Laundry detergent is killing you slowly. Not your mother’s washing machine…

Before we get into this, let’s state the price.  That’s what we all need to know!  Switch your toxic laundry detergent to a safe alternative for $13, right now.  The toxic Arm & Hammer jug, of 128 loads-worth of detergent costs $12.  The Laundry Wash from of 50 loads-worth costs $12.95 to start, and $18 for refill packet.    Arm & Hammer in theory, costs $0.09/load, whereas MyGreenFills costs $0.36/load. That is four times more expensive than Arm & Hammer.  However, it is still affordable.

Before we get into this, here’s an awesome compilation video showing some revolutionary men and women who’ve had the courage to switch to non-toxic laundry products from

Laundry detergent is not only visually unappealing with is sludgy goupy consistency and artificial coloring, but it is toxic – full of petrochemicals, UV brighteners, dyes, and crazy toxic perfumes, among other toxic things.  In addition, conventional laundry detergent leaves residue on your laundered clothing and in your washing machine which breed bacteria, and the residual chemicals in the clothing are absorbed through your skin when you wear the clothes!  Fabric softeners are also filled with chemicals specifically designed to leave a film or a ‘sheen’ on the clothes to give the appearance of softness, when in reality, the ‘soft feeling’ is from the chemical buildup.

Is there anything we can do to stop this mess?  Yes there is!  To understand how to correctly adopt a non-toxic alternative, we have to first recognize that the technology we use today (washing machines) require different complimentary substances to get laundry clean, whereas other substances (such as straight up grated soap) might have gotten laundry clean with the technology our great grandmothers used (friction created on old fashioned washboards, cleaning against rocks in the river, etc).  If you don’t have enough friction or agitation, all of the soap may not be rinsed out of the clothes.

Another major difference is the temperature of the water typically used today – many clothes are purposely not washing in scalding hot water, to avoid shrinkage or damage.  If the water is less hot, it is less likely that the soap flakes in homemade laundry detergent are dissolving in the water.

Finally, we have to acknowledge that the washing machines today are not the typical washing machines our mothers had.  The washers today are High Efficiency (HE) — they use a smaller amount of hot water during the wash cycle.  In the old washing machines, a larger amount of water was used, which did 80% of the ‘washing’.  Now that the amount of water employed is reduced in high efficiency washing machines, the water can only do 50% of the washing work, at most.  It is simply because the HE washers use so much less water.

So, in summary, we’ve experienced some major changes in our washing machine technology:

  1. less friction employed due to mechanization vs. hand-washing, so there may not be enough friction to rinse the soap out of the clothing.
  2. temperature of water is often less hot, making it less likely that soap flakes in homemade detergents will dissolve/even be effective.
  3. high-efficiency washing machines use much less water, reducing the amount of contact time the dirty garments have with the water, thus reducing the ability of the water to do its washin’ thang.

So, if you’re going to make homemade laundry soap, based on the DIY recipe below, where you use powdered castile soap bar and washing soda, you have to be careful, and

  1. make sure you are dissolving it in hot water first, and then
  2. testing your clothes afterward, to make sure the soap is getting rinsed out.  You can test this by agitating a garment in a glass bowl of water….if the water gets cloudy, that is not a good sign.

If the homemade powdered laundry soap doesn’t work for you, and it you aren’t in a spot to make homemade horse chestnut liquid laundry soap right now, don’t worry!  You aren’t doomed to use toxic chemicals.

NO!  There is always a way….it just takes someone who really cares and has the right skill set to solve the problem…bring onto the stage!

Stephen Ezell is an incredible person and innovator who co-founded  He and his partner formulate and sell sophisticated non-toxic laundry products, sold as packets of powder – simultaneously eliminating plastic jug waste and eliminating toxic chemicals.  MyGreenFills lists ALL ingredients on their product labels, and though they used to make all of their products unscented, they finally devised a way to scent their products without using toxic chemicals (the toxic conventional laundry detergent industry has normalized scents, and so now many people demand that their laundry detergents have scents).  In the video below, Stephen shows and explains what is in conventional laundry detergent and the reason behind each ingredient.

