Thread Number: 68769  /  Tag: Detergents and Additives
A different homemade detergent.
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Post# 915706   1/14/2017 at 20:45 by vacuumguy99 (North Western PA)        

Lots of homemade recipes call for fels naptha,washing soda and oxi clean which can leave a build up but if you mixed washing soda with tspp you would get an alkaline solution with hydrogen peroxide for non grease stains and phosphate to deal with the tough stuff and it would soften the water. Has an tried this concoction or have you found a better mix to clean the clothes? My reason for asking is store bought tends to cost an arm and a leg and doesn't work as well as the phosphate formulations so I've been trying to make some that works like the old school stuff. Okay long rant over lol, I look forward to seeing what you all have to say!:-)

Post# 915755 , Reply# 1   1/15/2017 at 08:55 by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

If you are thinking of tri sodium phosphate, or TSP, that is not such a good builder except for really heavy greasy soil. IF you use Sodium Tri Polyphosphate, STPP, you don't need to use washing soda which is a cheaper alkaline builder and which will leave clothes feeling harsh because it does not rinse out as easily as STPP. If you just add enough STPP to the wash water to make it feel slippery or silky, and then add your detergent, you will get decent cleaning from most detergents and won't have to go to the bother of making one.

Post# 916221 , Reply# 2   1/18/2017 at 12:48 by vacuumguy99 (North Western PA)        

About how much stpp is needed in soft water? I'm going to be using it in a Kenmore visimatic wringer(somewhere between 12 and 15 gallons of water I would think) I've never used it before so should I be expecting to use a few tablespoons or closer to a 1/4 cup? Also where is the best place to buy it, I've seen that price varies online for the bags of sodium tripolyphosphate

Post# 916230 , Reply# 3   1/18/2017 at 14:06 by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

For a full tub of soft water, you should start with 1/4 cup, like you thought. You might have to add a bit more, but unless your laundry is super dirty, you will be able to use less detergent.  You will be amazed at the results.


As to price, you will just have to Google STPP and comparison shop on line. You do not need food grade for laundry. I have bought from the Chemistry Store in the past, but I check out resources each time to see if I can find a better price. You might find a supplier close to you so shipping won't cost as much.

Post# 916305 , Reply# 4   1/18/2017 at 23:19 by gosvenn (Montreal)        

Thanks for sharing the information, it was very useful.

Post# 916340 , Reply# 5   1/19/2017 at 09:14 by Tomturbomatic (Beltsville, MD)        

We are here to help each other. Enjoy your washing!

Post# 920997 , Reply# 6   2/12/2017 at 19:07 by VacuumGuy99 (North Western PA)        
So let me shift gears for a minute

We can probably agree that the homemade detergent 1. doesnt have a great ratio of ingredients and 2. The suggested amount to use is way to little. So I got to researching and learned there are a few types of surfactants, namely anionic that shift non oily things like grass, tomato,ect. And nonionic that shift oily soils. So if something like soap nuts that contain suponin or sodium lauroyl sarcosinate was used for the anionic surfactant and something like alkyl polyglycoside was used for the nonionic surfactant, we might have a start at a homemade detergent that works. Adding sodium tripolyphosphate could act as the water softener and some sodium percarbonate and NOBS would work as an activated oxygen bleach. Now I do need to find the ratios that the formula would use but on paper that covers all the points of a laundry detergent does it not? It may not be a budget friendly project but I'd probably be happy just knowing that I did it and learned a whole lot about detergents if nothing else. Has anyone tried to make detergent that wasn't the borax recipe that is all over the Internet? And did my list cover the main components of laundry detergent? Looking forward to what everyone has to say!

Post# 921153 , Reply# 7   2/13/2017 at 15:49 by earthling177 (Boston, MA)        

There's very little point in trying to make laundry detergent for general laundry (not for actual delicate stuff like silk, wool, leather etc) without putting several types of enzymes to remove the soil and stains. Enzymes will cause problems with silk, wool, leather etc, so be careful there.

Sodium tripolyphosphate gets a lot of people here to say they like it, but I would *not* put it in the detergent, because it can absorb water and turn the mix very hard. Leave it as something to be added at the time of use if you like it.

In my opinion, also, if you are using laundry detergent in a washer (and most people are), you want as little suds as possible, so do some research there too.

