Homemade Laundry Soap and The Cloth Diaper Conundrum

Hello there interweb! Today I’m talking about laundry. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay. I don’t mind DOING laundry so much, but folding it and putting it away is tedious and boring. I dislike it less than washing dishes however, but this post isn’t about chore gripes. It’s about soap.  I have been making my own laundry soap for quite a few years, using a recipe that can be found all over the internet, and of course, in one of my favorite books, Little House in the Suburbs. It consists of one bar of  Fels Naptha soap, and one cup each of borax and washing soda. You grate up the soap, mix it all in, and you can also run it through a food processor to mix it really well. You only need to use a couple tablespoons per load, but if that feels kinda weak, like here’s a whole washer full of stinky clothes and 2 tablespoons of soap… you can make it a liquid! The book has specific water amounts, and if you follow them you probably could figure out the exact amount spent per load, but I kinda wing it. You add the soap first to about a gallon of water, and melt it. Then add the two powder ingredients, and let them dissolve. Once done, you can add more water, up to a gallon,  take off the heat, and stir regularly over the course of a day until it cools. Then you can scoop a nice big PLOP of soap in your washer and feel like you’re really getting it clean!

I have made this in a huge 5 gallon bucket, I usually triple the recipe and with the added water you get about six gallons! (I use an old one gallon ice cream tub for my laundry room supply and store the rest outside in our shed) The hardest part is grating the soap, if you have or can borrow a good hand crank cheese grater it goes a lot faster. I have been using this soap on my and my husbands clothes for years, and I use vinegar in a Downy ball for fabric softener. It cleans well, our clothes smell like.. well mostly like nothing. I have no complaints. Until. I started researching cloth diaper laundering.

So there’s a million ideas about how to clean a cloth diaper. DIY soap, no soap, fifty rinses and boiling and bleach and Dawn and and and… you can lose your mind researching, as I nearly did. My laundry soap contains, well SOAP, which apparantly is a no-no because it can hinder absorbency. Vinegar can get out soap residue (probably why I’ve never noticed soap residue on my clothing) but can eat away at the polyester in the diaper covers. One of the covers I have specifically says no borax, which is a main ingredient in many cloth diaper specific DIY laundry detergents. I was contemplating test washing the inserts with my soap and testing absorbency, but that would only be water.. and then in my crazed pregnant state I was considering PEEING on them!!! So, that’s insane, and I started thinking, What did people do before all these crazy HE washers and newfangled teaspoons of soap ideas??? I mean, it’s washing out pee and poo, it needs to be hardcore.

A bit more research, including the diaper manufacturers sites, and I found that the EASIEST solution is to use plain old Tide (or free and clear, or any other basic laundry detergent!), without fabric softeners. It pains my heart to have to BUY laundry detergent after all these years, but I’m gonna do it for the diapers only. I’ll probably get some sort of Free and Clear to avoid as many chemicals as I can.  Since baby isn’t here yet, and you have to prewash all the diapers for the most effective absorbency, I needed to figure out a solution. Hopefully, after she comes I’ll have the energy to experiment with different methods, and perhaps I’ll be able to concoct my own laundry detergent for diapers after all. Once baby is here perhaps I’ll make a post about what works for me, and add to the millions of opinions!!!

Now all that being said, in all my research I discovered that many people are veering away from both borax and Fels Naptha in laundry soap due to irritants and other not-nice ingredients. I have never experienced any issues, but I may consider switching to castille soap later on, but for now I think I’ll stick to what I have.

My posts may contain some affiliate links, this just means if you buy a product I recommend in a link, I get a small portion of the selling price, with no increase in price for you! I only recommend products  I actually use and believe in. Thanks for your support! 

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