It’s an appealing thought. Take some relatively cheap ingredients, mix them together and in a certain way and BAM, low cost laundry butter.
The premise of the recipe is grated coconut oil soap with a 0% superfat, combined with hot water, borax, and washing soda. Mix them together, let sit until cool, and then stick blend until you’ve got a creamy emulsified soap “butter” for washing laundry. Add some essential oils at the end for smell and there you go.
Common knowledge was that this miracle butter only required 1TB in an entire load of washing. Reputed to clean everything, it was supposedly gentler on clothes and machines, and basically a miracle in disguise.
Of course I wanted to try the laundry butter myself, so I read a lot about it – both from the people who loved it and swore by it, and the people who didn’t.
I read A LOT.
I fall down Internet rabbit holes all the time and I like to research things, but despite what all the naysayers were saying, I felt I had to try it myself.
So I made some.
After a few weeks of using only laundry butter, I upped the amount we were using in the machine to 1c per load. It was … okay I guess.
But there was still occasionally a funky smell in the armpits of t-shirts, and stains didn’t seem to be coming out. Plus washing needed to be hung out immediately post-wash, otherwise the clothes smelled musty, quite quickly.
I wasn’t prepared to blame the butter though. We’d recently switched to a new machine and reviews weren’t glowing, but we pushed through.
The homemade butter was cheap you see, and we were getting the business off the ground still. One kid was still in nappies, and money at the checkout was tight.
Right there was the upside. Money was tight and not having to spend $20/month on detergent was a god-send.
I kept using the butter, adding in a soap stick stain remover when I had stubborn oil stains on clothes which needed shifting.
Look, I’m a soapmaker. I am frequently oil and mica covered. My clothes get grotty. I have three children and a husband. We garden. We play outside. We don’t live in a sterile environment and our clothes are part of that.
I wanted to love the laundry butter so much. I NEEDED to love the laundry butter, because I needed to believe it was working.
It was not working.
But I hung in there. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t something I could change, or fix.
We switched to all warm washes, just in case. I added more butter to washes. I added eucalyptus essential oil to the rinse water whenever I remembered, to help.
It was only when I started having to use dishwashing liquid as a pre-wash stain treatment on oil-spotted shirts and yoga pants I finally saw the light. My home-made laundry butter was not working and I couldn’t pretend it was anymore.
I wanted to love the laundry butter, but I couldn’t anymore.
12 months of intense testing on a five person household and I couldn’t do it anymore.
I went out and bought proper laundry detergent instead. Super sensitive and unscented style, to cater for Nat and Evelyn, who both get contact dermatitis.
And 3 weeks after switching back to commercial detergent, I can safely say that my experiment was a giant failure.
Laundry butter did not work properly. I tried really hard to brainwash myself into believing it did. I have soft water. I did serious testing. But I cannot claim honestly that home made laundry butter or laundry powder actually gets clothes clean.
My clothes feel different since stopping the experiment.
Because the buildup in my clothes was a slow and gradual process, I didn’t notice it happening until I washed everything in commercial detergent and suddenly they felt different.
Water will clean clothes of most dirt. I brainwashed myself into believing that a little bit of coconut oil soap, borax, and washing soda was making a difference when it wasn’t.
So there it is.
12 months of testing over.
Laundry butter does not work, and as much as I wanted to love it, I can’t anymore.