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Here's Why You Shouldn’t Use Homemade Detergent, According to Science

When you’re trying to save money and avoid sketchy chemicals, it may seem like a good idea to mix your own laundry detergent. Homemade recipes require only a handful of inexpensive ingredients, and this way you know exactly what’s going in with the wash, right? But the science of cleaning is incredibly complicated, and there are some important reasons why you shouldn’t go DIY when it comes to your detergent.

First of all, homemade laundry detergents aren’t even detergent they’re soap. According to the American Cleaning Institute, detergent and soap both contain surfactants, a.k.a. “surface active agents” that lower the surface tension of water to help it more easily spread and rid dirty clothes of grime. But differences in their chemical composition makes detergent a much more effective cleaner.

Soap is made from natural fats and oils plus a neutralizing alkali compound, such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH). Most DIY recipes for laundry soap (or “detergent”) call for a combination of Borax, washing soda and shaved bar soap. Detergents, on the other hand, are made from a carefully crafted mix of synthetic and natural ingredients, often containing more than one surfactant, and are more soluble in water than soap is.

Why does this distinction matter? Here are a couple of big reasons:

Homemade “detergent” can ruin your clothes...

If the water you’re using to do the wash is hard meaning it’s high in the minerals calcium and magnesium your soap (homemade “detergent”) will react with the dissolved minerals in the water and leave unwanted residue on your clothes. In the process of creating this residue, soap is used up, so there’s less to do the job of cleaning, says the American Cleaning Institute. This reaction can also stiffen and ruin fabrics. Even if the water in your area is soft, homemade “detergent” can still react with hardness minerals in the soil on your dirty clothing.

...and your washing machine.

The reaction between soap and hardness minerals can also mess with your cleaning equipment. Just as it can lead to deposits on your clothes, it can cause a film to build up in your washing machine. Eventually, this film may cause mold and mildew to grow and you probably don’t want to be cleaning your clothes in a secretly grimy machine.

Going DIY can be hazardous.

When create-your-own cleaning products lack proper labeling and child-safe packaging, they can be a poison hazard to kids and pets in the home, cautions the American Cleaning Institute. It’s also important to remember that homemade recipes are not tested for safety as consumer products are. In the wrong doses, even the natural ingredients in your DIY recipe can be harmful to you and your clothes.

The good news? Real detergent works!

It’s labeled according to safety standards and engineered so it won’t react to the hardness minerals in water and soil, so it will actually do its intended cleaning job. And if toxic ingredients are what you’re worried about (as you should be), you can trust in the effective laundry detergent pods from Dropps, which are EPA Safer Choice Approved and free of harsh dyes and chemicals found in many other widely sold detergents. In fact, you can see a list of all the ingredients used in Dropps products and exactly what purpose each serves right here.

It’s time to ditch the fake DIY “detergent” and choose an option that not only works, but is also safe for your family and the environment!

Image credit: Marco Verch/Flickr Commons

6 comments

  • I’ve been using DIY detergent for about 18 years and have never had a problem. Our clothes are clean and we’ve all lived. Our washer is the HE, and we’ve never had a problem with that, either, as far as a build up or anything.
    My husband, for some reason, developed a terrible allergy to some store-bought laundry detergents, but fortunately he doesn’t have a problem with ours.
    So far, so good. I’m hoping to use our kind for another 18 years…at least!

    Mary Moore
  • This comment section appears to consist of people who don’t understand chemistry. They assume that just because their homemade soap is “natural” and doesn’t contain “chemicals” it is somehow safer and more effective. Guess what? Your soap is garbage, and doesn’t have near the amount of thought and science behind it as a commercially available detergent. Just because your mix contains effective ingredients like washing soda and borax, it doesn’t mean your mix works satisfactorily. Then you all negate the science by implying that Dropps and the detergent mafia is out to cover up you and your comments on this webpage professing the truth about your homemade soap. Just buy detergent, you won’t die.

    Larry Lobster
  • This is all hype just to sell your product. Homemade laundry soap isn’t the problem when it comes to build up. It is the overuse of too much product in general. Like the post above I’m assuming this one will not be approved either.

    HzLove
  • This is all hype just to sell your product. Homemade laundry soap isn’t the problem when it comes to build up. It is the overuse of too much product in general. Like the post above I’m assuming this one will not be approved either.

    HzLove
  • Strange that a company who is manufacturing laundry soap is promoting their product by finding fault with DIY’ers.

    Mom

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