In addition to their ‘detergent’ which they call ‘Laundry Rinse,’ they also offer a brightening/whitening product, which they call ‘Oxyboost.’  This can be made at home easily by mixing sodium percarbonate with a little sodium carbonate (soda ash).  I hate to make my own rather than support them, but I already happened to have these two items at my house!  I had learned about the sodium percabonate trick from other bloggers as well before I even knew about MyGreenFills.

Presoak garments or bedding in ROOM TEMPERATURE water for up to 24 hours — 2 T sodium percarbonate per gallon of water.  Mix in a little washing soda (soda ash aka sodium carbonate).  This will help ‘strip’ clothing as well.

If you don’t want to buy from for detergent, and still want to make your own products, check out the list of home-made alternatives in the second half of this post.

Problem #1: Conventional laundry detergent is FULL of toxic chemicals

Don’t believe me that conventional laundry detergent is toxic?  And that it doesn’t actually brighten clothing?  Check out this video where Steven airs the laundry detergent industry’s ‘dirty laundry’ for us all to see!  Watch out for those “group label ingredients” such as “fragrance,” or “coloring.”  Manufacturers are allowed to group a bunch of unpronounceable ingredients into a group, and merely call it “fragrance.”

Problem #2: the toxic chemicals are formulated to survive the rinse cycle and remain in your clothing, and are then absorbed through your skin as you wear clothing or sleep in your sheets.  Conventional laundry detergent is very slowly killing us as it is then in our bloodstream and in our bodies.

Want to see the chemical residues on your clothes with your own eyes?  Use the flashlight on your phone as a ‘backlight’ and a detector of these chemicals.

Problem #3: conventional laundry detergent leaves residues in your washer that breed bacteria.

Stephen explains in this blog post why this occurs and why your washing machine always stinks!   Soap can also leave a film or buildup in washing machines, particularly high-efficiency (HE) washing machines, because the HE machines don’t use enough water to free rinse all of those soaps out.  That’s why calls their product a wash, rather than a ‘detergent’ or ‘soap.’

Problem #4: conventional laundry detergent is packaged in plastic bottles that are more often than not, not recyclable.

Why?  “The reason why is because most recycling companies can’t get the chemicals off of the plastic effectively in order to recycle those suds-making product [containers]. So, a lot of those [plastic containers] end up in the trash or in our oceans.”  Never buy one more plastic jug — just buy paper packages full of powdered detergent from, and put the powder in a container you already have, full of water.

Read the full blog post here:

Stephen’s products from are amazing, non-toxic, do not leave ANY residues in your clothes, and they get the job done, every time!  To refill your laundry jug, just open the compostable paper packet of powder, and pour it into your jug filled with water.

I truly believe that Stephen’s MyGreenFills products are the best laundry ‘detergent’ alternatives which exist today.

Also, their enzyme product, which would be used for specific loads, is also toxin-free.  I was worried that hte enzyme formula would eat away my natural fiber textiles in the wash, so I asked the company to provide more information about how their enzymes work.  They told me that if a product contains enzymes within a liquid, we know that there are also toxins in the product, such as propylene glycol or another sister substance.  Enzymes don’t live long in water.  Therefore it is not recommended to buy detergents with enzymes added if you want to be natural.  That is why sells enzymes in powder form.

“Using enzymes are all about combinations and amounts. Cellulase is always recommended as the least amount in a formulation. Also our enzymes are not for every load but specific loads.
Enzymes included in our formula:

  • Amalese- starches
  • Lipese- fatty and oily stains
  • Protease- protein stains
  • Cellulase- piling, graying, etc.

Their products will work for you, every time, and really get your clothes clean, but if you want to make your own laundry ‘detergent,’ or homemade ‘washes’ there are many ways to do so.  Just keep in mind that various substances may be better suited to certain types of washing machines or laundry methods.  For example, if you’re going to use soap flakes in your recipe, perhaps you should consider always using very hot water in your cycles, in order to melt the flakes, and/or make sure you add the soap flakes/washing soda to the water  to ensure it is dissolved before adding the garments.  If you have very hard water, you may want to consider using vinegar in the rinse cycle or in a downy ball.

