While living in my eco-house, I’ve gradually been moving towards using simpler, non-toxic ingredients for household cleaning. I’m not an expert! and I’d encourage you all to do some researches online; but I’ve put a few ideas below.
See also a couple of pieces that I've collaborated on, about eco cleaning and the consequences of putting horrible stuff down our drains:
As of 2021, this page is still in progress. I've recently updated the recipes for laundry liquid, and added a page on non-plastic scourers and sponges.
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Powder is a bit more abrasive, which results in more microfibres getting into the water from synthetic clothing. But it's easier to store.
NB Something to learn is that good foaming doesn’t mean good cleaning! Commercial products have foaming agents to convince consumers that they’re working well. Home-made laundry products don’t foam up so much but are doing exactly the same job.
For whitening laundry (if you must), use oxygen bleach powder – far more environmentally friendly to manufacture and use than chlorine bleach; what’s rinsed down the drain is non-toxic. Try Dri-Pak Oxi-Boost, or Vanish O2 powder or various own-brands.
For fabric softening, white (distilled) vinegar is excellent, and as a bonus descales your machine. Just pour plenty into the fabric-softener drawer. I promise that your clothes will not smell of vinegar!
Finally, the important ingredient of soap-flakes/grated soap/soap powder. This is needed for laundry powder (below), but is also vital for good laundry liquid. You can use liquid soap, but the result doesn't emulsify so needs a lot of shaking before each use. Soap-flakes are hard to buy these days, so see Making soap powder for simple info on how to make grated/powdered soap. NB It must be pure soap, with minimum additives: vegetable oil (non-palm), caustic soda (lye – the ingredient which turns fat into soap). (In contrast, see below for the list of ingredients of Dove non-soap.) I am still experimenting with the best soap-bars for this.
Here's my 2021 recipe for laundry liquid
30ml borax substitute
30ml washing soda
20ml grated/powdered soap
Boil 500ml water, stir some into the dry mix and mix till dissolves. Leave for a while, pour rest of water in, mix at intervals
(3 tbs per load)
And here's a recipe for laundry powder:
Equal amounts washing soda and borax substitute with some (not too much) finely-grated/powdered soap
(2 tbs per load)
Simple interim alternatives:
- Or just as a tryout, before you switch entirely, try replacing some of your normal laundry liquid/powder with washing soda
- Or mix equal amounts of borax substitute and washing soda in a jar; for a wash, put 2 tablespoons of the mix into the powder drawer, and pour in a tablespoon of Dri-Pak liquid soap
Notes about soap:
Back to soap as an ingredient. Here are the ingredients of Dove bars, as a warning.
Meanwhile, if you're not wanting solid soap for recipes, Dri-pak's liquid soap does come in a plastic bottle (recyclable), but as you only use a tiny amount at a time it'll last you for ages. Here are its ingredients (contrast this with other products at Green and non-green brands):
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Kitchen and bathroom - moving towards green
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