Laundry Tips Series {Laundry Detergent Options}

Laundry is one of those things that everyone has and no one can ignore. If we did, well lets not even go there…. The point of this series is to share with you tip on how to wash laundry without chemicals, save money, have cleaner, better smelling clothes and find joy in the task.
The first year I moved to Mexico my main responsibly was laundry. Boy was there a lot of it. Between 30+ kids and kitchen laundry I was doing up to twelve loads a day! Thankfully I had three machines most of the time. Everything was line dried. I was able to soak up lots of vitamin D and had beautiful highlights! Hey, there’s go to be some perks when you spend that much time doing laundry.
That year I became a laundry detergent and fabric softener snob. To say I was obsessed is putting it lightly. I knew what I liked, which brands cleaned the best and what stain removes were most effective. Most of the time thought I didn’t have an option, I used whatever was donated. Normally it was a huge bucket of a cheap white powdered detergent that didn’t work well and left film all over the clothes.   Sometimes I had stain remover, sometimes I didn’t. I remember going to San Diego with some friends to get some supplies. We stopped at a grocery store and I got lost in the laundry aisle. It was like I had died and gone to heaven! There was a myriad of colorful bottles full of detergents, softeners and stain removers. I stopped and smelled almost all of them. My friends had to practically drag me away.
The problem with all that was that EVERYTHING was riddled with harsh chemicals. These chemicals are harmful to our bodies. Many more natural detergents contain Sodium Laural Sulfate which is another chemical that was considered “safe” but isn’t. These detergents are riddled with fragrances (perfumes), fabric softeners and brighteners that stay on the clothes after they have been washed. They leave harmful chemicals rubbing against your skin that can lead to skin irritations and many other problems. Over the past five years I slowly made the switch to more safe, frugal and eco-friendly options. Now that I’ve made the switched I’ve noticed that I the smell of laundry products make me feel sick and light headed, hum I wonder why……
My friend Mare, who used to serve here with me is now a missionary wife and mama living in Honduras. She has a great article on Natural vs. Chemical Laundry Detergents. I’ve know for a few years now that I didn’t want to use chemical based laundry detergents and her article reaffirmed it. I get chills just thinking about how harmful they are to our bodies!
My progression to safe and eco-friendly detergents was a slow one. I started with All Small and Mighty Free and Clear. It was fragrance and dye free but that was about it. After a couple years I won a giveaway on Passionate Homemaking for a sample of liquid soap nuts detergent. I loved how it cleaned despite the hard cold water that I have. After the sample I had ran out I went to NutriOil’s site to buy more. The liquid was a bit expensive so I opted to buy just the soap nut themselves. I love soap nuts, the one disadvantage is that if you aren’t washing in warm water you need to soak them in warm water before washing. Then you add the soap nuts and warm liquid to the wash. Because of this I switched to Charlie’s for awhile. Charlie’s works great in cold water but unfortunately I’ve been reading that they aren’t as safe as I once thought. So it’s back to soap nuts. Next time I place an order with my co-op I am thinking about giving Biokleen’s Laundry liquid a try. Or I might just make my own.
Here is a comparison for different laundry detergents you can find on-line or at your supermarket.
Price Comparison 
  • Soap Nuts- you can find them many places but NutriOil is one of the best. ($0.09 per load)
  • Biokleen Free and Clear Laundry Liquid ($0.10 per load)
  • Ecos Free and Clear Laundry Detergent  ($0.14 per load)
  • Tide 2x Ultra Liquid ($0.20 per load)
  • All Small and Mighty Free and Clear ($0.20 per load)
As you can see not only are soap nuts a safe option for your laundry but it is also the most frugal option for washing your clothes, unless you are making your own. Some homemade laundry soaps cost about $0.06 per load.
Stay tuned for more up coming posts on gentle and safe fabric softens, stain removers, bleach alternatives. line drying vs. driers, alternatives to drier sheets and a tips on making a routine. 
What kind of laundry detergent do you use? Do you make your own? If you do I’d love to read your recipes!
About Katie Mae Stanley

Katie Mae Stanley is the writer at Nourishing Simplicity, where the focus is on nourishing foods, herbal remedies, simple living and faith. Ethnic and Mid-west foods are always a favorite in her kitchen and on her blog. She is also the author of the book Steeped: Simple Nourishing Teas and Treats. Katie Mae spent 10 years as a missionary dorm "mama" for a gaggle (almost 40) of amazing deaf girls at a school for the deaf in Baja California, Mexico. Now she finds herself state side ready to embrace God's next adventure. A cup of tea or coffee and a bit of dark chocolate make an appearance at some point in any given day. You can connect with the Nourishing Simplicity community on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.


  1. I like it Jana, I have never heard of soap nuts , thanks for this unique information
    Some other Chemicals are these

  2. I bought the biokleen once at my local grocery store, and as a single woman (at the time), that box lasted like a year. When I went back, the store no longer carried it 🙁 bummer! I loved it so much, and I just found another place that carries it! So I am waiting to run out of the All liquid so I can get more.

  3. I use Watkins powder laundry detergent since is environmentally safe and works great! It is a great value of $13.00 for 80-100 loads. It is fragrance free and because I’m a Watkins member, I get a 25% discount. I love the stuff!

  4. Thanks Kristen! I’ll have to go over a look at it! 🙂

  5. I just wrote a post about my laundry detergent last night! I make powdered detergent:

    It is SO easy and saves us so much money!! And it’s safe to use on baby clothes 🙂

    Kristen @ Trial & Error Homemaking

  6. Bethany, it sounds like a great soap! 🙂

  7. Right now we use a really simple powdered laundry soap. It’s pretty much your typical homemade recipe that you see, only the convenience of smaller quantity and pre-made. It’s about $23 I believe, and comes in a half-gallon sized tub (maybe a little smaller) in which we use 1-2 T, depending on how much “clean” we need. We also use about 1 T white vinegar in each of the “bleach” and “softener” spots. And actually we just got ingredients to make the soap ourselves, so it will be even cheaper and in bulk! If I remember correctly the recipes I’ve seen make about 1 gallon. So it’s not too much either.

  8. I’m like Jana, I have never heard of soap nuts.I too am using Tide. Not only do you have to be concerned with what’s in it but the cost is crazy. Please do pass on any easy affordable recipes that will clean when you find them. Thanks.

  9. Soap nuts? I have never heard of those, but it sounds awesome!!! I may have to give them a shot. I am just beginning to try and cut chemicals out of my life, and am still using Tide at the moment LOL I wanted to try homemade soap but in a teeny tiny apartment, where do you store a 5 gallon bucket of detergent?

    • Jana, they are pretty awesome! I’m hoping to find a smaller recipe than all the five gallon ones. I don’t have a lot of space either. 🙂

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