Homemade Laundry Detergent #1: horse chestnuts (can also use soap nuts)

Use 3 – 6 shredded horse chestnuts, and submerge them in 1 cup of water overnight.  After the water becomes milky (the horse chestnuts have released their saponins), filter the liquid and pour into your washing machine as detergent!  It’s that easy!  This will make enough to cover two loads, and a bit more.  If you do laundry 1-2 times a week, using 2.5 ounces of horse chestnut ‘milk’ for each load, you might need about 11 pounds of horse chestnuts per year.   If your clothes are muddy and they’re not getting clean, use more.  If it’s a small load, use less.  However, in most cases 3-4 tablespoons per load should work.

To streamline using horse chestnuts, you can grind all 11 pounds for the year in a blender, or hammer them to pieces, and then dry them.  Once dry, store them in containers, and make each batch as necessary.  Some say that if you shred the horse chestnuts in a blender and pour 1 cup of boiling water over them, the mixture will be ready to use in 10 minutes – I’m not sure if this is regarding fresh, or dried horse chestnuts.  Perhaps it will work in that amount of time with either dried or fresh!

Instructions taken from:

Wasteland rebel also shares this tip to identify horse chestnuts:

Horse chestnuts don’t have this little spiky tip like a little tail sweet chestnuts have. The shell of sweet chestnuts is full of long spikes while the shell of horse chestnuts has fewer, but very short and pointy spikes. Do check out Wikipedia pages I linked to to see photos.

Horse chestnuts can be found everywhere for free in the United States, if you know where to look!  If you can’t find any, try craigslist!  Someone might be very happy that you are willing to pick their horse chestnuts off their lawn!  Heck, they might even pay you to do it!

I don’t know how long the horse chestnut milk will last, but I would imagine it would last about as long as any other nut milk if stored in the fridge.  Some say a batch will last for 1-2 weeks at room temperature, or about 3-5 weeks in the fridge.  Another option is to freeze the liquid in an ice cube tray and then toss a few cubes in per wash.  you can try adding a pinch of citric acid or salt to help keep it fresh, longer. 

Don’t expect suds!

If you live in a part of the world where you can grow or locally source soap nuts from the Sapindus Mukorossi tree, more power to you!  While soap nuts are a different nut from a different tree, I believe they are in the same family as the horse chestnut tree.  Exeterra created a tutorial on growing the tree from seed, and  Mommypotamus teaches us how to process soap nuts to make saponin-rich detergent or shampoo.

Homemade Laundry Detergent #2: washing soda (soda ash) & bar soap – WITH NOTE OF CAUTION!

Note of Caution: be aware that unless you are:

  1. Creating enough friction to rinse out the soap in this recipe effectively, say by using an old-fashioned washing board, or some other method, and/or
  2. using the hottest water setting on your machine for every load of laundry to effectively melt the soap flakes in this recipe, and/or
  3. using soft water that isn’t holding onto dirt and minerals, so the (hopefully) melted, dissolved soap has no trouble doing it’s job….  Some say that adding citric acid to homemade bar soap to create sodium citrate will resolve hard water and soap scum issues.  They say it grabs excess minerals so the soap can do its job without interference from high amounts of calcium and magnesium in hard waters.

….this recipe may cause buildup in your clothes over time and not be very effective.  Almost everyone recommends this recipe on the internet, but it probably isn’t the right product for modern washing machines.

Your cold water washes are not effectively dispersing and dissolving those soap flakes. And that hard water?  It could be exacerbating everything.  If you can get the soap flakes to consistently dissolve, your washing machine’s agitator may not be robust enough to create the level of friction needed to rinse all the soap out.

But, many people do use it.  This recipe is taken from

  • 1 bar soap 4.5 – 5oz (like Kirk’s Castille Soap) – cut into smaller pieces
  • 2 C washing soda (soda ash)

Grind together in a food processor – wait a minute for powder to settle before opening the processor!

