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Launder with Love

Americans wash more than 35 BILLION pounds of laundry a year. We all want clean and fresh clothes, but most commercial laundry detergents actually leave our clothes more toxic than not.  That’s because many of those commercial detergents are loaded with toxic chemicals that could harm not only you, but also your family and environment.

Try looking at a leading brand detergent and you’ll find that the ingredients are pretty cryptic.  Many laundry detergents like Tide don’t put them on their bottles because A) they’re not required by law to list the ingredients,  B) they claim their formulas are confidential and proprietary and C) the formulas change periodically.

Ingredients include biodegradable surfactants and enzymes.

 However, if you go online to Tide’s website, you’re able to find some of the ingredients in their detergent.  I particularly liked the “spin” Procter & Gamble puts on some of them.

For instance:

Linear alkyl sodium sulfonates (LAS):

Tide says that this is “a general-purpose surfactant that helps penetrate stains, extract soils and suspend stain particles in water to prevent them from being redeposited.”

But what they don’t mention is that it’s a synthetic surfactant that during the production process, releases carcinogenic and reproductive toxins such as benzene into the environment. It also biodegrades slowly, making it a hazard in the environment.

Let’s take a look at a few other ingredients that are commonly found in leading brand detergents:

Petroleum distillates (aka napthas): This is a big category that includes almost every chemical that is obtained directly from the petroleum refining process.  These chemicals have been linked to cancer, lung damage, lung inflammation and damage to mucous membranes.

Phenols: There are lots of different kinds of phenols, and they are toxic according to the National Institute of Health(NIH).  One common surfactant in U.S. laundry detergents is nonyl phenol ethoxylate, which has been banned in Europe. It’s been found to slowly biodegrade into even more toxic compounds and studies have found that this chemical stimulates the growth of breast cancer cells and feminizes male fish.

Optical brighteners: These are synthetic chemicals that convert UV light wavelengths into visible light, which makes laundered clothes appear whiter, but does not actually affect the cleanliness of the clothing. They’ve been found to be toxic to fish and to cause bacterial mutations.  Because they’re usually given trade names, you’re unlikely to know from a label what is an optical brightener and what isn’t.

 Phosphates: Luckily, the major detergent brands no longer use phosphates, most likely because many states have banned or restricted the use of them.  Phosphates are chemicals used to remove hard-water minerals to make detergents more effective, and to prevent dirt from settling back onto clothes during a wash. Even though they are generally non-irritating and non toxic, the problem is that when released into the environment, they stimulate the growth of marine plants (like algae growing in a lake),  which contributes to the destruction of current ecosystems by depriving fish and other aquatic life of oxygen.


There are many more chemicals found in laundry detergents that are both harmful to you and yours, and the environment, but suffice it to say, learning about this, as well as learning buying these detergents was contributing to our dependence on oil, was enough to make me search for a new solution.

So, for the last few years, I’ve been making my own laundry detergent to not only get away from the chemicals but also the petroleum-based ingredients (artificial fragrance is a big component of this).  I’m of a firm belief that if you can get the job done with fewer ingredients, you should.

Launder with Love is my own homemade laundry soap that I created based on a handful of ingredients.

Lye soap

Borax (Sodium Borate)

Washing Soda (Sodium Carbonate)

Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate)

OPTIONAL: Essential Oils

What is Lye Soap?

Up until recent times, before stores started carrying soap, households made their own soap from lye.  If you want to talk about simple ingredients, it only had two: lard and lye.  But making the soap was anything but simple; it took days and even weeks to make a batch. Granted, that batch would last them the whole year (it’s not like they took daily showers or anything)!

Back then, lard was rendered and saved for soap-making when the hogs were killed in late fall/early winter.  Lye was made from wood ash. And soap was made by boiling and combining the two, then pouring into a mold.

Today, lye is produced by running electricity through a mixture of water and table salt.  This can be turned into flakes or blocks, or beads.  From there, making lye soap follows the same sort of process that old-fashioned lye soapmaking did, only with more modern implements.

I have used the old fashioned, lard-lye soap in my own laundry for years.  However, Launder with Love also offers a completely vegan soap base made of vegetable oils as well, if you should desire it.

What is Borax?

Borax is a natural mineral compound that was first found and used 4000 years ago. It naturally occurs from the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes. The largest deposits of this mineral may be found in California, the American southwest, Chile, and Tibet.

