Raise your hand if you like to clean! What?—no one?! Well, me either. But, unfortunately, it has to be done, and I am the person doing most of the cleaning. Ugh. I am also the leader of the cleaning brigade: my children and husband. As someone who is environmentally conscious, I have been attempting to “go green(er)” in my cleaning. Strong fragrances, unknown chemicals, and the thought of polluting our drinking water pushed me to at least start researching my options. The effects of chemicals on my family prompted me to go further. Granted, I’m taking baby steps, but I am hoping to step up my game. It turns out that green cleaning really isn’t that difficult, but it does requires a mind-shift.
Laundry was the first area I tackled. Definitely not my favorite household task, but one of the biggest. As a family of four, we use the washing machine almost every day. We use dye-free detergent for my sensitive-skin family, but there are many other elements listed in the ingredients. I found out that phosphates do a lot of damage to our environment and are actually now banned from laundry detergent in most states. I also read that detergents contain a substance that mimics the hormone estrogen, and its presence in water may be harming the reproduction and survival of salmon and other fish. I don’t know about you, but I don’t wish for any extra estrogen to leak out into the world without an actual woman to control that super powerful hormone. Also, my belief is that all reproduction systems are sacred and not to be tampered with.
I decided to take the plunge and begin making my own laundry detergent. It was easy to do, but my husband found it “weird” because he missed the scent. But with time, he adjusted. Which is basically how our marriage works. The recipe I used worked well. If I had a more heavily soiled item, I would pre-soak or spot clean with a little hydrogen peroxide before washing normally. I also found that the cost of the ingredients was less than the cost of commercial detergent. Winning!
Laundry Detergent Recipe
- Washing soda (I use Arm & Hammer)
- Borax (I use 20 Mule)
- Baking soda
- Bar of soap of your choice (I use Ivory or another natural soap bar )
- Using soap of your choice, grate the bar soap until finely ground in a large bowl.
- Mix two parts washing soda, two parts Borax, and one part grated soap. (I use one bar of grated soap and one cup each of washing soda and borax.)
- Add a couple tablespoons of baking soda to help freshen clothes.
- Store in closed container. (I keep mine in quart or half gallon mason jars.) If you are using a big enough container, you can just put all ingredients in storage container or jar and shake. Use 1/4 cup per load of laundry.
I decided to tackle dryer sheets next. My family has very sensitive skin, and I have a sensitive nose—not to mention, most dryer sheets contain a “hormone disruptor” that can interfere with the body’s natural chemical messages, either by blocking or mimicking the actions of hormones. I’m no scientist, but I definitely don’t want to mess with my children’s hormones. I’m sure their hormones will torture me just fine in teenage years without any assistance or manipulation. I stopped buying dryer sheets and wadded up a ball of aluminum foil and threw it in the dryer. I’ll be honest, this didn’t rid all of my static cling. But it did help. Again, my family adjusted. Static cling disappears after you separate items and lay them out separately. Static cling on a skirt? I make sure to lotion my legs, and the problem disappears.
Liquid soap was another experiment of mine. I stopped buying anti-bacterial soap ages ago, but I still worried about all those extra fragrances and unknown ingredients. The recipe I used was a little tedious, but the end result was…OK. I’m still looking for a better recipe. I recently went to a Green Cleaning class at my local library and picked up a new recipe that I want to try. It is super simple with just two ingredients and doesn’t involve grating. Yay!
Liquid Hand Soap Recipe
- 8 1-oz. bars of soap, grated (or equivalent amount)
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable glycerin
- 1 gallon distilled water
- The first thing you’ll do is grate the soap. You can do it by hand using your box grater. Or you can stick the soap into your microwave for a minute or two, let it cool, and then crumble it into smaller bits with your hands. Easy, peasy!
- Pour the gallon of distilled water into a large pot and place it on your stove top to warm up. You don’t want it to be boiling hot, but it needs to be warm enough to dissolve the soap.
- Once the water has heated through, dump the grated soap in and stir. Keep stirring until the soap has dissolved into the water, and then mix in the glycerin. Let this sit overnight in a large container.
- The next day, stir it up and then transfer it into your soap dispensers.
My advice to anyone who wants to try a little healthier cleaning is just to plunge in. There are tons of recipes on the internet and the all-powerful, idea-melding mecca that is Pinterest. The whole idea of green cleaning means fewer, simpler ingredients, which makes it perfect for my keep-it-simple style of surviving life. Start small and don’t worry if you resort to sometimes buying the commercial stuff. Just keep trying new recipes until you tweak one you like or find the perfect one for you. I have a ways to go, but I continue to add more natural everyday cleaners to my home. I know you can too!