There are various options to go zero waste when buying washing powder. There are many powders in nice recyclable cardboard boxes out there. But here’s the rub, inspect the ingredients and read the warnings on those washing detergent boxes and you will be none the wiser as to the contents. Most show vague descriptions
One of the components that I was able to look up is propylene glycol, which is in several top brands. It acts as a stabiliser for the dirt-removing ingredients, and, at the same time, helps them to retain their function at lower washing temperatures cycles. Its also classified as a skin irritant and can cause damage to the skin, rashes, and dermatitis.
Another regular ingredient in washing powder is Sodium Dodecylbenzenesulfonate. I have read reports that this chemical is considered a low to moderate hazard ingredient but there are notes regarding exposure which can lead to irritation of the skin and eyes, and concerns regarding neurotoxicity and endocrine disruption.
Add in a concoction of fragrances, mainly synthetic chemicals that are often classed as ‘trade secrets’ and these are not disclosed or tested. They are considered to be among the top five allergens that can trigger asthma attacks. Also, around 75% of fragrance contains phthalates. Phthalates have been linked to diabetes, obesity and hormone disruption which affects both development and fertility
A lot of laundry detergents contain optical brighteners, which are formulated to intentionally remain in the clothes. They leave a residue on the clothes that reflect light and make clothes look brighter. These toxic chemicals are constantly in contact with the skin and are breathed in through the lungs. Optical brighteners have the capacity to make the skin become photo-reactive and more sensitive to sun exposure. Many people develop skin irritation and rashes from exposure to optical brighteners. Not to mention that they are toxic to fish when these chemicals enter the waterways. An article in a UK newspaper recently concluded that everyday chemicals, including cleaning products, perfumes, and paints, are now contributing to air pollution more than cars. The tiny particles contained in these compounds are said to be harmful to our lungs, and concentration levels are ten times worse inside the home than outdoors. Apart from the absorption of chemicals into the waterways, if you dry your clothes inside the house, chemicals evaporate into the air and remain in contact with your skin when you are wearing your freshly washed clothes.
Using organic chemicals are much better to have in the house if any of your family have allergies and sensitivities.
Listed below are the ingredients that I use to make my washing powder. The only caution I would use if you have hypersensitive people in your household is Oxyplus stain remover. My partner is very sensitive to chemicals and it does not upset his system. It’s under the optional ingredients and you could always add a scoop as you go if you are nervous of causing a reaction.
Laundry Soap: I use Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Bar Soap which is made with all organic ingredients
Borax Substitute: A mineral compound, with the perfect pH for cleaning
Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda) is an effective but gentle abrasive and a great natural deodoriser
Washing Soda: The old fashioned way to get your house and clothes clean and sparkling. Soda Crystals have been around for generations. Useful in a variety of laundry tasks. Remove tough stains from clothes
Optional Ingredients: Epsom Salts: Comprised of the minerals magnesium and sulfate, Epsom salt is a natural exfoliant and anti-inflammation remedy that can be used to treat dry skin, sore muscle s, small wounds and even to fight illness. It can also be added to any bath or foot soak to create a luxurious at-home spa experience. I use it as I live in a hard water area and it is great as a softener.
Essential Oils: I add lemon and grapefruit oil. You can either add to the powder in the tray per batch or add as you blend a batch. I add anything up to 20 drops per 10 litre batch.
Oxyplus Stain Remover: I add it occasionally for the really mucky overalls that I get presented with! This does contain sodium carbonate peroxide & Sodium Carbonate which are both classified as poisons but the amount in household products usually does not cause problems. However, exposure to the pure chemical can cause skin irritation., so use with caution.
QUANTITIES to make 10L I generally make a batch of 30 litres
Laundry Soap 160g
Borax Substitute 360g
Washing Soda 270g
Bicarbonate of Soda 360g
Laundry Oxyplus Stain Remover 400g
Epsom Salts 250g
Essential Oils 20 drops
You can grate the soap. However, I find this quite a challenge as I have stiff hands so prefer to blend down in stages. I chop up the laundry soap into chunks with a sharp knife. I then add batches of the soap chunks into a food processor and blend down to a fine powder. You can add some of the bicarbonate of soda at the same time as this as it helps stop the soap from sticking to the blades. If you are using essential oils, drop into the food processor as this helps blend into the soap.
In a large bowl, mix the borax substitute, washing soda, and bicarbonate or baking soda. Blend all the ingredients together and store in a large sealed container. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons to each load of laundry.
There are more eco-friendly alternatives on the market, so do your research. But have a go at making your own. Its great fun and deeply satisfying.