I've been Baby-stepping our family down the path towards "greener" living, mostly as a result of being reactive as opposed to proactive as I'd like to be. A lot of it has to do with finances and ways of doing things cheaper but I'm finding that so much of the time cheaper really IS better! And simple, back-to-the-basics is so often better.
Making homemade laundry soap was one of my first forays into the Land of Green (or so I thought) until I discovered that Fels Naptha isn't all that great (has animal fats and some nasty petroleum-based toxic ingredients). So it was back to the drawing board and I ended up finding some great recipes! And there are so many. I decided to stick with a couple of really basic recipes- one for Eileigh's cloth diapers and one for the rest of the laundry. Since we have a front-loading HE washer I had to make sure the recipes would be okay to use but I believe I figured it out and so far, so good!
Also in my searches and extensive (ahem, internet) research, I stumbled fortuitously across information on a nasty little thing called Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (or SLS as it is lovingly referred to). This stuff (along with Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate) is used not only in engine degreasers and floor cleaners but shampoos, body washes and toothpaste since it is a cheap degreaser. It's approved by the FDA for "brief, intermittent use not in contact with mucous membranes"... (a bit difficult since it's in toothpaste) and has been shown to correlate with a number of toxic responses. (And while I'm here mentioning toxic ingredients to avoid, propylene glycol is in so many things and should definitely be avoided). Anyhoo, SLS can cause and exacerbate skin issues and cause canker sores in the mouth, which really piqued my interest since Mike gets terrible canker sores rather frequently that can last for weeks. I've always used special soap for Eileigh since she has really sensitive skin but now I'm choosing to make the Big Change for our entire family. Mike thinks he might have to lock me up in a mental institution but I told him to give me a couple weeks and see if he can't tell a difference. We're going the route of good ol' castile soap (Dr. Bronner's for the liquid version; Kirk's Castile for bar soap) and are going to use it for shampoo, body wash, hand wash and anything else I can find a use for! I've actually collected several recipes also using it for dishwasher detergent, household cleaner and "softscrub" cleaner- for anything needing a little abrasion. Some people use it for toothpaste but the thought of that makes me want to gag so instead we'll be using SLS-free toothpaste (Tom's of Maine). A lot of the ingredients can be found at Fred Meyer's or Lifesource but I ordered everything for a significantly lower price online (vitacost.com, although I'm sure there are other great sites out there). Apparently for those who've made the switch to using castile soap it can take a few weeks for skin and hair to "detoxify" but after that it's shiny hair and conditioned skin without a need for lotions and/or conditioners! We'll see how it goes- I'm just waiting for my soap to arrive! I'll share those recipes once they're tried and approved. :)
Greener Homemade Laundry Detergent (okay for HE washers)
1 box (about 4 lb.) Borax
1 box (about 4 lb.) Washing Soda (not Baking Soda)
2 bars Kirk's Castile Soap, finely grated (I used my microplane grater and it's perfect- looks like snow!)
Mix all ingredients, use 2-4 Tbsp. per load.
Homemade Diaper Detergent (okay for HE washers)
1 c. Borax
1 c. Washing Soda
1 c. Oxiclean Free
Mix all ingredients, use 2 Tbsp- 1/4 c. per load. (I err on the side of less is more)
**A couple drops per load of tea tree essential oil is supposed to be really great for killing bacteria and any ammonia smell but I haven't gotten around to trying this suggestion out yet.