Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Homemade Soap- Better or Worse than chemical laden store bought brands?

by Badhuman

Clothes Line V, originally uploaded by Shilashon.

I like to read product reviews before I try something but I always wonder how long they used the product before reviewing. I know I'm guilty of trying something a couple times and then offering up my opinion only to find after weeks or months of use that I don't really like it as much as I thought I did. So I decided to give an updated review on the various soaps that my husband and I have been using for the past year and a half.

We first made our own bar soap in February of 2008. It's a relatively simple process but it is time consuming and you will want to purchase equipment explicitly for soap making so you don't get lye in your soup pot! We found ours at a local thrift shop. Our first batch was unscented and my husband and many of our friends found the lack of smell disconcerting. I still don't really understand why the absence of smell is a problem but for the second batch we made this winter (one batch lasted the two of us a year) we added citrus essential oil. I can smell it but just barely, it is enough that my husband is happy. We use it for hand soap, body soap, and shampoo. At first my hair which is thick and curly went a little crazy and I had to use leave in conditioner to tame the frizz but after a couple weeks it calmed down and my hair is now wash and wear again. I think the bar soap is pretty much perfect for all uses but my husband disagrees and would prefer a liquid soap for body and hands. Eventually we will give that a try.

Soap wasn't our first attempt at personal toiletries though, shaving cream was. Another simple but time consuming project this lasts a very long time. My husband is in fact still using that first batch made in February of 08. It makes a thick and creamy shaving cream that works well with straight razors but doesn't foam up they way a storebought brand would. My husband did need to purchase a shaving cream brush to apply it to his face and neck. I'm not entirely sure why, I think it helps smooth it out on his face for more consisten coverage. I stopped using shaving cream entirely and just use soap and water.

In stark contrast to these successes have been our utter failure at finding an effective eco friendly or homemade dish washer detergent. We've tried Method, Seventh Generation, Phosphate Free Palmolive and a mix of borax and washing soda with varying degrees of success. None of them worked really well and none of them gave consistent results in different dish washers. My best advice is unfortunately to experiment and find out what works for you.

What we do use borax, washing soda and grated fels naptha soap for is laundry soap. Mix

1 cup grated Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup 20 mule team borax

You can use the same ingredients and make a liquid laundry soap but the powdered version takes up a lot less space to store and is certainly easier to prepare. I use 1 tbs for a regular load of laundry, 2 tbs for J.'s heavy duty (and often really dirty) work clothes. I use cold water for everything and line dry it. The clothes come out clean with a faint "soapy" smell. We've been using this for almost six months now and I don't see any need to switch. Unlike the soap and shaving cream this is super easy to make. And all three cost pennies on the dollar to make versus what it would cost to purchase at the store.

Do you make any of your own soaps?


Lindah said...

I do the laundry soap per the same recipe you use. And like you, I have not come up with a good dishwasher detergent. At present, I am lightly filling one cup with comercial and the other cup with the homemade from recipe same as yours. That is a half-good solution until I figure out something else. For shampoo, we are using the 'No Poo' baking soda solution followed by the vinegar solution. This works for me better than anything I have ever used! --no allergic reactions and my hair looks/feels great. Hand/body soap...I'm buying from a local woman who makes her own soaps and cosmetics. Someday, perhaps I will dabble in that, also. For cleaning, I am using various combinations of vinegar, peroxide, borax, etc. It feels great to be free of the different chemical bottles for each and every purpose/surface. Not to mention the $$ savings and the gentler affect on the environment.

Val said...

I make my own laundry detergent. I do liquid because it's fun to make and I end up with a use for all these empty milk jugs we create.

Soap for washing myself - well, it's just seemed such a time consuming process, it's on the bottom of my list of new skills to learn. I use so little bar soap, I just purchase the occasional bar from a seller at the farmer's market.

I, too, gave up on Borax for the dishwasher as it just wasn't doing the job at all. I'm currently using Seventh Generation because I got it on sale, but it's still not great.

