Marseille soap, or Savon de Marseille, is a traditional hard soap, made from vegetable oils, that has been produced around Marseille, France, for about 600 years. In fact, it was in the 16th century that soap manufacturing came to Provence. This was in large part 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, is not tested on animals and doesn't contain parabens, preservatives, or other petrochemicals present in industrial soaps.
Marseille soap is an excellent stain remover. 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 irritations.
Adding Marseille soap to other ingredients in your washing-machine can work as an anti-foam agent and improve the performance of your wash.
Soap nuts (also known as washing nuts or soapberries) are actually dried fruit shells that contain real, natural soap. They are 100% natural and a good, environmentally-friendly alternative to chemical detergents.
The nut shells contain saponin - a natural detergent that has cleaning and degreasing properties - which is released when the shells come into contact with water.
For this reason, soap nuts are a non-polluting, compostable alternative to conventional laundry detergents and synthetic soaps: free of foaming agents, bleach, phthalates, phosphates and parabens, they are 100% safe and don't cause any allergic reaction.
People can, in some circumstances, find soap nuts a little disappointing. In my experience, they are less effective when the laundry is very soiled (items we have to wash at 50°-60°C) as they don't cope with stains very well. However, soap nuts are particularly effective when washing fleece, silk and wool, which become really soft and nice. They are perfect for a coloured load or for delicate fabrics that require only a gentle wash.
I suggest washing these fabrics at 30°C or in COLD water, a great habit of saving energy too.
Some people don't like soap nuts because they don't make their clothes smell "nice", as washing powder does. Personally, I don't like chemically-perfumed clothes, because the "fake good smell" of the fabric conditioner reminds me of how bad it is for us and the environment. I will admit that soap nuts do have a strong smell, but it will disappear from your clothes as soon as they are dry.
Sodium bicarbonate, 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.
So, sodium bicarbonate isn't just for baking!
It can also be a versatile cleaning agent and an important ingredient in your DIY routine. It has an effective but gentle abrasive action and is really handy for scrubbing difficult spots and cutting through grease. As a base, it absorbs and neutralises odours, and it can also be used as a multi-purpose odour remover.
For example, bicarbonate of soda in combination with other ingredients, can make a great dry or wet (and cheap) deodorant. It is also an ingredient in some mouthwash and toothpastes.
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.
TIP: it’s important to remember that it is not recommended to use bicarbonate of soda as a fabric softener, a limescale remover or an oxidizing agent.
TIP 2: 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 Clorox bleach.
So, here is another good reason to have bicarbonate of soda in our home!
Citric acid is one of my favourite ingredients.
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's an excellent product with which to treat tap water, helping to improve the effectiveness of soaps and laundry detergents.
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 to end up in our food and drinks as well. So, swapping commercial rinse-aid with something edible like citric acid is the best answer
As a fabric softener (recipe here), 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, which makes your clothes feel softer but which contains a cocktail of non-renewable petroleum-based chemicals, that 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.
As a softener citric acid just acts as a pH adjuster, bringing the laundry alkaline pH closer to our natural skin pH.
Sodium percarbonate 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 deodorise, to improve fabric whiteness and to get whites white. It is very effective as a laundry pre-soak for heavily- stained articles. 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, asphalt, concrete etc. It's ideal for whitening and deodorising your nappies or whitening old linens and yellowing whites.
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, polluting without purpose.
Sodium carbonate is also known as washing soda, soda ash, soda crystals and soda Solvay. It is familiar in the home as an everyday water-softener used in laundering: it counteracts the magnesium and calcium ions in hard water and prevents them bonding with the detergent being used; however, it does not prevent scaling. Originally, it was intended as a laundry booster, so it can be used to scrub and to remove grease or oil stains.
Because sodium carbonate has a strongly alkaline taste and forms a basic solution in water (it is essentially the opposite of citric acid) it is really useful as the main ingredient in a lot of DIY recipes.
TIP: always remember that sodium carbonate is very alkaline and needs to be handled wearing rubber gloves, especially when used directly.
Sodium citrate is a very important ingredient that acts as a sequestrant in our DIY laundry detergent. It is suitable for use as a “builder” in laundry detergents because of its ability to sequester positively-charged calcium and magnesium ions found in tap water and, unlike phosphate builders, it is environmentally safe.
Sodium citrate, acting as a water softener, basically allows the detergent to work more effectively. In fact, the resulting soft water - treated with sodium citrate - requires less soap for the same cleaning effort, as soap is not wasted mopping up calcium ions. Soft water also extends the lifetime of plumbing by reducing or eliminating scale build-up in pipes and fittings.
By mixing citric acid and bicarbonate of soda, we can also make a liquid version of sodium citrate to use in our laundry.
BIO-WASHING UP LIQUID
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 and 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 hope you will find this explanation useful!
You can find more info and all the DIY recipes in my book and all the ingredients in my shop.