Sunday, March 13, 2011


Most of us know that “there was life before detergent”. Today’s giant multinational companies make us believe that there is nothing better than their synthetically perfumed detergents that get dirt out of our clothes while, at the same time, penetrating the fabrics with petroleum based and other toxins. Our clothes are "shinning bright" but marketers somehow forget to mention the impact such washing has on the environment and our health. So clean is not always clean. 
This is why many people go back to basics, washing clothes as was done some time back. How did our grandmothers wash their clothes when the detergent didnt exist? They still had shinning clothes because they could not efford to buy new ones every now and then. So what was wrong with the soap? During the war there was shortage of soap and that is when it all started. Detergent was born. Different kinds of chemicals were added into washing and from the 60’s Procter & Gamble introduced detergetns with enzymes.
Home detergent making

Well, your home-made detergent has three basic ingredintes soap, washing soda and water. This recepie is rather common and you will find different recipes with varying quantities. I suggest you test and find your own best quantity also depending on the water hardness. I use:
One bar of castile soap 
One large cup (aprox 250ml) of washing soda
10 litres of water

10 drops of eucalyptus oil or 10-20 drops of grapefruit seeds oil (natural desinfectant and scent)
Grate the castile soap with a grater (best into a 10-litre basket) pour some boiling water and stir until the soap disolves. Add the remaining water and washing soda and stir again well. Add your favorite scent. If you do not like eucalyptus or grape seed oil you might like to add othe essential oil of your choice.
Before it cools down, you can pour the mixture into plastic bottles for simpler usage but I just leave it in a plastic bucket covered with a lid (there are plenty plastic containers all over the place so no need to go buy more plastic. Just reuse some you might already have). Your detergent will become more solid, similar to a wobbly jelly so do not get allarmed. It dissolves perfectly in warm water but if you prefer a cold wash (which I applaud) then dissolve it in warm water or simply shake well in a bottle where you stored it. If your health non-threatenning and earth friendly home made detergent is too watery then it might need more soap. It is super simple and takes only 10 min to make your detergent. Basically, you can store this detergent for some time but I would not be making much stock. Ten litres will last for 20-25 washes. I usually put a good size cup into 6kg washing load (normal size washing machine).
Heavy soil clothes and stains 

You might want to add 1/2 cup of lemon juice or small amount of white vinegar into the rinse cycle. 1/2 a cup of baking soda or so called “borax” will have bleaching properties or simply soak more soiled laundry before washingGall soap is very good to rub onto stiff stains before placing into the machine. It is an ecological stain removal efficient on grass, blood, grease and wine stains.

Just experiment, be creative and simply think “where doest it come from and where does it go”. Im sure you will do just great and you will feel good about living more in sinc with the nature.

Do’s & dont’s:
  • Place your eco-detergent directly into the washing machine with your load.
  • To avoid soap stains and if too solid, dissolve the your soap detergent in a separate recipient with hot water before pouring it into the washing machine.
  • Find a local producer of soap for your laundry, there is no need to have it shipped from far away.
  • Although you might like to use other soaps with similar properties, avoid using classical and heavily perfumed soaps.
  • Some may ask if to use a box of soap flakes. Again, you can but the box of flakes is one more package, thus a bigger bulk for transport, thus more resources involved and more environment affected. What I like particularly about this excercise, besides the earth friendly ingredients, is that Im able to make 10 litres of detergent out of a cube of soap and soda powder. To buy a 10-litre liquid detergent is to be transporting water from one place to another. We are either super rich to be able to afford that or super stupid in still applying such practices.
  • I have seen our US friends making similar recipes using a food mixer to mix the above. Please dont. The point of all this excercise is to be earth friendly so using an electric device for such a simple task is a bit of an exaggeration. Besides, you do not want to be placing detergent for as earth friendly as it may be into your food processor. Besides the washing soda (unlike baking soda) is still a chemical that should not be mixed anywhere close to the kitchen.


  1. Hi Hana, here are my mothers' recipes.

    Let boil some clean (no carbon) wood ash in a pot of water for two hours. Then, let it rest for a couple of days, until the residual of the ash deposits at the bottom of the pot. Use the water, which absorbed the bleach properties of the ash, which strengthen the whitening action of your detergent. There are several ways of doing that:
    a. filtering the water in the pot multiple times and mix it with the detergent for hand or machine washing, or b. pour the ash mixture on the pre-washed clothes in a tub. Using the second option you need to cover the laundry with a cloth acting as a filter, pour the home-made bleach, which will whiten the laundry and will be disposed via the hole of the tub. In that case you don't even need to wait for the solution to settle down for 2 days and can use it directly. Cinzia

  2. Hana, here I can continue with my mothers' recipes.

    Home made soap:
    This system was used in the countryside, especially in winter when it was time for slaughtering the pig or any other big animal. People then put all the grease, fat and even the bones of the poor creature into a cauldron, mixed it with sodium hydroxide and any natural essence, stirred it while the mixture was boiling until the content became a semi-fluid liquid. Then, they poured it into a cast and cut into the desired size when solid. Cinzia