7 Laundry Detergent Things to Know Before Going DIY

Commercial laundry detergents never contain both BORAX and WASHING SODA together.

It’s an either/or kind of thing. Powder laundry detergents usually contain washing soda in their formula, while liquid laundry detergents have borax, usually with alcohol (plus other chemicals). End of story.
This may also be the reason why popular belief is that powder detergents are supposed to be more effective than liquid detergents. Borax only lets the cleaning pH go up so far. Borax is most effective in hotter water, while washing soda is perfect for any temperature. When thinking about doing your own laundry detergent, consider that Borax is perfectly fine, but if you’re having trouble getting things really clean then replacing borax with washing soda might be the way to go.

  1. Only a handful of detergents actually use salt in their formula.

Purex powder is actually almost 50% salt and Seventh Generation uses a tiny amount in some of their liquids. Why?, you might ask. Well, salt acts as a natural fabric softener! Even though it is weaker than artificially created softeners, the natural option is, obviously, safer.

Since it’s weaker than other softeners, some might not like it on their formula of homemade laundry detergent. Our take on it? Natural is always, always the way to go.

  1. Actually NO detergents contain baking soda on their formula.

Since baking soda is weaker than washing soda for softening water and doesn’t allow the cleaning pH to go nearly as high, many companies choose the latter when crafting their detergents.
However, if you search around the internet you might find that many blogs suggest adding ½ cup of baking soda to your laundry for better performance. If you’re DIYing a laundry detergent and you want it to be really potent, then washing soda might be the way to go. If you’re looking for a gentler detergent, baking soda is a great option.

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  1. Only powder laundry detergents use Oxiclean in their formula

Oxiclean becomes just peroxide and washing soda once it hits liquid. So any liquid detergent claiming to contain Oxiclean likely just has peroxide in it. Want that great oxiclean power in your homemade detergent? Well, you can make your own Oxiclean powder! Just mix peroxide and washing soda and dehydrate it. But it’s like 100 times easier to just dump peroxide in your bleach compartment or to make a solution of half peroxide half washing soda and use to pretreat stains immediately. And nope, borax doesn’t work just as well.

  1. Vinegar is incredibly powerful! It dissolves the salt deposits on your clothes!

You can just put ½ cup in your rinse compartment, but it you have really hard water and a top loader, it might not be enough vinegar to make a dent.

  1. Secret’s out: whites aren’t actually white in the real world.
    Most whiteness in clothes is an illusion. So why do we see clothes white? Well, the answer is something we call “bluing.” Bluing has been around forever. To understand what it is: most white garments come from the store with a bluing chemical that eventually wears off. This bluing dye counteracts the yellow that tends to show on white clothes that have been worn for a while. If you want that good ol’ store-bought white, you need to blue your garments!

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  1. If you really think it’s not getting clean try out these tips:

  2. Increase the temperature of the wash water. Sometimes warm water works best when fighting grease or oily stains.

  3. Always put your detergent in first (especially when dealing with laundry pods and powder laundry detergent) and less clothes in the washing machine so they tumble better.
  4. Use just a tad more detergent and/or make sure the detergent you are using is rinsed well.
  5. Soak the load before you throw it in your washer.


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* Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation