How to make soap powder

Make detergents yourself: You have to be aware of this risk

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Making cleaning products yourself is fun, saves space and money. Here you can find out why I no longer make my own detergent and what risks you need to know about DIY detergents.

To find out that I'm a big fan of homemade cleaning products, just take a quick look at the household category. There you will find a considerable range of different everyday helpers:

All-purpose cleaner, disinfectant spray and label remover can be found there. Or toilet spray, abrasives and granite sink cleaner. Pot cleaners, room air fresheners and the popular toilet cleaning tabs are also part of the package.

If that's not enough for you, you can also find homemade wet wipes and Swiffer wipes or anti-dust and ironing sprays. They are cheap, made from simple ingredients and usually quick. So why don't I make my own detergent?

Make my own experience with detergents

My attempt to replace more and more conventional cleaning agents with homemade cleaning agents has unfortunately reached its limits despite all the successes. So I have my consuming homemade washing powder taken out of operation after less than a year: Because the increasingly thick gray veil on our clothing could no longer be overlooked.

A homemade fabric softener made from vinegar and baking soda worked well, but it was a huge mess to handle. Apart from that, vinegar and baking soda neutralize each other when used at the same time, leaving behind better salt water.

Homemade dishwashing detergent made of lemons convinced me only moderately in cleaning. There are also concerns about the effects this type of experiment may have on the inner workings of expensive machines.

Which voices can you believe?

Finding a neutral statement on this topic is not that easy. Further motives can be assumed on both sides of the discussion:

  • The 100% pro side of DIY cleaning products is usually so scary and anti-chemistry that I lack common sense.
  • The critics of homemade detergents and dishwashing detergents are again suspected of speaking for the cleaning agent manufacturers.

Like probably most of us, I am a complete layman when it comes to the chemical, physical and technical aspects of washing machines and dishwashers.

I also cannot assess the long-term effects of soap, vinegar and baking soda on clothing and technology. Of course, everything is only used very diluted, but we ruined our first cloth diapers with it.

Doing it yourself can also be expensive

Because we replaced the more expensive detergent recommended by the diaper manufacturer with a natural product, cloth diapers costing EUR 500 were in the bucket after a few months ...

I've been looking for an unbiased, fact-based voice on these topics for a long time and finally found it. The author of this website, Emily, has had the same experiences as me with her homemade washing powder and has been looking for answers.

I would like to give you a summary of the result of their research. If you're not afraid of chemical texts in English, be sure to read their article for yourself.

The problem with homemade washing powder

DIY washing powders usually consist of two main components: water softeners such as borax, washing soda or baking soda and the cleaning component, soap. The problem is - the soap. Why this is so becomes clear from the different properties of detergents and soap.

The surfactants in the detergent are structured in such a way that they trap dirt with little effort and temperature and release it from clothing into the water. Soap also dissolves impurities, but unlike smooth surfaces, the removal does not work as smoothly (in a double sense).

Have you ever washed your clothes with soap by hand? Then you know how often you have to rub and rinse with clear water until all soap residues are rinsed out.

Soap in washing machines

Washing machines have been optimized for water-efficient washing, which makes it impossible to completely remove the soap from the fibers. Soap residues that have not been scrubbed away or rinsed thoroughly, however, attach themselves to the fibers and include bacteria, grease and other dirt. This in turn favors further mineral deposits in these areas.

From wash basins, showers and bathtubs we all know the regular deposits that are removed when cleaning the bathroom. The same thing happens inside the machine. However, scrubbing will not help, and the likelihood of a new washing machine increases.

Why making detergents yourself can be a waste of money

Depending on the recipe, about 3-5 parts of water softener (baking soda or washing soda) are used with one part of soap. If 1-3 tablespoons of DIY washing powder is used per load, the actual amount of soap is no more than 1-2 teaspoons per machine. With 6-10 liters of water, however, this is far too little for thorough cleaning.

With a higher proportion of soap, however, the deposits on clothing and machine would only accumulate faster.

Clean laundry with homemade detergent

But why does the laundry appear to be clean despite the small amount of soap? This is explained by the three components of cleaning - water, surfactants and movement.

Even if no surfactants (and hardly any soap) are used, the water and the movement still provide a good level of cleaning and freshness. So you could also save yourself the detergent ...

However, the soap residue will continue to accumulate in the laundry and in the machine. I noticed that through the gray veil. And the ruined load of expensive, once fluffy, hard cloth diapers.

Save money with DIY detergents

The same effect should therefore be taken into account when calculating the savings in money without long-term consequences can also be had without detergent. Then there is damage to the machine and clothing - and it would have been cheaper to buy an ecological detergent.

In contrast to me, the author carried out an extensive deep cleaning of her laundry. The sight of the soaking water on her supposedly clean duvet covers and photos of similar actions give an idea of ​​the extent. You can find the instructions for deep cleansing in English here. You can find a translation in the VIP package.

Just because baking soda works wonderfully as an abrasive in the sink, you shouldn't use the same principle to clean the laptop keyboard ...

Which I would much rather have written

Please believe me that I was very reluctant to write this article. I would much rather describe the simplest methods of making DIY detergents to you. Or how I made this super cool lemon mixer dishwashing detergent.

My experimental heart beats for homemade household helpers and that's why this defeat hits me as well as all other DIY fans.

But I would also like to save you the investment of a washing machine that you need too soon, ruined clothing or the loss of a full load of cloth diapers. That's why I'm biting the bullet.

The fact is: The step back to nature is - at least so far - when it comes to laundry, probably only via the washboard. Because there is nothing wrong with using homemade detergent for cleaning by hand.

Unfortunately, only modern appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines do not get along so well with the otherwise tried and tested household remedies from the past.

My personal conclusion on DIY detergents

Personally, I switched to an odorless detergent from an eco-brand. I also experiment with mineral-based alternatives, mostly alternating with the eco-detergent.

Chemical-sounding substances aren't necessarily bad, because my favorites baking soda, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide are still chemicals too.

If you want to avoid unnecessary detergents, look for products without chlorine, parabens and phosphates - and without soap. If you are completely happy with your homemade detergent, then I don't want to stop you.

I just want you to make your own decision about detergents with awareness of the risks.

I am sure that you will find a natural detergent solution that is good for you - that works for you.


Smarticular has written a reply that I do not want to withhold from you. Based on my experience, the risk is still too high for me, but maybe it will help you to better compare both sides of the coin. And then follow your gut feeling.

And while you're already here, why not write up some presents? Click on the picture and find out which gifts are waiting for you as a regular reader: