Seven years ago my friend shared a recipe with me for making my own laundry detergent. My first thought was, “I don’t have time for that! It sounds too hard!” But when I looked at the actual recipe, I was amazed how quick and easy it is.
Still, I had my hands full with four triplets*, but what she told me next really sold me. She has always suffered from eczema, especially on her hands, and after she started using this detergent, it went away. Two of our kids had that problem, and we had tried everything to help them.
I decided to make a batch and try it out. I was skeptical, but if it could bring relief to my boys, it would be worth it. I was already busy eliminating as many chemicals from our lives as possible with homemade cleaning products, etc., in an effort to help them. We did allergy testing for both of them to see what underlying causes were triggering this and had modified our diet. Those things had helped a little, but I was ready for more.
DID IT HELP THE ECZEMA?
One of my boys had somewhat bad eczema. It was worst behind his knees and the crooks of his elbows. Eliminating wheat and eggs helped, but didn’t get rid of the eczema completely. My other son is allergic to grass. GRASS. No matter what I did, if he went out in the grass he would break out in welts on his legs and arms. He had bloody, itchy, red, swollen eczema all over his legs, arms and torso. Even a little on his face. Even if I put him in pants tucked into socks and boots, long sleeves and socks on his hands going up over the sleeves, he broke out immediately. I tried everything to help him. I was already buying perfume-free, dye-free detergent, eliminating fabric softeners of all kinds, adding an extra rinse to each load of laundry, limiting baths, using special soap, and slathering them up with any cream anyone recommended (including prescription after prescription). We changed our diet. Foods I could control, but grass? How could I keep him away from grass? Even before he was old enough to romp in the grass he had mild eczema almost from birth. He was never a smooth, soft-skinned infant.
Within two months of starting this laundry detergent, I can honestly say that his skin was as soft and smooth as a newborn. For the first time in his life, his skin was as sweet as it should be. No more itching and scratching, bleeding knees and misery for my little guy. I can’t tell you how happy I was that he had relief. It wasn’t an immediate improvement, but it got better pretty quickly. My other son’s eczema also disappeared. I doubt this will cure all the eczema in the world, but if you know someone who suffers from it, please pass this on. It’s an easy and inexpensive thing to try.
My grass-allergy son was about 18 months old when I discovered this. Four years later we were home visiting my parents, and honestly, I had forgotten that this was the main reason I made laundry detergent because they hadn’t had ANY problems since. Their skin had stayed perfectly clear of eczema all this time. I always took our laundry detergent with us when we traveled, but this time I forgot. I did a load of laundry with whatever my parents had, and after he put on those clothes, he went out into the yard and IMMEDIATELY broke out in hives and welts, and suddenly had eczema! Poor kid! Never again have I deviated, even though he is 9 now. UNTIL. Until we went to Costa Rica and had some laundry done midway through the trip, and guess what? He has eczema again. We’ve rewashed all the clothes and it will take a few weeks to a couple of months for it to clear up again, but I know it will.
HOW WELL DOES IT CLEAN?
The clothes come just as clean as with the other brands of laundry detergent I’ve used. A few weeks after I started using it was the first test (they were 2, 2, 2, and 1). Right after breakfast the kids decided it would be fun to play in the rain. They put coats on and headed out to the back yard. To be honest I thought they’d be back inside within 30 seconds, but they stayed outside for 2 HOURS. And guess what they were playing with? Mud and wet mulch. They were filthy when they came back in. There was a layer of mud on the bottom of their socks, inside their shoes. I decided this would be the litmus test for this detergent. I threw the wet, muddy clothes in the washer with warm water and two tablespoons of detergent. I didn’t add extra Borax or any kind of stain fighter like I always have when there were stains. I wanted to see what it could do on its own.
I have to say I’m impressed. They only things that didn’t come completely clean were the socks I didn’t turn right side out (I wasn’t paying close attention when I was trying to herd four muddy toddlers to a bathtub). I just threw those back in the wash for another spin, this time right side/muddy side out.
A few months later, the munchkins went out in the backyard, made a pile of Georgia clay on their picnic table, and got to work with their water buckets. They made their own mud pile and started scooping and shoveling…all over their clothes. Were they wearing old clothes when they made their own little pig pen? Of course not. I sent them out to play on the swings and slide, and by the time I saw what they were doing, the damage was done, so I let them play on.
If you know anything about the red clay in the South, you know that it STAINS. That afternoon after they were done with their mud pies, the clothes went in the wash, and the stains came out! I know better than to leave red clay on the clothes, so I couldn’t tell you how it would clean if it had sat in the hamper for a few days.
WHAT DOES IT SMELL LIKE?
I don’t like strong odors, even nice ones, and the Fels Naptha soap smells like a perfume-y nursing home bathroom. I did not want my clothes to smell like that. I’m used to my clothes smelling like outside. When the clothes are done washing with this detergent, they barely have any smell at all. They just smell clean. So don’t be alarmed if you sniff that bar in the store. If you do want your clothes to have more of a smell, try adding a few drops of different essential oils to your load. I like lavender.
So there you have it. I am officially a fan of this detergent. I love that it eliminates even more chemicals from my home. I love that it cleans our clothes well, and I really, really love that it helped my sons’ eczema. And did I mention how easy it is to make? The ingredients are easy to find, safe to store, and are non-toxic. I can make large batches at a time so I always have plenty on hand. In fact, I make a year’s worth at a time, which is a lot when you have a family of eight.
Homemade Laundry Detergent
Grate 1 bar Fels Naptha soap in a food processor (I recommend using your hard cheese disc if you have it, if not, any grating disc will do)
Switch to your S blade and add:
- 2 cups 20 Mule Team Borax (which by itself is a great laundry booster/stain fighter)
- 2 cups Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
- 2 cups baking soda
Process until mixed
That’s it! I keep mine in protein powder containers I saved, but you can use any container you want. I do have a pretty 1-gallon glass jar that I keep some in, but my kids are still at an age that glass is always a gamble. I use ¼ cup per load. If you don’t have a food processor, you can also grate the bar of soap with a hand grater and then mix with the other ingredients.
I actually make this outside on my deck because the powdery dust will float up and leave a layer on your counter. If you are making one small batch it’s not that big of a deal, but when making a year’s worth for a family of eight, I’m doing batch after batch, and that’s too much dust to do it in my house.
If you’re wondering what I do without fabric softener or dryer sheets, I use vinegar. I just fill one of those Downy
balls (get it at the grocery store for a couple of dollars), throw it in and forget it. You can also add this to your fabric softener dispenser on your washing machine. To help with static in the dryer and fluffing those towels, I use dryer balls. There are several different kinds, but they basically do the same thing. I remember after not using dryer sheets for several months, I found a stray one and threw it in with a load of my husband’s shirts, and the slimy feel it left on his clothes was so gross. I never felt deprived again. Did you know that dryer sheets block the absorbency of towels? One word of caution: kids love to play with those laundry balls, so you might have to hide them. I’m always hunting mine down .
Try the homemade laundry detergent. You’ll like it. It is so easy, and if it gets rid of or lessens eczema for you or a loved one, it’s 1000% worth it. If you’ve already tried it, tell us all about it, and tell others who could benefit. Nothing is worse than watching your kids suffer and not being able to make it better.
Let’s spread the word by sharing on Pinterest, Facebook, Stumble, or anywhere else.
*I have four triplets because my fourth child was born not too long after the triplets, and ever since he was an infant he has demanded to be part of the pack. He has always kept up with them and done everything they do.