ECO LAUNDRY SOAP FLAKES
Soap flakes are just grated bars of soap. They are basically shredded soap to make it easier to dissolve in water. I was first introduced to the idea of soap flakes when I started my non-toxic journey and I remember my Grandma using Marseille soap. I have been using and then making my homemade laundry soap for the past six years.
Originally, Marseille soap, or Savon de Marseille, is a hard soap, which has been produced around Marseille, France, for about 600 years using only vegetable oils. In fact, it was in the 16th century that soap manufacturing came to Provence. This was mainly because the principal ingredients of soap - olive oil, salt and soda ash - were produced in the Camargue region.
As a result, Marseille became the first official soap manufacturer in France. Authentic Marseille soap is a 100% natural product and, by definition, must be based on 72% vegetable oils, such as olive oil, without any colouring or artificial additives. It is biodegradable, not tested on animals, and does not contain parabens, preservatives or other petrochemicals found in industrial soaps.
The soap bar is also an excellent stain remover. It effectively removes all stubborn stains, including grease, shirt collar marks, food, wine, coffee, and especially blood. Pre-treating your laundry is not just important if you want to rid your clothes of stains and heavy soiling, but also to save energy as you can then wash your clothes at lower temperatures. Laundry soap bars are also very versatile for general household use. Their numerous uses include washing dishes, gently handwashing textiles (especially delicate laundry items such as baby clothes, silk, lace, etc.), cleaning the carpet, wiping kitchen surfaces, and being an indispensable travel companion.
Used in the form of flakes, it is a natural washing powder that is gentle on delicate fabrics (linen, wool, silk and baby clothes) and it helps avoid allergies and skin irritations.
ISN'T JUST FOR BAKING!
Sodium bicarbonate - NaHCO₃ - commonly known as baking soda or bicarbonate of soda, is a food additive often used in cooking as a leavening agent. Mixed with water it can be used as an antacid to treat acid indigestion and heartburn. It can also be a versatile, non-toxic, mildly alkaline cleaning agent and an important ingredient in your DIY routine. In fact, it's the main ingredient in making SODIUM CITRATE, in turn, a very important ingredient that acts as a sequestrant in our DIY laundry detergent.
Its effective but gentle abrasive action makes sodium bicarbonate really handy for scrubbing difficult spots and cutting through grease. In fact, it is an effective cleaner for ovens, stoves, burnt saucepans and bathtubs.
As a base, it absorbs and neutralises odours, and it can also be used as a multi-purpose odour remover.
- To eliminate odours, you just need to sprinkle it on the carpet, mattresses, rugs and pet bedding before vacuuming them. This will help to absorb body odours and oils, and when you vacuum it away, you will be capturing dust and dust mites, as well.
- To prevent unpleasant odours, place a small bowl of sodium bicarbonate in the fridge, shoe cabinet or around your home where needed.
- To clean burnt pans, casserole dishes or ceramic cookware, leave them sitting overnight with hot water and a little bit of washing up liquid. In the morning, discard the water solution from the pans into the sink and sprinkle a thick layer of sodium bicarbonate over the burnt food. Take a soft sponge or a non-scratch pad and slowly and gently scrub the area. Don't use steel wool or another metal scouring pad on your pans, as their abrasive texture can scratch or damage your cookware. You will be able to easily scrape away the burnt food and clean your saucepan.
In fact, while sodium bicarbonate is tough on food residue, it is a mild abrasive agent that will not scratch the bottom of your pans.
It is important to remember that while sodium bicarbonate is safe for use on stainless steel or ceramic cookware, you should NEVER USE IT ON ALUMINIUM cookware, as it can react with this metal.
In combination with other ingredients, sodium bicarbonate can also make a great dry or wet (and cheap) deodorant. It is also an ingredient in some mouthwash and toothpaste.
Sodium bicarbonate is non-toxic and safe to use on most surfaces, but it’s important to remember that it is not recommended to use it as a fabric softener, a limescale remover or an oxidizing agent.
In a recent study at the University of Massachusetts, scientists showed that surface pesticide residues present in fruit and vegetables were most effectively removed by sodium bicarbonate solution when compared to either tap water or a type of bleach like Clorox bleach. Sodium bicarbonate removes up to 96% of pesticides from fruit and vegetables. When mixed with water and gently rubbed on apple skins, the solution eliminates nearly all the residue left by two commonly applied pesticides within 15 minutes.
The researchers applied the common pesticides thiabendazole - which has been shown to penetrate apple skin - and phosmet to organic red apples. These pesticides were left on the fruit for one day. The researchers then washed the apples with either tap water, a bleach solution or 1% baking soda mixed with water. Results reveal that sodium bicarbonate mixed with water is the most effective way of removing pesticides from apples. After 12 minutes of gentle scrubbing, the solution removes 80% of thiabendazole, while it takes 15 minutes to remove 95.6% of phosmet. Thiabendazole is thought to be more difficult to remove due to it more readily penetrating the surface of the fruit. Peeling apples helps to remove pesticides that have penetrated the fruit. However, this will also reduce the nutritional content, as many of the key nutrients are found on or below the skin.
So, here is another good reason to have bicarbonate of soda in our home!
To wash your fruit and veggie:
- Fill a bowl or the sink about 2/3 full with cold water
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of sodium bicarbonate and swish it around to distribute
- Submerge the fruit or vegetables and leave to soak for 12 to 15 minutes to let the sodium bicarbonate do its job
- Remove the products from the water and dry thoroughly before prepping or eating.
MY FAVOURITE INGREDIENT!
Citric acid - C₆H₈O₇ - is an amazing ingredient you will not want to do without. It occurs naturally in citrus fruits and is widely used as an acidity regulator, flavouring and preservative in food and drinks. It can also replace many of our domestic cleaning products. It is, in fact, a viable alternative to limescale remover, dishwasher rinse-aid, fabric softener and even conditioner for your hair. It is an excellent product with which to treat tap water, helping to improve the effectiveness of soaps and laundry detergents.
Citric acid could be in an anhydrous (water-free, 100% citric acid), monohydrate ( 90% citric acid and 10% water) or tetrahydrate (60% citric acid and 40% water) form.
To obtain your citric acid 'magic potion', just mix the powder with some water, preferably distilled (if you have a dehumidifier, the water collected from it is perfect) as it allows the solution to work more effectively. The quantity of the powder depends on the water hardness in your area, particularly if there is a lot of lime in the water. (It is always a good idea to know the pH value of your water).
It is very good as a dishwasher rinse-aid because commercial rinse-aid tends to leave deposits on our tableware (in order to make them shine) and as a result ends up in our food and drinks as well. So, swapping commercial rinse-aid with something natural like citric acid is the best answer!
As a fabric softener, citric acid excels because it neutralises the alkalinity of laundry detergent. It doesn't act like a commercial softener, that essentially applies a thin, waxy, scented coating to your laundry. Although that makes your clothes feel softer, it contains a cocktail of non-renewable, petroleum-based chemicals. These are not easily biodegradable and can become highly toxic to aquatic life and even toxic and allergenic for people with sensitive skin. For this reason, it is strongly recommended not to use fabric softener on newborn babies’ clothes. I know that many people prefer not to use fabric softener, but it is advisable to use it in the washing machine to help prevent skin allergies. In fact, washed clothes are very alkaline, especially if you use laundry powder, and their pH (around 9) is totally different from our skin pH (around 5.7). As a softener, citric acid acts as a pH adjuster, bringing the laundry alkaline pH closer to our natural skin pH.
As I already said, citric acid also works effectively as a limescale remover, so using it in your laundry routine will prolong the life of your washing machine!
THE FRIENDLY BLEACH.
Sodium percarbonate - Na₂H₃CO₆ - is basically the 'friendly' alternative to bleach. As an oxidizing agent, it is a basic ingredient in a number of home and laundry cleaning products, including non-chlorine bleach products such as Oxy-Boost, Oxi-Clean and Vanish. As a bleaching agent, it is used to get rid of stains, to sanitise, improve fabric whiteness, prevent greying of white laundry and get whites white. It is very effective as a laundry pre-soak for heavily-stained items. You can also use it for cleaning and removing organic stains (such as coffee, tea, wine, fruit juice, food, sauce, grass) from fabric, plastic, porcelain, ceramic, wood, carpet, etc.
It is ideal for whitening and sanitising nappies or whitening old linens and yellowing whites. When dissolved in water, sodium percarbonate breaks down into oxygen, water and sodium carbonate (soda ash). Always remember that in order for it to release the oxygen and be effective as a disinfectant, sodium percarbonate needs temperatures over 40°c, as hot water accelerates the bleaching action; otherwise, it won’t work and will be wasted.
There are many uses for this super eco-friendly product in and around the home.
- To pre-soak heavily stained laundry. Dissolve the powder in hot water (about 2-3 tablespoons of powder in 5 litres of water or 10 g x 1kg of laundry) before submerging clothing and leave overnight. Remember not to apply the powder directly onto fabrics and always check suitability of fabrics first.
