I used my own laundry butter for 12 months and here’s what I learned.

by Veronica on February 8, 2016

in Soapbox, Soapmaking

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.

Laundry Butter

Laundry Butter

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.

river February 8, 2016 at 3:21 pm

I’m glad you eventually saw the light, I would have given up much sooner, the smell would have turned me away from it. My sinuses are very particular about what they like to smell.
Still, $20 a month for detergent seems excessive. Have you tried cutting the amount you use? Even by a little bit to make it last a bit longer?

Veronica February 8, 2016 at 5:10 pm

If you hang the washing immediately, which Nat generally does, the clothes ended up smelling like whatever essential oil I’d used (usually lemongrass or eucalyptus), not like must.

And I buy the big 4L sensitive skin liquid detergents, because Eve doesn’t react. Plus with five of us, we’re sometimes doing two loads of laundry a day. Probably 10 loads a week?

Alida February 8, 2016 at 3:31 pm

It is such a shame because the sample I tried that you made smelt so amazing!

I use about half the suggested amount of washing powder in my front loader and clothes wash fine.

Veronica February 8, 2016 at 5:07 pm

I use the smells as rinse water now – better cleaning and similar end result!

Donna February 8, 2016 at 5:13 pm

I want to do a Gollum and put my hands over my ears and say not listening, not listening! I made laundry liquid for the first time a few weeks ago and of the 10 odd litres I still have 8 left, so not listening.

Veronica February 8, 2016 at 5:39 pm

I’m sorry!

Look, if your clothes are only lightly dirty, then you’re probably going to be fine with your own homemade stuff.

But I also found the issues crept up, so it wasn’t as noticeable as going from “everything is sparkly clean!” to “everything is filthy oh god why am I doing this”. It was a slow realisation, of throwing things back through, of wondering if I’d overfilled the washing machine, of thinking maybe my washing machine itself was just crap.

And honestly, my washing machine WAS crap – it was recently recalled and they replaced it for me, but we tried for another month with a brand new machine and home made detergent, and it just didn’t work out for me.

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