Friday, June 26, 2009

Laundry Soap Alternatives - Be Cheap! Go Green!

Charlie's Soap:
It's been about 10 months since I've used commercial laundry detergents. My favorite was Gain - loved the smell! I used it for years, and before that I used Tide. Tide reminds me of home - my Mama still uses it!

But last year, when I started to use cloth diapers instead of store-bought, I kept reading over and over that the best way to get cloth diapers clean was to use Charlie's Soap. Not only would it clean them, it left no residue behind which made them more absorbent. A lot of Ebay sellers recommended using Charlie's Soap on their diapers. I ended up buying some cloth diapers from an Ebay seller that offered a free sack of Charlie's Laundry powder too. The sack was TINY, but it said it would do 80 loads (each load only used 1 TBSP!), but man it was TINY - no way it did 80 loads, right?!


It worked great! So I bought a gallon jug of Charlie's Soap from their website too. A gallon will clean 128 loads. You only use 1/8 cup of soap - that's all I swear it! If you order more than $28 shipping is free! A couple of days ago, I bought 2 1-gallon jugs of liquid soap at $45.62, with a $3.97 discount and free shipping! That's about 18¢ a load.

Cheap, cheap, cheap!!

Charlie's Soap is a "Safe, Non toxic, Biodegradable Soap". They brag that it "cleans everything" and it's back with a 100% money back guarantee: "If you're not completely satisfied, we will, but not gladly, refund the buyer's purchase price". Funny!

After using Charlie's Soap, I was totally hooked - and I'll never go back to using commercial laundry detergent again - unless some totally strange, unforeseen problem comes up and somehow I can't get it anymore or whatever. It really, truly, completely cleans your clothes - as promised. You don't even need fabric softeners! Before you clean your first load, you'll have to get rid of all the old gunk in your washer that was left behind by commercial detergents. You just add a few old towels, a scoop of Charlie's Soap, then turn on your washer.

All clean and ready to go!

But to really get your washing machine clean (which you should do periodically), Making Do With The Not So New recommends heading over to The Diaper Hyena to learn how to really get your machine clean!

Soap Nuts:
Now Charlie's Soap is my favorite because there's no hassle - it's so easy, but in Janurary I discovered Soap Nuts (sounds kinda kinky, huh?), and found another laundry soap favorite - but I still love Charlie's Soap the best! Soap Nuts, or sapindus, grows on trees and bushes. You can do a lot more with it than just wash clothes. It's an all-purpose cleaner for your windows, jewerly, hair, dishes, and carpets. But it can also be used as a plant wash, and even a pest repllent! Keep seaching the internet, I'm sure you can find more uses for Soap Nuts!

Wikipedia describes Sapindus (Soap Nuts or Soapberry) as:

"Soap nuts contain saponins, a natural surfactant. They have been used for washing for thousands of years by various peoples, such as the Native Americans.Today, soapberries are being considered for commercial use in cosmetics and detergents, among many other products.Soap nuts, especially are used medically as an expectorant, emetic, contraceptive, and for treatment of excessive salivation, epilepsy, chlorosis, migraines, and diabetes. Studies show that saponin from soap nuts inhibits tumor cell growth and the progression of AIDS."

Go to Wikipedia to read more about Soap Nuts. You can Google "soap nuts" too and get around 815,000 hits.

I bought mine on from NaturOli when their 5lb bag of Soap Nut pieces went on sale for only $39.95, but alas, shipping was not free. NaturOli claims the pieces would clean 800 loads at about 8¢ a load. Hmmm, maybe, but I think that's a stretch since they weren't including S/H prices! I bought 2 5lb bags and 6 extra muslin bags ($6) - I wanted to share the Soap Nuts with some of my family and friends. Anyway, all together, my price was $119.37. So if I do end up getting 1600 loads out of 10lbs of Soap Nuts, and then minus the cost of the muslin bags, that would be around 14¢ a load. Pretty good - but I'm not sure I got 1600 loads! I gave a lot of it away, and I still have a good bit left. I haven't kept track of how many loads I've gotten out my purchase, but I do know it's been a lot.

They do an excellent good job at cleaning your clothes too - I have no complaints in that department at all. The Soap Nuts smell a little like vinegar, but that goes away once you use it, then it just leaves your clothes smelling fresh and clean. If you've been using commercial laundry detergents, you'll have to prepare your washing machine, just like you'd do if you use Charlie's Soap for the first time.

