you do. For heavily soiled items you may want to add more washing soda. For delicates, you may want to use castile soap instead of Sunlight and cut back on the soda. Don't be afraid to experiment to get the results you want. You can always adjust the recipe if you need to. The internet is also a great resource for laundry and household tips to help you get great results.

3) Did you know that there are many things around your home you can use for stain removal? Grease spots can be removed with a few drops of dish soap. Our favorite, OxyClean, can easily be replicated with inexpensive 3% hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. You can make a soaking solution with the recipe below or in my HE washer I would add the hydrogen peroxide to the bleach dispenser and sprinkle the baking soda in the drum (as I would the OxyClean powder)

Homemade OxyClean

1 cup hot water
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide

Mix ingredients. To use on clothes, soak for 20 minutes or up to overnight and launder as usual.

With just a few changes you can save money, reduce your dependence on consumer items, and take back some control over what you choose to use in your household. I had to be careful to maintain some balance though so I wouldn't get overwhelmed. You can even learn how to make your own soap if you want! These are the things I could manage on a full-time work schedule, and even at that, my husband is still a fragrance addict and prefers me to use Tide and dryer sheets on his laundry. So we use what works for us, and I encourage you to find what works for your family too.


The Jansen Family said...

Thanks for the tips Lisa! Do you think you can use this recipe for cloth diapers?

mom_of_4 said...

I believe you could use this in place of your usual soap - I have to admit that I don't have experience in laundering diapers, though. All I know is that they need to be sanitized, and that would be independent of the soap you choose. What is great about this recipe is that you can use a gentler soap (eg. castile) or adjust the washing soda/borax or even add baking soda. Research and experiment with what works for you :o)

Jo Funk said...

The home made oxyclean... do you mix up a batch every time you want it? Or have you been able to store it and it still be effective later?

And yes, I just found your blog today!!

mom_of_4 said...

Jo, I think it would be just like mixing up a regular batch of Oxyclean solution from powder - it is only effective for so long.