I first considered DIY options about six years ago when we were still living in the US and I started developing skin allergies to shampoo/conditioner and becoming more aware of environmental issues related to big industry and consumerism.
However, I was always afraid that it would be a lot of work to DIY and the results wouldn't be as good as stuff I could buy at the store. In the US, I simply opted to purchase all-natural Purex laundry detergent from Target, which was only slightly more expensive than the other brands and all-natural fabric softener from Whole Foods.
In China, of course, we didn't have that option at our local supermarket, so we've been using Tide and Comfort brand laundry products since we moved here.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was at the supermarket, I couldn't find the normal Comfort fabric softener I had been buying, so I thoughtlessly picked out a new type of Comfort softener, something in a pink bottle that smelled pretty good, maybe rose-scented. It wasn't quite as mild as the white bottle, but it seemed like it would be okay.
The weekend after I bought it, we decided to wash all of our bedding since we had both had bad colds that week and were finally getting over them. Without thinking twice, we decided to try out the new fabric softener.
Two days later, I started to develop this bad boy on my face:
I figured out pretty quickly that it was likely because of the new fabric softener. Unfortunately, we were super busy the next couple of days after I developed the rash, so we had to keep sleeping in our contaminated bedding until we had time to change the sheets and rewash all the blankets.
Once we finally rewashed using our old white-colored Comfort, I thought everything would be fine, but the rash continued to spread. Not just stay there, but actually spread!
Totally fed up with it, I finally decided to try DIY recipes.
I cooked up a batch of laundry detergent and mixed up some fabric softener using products I was able to order on Taobao.
So far, the results have been fantastic. It actually wasn't that hard to mix up the products, and they have been getting our clothes as clean and good-smelling as store-bought stuff. In fact, our clothes actually feel softer with the DIY stuff. We've been slowly rewashing things in it since our laundry pile is pretty backed up after this whole fiasco.
My rash started going down and had disappeared within a few days of sleeping in the bedding that had been rewashed in the white Comfort and wearing clothes that had been washed in the DIY products.
This morning, I woke up again with some itching and redness around my lips. So either the mango I had last night set me off, or we need to rewash our bedding again in the DIY stuff because the white Comfort is continuing to set off the allergic reaction.
Either way, I am so glad this event forced us to finally switch to DIY laundry detergent. I highly recommend it to any of you who have sensitive skin or just want to save some money or stop supporting big companies that harm the environment.
I did a lot of research online before I settled on recipes based on products I wanted to use and could find on Taobao. I decided against Borax because of the concerns I found on many blogs about health effects it could have. Since I desperately want this rash to go away for good, I want to play it as safe as possible.
The recipe I used for the laundry detergent came from Natural Living Ideas. It was meant for a gallon-size container, but those are almost impossible to get in China, so I adjusted based on the container size I had available):
0.8 cup of Dr. Bronner's peppermint liquid Castile soap
0.8 cup of baking soda
1.6 cups of water (to start; more added later)
0.27 cup of salt
Obviously, I don't have measuring cups that size, but I basically did 80% of the original recipe just eyeballing filling up my cups to 80% capacity because I had a 3L-size container which is about 80% of a gallon.
The procedure is to boil the starting water and add the baking soda and salt to dissolve (although you will still see a lot of cloudiness and "sediment" that settles at the bottom, so when you actually use the soap, you need to shake it up each time to even everything out).
Then, you let it cool and put it in your container. Add the Castile soap, and then fill the rest of the container with water until it's full. Super simple.
For fabric softener, I used a recipe found at Overthrow Martha. Even simpler, no cooking required. Just mix and you're done.
3 cups of white vinegar
1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol
20 drops of essential oil (I used peppermint)
I put the fabric softener in my Downy ball as usual so that it disseminates in the rinse cycle.
The total cost of the items on Taobao is more pricey than a single purchase of detergent/softener, but not by much, and the great news is that you will have plenty of leftovers to make up more batches in the future. So in the end, definitely a money saver.