DIY

Should You Stop Using Homemade Laundry Soap? (Spoiler Alert: No)

I’ll tell you what–I’ve learned a valuable lesson about affiliate posts. And that is don’t use fear to reach your audience.

I haven’t experienced this personally, but rather observed it in a blog post I read about DIY laundry soap (which you may remember I wrote about recently). Two separate friends actually sent this particular blog post to me, asking my opinion. In this particular case, the author was critiquing homemade laundry soap and comparing it with natural, plant-based detergents.

I knew this beforehand, but be advised that you are entering treacherous waters when you critique someone’s cleaning habits. Because lawwwwwwwd, you will get the worst tongue (keyboard?)-lashing of your life if you can’t back up your critique with scientific evidence! I don’t know what it is, but cleaning products are one of those things that hit a nerve if you say the wrong thing. All of a sudden, you’re a pretentious jerk who should quit meddling in other people’s affairs. Not only that, but we have the internet with endless knowledge at our fingertips. And that is where this story begins.

This particular blog post was about how you should NEVER use homemade laundry soap. Initially, I thought it was because there was something harmful in the ingredients that I wasn’t aware of. But actually the argument is that it potentially destroys your washer and absolutely does NOT clean your clothes.

At first, I thought to myself, whoa, maybe there’s something about this I don’t know! The beginning of the post was interesting and I particularly enjoyed the information about the different ingredients that go into various laundry detergents. You won’t find any arguments from me on that. Then the author briefly discusses how the soap residue (from the Fels Naptha, Zote, etc.) can get stuck to your modern HE washing machine, causing damage over time.

That part was kind of “eh” for me. Mold, grime, and build-up from various cleaning products can also start to form in your washer, which is why it’s recommended to run cleaning pods/solution through your machine. I did multiple searches to see if maybe other people have had issues with this. All I came across was one lady on a forum talking about how the washing machine repairman told her she was using too much detergent in general and to tone it down. We have a pretty crappy washer and our biggest problem thus far has been rogue socks getting sucked into the drain pipe, so I don’t know, you could probably roll the dice with this one. Keep in mind that my anecdote is not scientific evidence, so make your own judgement call here (and let me know if you read anything to the contrary).

The biggest problem I had with this article is that the author claims that the only cleaning agent in homemade laundry soap is the soap, while the borax and washing soda are just water softeners. However, 17 paragraphs later, when she is describing how to salvage and strip the nastiness from your laundry, the process requires soaking the clothing in a mixture of…borax, washing soda, and Calgon (another water softener).

Wha-wha-whaaaaaaaat?

Basically, she’s saying that your homemade laundry soap doesn’t work, so soak it in a higher concentration of the SAME ingredients, and then buy some outrageously priced natural laundry detergent instead.

Because the chemicals and toxins. THE TOXINS, DAMNIT!!

But wait–I need higher concentrations of these ingredients to clean my clothes, but the tiny amount of soap in each load is going to ruin my washer?

Hmm…

I think everything went south when readers realized that the over-dramatic build-up of fear and disgust culminated into a plug for a 32 oz bottle of $37 laundry detergent AFTER soaking the author’s laundry in the exact ingredients that she claimed were so horrendous (without even addressing that detail). To be fair, her argument was that you need to soak them in a higher concentration of borax, washing soda, and Calgon to strip them of the remaining dirt and bacteria. But, really, all that said to me was that I should soak my laundry every once in awhile in the same ingredients and keep saving money.

So yeah, I kind of freaked out at first. Initially, I was interested, and then worried…

Have I (first of all, I’m totally lying here because Stu does all of our laundry and I have been banned) been doing laundry all wrong? Have I been giving my readers bad advice? Do I smell because my clothes are dirty and no one wants to tell me? Am I a walking incubator of viral plague? Then, I was infuriated–I can’t afford $37 detergent! I mean, I probably can, but who the hell wants to pay $37 for a 32 oz bottle of detergent? Are my clothes radioactive? Is this detergent made of kryptonite?

Then I said to myself, slow your roll. Settle down. Take a step back and reflect.

I can’t fault the author too much–we’re all trying to make a living after all. However, I think it could have been written better (which other readers and bloggers made known in the comments). Someone even posed the question whether the author had stripped her laundry after using the natural stuff in order to compare how much dirt holds onto the fabric after using both methods. But seriously, by the end of the post, I felt like she was telling me I was contaminating my family with toxic waste and my only salvation was overpriced cleaning products.

But this is where the reflection comes in–the author who wrote this post is really honest about coming from a crunchy, granola mom perspective and I have no idea what her financial situation is. I, on the other hand, am coming from a penny-pinching, uber-budgeting, I’ll-cut-you-over-this-pair-of-Seven-jeans-at-the-thrift-store perspective. I use $1.50 Suave shampoo + conditioner. I go through two cans of Tresemme Tres Two hairspray per month. I don’t use face wash (although I should probably be using some kind of anti-aging cream–any suggestions??). And I’ve been known to buy the economy size bottle of Fabuloso to clean my hard surfaces. I am the crunchy, green, granola hippy’s worst nightmare when it comes to personal or household cleaning products.

my_cheap_unhealthy_cleaning_products
My unhealthy cleaning products. The red wine was added at a moment’s notice because–hey–I might as well be honest.

That being said, I also have good skin and no allergies, so this isn’t a statement to my personal choices as much as it is to my good fortune that I don’t HAVE to be as mindful of an acute reaction occurring if I don’t watch what ingredients I come into contact with. Cleaning products are a lower priority on my list as opposed to drinking water or food, for example. I gain weight easily, so buying fresh, whole foods are a priority that require more space in my budget. I care about health and wellness, but we obviously have very different agendas, so I can’t fault anyone for that.

The information in that post about detergent ingredients is, in all likelihood, scientifically valid, but what does that mean to me? I pride myself on learning new things, and if I find out there’s a better method than what I’m doing, I am going to welcome that knowledge because we can always improve ourselves through education.

What it boils down to is this: the homemade method does not get laundry cleaner than high quality detergent will. Is homemade laundry soap the best product out there? HELL NO. It’s very bare bones and cheap, thus the appeal. Is homemade laundry soap better for your budget compared to a 32 oz bottle of Thieves for $37? HELL TO THE YEAH. Will the homemade laundry soap get mud, grease, and blood stains out of your fabric? HELL TO THE YEAH.

And–BAM–there it was. I reminded myself that I never claimed that homemade laundry soap was the best. What I do claim is that it cleans your clothes for a fraction of the price of store-bought detergent (whether you constitute stain removal or complete sterilization as “clean” is up to you). And that’s my goal; to share ideas about how to be frugal, budget-conscious, and financially savvy.

It comes down to priorities. If laundry detergent is a high priority, then you will build that into your budget as such, but if not, you’re not poisoning your entire family by making that choice. Do I personally care about removing every microscopic piece of dirt and bacteria from the fibers of my clothes? Not really. That might make me a really gross human being, but I came to terms with that a long time ago.

We’re all doing the best with what we have. Who knew laundry soap could be so controversial?? In the end, it’s up to YOU to decide what is ultimately better for you and your family. And, hey, as stated in the Butter Believer post, you can always periodically strip your laundry with a higher concentration of the same ingredients you’re already using in your homemade laundry soap! 😉

 

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