Do you know what's in the typical bottle of laundry detergent found in the cleaning isle of the grocery store? Many products contain up to 70% simple washing soda (sodium carbonate) and water, with the rest of the formula consisting of a combination of pesticides (i.e., optical brighteners), hormone disrupters and other hazardous materials that bioconcentrate in the environment and the fatty tissue of wildlife. You won't see these ingredients on the label, in part because no regulatory agency requires manufacturers to reveal them. Of course, there's plenty of marketing words that do appear in print, like "natural" or "phosphate-free." These common claims are essentially meaningless since the term "natural" has no regulatory definition and phosphates were banned from use in laundry products in 1978. FYI: We call this kind of marketing spin "greenwashing."
Making your own laundry soap doesn't require a chemistry degree and it's a lot easier on your clothes, the environment and your wallet. Dirt hasn't changed very much since the invention of the washing machine either, so the basic ingredient to start with is the same: soap. I like to use Castile soap, a gentle olive oil-based soap original to and named after the Castile region of Spain. This recipe calls for a bar of solid Castile soap.
2 cups castile soap, grated 1 cup washing soda 1 cup baking soda 40 drops sweet orange essential oil
Using a large, sharp knife, cut the soap bar into chunks. Process the soap pieces in a food processor until you have a fine texture. Place the soap particles into a large bowl. Add the washing soda and baking soda and stir to combine. Add the orange essential oil and stir again. Transfer the scented soap mixture into a container with a tight-fitting lid and label. Depending on your machine, use 1/8 to 1/4 cup per load.