I'd like a liquid dish soap for the sink that I can make myself. I'm just finishing up a bottle of Clorox's new "green" brand which I think was a total waste of money, and next is a bottle I got very cheap because it was advertised as being made in my own province.

Rinelle said...

I've just been using baking soda in my dishwasher, with vinegar for a rinse aid, and really like it. The only problem is that the filter/drain clogs up more readily than with store bought powder, so I run some storebought stuff through once a week or so to clean it out.

Wretha said...

I use equal parts grated bar soap, washing soda ad borax, and I use 2-3 tablespoons per load of wash and it works great, I can really tell the difference when I run out and end up using commercial laundry detergent, you would not believe how fast I go back! :)


linda said...

Fels Naptha Soap has toxic petro-chemical ingredients. You might as well save yourself the energy and go buy some Tide. Why not use a non-toxic soap instead?

Little Terraced House said...

Ive been making my own bar soap for a while now and certainly wouldn't go back to using shower gels or other commercially prepared body washing products.

For laundry I use the mix of soap flakes, borax and washing soda, but like some of you others I am still struggling to find hand dishwashing liquid - I think it is the lack of bubbles which puts my family off.
For the dish washer I use a mix of borax and soda, followed by vinegar to rinse, brings everything up great.
Have just made a batch of shaving cream this week for hubby and my son - need to find a good recipe for deodorant now. Has anybody got any that they have found really effective?

I certainly would not go back to buying and using commercial stuff now - it doesn't take long to make your own, and the cost saving is really good too!

Joanna said...

Now I'm feeling guilty for using Ecover products ;) But I find their dishwasher stuff very good, and they make a good liquid handwash. You can get the bottles refilled at the local food co-op, and I wish the supermarkets would consider doing that too, so that it went mainstream

I've recently started using Neal's Yard lavender shampoo, and at first my hair didn't feel "clean" - but now it's better than ever ... maybe one day I'll have the courage to go without shampoo, but this is a good alternative


Dakrish said...

I make my own soaps and lotions, but I don't make the dishwashing liquid. I handwash all the dishes, and I'm not sure I understand what the fuss is about. Of course, that might be because I'm living in Sweden, and I can look at a bottle of dishwashing liquid in the store and pick one with an enviromentaly-friendly-sign on it. I do the same for lanudry powder - just pick one that's been able to get the stamp of "Svanen" (the Swan) or "KRAV". Then I just make sure to not use too much.

For my "no poo"-routine, I don't use vinegar or baking soda. I simply use a conditioner without mineral oils or silicones, and with the stamp on it. I haven't used anything else for over a year now, and my scalp (and curly hair!) are loving it.

For cleaning, I use soap, vinegar and water. Borax and peroxide are deemed unsafe and detrimental to the environment in Sweden, so they aren't widely availble (certainly not from the grocery store!).

It seems sad to me, that this kind of options aren't common in the US and UK. :( Could anyone write an article on what kind of environmental-stamps you have in your countries?

onelongadventure said...

We've been using Dr. Bronner's bar soap for the shower for years... and the liquid soap as an all-purpose soap around the house. I've been interested in making soap, but we just haven't had the energy or space to do a project like this.

We've been doing a semi "no-poo" routine, using baking soda/vinegar and occasionally JR Liggits shampoo bar.

As far as the dishwasher goes, we were using a combo of baking soda + borax (2 tbls/load) for a while - with a vinegar rinse, but the dishes started to come out very dull and with lots of residue on them, so we ended up switching back to Planet soap. Uuughh.

I did want to share a deodorant recipe that I have been using, in case any one is interested. I have been using it for almost a year and LOVE it. It works great for me.. I have posted it here: http://onelongadventure.wordpress.com/2008/09/26/deodorant-take-2/

brazen's crafts said...

i wonder if you could make this one without a thermomix? http://www.forumthermomix.com/index.php?topic=940.0

renee @ FIMBY said...

Yes, I make all my own soaps.


