Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It is almost St Patrick’s day, want to keep the planet greener in his honor? How about keeping your wallet greener?

Want to cut your detergent costs in half? Want to reduce your chemical footprint from laundry in half? Want to cut your trips to the detergent aisle in half? Okay, well I am sure you get the picture – want to do all of those things? If the answer is yes, then here is how you do it. Reduce the amount of detergent you put in your laundry by half. If you are using traditional laundry detergents, then you are using too much. This applies to high efficiency, ultra concentrations and the like.

The fact is, the manufacturer’s recommended amount is simply too high. It leads to too many suds which are hard for modern machines to remove in the rinse cycle – especially front loaders. These suds therefore remain in the laundry as residue in your clothes. Do the words residue and clean go together in your mind?

This excess residue does a world of bad things. It clogs the fabric and prevents proper breathing of the material. It is mildly caustic and eventually breaks down the fibers in your clothes leading to wear and tear. It remains next to your skin and aggravates allergies. The residue also actually attracts dirt to your supposedly clean clothes making them need laundry more often. As if that was not enough, the residue continues to accumulate and so it gets worse with each wash.

The answer to all these bad things is one simple thing. Never, ever use more than half the recommended amount of laundry detergent. I am not saying don’t use a pretreatment on bad stains – stains are a problem but you need to concentrate the chemical on the stain, not spread it over the whole laundry. Use pretreatments and stain removers like normal -just do not add more than half the detergent. In a very short while you will notice that your clothes feel more comfortable and they will come cleaner easier. You will be saving money and you will have halved or better your laundry chemical footprint.

By the way, this is not just some homespun wisdom. There is a scientific basis against using too much of any kind of detergent. The effectiveness of the detergent depends on its ability to remove the soil from the fabric and place it into the cleaning solution to be rinsed away. If the detergent causes too many suds, the soil gets bound up in the suds and stays with the clothing even past the rinse cycle. If this seems doubtful, take a load of clothing you just laundered using the recommended amount of detergent. Place your “clean” clothes right back in the washing machine and put it through a wash cycle – but add no detergent. Once, it hits agitate, give it a couple minutes then open the lid – I can almost guarantee that your see suds. Where do all these suds come from if you have added no new detergent? They come from the filthy residues left behind. Using too much is bad for the environment, bad for your pocket, bad for your skin and bad for your clothing.

By the way, we overuse many other household chemical beside laundry detergent. How many times have you seen someone clean with pure Chemicals when the bottle or box clearly states that it is to be mixed with water? Mixing it with water is not a way to save money – it is the way most chemicals become effective. As part of the cleaning solution the chemical’s job is mostly to loosen the dirt and then get it into solution with water so that it can be removed. If there is no water to carry away the dirt, then all the pure chemical will do is spread it around evenly. Water is the universal solvent. It dissolves far more than any acid or chemical can. If you do not allow water to do its part in cleaning you are not cleaning at all. I suspect you could cut way down on the amount of chemicals here also. But for now, just be sure to actually mix the household cleaners to the specified solutions. Using them pure is wasteful and is actually much less effective than mixed with water.

Cut your laundry detergent in half and be sure to mix cleaners properly with water. This is a simple living solution that anybody can do and everyone will benefit from. Cut back on the chemicals is an easy way to go at least half way green and not give up on the detergents and cleaners you have grown used to. In later posts, I will present some totally green simple living solutions to laundry and cleaning, but this is a fine place to start.

PS:  Just as I was posting this, I saw an article from a scientist claiming that if you see any suds with modern detergents, you have put in too much.  He recommends using 1/8 of the normal amount.  Sounds like someone being a bit extreme for the sake of the news to me.  I do not think all suds are bad - I'm just saying.....     
May the blessings of spring be with you all this fine Saint Patrick's day.


  1. I totally sent this on to my mom...
    ...cause lord knows 'I' don't do laundry, LOL. ^_~ Very good article though, Keep writing and hope to see you soon!

  2. Suds are only there for looks. The manufacturers add it because we expect suds now. They just add residue & do zip of cleaning! It's saponin that does all the work of degreasing and removing odors. I've been using soap nuts (pure saponin) for a few months & I love them. Never could get our towels clean enough before, now they're fluffy & don't smell like mildew. Price works out about $0.15/huge load if I buy bulk. Soap nuts clean everything. Going after the dogs one of these days. :}

  3. Nuriah -- the soap nuts thing is new to me, but I am going to look into it. Do you use them ground or whole? I know they used to use soap wort in centuries past. I am all about clean laundry not that I have a chicken pen to work in : )

  4. Soap nuts are used ground, whole, or just the dried husks without the seed in it. I buy them in bulk from NaturOli.com at the best price I've found (~$55/4 lbs seedless husks, still have 3/4 bag after about a month). Enough husks to make ~6-7 fruits-worth in a cotton bag sealed with a large brass safety pin. Washes about 6 king-size loads. I don't use softener anymore & static has been minimal, don't notice much difference. Except for the fresh and wonderful lack of odors!

  5. You use the bag until it no longer smells "vinegary" or loses a lot of its soap-nutty odor. They will look pretty thinned & dried out compared to when you put them in. Compost them or just toss them out in the yard. :}

  6. Sounds like a lot of benefits from just the extra little effort to prepare the bag. I will most definately look into it. I wonder where the beans are grown. Hmm seems I need to hit the computer and do a little research


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