Thursday, 1 May 2008

More laundry powder research

I'm still on the quest for a homemade laundry powder that works, but I must admit my chemistry knowledge is lagging far behind the chemicals used! LOL

From what I've learned so far looking at some of the eco-laundry powders out there, these are the bare essential components that I need in my laundry powder:
  • Surfactants (soap and detergents)
  • Water softeners (e.g. - zeolite, sodium carbonate)
  • Bleaching agent (e.g. - sodium perborate)
  • Perfume (e.g. - linalool)
Most of the commercial products also include a "filler" but I can't see much point in this - leave out the filler and just use less powder in the wash, no?

Hmm - for the soap and softener I can try using castile soap and washing soda. I'm not too sure about the detergent though, or about the right amounts of each component.

I'm now waiting for a flash of inspiration, a very good chemist, or (more likely) the next batch of research! Out of my depth? We'll see... ;-)

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  1. A soluble filler such as sodium sulphate can be beneficial in ensuring proper mixing of dry and semi-dry ingredients. Sodium sulphate in particular has some desiccating action, so it'll definitely help if you end up selecting castile soap as your detergent.

    I'd say sodium carbonate, being soluble, would be a better (in terms of fabric and washing-machine life) softener than zeolite, which is somewhat abrasive, being a clay of sorts.

    A dry, hard castile soap grated and put through the food processor/blender with 1/2 its weight in sodium sulphate should make a nice dry soap powder that won't clump and will enter the water readily. You can use that as your base, with some additives like sodium carbonate, borax, and sodium silicate as a decent starter laundry powder.

    I'd leave out the detergent unless you have extremely hard water. It's not necessary, and for many years people used laundry soap with softeners. All detergents really are are "presoftened" soaps: they're altered in such a way that they don't react with hard-water ions (usually by inclusion of a sulphate group).

    You want to run your tests on sturdy, dark-coloured fabric, so you can see if a scum is forming or it rinses clean. Cleaning efficacy isn't really an issue, as pure castile soap will clean fabric just fine: rinsing and hard-water scum are the problems.

  2. Thanks for your detailed suggestions - I have added them to my list of pending experiments, and will write more on this once I've had a chance to try them.