(all my soap and body care recipes and experiences)

Laundry soap included (with my own cold process soap) but I find I need more soap to get the clothes clean. Maybe I should start experimenting with using a little less each time. This was a great post, now I'm off to check out the shaving cream recipe you posted. My husband uses a straight razor anyway.

sara said...

I skimmed thru the comments and didn't see it mentioned, so I will mention it here. I love, love ecover brand dishwasher tabs for the dishwasher. They work really, really well. Glasses come out sparkly and very little residue if any at all. I use white vinegar for the rinse. I tried making my own dishwasher soap and it was awful. My dishes looked gross. We do not not have a water softner though and our water is heavy with lime which is another reason why I highly recommend the ecover if you have a similar situation.
I have made goat's milk soap once and really loved it, but I did it with a group of women and not on my own. It is on my wish list to do again!
I make a lot of stuff like lip balms, lotions, tinctures, etc. but not a lot of experiences with the soaps. I have the ingredients to make my own laundry detergent so hopefully the time for it will open up soon.

Annette said...

I too make laundry detergent, same ingredients that you posted. Ours is liquid though and even using 1/4 cup for loads (cold water, line dry), I make soap every 6 months or so. LOVE IT! My next attempt will be hand/body soap. Cannot wait!

Lewru said...

One poster said Fels Naptha is toxic. I wonder what a better alternative is? Any ideas anyone?

TheMartianChick said...

I think that the original Fels Naptha bar soap had napthalene in it. The modern version does not and has in bold print: CONTAINS NO NAPTHALENE on the back of the soap wrapper.

The ingredients list is rather vague, though. It reads: Cleaners, soil and stain removers, chelating agents, colorants, perfume.

I've been using it for over a year now and find that it does a really good job. Previously, we could only use Arm & Hammer liquid because my daughter is allergic to so many of the others. She has no problem with this recipe.

Accidental Huswife said...

I do make my own soap, laundry soap, dish soap, all household cleansers. Wash my hair with baking soda/vinegar. Make my own deodorant. Use coconut oil for skin and shaving. Like you, I can't find any good solution for machine dishwashing. Maybe I'll just switch to handwashing?

Janine said...

Does anyone have experience making laundry soap using castile soap (bar or liquid)? I tried a recipe once but it didn't use a lot of soap at all (maybe 1/2 cup for a 1 gallon batch), which may have contributed to its limited efficacy on my dirtier clothes. Any suggestions?

linda said...

I tried making one batch of liquid soap from an online recipe and it was easy enough but I think the process was incomplete as described. I get a separation of the fats and liquids and even with shaking it up, the fats leave a coating on dishes.
For laundry soap, I didn't have good luck melting down the grated soap bars in the washing machine so I went a head and made a liquid version. What I do though because we go to the laundry mat to wash, is add lots more water and blend with a hand blender to get over the goopy stage. I do a gallon as needed and it stays liquid without separation. We use a little more because its diluted but it has been working for us. Bar soap is on the "some day" list. It seems intimidating to me.

Wretha said...

Janine, I have used castile bar soap (Dr Bronner) for my recipe of laundry powder, I have also used other bar soaps, Ivory, Zote... I just grate up the whole bar, measure how much it comes out to be then I add the same amount of washing soda and borax, I use equal parts by volume, 2-3 tablespoons per load works great.


Mary said...

I make laundry detergent with dr bronner's too. Mix together the borax and washing soda in equal parts. For a large load use one tbs. of powdered mixture and two quick squirts of liquid dr bronner's.Much easier than grating the bar soap.

Cheap Like Me said...

I'm wondering why Joanna feels guilty for using Ecover? I too use Ecover for dish washing -- it works great in our hard water. We tried making our own dishwasher detergent, but it left white residue and etched our glasses.

I have homemade soap for bodies and hands, and use baking soda (I don't even do the vinegar rinse) for hair. Have made laundry detergent, but the thick gel wouldn't dissolve appropriately in my front-load washer, so I'm currently using Kirkland (Costco) eco-friendly laundry liquid.

We also use Dr. Bronner's for many purposes, including the shower.

Dakrish, I don't even know what environmental stamps are! I don't think we have the same system in the U.S. So far it seems to be whatever each company reports, although reporting organic ingredients is regulated. Interesting that Sweden considers borax and peroxide unsafe. I agree that borax is overkill (and toxic) in many cases, but I have always heard that peroxide is safe, especially if mixed with water!

Catherine said...

Great post! I second the Ecover tablets for the dishwasher. After many trials and a plugged dishwasher from all of those, I reverted to those wonderful tablets!

I like the no-poo for my hair too (soda and vinegar), but I have to say that using Aubrey organic shampoo and conditioner once in a while feels like a treat because it lathers so much!

I use vinegar and soda to clean almost everything, and use some Dr Bronner for the floor and toilet bowl (I alternate with soda and vinegar).

I make our own toothpaste with Dr Bronner's mint liquid soap (diluted 1:5 in a little spray bottle) and I also make a paste for the kids who do not like the soapy taste out of 1 part coconut oil and 1 part soda, plus some mint essential oil and green stevia.

For deodorant, I either use plain soda or I make a mix of 1 part soda and 1 part coconut oil and some lavender essential oil (and pour in a old Tom's of Maine container). Still not perfect for delicate fabric (when I wear those, I use the crytal rock).

I have to say that I have a hard time with the smell of the Washing Soda. There is perfume in there, right? It smells pretty chemical to me...

I tried many things for the laundry, but with 3 little girls, I never found a combo that really worked for us, so I use a safe, local brand or liquid laundry detergent.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

I make a cold process soap with beeswax that is our all purpose soap. Shampoo, grated for laundry, grated and mixed with water for dishwashing (by hand).

It smells faintly of beeswax and is a joy to make. The smell of Fels Naptha is too strong. Makes me wonder what is in it.


I do buy a eco friendly laundry soap for our dirtiest clothes, and they get dirty! It is very concentrated and economical to use.


linda said...

Fragrances can contain neurotoxins and are among the top 5 allergens in the world.


Use products without petrochemical ingredients or vague wording as to what is in them.

Mickle in NZ said...

I switched to homemade laundry powder back in December.

After experimenting now I grate the soap using a microplane grater. Very fine "gratings" so the powder dissolves completely and fast in any temp water.

Very happy with the results, and I don't need any fabric softener these days.

Joanne said...

So far, I've only tried the laundry liquid from plain soap (I used Velvet), washing soda (Lectric) and a couple of drops essential oil. I wasn't happy with it on the whites- I ended up soaking whites first in an oxygen bleach product. Also, my son can't use soap in the bathroom because of eczema and washing the clothes in soap aggravated his skin.
I have gone back to Aldi's NP (non-phosphorous) powder. Its cheap and I only need to use a little for a really good clean.
Honestly, making bar soap scares me a little. I don't like the caustic side to the process. I'd rather find someone local who is trying to make a little money and buy it from them.
I would like to try deoderant, no-poo, facial cleanser and body/hand creams. They are all on my to-do list.

Live Simply Love Strongly said...

I am very interested in making my own laundry soap, but I cloth diaper and I'm concerned about buildup on my dipes. I currently use Charlie's soap on all my laundry to avoid any soap buildup in my washer. Does anyone have any info on this?

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Lily Girl said...

Making my own laundry detergent is my next project. I'm going to use vegetable-based soap in my mix. I've seen a lot of recipes online for homemade laundry soap that just recommend calling for any soap you like or whatever is cheapest. However using a Unilever product in a homemade detergent is counterintuitive to me, as my goal is to be both more environmentally friendly and save money.

I use Dr. Bronners at this point for my shower soap as well as cleaning around the house. Making my own bar soap is on my to-do wish-list, although I've never been overly fond of the feeling of bar soap. I'd love to figure out making my own liquid soap.