If mixture is clumping in the jar due to moisture, add a desiccant (bit of clay tied in  piece of fabric)

** if towels are becoming less fluffy, follow with vinegar rinse.  If the machine doesn’t have a slot for the rinse cycle, use a downy ball. OR, try using a different bar soap, like the one below.  If still not fluffy, try reducing amount of castille soap.

What is washing soda?  How is washing soda made?  Read a full explanation and report from Meliora here.  Also, check out Merliora K’s fantastic video on how to make homemade laundry detergent!

If you want to go all out and make your own soap bar, I recommend starting with Mommypotamus’ recipe:

Laundry Soap Bar Recipe (1% superfat) – makes approximately 44 oz. of soap.

* For soap making purposes there are several types of coconut oil. The stuff I buy has a melting point of 76 degrees. This is the most commonly available kind and the preferred type for soap making. There is also a coconut oil that has a melting point of 92 degrees and another that is “fractionated,” meaning that the long chain triglycerides have been removed, leaving only saturated fats. I have not tested this recipe with either the 92 degree or fractionated oils, but it works well with the 76 degree type.

  1. Add water to a medium-sized glass or ceramic bowl and take it outside along with the lye and long-handled spoon. While wearing your protective gear and taking care not to breathe the vapors, slowly add the lye to the water while mixing gently. Order is important here, so make sure it is the lye you’re pouring into the water.
  2. The mixture will get very hot.
  3. Let it transition from cloudy to clear, then bring it inside. Let cool for 5-10 minutes while you work on next step.
  4. Place coconut oil in your crockpot and set to low.
  5. Add lye water to crockpot (being careful not to splash) and stir a few times.
  6. Using the stick blender begin mixing toward “trace.” You’ll know trace is achieved when the mixture has the texture and thickness of a light pudding.
  7. Cover and let cook on low. oils should rise up the sides like a wave and then fold back into the mixture. usually takes 45 minutes – 1 hour but the cooking time will vary depending on how hot the crock pot is. Check it often. If it rises up the sides and seems like it might overflow just give it a quick stir and it will reduce in volume
  8. When the soap is ready it should look a little like semi-translucent vaseline with no oil puddles in the middle. There are two ways to test and see if it’s done. First, dip a PH test strip and wait several minutes for it to fully change color. It should be between 7-10. If it is higher than 10 it’s not done. For a slightly less scientific approach, take a little of the soap and rub it between your fingers. It should feel a bit waxy. Now touch it to your tongue. If it ‘zaps’ you, it’s not done. Note: It is really important to make sure all the lye is converted – otherwise the finished soap can burn!
  9. Spoon mixture into your mold and let cool.
  10. Cut as soon as it’s cool and firm.
  11. In an area with good air flow, place bars on a rack/tray with about an inch of space between them. let them sit for 2-3 weeks to let the conditioning properties fully develop.

Homemade Laundry Detergent #3: Soapwort herb (Saponaria Officionalis)

Instructions taken from Subsistence Pattern Food Garden.  This wonderful couple grows, harvests and processes this plant – they use about 6 plants for 6 months-worth of detergent.

  • break down this perennial plant’s second year roots, leaves, stems, and flowers to make soap. The leaves off first year plants work as well but the root is more potent.
  • cut and chop the various parts of Saponaria Officionalis into more manageable pieces.
  • added to the cauldrons to simmer for 5 or 6 hours breaking down the plants tissues, helping to release the sudsy saponins contained therein. We let ours sit overnight before straining the pale green liquid.
  • next day mash the leaves up and remove them, making sure to squeeze all the remaining saponins out. Then carefully strain the remaining debris. The hardest part is straining the liquid because it really does want to foam up quit a bit…pour slowly.
  • For whatever reason the pouring action really causes the suds to form.
  • When bottling in a large detergent bottlecan, add 2/3 cup vinegar, to prevent against mold, to each bottle. The vinegar also assists as a cleaning agent

Variation: Herbs & Vinegar

Put herbs in a sack and tighten, then soak in a vinegar.  

