We Get Greener Kit Cassingham & her Bigger Half

Laundry Detergent

I've experimented with lots of different laundry detergents through the years and had lots of different reactions and experiences. Philosophically I prefer powder detergents because they are cheaper to ship since they are dry (liquid is heavier, making it more expensive to ship, and more fuel is therefore consumed, making it a less environmentally friendly product). But, since I want to find the best product out there, I have experimented with lots of different products anyway.

I shopped pretty long and hard to find a very efficient washing machine -- one that used the least amount of electricity and water, yet still did a good job getting clothes clean. I decided on the Asko, from Sweden, and I love it! It makes doing laundry almost easy (if only it would transfer the wash to the dryer and then fold and put the clean clothes away....). Using the machine is actually really easy. The hard part is finding a detergent I like. Too many laundry detergents are scented. I want the "scent" of clean, which to me is no scent at all, not the scent of something someone thinks means clean.

My clothes come out cleaner than they have with other washers, partially because it's slow and easy, heating the water and soaking the clothes as it goes. It's gentle on the fabric and tough on the dirt.

Another reason for the cleaner clothes is because of the high efficiency (HE) laundry detergent Asko recommends. It takes less detergent to get cleaner clothes. Perfect!

Asko recommended Tide HE (powder) so we bought it first. You can't always tell in the store what the perfume factor is in products, but as soon as we got home I could smell it. I reduced the amount per load and increased the number of rinses and lived with it. Arm & Hammer has a scent-free HE powder soap that I like really well.

My Favorite Laundry Supplies
Method Detergent, Baking Soda, & White Vinegar My favorite combo: Method laundry detergent, baking soda, and white vinegar.

Liquid laundry detergent products I've tried include Seventh Generation, Eco-Products, Method, and Staber. Seventh Generation and Method are my favorite of that selection. I just wish they weren't liquid. At least the Method detergent is unscented!

Humorous aside: One liquid laundry detergent I tried was in a corn-plastic bottle. Since my garage is an extension of my pantry, cleaning products go out there for storage. Between the summer heat, the sun and time, the bottle started leaking, leaving me a puddle of detergent. Fortunately I caught it fast enough I was able to pour most of the contents into a newly emptied laundry bottle and not lose the entire supply. I was pretty amused by the experience!

When I checked GoodGuide.com to see what I could learn about laundry detergents, they rated Seventh Generation Free & Clear powder the highest. Wow! A new product to try. And what a surprise, and bummer -- Arm & Hammer didn't rate well with them; time to switch.

My last trick and tip for clean laundry is to use baking soda in the wash cycle and white vinegar in the rinse cycle. That combination acts as my softener and anti-static control. And for pennies. I can also use less detergent with the baking soda; Suweeeeet!


You might look at the Shaklee Get Clean line. There is a fragrance free HE laundry concentrate, it is liquid, but it is so concentrated that it suggests you use 1 oz and I actually use about half that for most loads of laundry. Check out www.debbzie4health.myshaklee.com and look at the Get Clean line.

Debbie at April 24, 2010 10:33 AM

For a couple of years now, I've been making my own laundry soap, for a fraction of the cost of store-bought. It works as well as anything I've bought, but apparently the recipe is one of those that people will either love or hate; there's not much middle ground in my experience. [For example, I love it, my mother hates it!]

Something I've learned from that experience: instead of actual baking soda, try washing soda instead. You get a little better results than with baking soda, and so far, I've always managed to find the washing soda at a slightly better price.

The vinegar in the rinse cycle sounds like something I'll have to try. Thanks!

Heather at April 26, 2010 9:58 AM

Heather, I thought someone had shared their laundry soap recipe, but I'm not finding it. Will you share yours? I'd love to give that a try.


Kit Cassingham at April 26, 2010 11:12 AM

I recently ran across this article : "We Don't Need No Stinking Laundry Detergent."

Haven't tried it yet, but I have ALWAYS used way less detergent than the recommended amount.

Jackie G at April 28, 2010 8:23 AM

We like the odor free HE concentrate from Costco. All 4 members of the family are prone to eczema outbreaks from various sources, including residual laundry soap. We have had no problems with the Kirkland stuff.

Jeremy Jerome at April 28, 2010 10:24 AM

Jackie, I sure like the sound of the information that article shares. I have a load of whites to do. I guess I'll experiment with just water and see what happens. I do think I'll put my baking soda and white vinegar in though.


Kit Cassingham at April 28, 2010 10:32 AM

Jeremy, my friend Vicki used that product (I think that's what she bought anyway) for the hotel she used to own. She seemed content with it too. Bottom line, if it keeps your eczema under control that's a huge plus.

Are you going to try laundry without detergent to see how that goes?


Kit Cassingham at April 28, 2010 10:54 AM

Kit, are you off the vodka now? ;~>

Kay at April 30, 2010 9:16 AM

Kay, I don't use the vodka cleaner in my laundry! Silly girl! It's used in other cleaning which I'll covered in Mopping My Bamboo Floors.