I haven't tried anything like this, I've been happy with Rosalie's Zero Suds (by our own Jon Jetcone) and Persil, Tide HE Turbo (or whatever the name is) is not too shabby either.

Good luck!
   -- Paulo.

Post# 921163 , Reply# 8   2/13/2017 at 16:44 by Iheartmaytag (Wichita, Kansas)        

iheartmaytag's profile picture

Our Dear Laundress would be able to give you information on the items you need to make your own detergent.


Question is, if you go to all that trouble and expense; wouldn't it be more cost effective to just buy a box of Tide?

Post# 921196 , Reply# 9   2/13/2017 at 21:12 by Dustin92 (Jackson, MI)        

Given soft enough water, homemade detergent isn't bad at all. In our old house we had naturally soft water, and the recipe with soap, washing soda, borax, and baking soda did a fantastic job, actually. At the time we had a top loading washer (direct drive whirlpool) and used warm or hot water, and clothes came out perfectly clean and soft with no need for fabric softener. When we got a front loader, it no longer worked, and we have rock hard water here, so I'm not going to bother.

Post# 921201 , Reply# 10   2/13/2017 at 21:51 by panthera (Rocky Mountains)        
Oh, gosh, this is fun!

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OK - the only way home made detergents have ever worked is what we call in German: Das Baukastensystem.

Here's what we need to do:

1) Basic detergent - that would be dry or wet chemicals which can be stored for along period of time. The surfactant, mainly. Soap is ideal for this.

2) The STTP or TSP (and, yes, I know, I know, but guess what 99% of that super-duper-expensive STP really is you've had on your laundry room shelf and been bragging about how much better it is than TSP? Yup, it's TSP after a very short time.

3) Borax, Oxi-Clean (enzymes/oxygen bleach), Chlorine Bleach or Ammonia (not together!)

4) An acid to sour the rinse water.

5) Hot water. Not the ice-cold junk the HE washers call hot, 125F minimum.

This is the only way to make it work. And, boy, it does work. Brilliantly. Just, the all-in-one ökofreundliche mixture can't and doesn't work except in the purest of soft water with the most lightly soiled cottons.

Post# 921251 , Reply# 11   2/14/2017 at 06:55 by VacuumGuy99 (North Western PA)        

Looking online, I've found you can buy plastic bags of Mexican detergent for a few bucks,that would work for the powdered surfactant,I could use biz for enzymes and either sodium percarbonate or oxyclean with an oxybleach activator and of course some phosphates to top it off. This might just be crazy enough to work lol. Oh can't forget about a vinegar rinse 😁 unless of course there's a better acid to sour the rinse.

Post# 921253 , Reply# 12   2/14/2017 at 07:08 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Who loves ya baby?

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A few things to remember.

If you don't want to bother with the above measure out about two tablespoons of STPP, add to wash water. If it feels slippery then that is enough. If not keep adding more STPP each time testing for that slippery feeling. Once you arrive at that, stop and record how much phosphate it took to reach that level and that the amount you'll use going forward.

With soap you want a rich layer of froth about 2"-3" deep at all times. If suds go down during wash add more soap solution.

Water softening substances (soda, TSP, STPP, whatever....) are to be added to wash water *before* and mixed well before laundry. Soap solution or jelly is better than powder. If using powder then it should be dissolved in hot water first to make a solution, then poured into washer.

Small amounts of phosphate (STPP of SHTP) must be added to at least the first hot rinse when using soap if water is hard. It is a good idea to do this regardless.

You'll need at least two hot or several warm rinses before going to cold, bluing, final rinses. It is important that the fabric remain hot to boiling while soapy in order to flush out dirt and soap residue from mesh of fabric before cold water causes it to contract. If the latter happens before laundry is properly rinsed you'll have "tattle-tale grey" laundry.

If possible one scalding rinse or boiling can take the place of several hot.

Post# 921483 , Reply# 13   2/15/2017 at 07:06 by VacuumGuy99 (North Western PA)        

If I was to use a synthetic detergent in place of soap,would I be correct in my assumption that less rinsing would be required prohaps a hot or warm rinse,a bluing rinse for whites,and a cold rinse. I will say I'm kind of surprised that soap solution and jelly are recommended over powder, I had originally got the impression that powder was best and that was why I was going in that direction.