  • Soapwort
  • Lemon balm
  • Lavendar

Prepare laundry tub and transfer the sack to the water.  Agitate.

After, squeeze the sack and put it back in the jar of vinegar and topped it off with a little extra to make sure its covered.

Homemade Laundry Detergent #4: ash lye water

Instructions taken from Dom’s website:

To wash with ash lye water, add about 1 cup of lye water to 4 litres or 1 gallon of hot water. Use this dilution for washing as you would wash with any other detergent. Then simply rinse what you’ve wash with clear water. Depending on concentration of the lye, will determine how much lye water is diluted with hot water. You can tell by the feel of the lye solution with your fingers, if it has a slippery feel, then it has the power to clean, and clean well it shall.

General Method

  1. Place the natural fibre or utensil in a pot and cover with a solution of wood ash lye: 1 cup of lye water to 4 litres or 1 gallon of hot water.
  2. Bring to a slow boil and simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring the material continuously with a spoon. Remove the material and rinse well with cold water.
  3. Place the natural fibre utensil in a suitable pot, cover with 1/3 cup of unpasteurised vinegar to each 4 cups of water.
  4. Let sit at room temperature for 12 hours to 24 hours.
  5. Remove and rinse well in hot water. Or, bring to a slow boil and simmer for 1 minute then rinse utensil with cold water.

How to Prepare Wood Ash Lye Water

Wood ash lye water is prepared by mixing fluffy gray wood-ash mixed with water. The ash must be prepared by burning natural and untreated wood. This is to say, wood which has not been painted, stained, or chemically treated in any way whatsoever. The fluffy gray ash is first sieved to remove any pieces of charcoal. The sieved ash is added to about 4 to 5 parts hot or cold water. The mixture is stirred for a few minutes then left for 12 to 24 hours. After this the ash settles to the bottom of the container to form a sediment. A clear solution will form on top of the ash sediment. Pour off the clear solution, which is your wood ash lye water. Lye water has a slippery feel similar to soapy water. This solution is used as a liquid detergent. Ash lye needs to be diluted with hot water for use, similar to any liquid detergent. A stronger lye may be prepared by bringing 1 : 3 [ash to water by volume] to a boil and then letting it sit for 12 to 24 hours before pouring off the clear solution of lye water. Store the lye water in a separate container.

The partially spent ash that remains, still contains high amounts of potash alkali, which can be reused to make more lye water. Simply add more hot or cold water to the ash sediment, and let stand. The ash may be used again, over 3 to 5 cycles, or until the solution ceases to produce a slippery feel. Well spent ash may be composted, or sparsely scattered over the garden. Do no water plants directly with the ash lye water solution for it will burn plants! This is because ash-lye is very alkaline and caustic to plant roots if used concentrated. I mostly add a little kefir to the spent ash, to neutralize each other, so that the ash is neutralized from an alkaline state to a base, and the acidic kefir is neutralized from an acid to a base. This can then be safely poured around trees that are well mulched. To protect sensitive skin, one should wear gloves when handling ash or undiluted ash-lye water.

Let the ash sit in water which we change every day for about 2 weeks with fresh water. So the water that it soaks in after 2 weeks has very low caustic properties.  run magnets through our wood ash so that ll metal filings are removed.

And what about stains?

Homemade Stain Remover #1

Recipe is taken from

  • 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide (3%)
  • 2 tablespoons castile soap
  • 20 drops lemon essential oil (optional)

Sometimes, just a drop of lemon essential oil will get an oil stain out.

**Store in a dark bottle, otherwise peroxide becomes ineffective
Shake well, then spray stain remover on the affected area – do a patch test first if there is any concern about colorfastness. I sometimes allow it to sit for about 5 minutes, then rinse while rubbing/scrubbing the fabric, then reapply and repeat until the stain is gone. Other times, I just spray it on and just throw it in the wash.

**Sometimes, when I have an oil stain that is particularly stubborn, I’ll spray this stain remover on it and then sprinkle it with diatomaceous earth, arrowroot powder or cornstarch. The powder will help absorb the oil from the stain.