I did a load of laundry yesterday without laundry detergent, though I used baking soda and white vinegar. It seemed to come out clean, even passed the "sniff test". At the very least I have assured myself that very little detergent is needed for getting clean clothes. Save money and resources by dropping your use of laundry detergent.


Kit Cassingham at April 30, 2010 9:57 AM

The recipe I use is from "Dining on a Dime" by Tawra Kellam and Jill Cooper. I'd be happy to share, but I'm always wary about putting up copyrighted info online. However, I agree, I believe someone did post a recipe. Aha -- it's in a comment to a post on your Facebook wall.

The user states: "boil half bar of felz naptha or full bar Ivory soap in water (shred in cheese grater first). In three gallon bucket mix the melted soap with 1/2 cup borax, 1/2 cup washing powder. mix well and let sit over night. It should gel well over night. Mix well again to break up gel and use. I use half cup with regular load in front load he machine. You can still add baking soda if you like for tough stains.
If you search you will find variations on the amount of each ingredient, but little change in the ingredients."

My own experience: 1/3 of a bar of Fels Naptha (rather than 1/2 -- although I may try 1/2 bar on my next batch). Melt the bar soap by boiling in 5-6 cups of water; add the borax and washing soda on the stove (after bar soap has melted), boiling for 15 minutes or so. Use a large pan and caution, as it tends to boil over randomly. Also, as he wrote it, this would be FAR stronger than the stuff I use. My recipe says to add enough water in the bucket to make 2 gallons of mixture. Let stand overnight, then store as you like. I pour mine into an often-reused dispenser-style laundry soap bottle; my sister-in-law uses a few smaller bottles. It separates when it stands, so shake well before each use. Add 1/2 to 1 cup to each load.

As I said, some people love it, others hate it; I figured it was worth a shot. At around $2 for 2 gallons of laundry soap, it's definitely worth the time and effort!

Heather at April 30, 2010 10:56 AM

You wrote: "if only it would transfer the wash to the dryer".

Other than drying towels, I no longer use the dryer. Instead I use indoor clothes dryers in the garage. They collapse for easy storage when not in use.


Lynn Ratcliffe at May 1, 2010 8:40 AM

Lynn, there's one place I'm not as green as I could be. It's become a trade-off of time versus fuel. Between my work and my hobbies I don't have lots of spare time. I'm not willing to take the time to hang my laundry to save energy/fuel. I guess I could convert our garage into a drying space, but it's dirty and my time is pinched.

I love your solution. Amory Lovins, of the Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass, CO, has a drying space in his house whereby he pullies his clothes line into a space that collects heat from the sun and the house. It doesn't take much space and clothes dry quickly.

Thanks for sharing, Lynn!


Kit Cassingham at May 2, 2010 6:50 PM


I live in the Netherlands and over here the advise is to use more detergent than advised but wash on a lower temperature. For instance towels on 40 Celsius instead of 60 Celsius. You need more detergent to get them clean but the cost on the environment will be lower as the heating of the water (in the washing machine) is the highest cost.

About twice a year you should do one (empty) cycle on the highest temperature with cleaning soda to get rid of left over detergent to keep your washing machine clean and efficient. Of course if you have a washing machine that gets its' hot water directly from your boiler the higher temperature and less detergent is greener.

Using vinegar instead of detergent to wash dark clothes is also great to get rid of calcium buildup in your washing machine.

Ingrid at July 12, 2010 5:05 AM


Laundry detergents formulated for the US market don't require more detergent per load. At least that's what I hear and have experienced.

Where you may need more detergent though is when you have hard water. When My Bigger Half and I lived in Boulder our water had 23 grains of hardness -- that's really hard. We used more laundry and dish soap to get clothes and dishes, resp, clean.

I'm surprised to hear you say you think that the US approach of taking hot water out of a boiler rather than heating it as you need it is more energy efficient. My experience is just the opposite. We bought an Asko washer because of its energy and water conserving approach to laundry. It takes longer but our clothes are clean and our utility bill is low.

Thanks for your comments.


Kit Cassingham at July 13, 2010 11:00 AM

I have been 'making' my own powdered laundry soap.
Grate one bar Fels Naptha. Blend with 1 cup Borax and 1 cup WASHING soda. Use 1 to 2 Tablespoons per load. (I generally only use one even on an extra large load. 2 is for heavily soiled clothes or the kids stuff) I keep intending to pre-disolve to use for very cold washes but haven't got around to it yet. I have also used homemade castile style soap instead of the fels naptha but I can't find it as easily.

Rachel at August 3, 2010 7:48 PM

I forgot to add that I add white vinegar in the rinse as a softener instead of commercial softener. somewhere in the range of 1/4-1/2 cup, whatever the fabric softener cup holds.

Rachel at August 3, 2010 7:50 PM


I'm not sure the use of Fels Naptha is such a great idea. My research shows one of its main components is Stoddard solvent, another name for mineral spirits -- a petroleum product. It's a known irritant.

I like your use of borax and white vinegar. Simplify your life and wash and skip the fels naptha. Live healthier too.


Kit Cassingham at August 12, 2010 2:17 PM
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