- To de-stain tea and coffee cups or sterilise kitchen/bathroom cloths, brushes (toothbrushes, toilet brushes, hairbrushes) and other utensils. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of powder in 500 ml of hot water prior to submerging anything you want to sanitise.
- Do not use on LINEN, WOOL, SILK
- Do not apply the powder or concentrate directly onto fabrics
- Always remember that it is advisable to wear rubber gloves while handling sodium percarbonate.
THE LAUNDRY BOOSTER.
Sodium carbonate - Na₂CO₃ - is also known as washing soda, soda ash, soda crystals and soda Solvay. It is a strong alkali base used in green cleaning products due to its ability to cut through grease. It is perfect as a laundry booster or to scrub and remove grease and oil stains. You can find it in laundry detergents, dishwashing detergents, all-purpose cleaners, glass cleaners, stain removers and countertop cleaners. When it is added to the water, it breaks down into carbonic acid and sodium hydroxide (lye). Its solution can be used to clean hard, non-porous surfaces, such as floors, walls, bathtubs, tiles and grout.
Because sodium carbonate is strongly alkaline and forms a basic solution in water (it is essentially the opposite of citric acid), it is really useful as the main ingredient in many DIY recipes. In fact, sodium carbonate is a great ingredient to clean oven or stove grills, burners rings and baking trays. Just soak these items in a solution of hot water, sodium carbonate and washing-up liquid and leave as long as possible, preferably overnight. Then use a strong brush or a non-scratch pad to remove the grime from small spaces. You can sprinkle a thick layer of sodium bicarbonate over the items before scouring to clean them more easily.
Always remember that sodium carbonate is very alkaline and needs to be handled wearing rubber gloves, especially when used directly.
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
As already mentioned, sodium citrate - Na₃C₆H₅O₇ - is a very important ingredient, as it acts as a sequestrant in our DIY laundry detergent.
WHAT IS A LAUNDRY SEQUESTRANT?
Sequestrants are used in detergents in order to reduce the level of ions in water. The properties of these ions are modified, and as a result, we obtain a higher efficiency of the cleaning process. In fact, capturing calcium and magnesium ions in the solution and preventing them from interfering with the surfactants (a substance that assists in cleaning) avoids the re-depositing of dirt on the washed fabric or surface. The incorporation of a laundry sequestrant - like sodium citrate - improves the performance of detergents. Sodium citrate acting as a cleaning aid and water softener allows the soap to work more effectively. The resulting soft water - treated with sodium citrate - requires less detergent for the same cleaning effect, as the soap is not wasted mopping up calcium and magnesium ions.
Soft water also extends the lifetime of plumbing by reducing or eliminating the build-up of scale in pipes and fittings. When I add sodium citrate to my detergent, I actually see that the laundry is spotless and all the stains have vanished. Sodium citrate can also prevent the greying of fabrics.
Sodium citrate is not the same as citric acid. In fact, citric acid is a weak organic acid (pH 2 approx), sodium citrate (pH 7 approx) is the sodium salt of citric acid. This means that to make the sodium citrate you need citric acid. Like citric acid, it has a sour taste. Like other salts, it also has a salty taste.
By mixing citric acid and bicarbonate of soda we can make a liquid version of sodium citrate to use in our laundry. The powder is very useful for making the recipe for our DIY dishwasher detergent as it is easier to measure out than the liquid.
BIO-WASHING UP LIQUID
WHY USE BIO WASHING-UP LIQUID IN DIY RECIPES?
Washing-up liquid is really important for making our recipes as it will help us to clean properly and to achieve effective results. Detergents are amphiphilic: they help oils become more soluble in water. The hydrophobic (non-polar) parts of the detergent molecules bind to the non-polar oil molecules. Simultaneously, the hydrophilic (polar) parts of the detergent molecules bind with the water, so that the entire molecule can dissolve in water: this results in a cloudy solution of water with the molecules formed by detergent and oil.
Of course, when I speak of washing-up liquid, I mean only the bio-based type. You can find many ecological, environmentally-friendly, green washing-up liquids with recyclable or recycled packaging. Nowadays, both local shops and large supermarkets sell them. The best policy is to buy in bulk and decant as needed.
- I usually pour my bio washing-up liquid into a small, recycled soap dispenser and keep it handy, so that I can add a blob every time I need it.
- If you save all your spray and washing-up liquid bottles, you can recycle them and use them for the recipes that follow.
I hope you will find this explanation useful!