It's not that I hate doing laundry. Laundry is actually one of those chores that I don't mind. I especially love being able to use my solar dryer (aka clothesline). The problem I have with laundry is smell. Growing up, my mom always used that one really expensive brand. You know the one I'm talking about, that starts with a "T". Of course, when I moved out, I just kept right on using that. That's what always worked, right? Why mess with a good thing? Along with that, we used the expensive fabric softener. The clothes and towels always came out smelling april fresh, whatever that smells like. However, we live in a very warm climate. My husband spends a lot of time outside for work. His work clothes are very sweaty and smelly.
Fast forward a couple of years to October 2009. I was introduced to making my own laundry soap through a homeschool product review. You can read about that here. I have been making my own laundry soap ever since. I love the cost savings over buying soap at the store. I also have been using white vinegar in place of fabric softener. No, my clothes do not smell like vinegar. They also don't smell like perfume that gives me a headache. In the last 3 years, I have experimented with many different formulas for my homemade soap. I've tried different base soaps. I've tried different combinations of washing soda and borax. I've tried adding baking soda, or oxygen bleach, or both. I still haven't found any combination that completely gets the smell out of the stinky work shirts. We've also added a new dimension to laundry with some seriously sweaty exercise clothes. If you've ever been to the gym with me, you've made fun of the sweat puddle that starts to form under me while doing push ups or burpees. I'm not kidding. I sweat way worse than my husband. Hanging them out on the line helps tremendously, but they still smell.
That brings me to today and my newest laundry experiment, soap nuts. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, there are berries that grow on some tree that you can throw in the washing machine and they act like soap. They are all the rage on all the natural health/food blogs. You can get a ton more information about them from the NaturOli website here. This is the brand I bought. They have no idea who I am and have not paid me or given me anything. I love the idea behind it. What could be more natural than something that grows on a tree? There is some debate as to whether or not borax should be considered natural or not. I don't think you can debate the naturalness of soap nuts. The question is: Do they work? You have a little bag. You toss in five little berries, tie it up, and toss it in the washer. I had my doubts, but considering the current state of my laundry, I was willing to try. I bought a little starter pack that included the little bag, an instruction book, and enough soap nuts for about 15-20 loads. It also says that there is no need for fabric softener. The first load, I wasn't thinking, so I tossed in my vinegar anyway. Still, I was very pleased with the results. The second load, I remembered to test without the vinegar. That load had the stinkiest, smelliest exercise shirt in the bunch. It was really bad. I couldn't wait for it to get done. When the washer finally shut off, I pulled out the shirt and immediately held it up to my nose, took a deep whiff, and survived. I was quite impressed. It was much closer to smelling like nothing that any formula I've tried before. Not perfect, but far better results than anything else I've tried. Then, I had my husband go do a smell check. He has been really complaining about the exercise shirt smell. He checked both his exercise shirts and his work shirts. He gave an A to the work shirts. He said the exercise shirts smelled better, but still retained that exercise smell a bit. I have to wonder if it has to do with the difference in that exercise shirt fabric. Maybe that's where I need to focus my experimenting next, testing different fabrics for exercise clothes.
The bottom line is that I think I shall be switching to soap nuts. They are very affordable, work very well, are completely natural, and require zero prep time.