Recently, I’ve been on the search for a new powdered laundry detergent that’s safe for cloth diapers. I had also had several requests from readers for a borax-free laundry detergent they could use after concerns that borax could be irritating on the skin. I began researching different all-natural cleaners and stain removers that were soap free. I already used baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to help whiten my laundry. Baking soda is a natural fabric softener, whitens fabrics, removes odors and fights tea and coffee stains. My other laundry “detergent” recipe already contained Washing Soda (sodium carbonate). It will break down and remove wine, oil and grease stains and naturally softens the water. What I was lacking was something to get out diaper stains. I’d used Oxy-clean in the past, but there was concern about optical brighteners being present in Oxy-clean and their use on cloth diapers (Oxy-clean maintains that it does not contain optical brighteners, but perception is reality). I also didn’t want to use soap (i.e. Fels Naptha) because of its possibility of building up on cloth diapers and causing leaks.
Edit: I did add Epsom salt to this recipe and here’s why. I grew up in a house with a water softener. Hard water is usually due to the presence of magnesium and/or calcium. Depending on the levels in your water, this could lead to calcium deposits in the pipes and soap scum in the sinks, showers, dish washer and washing machine. High enough levels of calcium or magnesium in the water will bind with the soap, creating an insoluble solid (aka soap scum). A water softener removes these minerals and gives us water in it’s most pure form, H2O. The problem I had growing up is that I never felt like the soap rinsed clean. I always felt a little slimy after a shower and my hair was still sudsy. This is a problem if we’re talking about cloth diapers because it can also lead to leaks and odors. You see, we actually need some of these minerals in our water to create the proper chemical reactions so everything will rinse clean. We really don’t want hard or soft water. We want balanced water. In my home in Florida, we do not have hard water. Actually, I suspect that our well is spring fed. As a result, our water is very balanced. This recipe is based upon use in my balanced water. If you have soft water, you may actually need more Epsom salt. If you have hard water, you may need less. Remember, this recipe won’t create suds, so don’t use that as a basis for whether the Epsom salt is making your water too hard. Determine how you will adjust the recipe based upon if the clothes look and smell clean after a wash cycle.
I did find this guide to Green Laundry Stain Removers. Many of the stain removers I already knew about. I used to use a combination of lemon juice and corn starch to remove yellow stains on the feet of my show rabbits. One I didn’t know about was salt. As it turns out, salt can be very useful at removed liquid stains. Check out Uses for Salt: Doing the Laundry. Salt is proven effective against blood, gravy, grease, ink, mildew and wine. I’ve also found that it’s great at getting out set in stains that make white fabrics dingy.
It’s taken some tweaking to come up with a recipe I was really happy with. My goal was to find something that was safe on cloth diapers, but would brighten my whites as well as if not better than bleach. I really like this recipe because it doesn’t have any soap in it. I’ve also found that it makes a great household cleaner and stain fighter. Take a small amount of detergent and mix it with a little bit of water to form a paste. Rub it into the stain and it will almost instantly disappear I’ll warn you though, if you do it on upholstery, the spot where the stain used to be may end up being cleaner (and therefore lighter) than the rest of your furniture. The paste also works great on grout lines.
Borax Free Powdered Laundry Detergent
1 1/2 c Baking Soda
1 1/2 c Washing Soda
1/2 c Epsom Salt
2 Tbsp Salt
A few drops of essential oil for fragrance (a little bit goes a very long way)
Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor. Blend until well combined. Store in an airtight container (I use a mason jar).
1-2 Tbsp per large load of laundry.
I’ve been making my own laundry detergent for several years now. I am still amazed at how easy it is, especially these dry mixes. My liquid laundry detergent recipe is a little more labor intensive (not by much), but you can literally get 10 gallons of laundry detergent for $2-3. One batch lasts my family a couple months months.
Feel free to try different recipes or tweak them to work for your family. Your water is different than mine, so you may need more or less of an ingredient to get it to work well for your family.