It’s odorless and generally white (anything you buy will be white, although in its mined form, it can have color impurities) and is used as a natural laundry booster, multipurpose cleaner, fungicide, preservative, insecticide, herbicide, disinfectant, and dessicant. No wonder it’s been used for so many years.

Many people will be shocked to learn that borax is found in lots of bath items. Creams, lotions, shampoos, gels, bath salts and bombs, all can contain borax.  That’s because it’s an emulsifier, a natural preservative, and a cleansing and buffering agent. It helps to soften water and suspend soap particles.

However, just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it can’t harm you.  Just like with anything natural, there can be dangers from it. It’s great for cleaning, but you should still keep it away from pets and children.

The Borax I use in my laundry soap is not 20 Mule Team Borax.  20 Mule Team Borax is not a cosmetic grade Sodium Borate and is therefore not as pure or safe as Mountain Herb Rose Borax that I use.  This borax does not contain the surfactants and detergents which are commonly found in commercial Borax, is 100% sodium borate (unlike commercial grade, it does not have any other inert ingredients or fillers), and is therefore not as harsh on the skin.

What is Washing Soda?

Washing soda, which is sodium carbonate, should not be confused with baking soda, which is sodium bicarbonate.  Washing soda, also known as soda ash, is a sodium salt of carbonic acid.  In the home, it is been used for hundreds of years as a water softener for doing laundry.  If washing soda is not used, then it’s difficult for your clothes to come out without any residue.  It’s a great solvent that removes a vast range of oil, grease and alcohol stains and is good for descaling.

Since it can be harmful in large quantities, it also should be kept away from pets and children. Like Borax, it should not be inhaled. Any powder is not good to inhale!

I use two different washing sodas, one from a company that has tested OTHER products on animals (but not the washing soda) and one from a company that has never tested or commissioned animal testing on any of their products. Obviously, the latter is more expensive, but it’s also vegan.

Baking Soda

Everyone knows what baking soda is, but does everyone know what baking soda is all about? I also use two different baking sodas, but only in my unscented laundry soap.  Soap that has essential oil shouldn’t use baking soda, as it is an odor absorber, and will merely absorb the fragrance of the oil! When I first started making my soap, I used the most popular name brand of baking soda that everyone knows about, but since then have learned that the brand tests on animals.  I have since switched to another brand that is 100% cruelty free, and sustainably mined in northwestern Colorado.

The beauty of this recipe  is that it is naturally low-sudsing, so you can use it in HE washers without a problem.It is safe for septic systems, washing machines, plumbing, grey water tanks and RV wastewater tanks.


I feel good about this detergent. It does not contain dyes, phosphates or chlorine; is not tested on animals, and it is Fels-Naptha free. It’s simple; anyone can make it, but I’ve done all the work for you. I’ve sourced sustainable ingredients, written the companies to learn about their animal testing policies, and used my detergent for years on both my clothes and my husband’s.

In addition, I’ve also sourced sustainable packaging.  The bags that your laundry detergent will come in is 100% biodegradable and compostable, made with 40% recycled material, and lined with polylactic acid.  To compost, simply remove the tin tie, include it with your home recycling, and tear the bag to pieces, then place in your compost heap or send to your local composting facility. Or, you can recycle your bag with your paper recycling.

I’ve opened online stores at Etsy and Artfire which you will find links to in the side bar of my regular blog, as well as here.  I am so excited to be selling a product I created, I sustainably sourced, and I feel proud of.

In addition to my laundry soap, I am also going to be selling various home and body products, that again, I’ve created from simple ingredients and been using for more than 5 years, that you can feel good about using because they are not full of the chemicals that pollute both the body and the earth.

My motto for all of this is “simple, sustainable, satisfying”.  Everything I create anyone can make, if one puts in the time and effort to research, experiment,  source and produce.  But not everyone has the time or the desire to do so.  I love this stuff; I always have and I always will!

If you are so inclined to be interested in any of the products I make, I hope you’ll consider patronizing my little business.

Thank you!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Heidi permalink
    March 14, 2011 2:48 pm

    For some reason I wasn’t able to read the other two comments to this blog post.

    What I wanted to say is you should also avoid Zeolite in your laundry. Google the problems and you will see why.


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