Greenwashing Done Right

by Katy on September 30, 2010 · 21 comments

I made a fresh batch of laundry detergent today, which meant a new box of borax was in order. And guess what? The packaging had undergone a dramatic transformation from fuddy-duddy to eco-chic.

That’s the kind of greenwashing I can stand behind. (Literally. Cause you see I’m using borax to do my laundry. Oh, you got that? Never mind . . . . )

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

P.S. Homemade laundry detergent is:

  1. 2 parts Fels Naptha soap which is grated and then pulsed in a food processor.
  2. One part washing soda.
  3. One part Borax.

Only a small amount is needed. I use a small Oxyclean size scoop, which is slightly over a Tablespoon. The hardest part is the clean up, so I make quadruple batches.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

sarah k. September 30, 2010 at 5:12 am

I’m curious about making laundry soap, but haven’t gone the distance yet, though I make lovely regular soap. My question is, does this soap foam a bunch? Can you use it in an HE washer? And also, how do you feel about fels naptha as a petroleum product? I’m curious because I know some people would rather stay away from anything to do with petroleum, but if that’s the case, what are the options? I just don’t know. I’m sure all the commercial detergents have petroleum in them, so I’m torn.


mary September 30, 2010 at 5:43 am

Are you sure that Fels Naptha soap is made with petrolium products? I was under the impression that it was not.


Katy September 30, 2010 at 6:41 am

I just checked, and darned if Fels Naptha is not made with a petroleum product. Hmm . . . I guess I need to investigate other options.

Here’s a link to the government website that details the ingredients:



Ressa October 2, 2010 at 6:41 am

I’ve been making goat milk soap for my family. I have started making my own laundry soap, just lard and water and lye. I use these in place of the fels naptha and it is working out very well.

Making small batches of your own soap isn’t that bad. I use a gallon plastic pitcher to mix the lye and liquid and then use a stand mixer to bring it to trace.


Beth D. September 30, 2010 at 5:18 am

I use Ecos laundry detergent which lasts quite a while, but I also use Borax with the wash to take stains out. When they first changed the package, it took me a while to realize it was the same product! It does look better, but doesn’t stand out on the shelf as much so I wonder of their sales have dropped since changing.


Rebecca September 30, 2010 at 5:23 am

We are also Ecos and borax users. I love Ecos. For $7 I can do 100 loads of laundry and it dosen’t have an obnoxious smell to it.


leslie September 30, 2010 at 7:41 am

I use Borax, baking soda, and a squirt of Dr. Bronner’s. Works great!


wendy September 30, 2010 at 3:43 pm

I had to stop using Fels Napha because it emitted a toxic odor when heated for liquefying. Now, I am a huge fan of Dr. Broners’s lavender or Dr. Woods because of their versatility and economy. I can use the same product for shampoo, soap, laundry and cleaning. A 16 oz bottle can lasts for a log time. Wendy


Jana September 30, 2010 at 8:54 am

borax makes a great ant killer. I cup hot water, 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teasp borax. Pour over a paper towel in several mason type jars and set around where the ants are…. on the sink, under the sink, behind the toilet. I even set these out when we have hot water and I know the ants will be coming—-it corrals them to one area.

Let is sit for a couple days-you will see more ants and then they will die and/or leave. Magical!


Molly On Money September 30, 2010 at 9:33 am

I use ivory soap rather then Fels Naptha soap. I’m wondering now if Ivory has petroleum in it.
It costs me $3 for about 280 loads of laundry. I use a HE washer and it does not get too sudsy. I also have VERY hard water and this formula has worked better then any commercial detergent I have used in the past.


Anne Marie @ Married to the Empire September 30, 2010 at 12:21 pm

By any chance did you originally try the recipe with Fels Naptha rather than Ivory? I ask because I tried the homemade stuff (using Fels Naptha), and it was AWFUL. Ruined some of my clothes, frankly. I chalked it up to having really hard water, since practically everyone else online loves the homemade stuff…

Just wondering if Ivory is what makes the difference. Admittedly, I’m terrified to try again.


Beth D. October 1, 2010 at 5:54 am

Ivory soap is not made from petroleum, but it is mostly rendered beef fat (sodium tallowate).


Lilypad October 15, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Oh my goodness, as a vegetarian/occasionally cheating vegan, I am now freaking out about all the times I used Ivory soap as a kid back in the ’70’s! Thanks for posting this.


Beverly September 30, 2010 at 10:05 am

I also use Ivory soap and have an HE washer. I’ve always had great results with it. I love batch detergent. So economical and last forever.


Happy Mum September 30, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Ummm… Which is the new packaging, and which is the old? Call me fuddy-duddy — (many do) — but I sort of like the right-hand box — which, as it doesn’t say “NEW LOOK!”, I’m guessing is old and unimproved and un-eco-chic. Ah well.


Debbie September 30, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Do you need to have a dedicated grater and food processor just to make soap in or is it safe to use for food later on? It’s been the major thing holding me back from trying to make soap. That and I can’t seem to find washing soda anywhere in a store. Yes, I know I can order it online but I’d hate to pay shipping and handling fees. Kinda defeats the purpose of making the soap in the first place.


Lisa September 30, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Debbie- I make a gel, liquid type laundry soap. I grate my bar soap with a hand grater then mix it with water, borax, and washing soda in a large stainless steel stockpot on my stove. Both the grater and stockpot are also used for food too. I think what you may be thinking of is regular soap making which produces bars of soap. That process involves the use of lye so requires its own set of cooking utensils just for the soap making process. Lye is caustic! As for the washing soda, you can find it in the laundry aisle of the grocery store usually near the borax. Here, the borax is the brand shown, and the washing soda is sold by Arm and Hammer…the same people who produce baking soda. *They aren’t the same product.


Fereshteh October 1, 2010 at 10:33 am

Lisa I’d love to see your recipe. I haven’t tried making my own yet but would like to someday. Do you have an HE washer?


Kierllyahn February 6, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Hey, I thought I would share my detergent recipe, for any who are still looking. For the last 6 years I have been making my own laundry detergent from scratch.

-2 parts pure soap flakes (available in powder form, and ready to use, at organic/health food stores in the same area of the store that boxes of borax, baking soda, parchment paper, etc. is found)

-1 part washing soda (I buy mine at Superstore here in Canada, but it is also available at Walmart)

-some essential oil of your choice for scent, if desired

I usually mix up a big batch in an old icecream tub, and add a few drops of whatever oils I feel moved to add. For a large load of laundry, I use a 1/4 cup of the mix..for an average load I use about 1/8 cup. My Mother uses this detergent in her HE front loader, and it works just fine (though she adds a bit of water to the powder in the dispenser to make sure it all gets into the wash). To get softer clothes, and if I am washing a particularily dirty load of laundry (my sons’ outdoor clothing) I fill the fabric softener dispenser up with straight white works like a charm! In the dryer I use the reuseable dryer balls to help with static.

I have been washing my clothes like this for the last 6 years, and I would NEVER go back. This is super cheap, very eco friendly, and really, really easy:)

*also, according to Rosamond Richardson in “Home Hints & Tips” (best eco living guide I have ever read!, and where the above recipe for laundry detergent came from) you can use 2 tsp. of borax and 2 tsp. of baking soda in place of dishwashing detergent in the dishwasher…I don’t have a dishwasher, so I have never tried this recipe out, but all other recipes from this book have worked perfectly, so I have no doubt this one would too:)


Charla July 24, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Katy, you really need a separate tab on the website for recipes – to make my life easier :). There are some really good ones I’ve found here after a lot of digging.


Katy July 24, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Good idea!



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