Homemade Stain Remover #2

Mix to make a creamy paste that is the consistency of buttercream icing and store in a glass jar.  Make the cleaner thinner by adding extra castile soap or a tablespoon of water.

Spread on laundry stains and spritz with hydrogen peroxide to pre-treat laundry stains then wash as usual. (Pretest on delicate or dark-colored fabrics.) Add 2 tablespoons to a load of laundry to get your whole was clean, add a 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide to the wash cycle to brighten whites
Do not combine the hydrogen peroxide with the cleaner you plan to store. The hydrogen peroxide will react with baking soda neutralizing the cleaning power and releasing carbon dioxide. This gas will make the bottle of cleaner explode, leak, or spray all over when opened.

Homemade Stain Remover #3
  1. Grate or finely chop soap (1/2 bar).
  1. Heat 4 cups of water to boiling in 2 quart saucepan.
    1. Add grated soap to boiling water and stir until melted (this happens quickly, about 30 seconds).
    2. Add 1 cup washing soda and stir until fully dissolved (this takes about 2 minutes).
    3. Pour 2 cups of soap and washing soda mixture into each quart jar or the 2 quart bowl.
    4. Add 2 cups of water to each jar, leaving room for blender top (or four cups to a bowl). Seal jars, shake lightly to combine and place upside down to cool. (if using bowl, stir lightly to combine and cover.
    5. Let mixture cool until it is gelatinous and white. This takes from 4-6 hours (go do something fun).
    6. Blend each jar to combine by attaching blender bottom to mason jar. If using bowl use a hand mixer or immersion blender to blend into a creamy mayonnaise-like sauce.
    7. Store in a recycled soap pump or squeeze bottle for easy laundry application.

Blood Stains?

Try these two great tutorials:

What about Diapers?

If you’re using products from, check out Stephen’s tutorial:

If you want to try a homemade recipe, try this from Mommypotamus:

Follow the first wash with a vinegar rinse. The diapers may need to be stripped from time to time, but less often with vinegar rinse.  To strip, wash with some really harsh soap with no superfatting, followed by 1 cup of the the following:

Diaper Stripping Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice
  • 12 cups of distilled water

Directions: Pour your hydrogen peroxide and lemon juice into gallon jug. Fill the remainder of your jug with distilled water.

Whew!  If you’ve finally gotten that laundry clean, hopefully you still have energy to dry it! To dry clothes more quickly,

  • check the manual and ensure the spinner in the laundry machine is working optimally.
  • If summertime and humid, some frost-free refrigerators can be hacked to perform the task of dehumidification in a home, and try drying inside.  The heating element comes on every-so-often to thaw out the cooling plate. Any frost/ice that has formed on the cooling plate melts, drips into a plastic trough, drains to the bottom-rear of the fridge via a small tube, and ends up in a plastic bowl located on top of the compressor.  The compressor, as it works to pump heat out of the fridge and into the surrounding air, heats up. Heat from the compressor warms the bowl and evaporates the water, returning the moisture back to the air where it originally came from. So, under normal circumstances, this operation is humidity-neutral.  Assuming the fridge is against an external wall, or above an accessible basement, or near a drain, get a short piece of scrap tubing, attach it onto the end of the drain tube (just above the bowl), and instead of the water ending up in the bowl, it can be redirected outside, to a container or drain. In any case, since it is no longer being heated and evaporated back into the air, it is effectively removed from the humidity equation and internal air becomes drier.
  • greenhouse!!!!   
  • Dedicated drying room attached to trombe wall!  Use homemade black paint below to create heat in the trombe wall
  • If you have a wood heater or rockets mass heater in the house, hang racks above it from which to hang the clothes.  Make sure it doesn’t start a fire if they happen to fall down!

What about static?

Dryer sheets are incredibly toxic.  Stay away!!  If items have static, use wool dryer balls in the dryer, if you use a dryer! (to make these, pack a large ball of wool together in a sphere, and wrap with fabric and tied the fabric with string.  Wash and dry the until they are felted. Start big because they shrink when felting). also offer what they call “dryer angels” which are made by women in Jamaica.

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