diy detergent: chemical truth, lies, alternatives, possibilities?

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Alphaville
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diy detergent: chemical truth, lies, alternatives, possibilities?

Post by Alphaville »

there is in frugal circles the folk notion that you can "make your own detergent" by combining shaved laundry soap, sodium tetraborate (borax), and sodium carbonate (washing soda).

some recipes just mix this as a powder, some recipes have it melt together as a thick solution to liquefy.

my view on this recipe is that it's bullshit: this is not a true detergent, this is just soap with some water softeners and an extra alkali. very hash and possibly leaving residue on the fabric.

moreover, the borax requires hot water to become soluble, which wastes energy vs detergents which work in cold water. the heating of the original mix might help this but i'm not sure how much this extends when added to cold water.

so to me this is the equivalent of my great grandmother boiling the kitchen rags with soap and lye.

moreover, the sodium carbonate is going to be harsh on protein-based textiles (wool, silk), amd the residue might irritate the skin.

from this premise, a couple of questions:

1. am im right with this premise, more or less?

2. how do you make true detergent? some stupid explanations i've read online say "you make detergent my mixing chemicals." um, everything is a chemical, lol. so--what chemicals? what reactions? and most importantly, how easy is it to diy?

3. what is the best way to wash protein-based fabrics? i mean from the chemical pov, because every marketer with claim magic properties for their product. (i currently use some bubble bath i received in error, and acidulate the water a little bit). soap? detergent? either? neither? what ph do we want?

hoping for a bit of actual chemistry here-- i don't think we need equations, but just the rationale.

many thanks in advance.

eta ive updated the title
Last edited by Alphaville on Sun Feb 14, 2021 11:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

chenda
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Re: diy detergent: truth, lies, alternatives, possibilities?

Post by chenda »

This probably isn't the reply you are looking for but imo making your own is probably a false economy as it's so cheap to buy it's not worth the effort, unless it's a hobby or something.

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Re: diy detergent: truth, lies, alternatives, possibilities?

Post by jacob »

Alphaville wrote:
Sun Feb 14, 2021 8:52 am
my view on this recipe is that it's bullshit: this is not a true detergent, this is just soap with some water softeners and an extra alkali. very hash and possibly leaving residue on the fabric.
It's not a detergent(*) but that doesn't mean it doesn't work. (The borax helps remove the soap residue. The soda softens the water and removes minerals which makes the soap work better.) We've been making the powder version for 10+ years. I see it as a Pareto decision. It's 90% there for 1% of the cost of commercial chemistry. If you want 100% there, drycleaning is the way to go. It's all on a scale. "Appropriate solutions" all over again.

(*) Probably called that anyway since everything is a detergent these days.

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Alphaville
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Re: diy detergent: truth, lies, alternatives, possibilities?

Post by Alphaville »

chenda wrote:
Sun Feb 14, 2021 9:15 am
This probably isn't the reply you are looking for but imo making your own is probably a false economy as it's so cheap to buy it's not worth the effort, unless it's a hobby or something.
i've been using during the pandemic a detergent call sal-suds made by the same people that make the bronner soap.

it 's very concentrated, it foams up really well, strips things clean everything in the kitchen and a mere half teaspoon in a spray bottle makes a basic cleaning spray we use for counters, floors, etc. great with laundry too

this is clearly not soap, does not behave like one. soap leaves a residue especially in hard water. this one doesn't.

the problem is that a 32oz bottle costs anything from $12 to $16 (plus tax) depending on the day.

i could get back to hippy dish detergent for the kitchen, hippy laundryndetergent, etc,p (and have) but that adds product after product in large heavy volumes and plastic bottles.

hence, the question from the chemical angle.
jacob wrote:
Sun Feb 14, 2021 9:16 am
It's not a detergent(*) but that doesn't mean it doesn't work.
yes but it's not the same and doesn't work the same outside of cotton washes.

i wash some things with borax and washing soda (borax is also an antifungal) and it's a harsh wash (which has its purposes)

but i wouldn't wash wool or silk or dishes or make cleaning spray with it.

i used to wash greasy meat rags by boiling them in water with just sodium percarbonate and the fats would saponify and blam, they'd wash with self-made soap. but that's a limited case.

i also have "sensitive skin"

i'm looking for a different chemical here, a la sal-suds, but looking for diy production (if possible).

-

ive edited this to clarify

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Alphaville
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Re: diy detergent: chemical truth, lies, alternatives, possibilities?

Post by Alphaville »

basically:

making soap is easy: you get water, fat, fire, and you can make soap (fire gives you the ashes to make lye). soap is very low-tech and practically a no-brainer.

making detergent though? it's 20th century tech, and i have no idea.

eg this is a good product:
https://shop.drbronner.com/collections/ ... le-cleaner
but pricey.

how hard is it to diy this, pared down to essentials? i.e. how hard is it to make sls? or scs?

eta: maybe easier to buy pure and dissolve? easier to ship/ store?

eg see: https://www.amazon.com/Sodium-Coco-Sulf ... 08SY14R94/

eta: this anti-sulphate website gets into it a bit: https://www.hebebotanicals.co.nz/sodium ... detergent/

sounds complicated. i buy coconut oil so "ziegler process" would be closer but maybe a bridge (or three!) too far.