There are several different ways you can use the Soap Nuts in your washer:

1. You can add a few in the little muslin bag that will come with your order and toss it into your washing machine. If you do it that way, I suggest soaking the Soap Nuts before you use them. It helps to release the saponin. I used to keep a jar of water near my washing machine and toss in the little muslin bags filled with soap nuts after every wash. Once the Soap Nuts stop feeling "slippery" after they've soaked, throw them out or put them in your compost, then add some fresh pieces to your muslin bag.

2. Another way is to make your own Soap Nuts liquid detergent. You can find all kinds of recipes online, or come up with your own variation. Whatever recipe you decide to use, basically depends on how concentrated you want your mixture. I wholeheartedly recommend making your own liquid detergent - I think it's the most convenient method. It's pretty simple too; suggests making it this way:

"Boil approximately 12-15 whole soapnuts with 6 cups of water for 30 minutes. When it is boiled down, you will have about 4c. of liquid left. Add extra water, if needed, to keep it at that amount. When cooled, remove the soap nuts, and pour the liquid into an airtight plastic or glass jar. It is better to make the liquid in smaller batches as it can spoil. Experiment with making liquid to see if you prefer a more concentrated version, using 3 cups water instead of 6 cups. Some prefer the concentrated liquid for handwashing and shampoo."

3. Or you can grind the Soap Nuts into powder yourself and never stop sneezing or filtering all those tiny pieces that never seem to go away over and over and over again. Stay far, far, FAR away from this method! Trust. Me. I did it and it was a complete nightmare. If you must have Soap Nuts powder - buy it. Under no circumstances should you attempt to make it yourself! I broke my Magic Bullet grinding up all those damn Soap Nuts! I had to use my metal strainer that has etsy teeny tiny holes to filter out just some (it couldn't catch them all) of the shells that refused to grind to dust - and speaking of dust! UGH! It was everywhere! Up my nose especially! I couldn't stop sneezing. I think it was the combination of the dust and that vinegary smell - it was awful. Once my Magic Bullet broke, I had to give it up, but I did end up with a good bit a powder when the horrible nightmare was finally over. It took only about 1-2 TBSP to clean of a load of clothes, but even though I filtered the stuff a ton of times, it was still full of shells - and that can clog your dryer filter and stay in your clothes. Not good. So on the shelf it sat.


I ran out of Charlie's Soap and I decided to tackle using the Soap Nut powder again. I wanted to take all the Soap Nut powder I had left and turn it into liquid - and I didn't want to go through putting it on the stove and cooking it down for 30 minutes. So I just soaked the powder in HOT water for about 20 minutes for each batch until all the powder was gone. It was NOT easy. I used a whisk to break up all the powder clumps, and I still had to strain the liquid to make sure no shells or thick residue got into my liquid. I used the gold coffee filter from my coffee machine as my stainer - it worked.

So now I have slightly more than a gallon (I used the empty Charlie's Soap jug and an empty plastic water bottle) of highly concentrated Soap Nut liquid. And let me tell you, I will never, NEVER EVER, grind up Soap Nuts again! EVER!

Unless I have a gas mask and an industrial food processor - then, maybe - if I was paid - a lot - then again, maybe not. I'd have to think about it - long and hard, it might take me a year of deep, deep mediation. Who knows, maybe by then that damn vinegary smell and the feel of that clingy powder will fade from my memory, then again - probably NOT!

Deep breath... hold it... exhale... and relax!

Homemade Laundry Soap:
You can also make your own laundry soap from bar soap, Borax, and Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, that is if you can find the ingredients in your area. I can't, but I'm still looking!

Frugal Upstate recommends using Zote, Ivory, or any bar soap you choose - even those little trial-size ones you get at hotels!

1 cup grated Soap
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
Mix together and use 1 Tablespoon per load, 2 Tablespoons if it is a really soiled load.
Check out her video:

I can find Borax with no problem, but I haven't seen Arm & Hammer Washing Soda anywhere in Houma. I could order it from, but S/H is not free, even with Amazon Prime. Today on, I found a post with a 1-800 number to call. The poster said if you call: 1-800-524-1328 and order more than two boxes (@3.99 each), S/H is free. That's the best online deal I've found yet.

I can't find Fels Naptha or Colgate laundry bar soaps anywhere locally either! I did find a couple of places has it for $4.99 & free S/H (it went down a $1 since the last time I looked at it) - that sounds expensive even with the $1 off. Soaps Gone Buy offers it for only 99¢ and $4.95 S/H for up to 7 bars.

Making Do With The Not So New has a nice picture tutorial for Fel-Naptha Homemade Laundry Soap on her blog here. She breaks down the costs too. Go check it out and while you're there, have a look 'round at all her other money-saving tips!

