For thousands of years, people have been doing their laundry without the use of chemicals. No modern laundry detergents, no chlorine bleach and certainly no corner dry cleaners. This is not to say that soap wasn’t used to launder clothing. The Romans are generally credited as the first to use soap to wash textiles. This ancient soap was made from lye, water and animal fat (lard).
The Germans invented the first synthetic laundry soap during WW I, out of necessity due to shortages of animal fats at the time. In the U.S., Americans used soap flakes for laundry detergent through the 1920’s. Then, Proctor and Gamble introduced Dreft laundry detergent. This was America’s first synthetic laundry detergent and was specifically designed for use with the new invention, the washing machine.
Fast forward to 2009. Our clothes are made less and less from all natural fibers and are now made from synthetic and natural blends or all synthetic materials. Synthetic fibers differ greatly at the molecular level from those of natural fibers and thusly the methods for removing soil from them differ. Utilizing natural methods to clean a synthetic fiber may not always be successful and in some cases could damage the material. Therefore, natural methods of laundering clothes discussed here are intended for use on natural fibers.
First, lets talk about the laundry detergent itself. Here is a recipe for a homemade laundry detergent that is all natural and has no synthetic chemicals.
Grate a bar of ivory bar soap. Heat a pot of water on the stove and add the ivory soap flakes to the pot of water. Continue “cooking” over medium heat until the flakes are all dissolved. Next, fill a 10-gallon bucket half full of really hot water and then add the dissolved ivory soap to the bucket. Next, add 1 cup of washing soda (sodium carbonate) and half a cup of Borax (sodium borate). Finally, add more hot water to the bucket until the bucket is full. When you are ready to use, stir the bucket first as the soap will gel from sitting. Use ½ to 1 cup of home made soap per laundry load.
Washing soda (sodium carbonate) is a substance akin to baking soda. Borax, though it sounds like some wickedly nasty chemical compound, is nothing more than a natural deposit that is mined domestically in California and the Southwest U.S. Both are readily available at your local super market.
Now lets talk about your whites. Natural fibers won’t yellow like man made synthetic fibers will, so there is really no need to use chlorine bleach on natural fabric like cotton. So, rather than using caustic chemicals that are dangerous to the environment, use the sun. The UV rays of the sun will naturally bleach natural fibers if left out in the sun. So, simply hang your whites out for a day in the sun and they will stay white.
Like your clothes soft, but don’t want to use those nasty chemicals to do it? Use vinegar as a natural fabric softener. Add a little to your laundry at the rinse cycle and it will not only soften your clothes but it will also remove any soap residue from the fabrics.
Natural laundry items like this are easy and cheap to make. So save some cash and help save the environment with some all natural homemade soap.