ETA: this one for wool/silk maybe? lower ph... https://www.humblebeeandme.com/project/ ... ethionate/

feels like im getting closer... https://www.amazon.com/Sodium-COCOYL-IS ... 08W3T2QHZ/

diy sci: defeated (for my skills&tools): https://patents.google.com/patent/US5646320A/en

(but buying pure might be a better value. also, no sulphates on that one, gentler formula might double up as bodywash )

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Re: diy detergent: chemical truth, lies, alternatives, possibilities?

Post by white belt »

The only other hippy alternative I’ve heard of that hasn’t already been mentioned is Oasis laundry liquid: https://www.bio-pac.com/oasis-biocompat ... ry-liquid/

I don’t even know if this qualifies as a detergent based on the technical definition, but it shows up frequently as one of the few plant-safe options for a laundry setup that pipes gray water to the landscape.

Edit: Maybe you can buy the separate ingredients and DIY mix them together? I have no idea the feasibility of that.

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Re: diy detergent: chemical truth, lies, alternatives, possibilities?

Post by Alphaville »

oh yeah, it's a surfactant?
https://puracy.com/blogs/ingredients/c1 ... ethoxylate
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethoxylat ... oxylates_2

yeah... the full mix might be harsh on wool due to alkalis, but maybe just..hm... im stumped lol

worth looking into though

Qazwer
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Re: diy detergent: chemical truth, lies, alternatives, possibilities?

Post by Qazwer »

Alcohol ethoxylate of some form is your rate limiting ingredient. I am not sure if you can procure it at home in a quantity small enough for use. I also am not sure if you could produce it at home. There are multiple chemical wholesalers though - alibaba etc.

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Re: diy detergent: chemical truth, lies, alternatives, possibilities?

Post by jennypenny »

The solution doesn't have to be all or nothing. The homemade stuff is good enough for most things. You can always keep a bottle of Sal Suds or something else around for special items (or rework your wardrobe to avoid 'special items'). I also think that DIYing the easy stuff like laundry soap is good practice, and helps break the habit of reaching for consumable solutions first.

If you need more incentive, picture the difference in packaging waste.

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Re: diy detergent: chemical truth, lies, alternatives, possibilities?

Post by Alphaville »

Qazwer wrote:
Mon Feb 15, 2021 12:30 am
Alcohol ethoxylate of some form is your rate limiting ingredient.
thanks! i think i will focus on wholesale sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI). checks all the boxes for me:
-harmless
-ph friendly to skin and protein-based textiles and possibly synthetics
-fairly easy to find as chemical supply

i might look into SLS for home cleaning too...
jennypenny wrote:
Mon Feb 15, 2021 3:19 pm
The solution doesn't have to be all or nothing. The homemade stuff is good enough for most things.
i actually have little use for soap. it gives me rashes :D

i'm serious. doctor recommended vanicream or cetaphil. since pharmacies often run out, i found a bodywash i tolerate (alaffia).

i also need hypoallergenic detergents. e.g, the regular costco laundry detergent gave me a weird face itch. oxyclean also, i can't tolerate it.

but i fare well with all free & clear, seventh generation, ecover, sal-suds, or most kinds of stuff with no dyes or perfumes.

jennypenny wrote:
Mon Feb 15, 2021 3:19 pm
You can always keep a bottle of Sal Suds or something else around for special items (or rework your wardrobe to avoid 'special items').
oh no, i love the merino-based wardrobe. merino is the rework. i wear one tshirt all week. been experimenting with merino undies too, won't go into details lol but it's fantastic stuff. i'm a true believer now :oops:

but for wool actually, sal-suds is actually very alkaline(11!), and while dissolving in water will reduce the ph, i usually add vinegar to the wash. salsuds rinses very clear though, so i get no rashes from it.

a lower ph detergent (or shampoo) would let me use in plain form and not worry. the mysterious SCI seems to be the answer...

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16776289/

(i might keep salsuds for house cleaning, but if i can source wholesale sls and mix at home, that might do the trick. )
jennypenny wrote:
Mon Feb 15, 2021 3:19 pm
I also think that DIYing the easy stuff like laundry soap is good practice, and helps break the habit of reaching for consumable solutions first.
yeah, been there done that. but grating factory-made soap with borax and calling it homemade is like rachael ray cooking: a can of this, a jar of that, a package of that, it's dinner?

real homemade soap is boiling fat with lye--but unfortunately soap, homemade or industrial, is bad for my skin. yup, even bronners is a bit irritating. so imagine what zote or fels naphta will do to me, and the cost of all that prescription-strength cortisone :D

(fels naphta actually has some nasty chemicals like triclocarban )
jennypenny wrote:
Mon Feb 15, 2021 3:19 pm
If you need more incentive, picture the difference in packaging waste.
yeah, i've got no desire to order more water bottles, which is why i'm researching this. if i have the raw materials i can add water at home.

we recently ordered some bar shampoo for my wife (solid, no plastic, cardboard package). turns out it's made with... SCI

eta: SCI powder: https://essentialwholesale.com/sodium-c ... ate-powder , https://www.makeyourown.buzz/sodium-coc ... te-powder/

eta2: wow! https://essentialwholesale.com/shop-ing ... urfactants
https://www.makeyourown.buzz/make-creat ... rfactants/

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