Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Powder vs. Liquid

I'm always searching the web for new and unusual ideas on how to live a greener life. Most searches net the same list of tips. They are valuable and worthy of our attention ... but I keep thinking ... is that it? Is that all we can do? I don't think so ... but finding those little jewels of knowledge is like trying to find that proverbial pin in a haystack.

Persistence, however, pays ... and that brings us to today's post.

I've never given laundry detergent much thought beyond whether or not it contains phosphates (which, by the way, are bad for the environment). But recently I came across an article which stated that powdered detergents are better for the environment than liquid varieties. This was news to me.

Liquid detergents (and this goes for dishwasher as well and laundry detergents) are 75% water. The concentrated varieties are bit better but not by much. Liquid detergents are usually packaged in plastic which is hard to recycle. Powdered detergents, on the other hand, contain no added water and are usually packaged in biodegradable boxes or bags.

Liquid varieties are heavier than the powdered ones and that's important when it comes to travel. Simply put ... the heavier the item, the higher the cost to haul it to your grocer's shelf.

So ... it turns out that using powdered laundry detergent is kinder to the environment.

That's my little "jewel" for today!

As always, I'd love to hear from you.


  1. I'm always looking for ways to cut plastic out of my life. I never thought of replacing my liquid detergent with powder. Thanks for the idea!!

  2. I have a recipe for homemade laundry detergent that is wonderful. I've been using it for 3 months and it makes your clothing smell fresh and gets it just as clean as the detergents you buy at the grocery. It costs about $1.50 to make enough to wash 30 loads of laundry. And it takes about 15-20 minutes to make a batch. Just email me at if you'd like the recipe.

  3. I wrote to Whimsey Creations and not only asked for the recipe but asked if we could publish it here. Here is their gracious response:

    Absolutely! The original recipe is on the website but I've tweaked it until it works better for me. It just smells so fresh and clean and lemony and your clothes come out of the dryer static free even without a dryer sheet (and there is an idea below about that too).

    1 bar Fels Naptha laundry soap (if your grocer doesn't carry it, you can order it per bar or per case from grated into cheese shreds
    24 cups water
    1/2 cup borax (20 Mule Team Borax)
    1/2 cup washing soda (this isn't baking soda - it's in a yellow box in the laundry aisle)

    Heat water to simmering in a large pot and add grated soap. Turn heat to low and stir every couple of minutes until soap is dissolved (it takes about 15 minutes). Turn off heat and stir in borax and washing soda. Mix really well to dissolve. Pour into a large plastic bucket to cool (you can find almost 2 gallon ones - 15 quart I think? - at WalMart for about $1.50). It will gel as it cools - will end up very thick - kind of like if pudding was the consistency of jello. You can give it a stir every now and then if you want. Then I store mine in one gallon clear plastic containers with a wide-mouth screw on lid - it makes about one and 3/4 gallons. You can also find those containers (squarish shaped) at WalMart. However, don't pour the hot liquid into them directly because they will melt (been there, done that - they are a different plastic than the bucket LOL). You use 1/2 cup per load of laundry (just keep a 1/4 or 1/2 plastic measuring cup with your soap). Now this doesn't make suds but it really gets your clothes clean. And you can use the Fels Naptha soap bar as a stain pre-treater too - just rub it on before you put your clothing into the washer. You can use this in front loading machines since it doesn't suds. This makes enough to do 25-30 loads of laundry.

    For my towels and sheets and things like that I also pour in about 3/4 cup of white distilled vinegar - right in with the soap. It gives them a little extra boost. A gallon of white vinegar is pretty inexpensive and you can add about 2 teaspoons of any essential oil (lemon verbena is wonderful) to it. Just give the container a shake before you pour it out. Your laundry room will smell wonderful but the scent won't stay in your clothing after you dry it.

    If you don't want to add dryer sheets to the landfill (and who knows what is in them!) you can take a small muslin drawstring bag and add lemon verbena leaves, lavender, or any combination you want - throw it in the dryer with your clothes, and it should last about 20 or so loads before the scent is gone.

    The cost is about $1.50 per batch of soap even if you have to order the Fels Naptha soap and pay shipping! I've seen the soap in some Krogers and friends have said some hardware stores also have it.

    Sometimes you just have to take the leap, and build your wings on the way down!

    Whimsey Creations

  4. I got really excited about these comments on making your own detergent. But it gave me a lot of questions ... and I found this post that talks about the same thing, with TONS of comments regarding questions that might come up.

    - Cesia