Post# 921528 , Reply# 14   2/15/2017 at 12:15 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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Yes, in general use of detergent instead of soap means less rinsing is required, and yes you can use cold or warm water. However this also depends upon a few factors.

Extraction between rinses: If you do not extract water between rinses then the "carry over" of chemicals and whatever is greater so you need more dilution (rinses). Older front loaders like my Miele have four, five or more rinses but only extract after the second or third rinse. Modern machines extract after the wash and each subsequent rinse so they can get away with usually only three.

Problem with powdered soap is that it can congeal or otherwise not totally dissolve in the wash. When that happens you'll get bits of soap on textiles that can prove difficult to shift. In the end when one goes to iron or the garments are otherwise exposed to heat that residual soap spots will turn brown. That and or they will oxidize over time forming a mark.

Of course with really hot water and strong agitation soap powder "should" dissolve; but that is hard to tell once froth starts kicking up. Besides using a jelly or liquid allows the soap to at once begin working when in contact with water.

Powdered soaps were marketed as the answer to save housewives and others the bother of shaving, flaking, chipping, scraping or whatever bits of soap from a bar into water, then having to wait for that lot to dissolve.

In old days you grated or whatever enough soap for whatever amount of washing was planned the night before. It was put into some sort of earthenware or other heat proof container, then placed on the back of range (this was days when everyone used coal or wood fired) and allowed to sit overnight. By next morning you had soap jelly or liquid ready for laundry day. If you lived in a warm enough climate you could just grate up the stuff into water and allow it to sit overnight without the range.

Commercial laundries had soap stock "cookers" that kept solution warm. Batches of soap were made up for the days work then kept in solution or jelly that way.

Since detergents have far better soil suspension and anti re-depositing properties, rinsing can take place in cold or warm water. That being said commercial laundries and others often did or still do several rinses in hot (or warm) water.

Have tons of soap in various forms (powder, Persil, bars, etc...)and enjoy using for the odd off washing. But would never use if in hurry and or as routine. Far too much work.

Post# 923243 , Reply# 15   2/22/2017 at 21:09 by vacuumguy99 (North Western PA)        

Would a detergent be enhanced by adding a citrus solvent like d-limonele for really greasy laundry or would something like ammonia be a better alternative?

Post# 923249 , Reply# 16   2/22/2017 at 21:31 by vacuumguy99 (North Western PA)        

Stupid question, I didn't realize d limonene is orange oil okay scratch that, any good laundry friendly degreaser

Post# 923255 , Reply# 17   2/22/2017 at 22:01 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Yes, there are plenty of good laundry degreasers

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Same old school substances commercial laundries have used for ages;

Sodium metasilicate

Sodium carbonate

Sodium hydroxide (lye)

OTOH you can use various solvents.

Years ago it was petroleum substances such as turpentine, gasoline, benzene, naphtha. In fact any hydrocarbon will do; including limonene.

Problem with some or all of these substances are flammability and residue. Then you have the fact most all leave some sort of scent that can be difficult to totally shift.

Post# 923287 , Reply# 18   2/23/2017 at 06:08 by vacuumguy99 (North Western PA)        

So if I understand this correctly anything with a high pH will act as a degreaser? And if that's the case the higher the pH the quicker the degreaser will work but there is some risk of damaging clothes if they're in the solution for too long. Would an acid rinse be a good step to take afterwards and if so what products do you recommend for that?

Post# 923463 , Reply# 19   2/23/2017 at 20:11 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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Need not necessarily be a "high" pH; just alkaline. To a point stronger is better that is why washing soda is a better cleaner than borax; but the reaction is same.

It all comes down to something we all learned in chemistry classes while at school, saponification.

Base substances react with fats or oils to become "soap". For cleaning or laundry purposes we use that process to turn fats/oils on surfaces or textiles into a soap that then can be washed away. When you pour lye based drain cleaner down drains it reacts with fats/oils to become "soap" that can be cleared away because the clog is now dissolved.

High pH substances are or were a good choice because they are cheap and performed reliably at their task. But for laundry use they also bring a host of other issues.

Higher pH used to "break" or for detergency means more rinsing is required including a sour bath to restore final pH levels that won't irritate skin.

Repeated high pH washing also can take a toll on certain fabrics especially those of cotton or linen. Just one wash will likely destroy silk or wool fabrics.

If you've ever used a powdered detergent, especially the more BOL bargain brands that left your clothing hard and scratchy; likely culprit was excessive washing soda, caustic soda and other high alkaline substances.