Little Birdie Secrets has a wonderful Homemade Laundry Liquid Soap picture tutorial. It's the first one I've found for the liquid version of the Fel-Naptha homemade laundry soap. She also introduces you to Good Mama's Wool Dryer Balls tutorial. No need to buy dryer sheets anymore! Homemade wool dryer balls will save you a ton!

If you simply can't find some or all of the ingredients in your area, you could try Homemade Soap Kits. Soaps Gone Buy offers two different kits. One with 7 bars of Fel-Naptha, 1 box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, and 1 box of Borax for $19.95. The other kit is almost the same, but you get 2 pounds of grated Fel-Naptha & 1 whole bar for $26.95.

Colby Soaps on Etsy has a 96-load Fel-Naptha kit for only 99¢ & $6.50 S/H - I wonder if that is a typo? If not, that's about 8¢ a load!

They also sell a ready-to-use 96-load Fel-Naptha laundry soap for $1.99 & $6.60 S/H. That would be around 9¢ a load! I think I might give that one a try. It's like buying a little sample pack; if I like it, then I could go ahead, buy all the ingredients and make it myself.

Depending how how you make it, every one's saving will vary. Check out Frugal Upstate's Homemade Laundry Soap savings:

"A pkg of Tide is $9.47 for 22 loads on That is about $.43 a load.
So for the math for a load of laundry with homemade detergent (rounding down):
Borax is $5 for 76 oz, at 16 oz a cup, for 1/2 C:
$5 / (76/(16*2))= $.55 per one half cup portion
Washing Soda is $2.50 for 55 oz, at 16 oz a cup, for 1/2 C:
$2.50 (55/(16*2))= $.36 per one half cup portion
Zote Soap is $1 a bar
So that is $1.91 for a batch of laundry soap that is approx 2 cups (or 32 TBS). Lets assume that all of your loads are very soiled and require 2TBS each (or 16 loads from that batch). That ends up at about $.12 a load compared to the $.43 for the Tide."
Any one of these alternatives are better than commercial laundry detergents. Much better for your skin and you wouldn't believe how clean and fluffy your clothes will be after using these Green laundry soaps. NaturOli won a green dot award for their products, but Charlie's Soap is as Green as it gets too. As for the Homemade Laundry Powder, it's pretty darn green too! Borax and washing soda are both naturally occurring and non-toxic and Fel-Naptha is pure soap. Sounds Green to me!

POST-IT NOTE: Also, I never use bleach anymore. If something has a stain on it, I "doctor it" (as my Granny used to say) with a Tide Pen and/or OxiClean laundry stain remover before I put it into the wash, and I also add OxiClean to every load. It gets the stains out just fine, and as far as I know, OxiClean is Green too! If you have some information that says differently, please comment and let me know. You could make your own OxiClean and then you'll know for sure it's Green. To make Homemade OxiClean you only need Hydrogen Peroxide and Washing Soda (if you can find it). There are a ton of recipes on the net, but I found this one at Making Do With The Not So New that you might want to try out. eHow has an OxiClean recipe too. And for an even more in-depth look at OxiClean, go read The Truth Behind Oxiclean!

POST-IT NOTE 2: BTW, if you miss the smell of fresh flowers, or lavender or whatever in your clothes, then there are a couple of things you can do. Add essential oils to a damp wash cloth, then toss it in your dryer with your clothes for a pleasant smell. Or do what Frugal Upstate suggests, and soak a few {cheap} cut-up sponges in 1 part {cheap} fabric softener to 8 parts water in a container. Then just squeeze out a sponge until its still a little damp, and throw it into your dryer with your clothes! It leaves behind a nice & light smell on your clothes. It works, I tried it.
Have fun!


Anonymous said...

Hello there! Thanks for the informative posting! I was wondering if you've tried Grab Green detergent? I use their bleach alternative and it's worked particularly well on grease stains and also grass stains. I used to have a hard time getting those out before. It looks quite interesting too, as it comes in individual packets that dissolve. It's hard to describe, but they have a picture on their home

Angela Neil said...

I never heard of Green Grab - thank you so much for the tip and the link! Now I wanna try that too!! I wonder if Target has it?

Lenetta @ Nettacow said...

Thanks for linking back - you're very thorough! :>) Here's my semi-homemade version of laundry detergent - basically I mix the borax and washing soda and instead of using soap, I use a little drizzle of Tide. Mostly because I have a TON of it received from various sources. I used this on our cloth diapers and loved it.

A note on washing soda - I thought I couldn't find it locally, either, but one day I decided to check in the cleaning aisle of my tiny local grocery store. It was there!

Now I'm wondering if I can get the rest of the world to just hang out on hold while I dig through your archives... :>)

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