Saturday, 12 April 2008

Ingredients for an alternative laundry powder

For a while I've been using a homemade laundry liquid which seems to work reasonably well. It's a recipe I found on House of Strauss website and it's called Gloop! It's made up using water, castile soap, washing soda crystals, and lavender essential oil. The end-product is a fairly undesirable looking tub of, well, gloopy stuff. I'm still looking for a recipe that I'm happy to settle on for my regular wash.

Today I happened upon some washing powder from the
Bio-D Company Ltd which I found in an Oxfam shop. I bought a bag to try out which will last a while - as well as testing out it's effectiveness, I want to do some research on the ingredients to help with my own home formulation. Here are the ingredients as listed on the bag:
  • 15-30% Zeolite and Sodium Carbonate (both water softeners)
  • 5-15% Sodium Sulphate (a "filler"), Sodium Metasilicate (a detergent builder), Vegetable Soap, and Sodium Perborate (bleaching effect)
  • 1-5% Non-ionic detergent and Cellulose Colloids (an antiredeposition agent)
So, what does that all mean?

Zeolite is a mineral (a hydrated aluminosilicate mineral, to be precise!) that has quite a wide variety of uses, but in the case of laundry detergents it acts as a water softener. As well as being produced synthetically, it also occurs naturally in volcanic rocks, and this natural form is used in a form of therapy called cellular zeolite which is said to reduce the risk of cancer and boost the immune system. 

Sodium carbonate (more commonly known as washing soda) is as sodium salt of carbonic acid, and acts as another water softener in laundry detergent. It is apparently a close relative of the other household friend, baking soda, but is more strongly alkaline. A caustic substance it removes grease, oil, wine and more.

Sodium sulphate is the sodium salt of sulphuric acid and is principally used for the manufacture of detergents. It occurs naturally and as a by-product of other chemical processes and is apparently used as a "filler" in powdered laundry detergents (it's very cheap). Apparently it's use in these products is declining due to consumer preference for compact or liquid products. Interesting! It sounds like I can leave this one out of any homemade products as being unnecessary.

Sodium metasilicate is a form of Sodium silicate which is used in floor, laundry and metal cleaning products as an alkaline detergent powder.

Castile soap is soap made only from vegetable oils (rather than animals fats).

Sodium perborate is a white, odorless, water soluble chemical compound that is manufactured and provides a source of active oxygen in laundry detergents and has a bleaching effect. It was discovered in 1904 by the chemist Dr. Otto Liebknecht and was used 3 years later to produce the washing powder, Persil.

Non-ionic (or neutral) detergent is used in washing liquids and it less toxic than the more commonly used cationic or anionic detergents. Apparently cationic is the most toxic with a 1% solution being damaging to the mucous membranes (which is interesting as I'm trying out some Ecover fabric conditioner which contains <5%>

Cellulose colloids sounds like a terrible disease, but they apparently act as an antiredeposition agent in laundry powder. Who would have guessed! They appear on the ingredient lists for a lot of alternative laundry products, and one assumes they stop the dirt that has been removed from re-attaching itself to the clothes.

What more can I say other than THAT is what I just washed my clothes with, and they appear to be clean and in one piece. ;-) My next job is to work on my own homemade powder from what I've learned here. :-o

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