It's been many years now since I switched from commercial laundry detergent to making my own powdered and liquid homemade laundry detergent. The ingredients are simple, the process quick and easy. But the real reason I made the switch? Money.
It costs between 30 cents and 50 cents a wash using store-bought, name-brand laundry detergent — but only about a nickel per load to make it myself.
From time to time, I'll hear from a reader who has been warned that homemade detergent is not safe to use.
Dear Mary: Today, a Sears repairman came to put a new part in my washing machine. He saw soap residue on the inside and told me I was using way too much detergent. Also, he didn't like that I was using a homemade detergent that contains Dawn liquid.
He said borax should never be used for laundry in modern washing machines and that dish detergents, especially Dawn, should never be used because those products do not rinse out completely.
Modern detergents, he said, should be used at the rate of one tablespoon per load. The water level should be medium, large at the highest, and never the super or plus level I often used. That leads to spillover, which results in soap residue in various unreachable parts of the machine (unreachable unless you take the machine apart, as he did). He also recommended that I use Affresh washing machine cleaner.
Now I'm flummoxed as to whether or not I should continue to use your homemade washing machine detergent recipe.
Thanks for any advice you can give on the subject.
Dear Jean: Using too much of any product in a washing machine is not good for it — and even worse for your clothes and other laundry items. So, whatever product you use, you need to measure carefully, erring on the side of too little, not too much. I absolutely agree with your repairman's suggestion that one tablespoon of modern high-efficiency detergent is sufficient in most washers. That is exactly the amount of our homemade detergent that I use in my front-loading washer.
I am curious about why a manufacturer would create a super or plus level if doing so is bad for the machine. But I'll leave that decision up to you for whether to continue using that option.
I do take issue with some of the information he gave you. Dawn is a safe product for clothes washing, provided you are not using too much! So is borax. Occasionally, I get letters from readers saying that borax will ruin your machine, but I can find no credible evidence for this statement, nor for your repairman's suggestion to not use Dawn.
I am convinced that our homemade high-efficiency laundry detergent is better than anything you can buy — and thousands of your fellow readers agree.
As for his recommendation for the Affresh washing machine cleaner, it is an excellent product for cleaning a washing machine. I believe all of us should be cleaning our washing machines at least a couple of times a year.
I regularly use the extra rinse option along with a half-cup of white vinegar to make sure all detergent is getting removed, leaving clothes soft and fluffy without any softening products.
So, who can you believe? I guess, in the end, you must go with your personal experience to make the best decision. As for me, I'm sticking with the homemade laundry detergent recipes. It's better than anything I've ever purchased, and I've been using some version of homemade for many years. I haven't seen a washing machine repairman in more than 30 years.
You can find the recipe for homemade laundry detergent at https://EverydayCheapskate.com/laundry-detergent.
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