In fact you can make a pretty good "detergent" using nothing more than some sort of surfactant and sodium metasilicate alone or blended with washing soda or another alkaline substance. For years laundries in UK and Europe did just that by using soap and metasilicate along with hot to boiling water. The other benefit of this was that the high pH also destroyed protein including blood stains.

Persil soap powder was nothing more than PERborate, SILicate and soap. Hence the name PER-SIL.

Post# 923478 , Reply# 20   2/23/2017 at 20:54 by vacuumguy99 (North Western PA)        

I think I had saw you explained how persil got its name in another post and that was very interesting to me, might shape how my diy detergent gets made. As far as the sour rinse goes what is the best product or compound you have found for the task as it seems to be an important step in washing with an alkaline detergent

Post# 923515 , Reply# 21   2/24/2017 at 03:58 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
When using soap in a top loading washer or wringer machine

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You want a lively rich layer of thick suds as shown:

You notice a recurring theme in Ivory Snow advertising; the supposed absence of "harsh detergent deposits"....

Well Ivory Snow would leave things washed "softer" wouldn't it?

Unlike powdered detergents then and largely now pure soap Ivory and others did not contain washing soda or other alkaline substances. Thus no such residue and or harsh feeling due to textile fibers being roughed up by high pH substances.

The "deposits" spoken of are what happens when you use precipitating water softeners (washing soda, caustic soda etc...) which can cling to fabrics if laundry is not rinsed well.

The other issue is something one has spoken about before; encrustation. Basically when using high or moderately high pH substances for laundry it causes textile mesh fibers to open. This is a good thing because soils can thus be easily flushed away. Problem is that if those fibers close down before all soils and residue are rinsed away that residue becomes trapped. Result is harsh, scratchy feeling laundry that soon becomes dull and tattle tale grey.

The old way was to have one, two or more boiling, hot or at least warm rinses to make sure fabrics were free of residue before a final cold (or warm) rinse. This and or a "sour" would be used after the third or so rinse to dissolve any remaining alkaline substances out of the wash.

Liquid laundry detergents are either neutral to only slightly base. They clean more based upon surfactant and enzyme action rather than brute high pH strength. Thus risk of encrustation is reduced. More importantly for commercial laundries and linen services things last longer and they can skip the sour and perhaps few rinses. This allows them to save money on supplies, energy, time and water.

For wash loads that need extra oomph, commercial laundries have access to products like emulsifiers and breaks that can be used with liquid (or powder) detergents as needed.

Finally as for all those soap products and their "harsh deposit" advert claims. Light duty detergents such as Dreft and Woolite soon displaced soap for "nice things". Eventually even Ivory Snow succumbed. P&G discontinued it as a soap and reformulated it as a light duty detergent.

On another thing; to combat that "harsh" feeling early detergents left with laundry a new product hit the market, fabric softener. First used by commercial laundries and later introduced to consumers early formulas were nothing more than an emulsion of fats, oils and or tallow. The last should sound familiar since that is what soap is often made. So now P&G and others found away to sell "soap" back to American housewives who gave up using that for wash day. They now just added the stuff to the rinse.

Dryer sheets both early and many today are nothing more than fabric coated with stearic acid, or fatty alcohols and or fatty acids. Again, soap more or less.

This post was last edited 02/24/2017 at 05:18
Post# 923516 , Reply# 22   2/24/2017 at 03:59 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
Laundry Sour

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For household use stick with plain white vinegar from supermarket. It is already diluted enough acetic acid that won't likely harm fabrics or washing machine.

Post# 923825 , Reply# 23   2/26/2017 at 00:47 by sudsmaster (East of SF, West of Eden)        

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In my experience, STPP is rather stable on the shelf if it is kept dry and not overheated.

I don't think it spontaneously decomposes to TSP overnight as Keven intimated.

One can easily check on the status of stored STPP by adding some to a solution of hard water (well water generally will be hard). Shake to dissolve, and then observe if the water is clear or if it has precipitates. If it is clear, the STPP is good. If there are precipitates (look like flakes), then the STPP may have gone off.

I checked my stash some years ago using this method, comparing it to STP and to washing soda (Sodium carbonate). Sure enough the STP and washing soda resulted in precipitate, while the STPP solution remained clear.

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