For now I use Seventh Generation for my dish soap and Ecover for my automatic dishwashing detergent and rinse aid. I live in southern CA which has super hard water and I've been very pleased with it. If your local health food store doesn't carry it you can order it from amazon.com. It also scored very highly in a Consumer Reports test.

Hana said...

I do not make my own soap, but I'm very much intrigued by the homemade laundry mix... have been for some time. Which means sooner or later I'm going to give it a try, I think. I'm wondering about one thing, though. I have a feeling I've read somewhere that borax was risky for your health... I do not remember the details. Do you think it would work without it?

I experimented with baking soda for hair washing, too. I figured it worked really well, except for not removing the grease properly. As I sometimes wash my hair very unregularly, I need to use shampoo for the oily times, at least so far...

Oh, and just today I've learned that my father is putting all tiny remnants of soap into a bottle, and mixes them with water and uses that for cleaning the sink. I thought that was ingenious.

Condo Blues said...

I make the powedered version of laundry soap although sometimes I use regular bar handsoap instead of Fels Naptha. Lately the grocery store I buy Fels Naptha from has been playing musical chairs with product placement and either they've discontinued carrying Fels Naptha or put it somewhere I can't find it!

Anonymous said...

Here is a guy recipe for hand dish soap you make and will like.Work great #1 1/4 bar of ivory soap shaved #2 1/4 cup of washing soda/1/4 cup of lemon juice #3 1/4 cup of baking soda.First melt ivory in 1 qt of water on stove making sure ivory is desolved.Next this important add lemon juice 2nd an mix well.Let cool and add 2qts of cool water and add your washing soda and baking soda last stir good.put in gallon milk carton shake before useing and hold on to your dishes.If you like to have bubbles put in a 1/2 cup of dawn soap in the gallon.Great grease fighter you will love it

Matthew Miller said...

Ok, several comments to make on this post. 1st, Fels Naptha does have petrochemical ingredients but is not currently listed (at least by governmental agencies) as having any long term affects. The full MDS page for Fels Naptha (http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/brands?tbl=brands&id=4002126).

2nd - For liquid hand soap, if you already make your own bar soap, nothing could be much easier. Simply grate up a bar of your hand soap, add at least twice as much water, a couple drops of essential oils if you like it scented, and boil for about 15 minutes, or until all the soap is fully dissolved (you don't want any flakes or chunks to clog your dispenser pump). Cover and wait overnight the first time or two. If it's too thick (or thin) in the morning, add water or soap as appropriate, bring it back to boiling and let cool again for several hours until you know the proportion of water to soap that fits your soap bar.

3rd - For those of you who have tried the dishwasher mixes of borax and washing soda with limited results, you need to add citric acid (often available at health stores or craft stores that cater to candy makers - online for cheaper). The proportion is 1/4c citric acid to 1c soda & 1c borax. Works a treat along with the vinegar rinse.

Thanks for the deoderant recipe and the shaving cream. Oh, and I use shaving OIL instead of cream - feels better and much less stuff to deal with. Just mix a few drops of essential oil with 1/2 and 1/2 olive oil and vege oil (olive oil alone is too thin for my taste). Then shave with about 3 drops rubbed in the beard. Splash lots of water on the part of your face that you are shaving - more water makes for a more comfortable and smoother shave - more oil makes for wasted oil.

-Matthew Miller, Boise Id

Matthew Miller said...

Oh, a couple things I forgot to mention: another way to get citric acid if it's hard to find in your area is to substitute 12 unsweetened lemon kool-aid packets for the 1/4c citric acid. Their unsweetened packets are mostly citric acid; be sure to use lemon if you don't want any dyes discoloring your dishwasher and possibly plastics (if you still use any).

Also, if you want a vegetable based, fair trade, ecologically sensitive soap to replace for Fels Naptha in recipes, because you don't make your own, try a bar of Dr. Bronners castille soap. Perfect!

-Matthew Miller