Green Laundry Care with Dr. Bronner’s (Video)

Profoundly grateful. Every time I load my washer, I feel it. I am so very, very appreciative for all the people whose ingenuity and curiosity led to the invention of the modern-day washing machine.

The whole process of washing my clothes takes roughly 5 active minutes of my time. I realize when I add in “thinking about the laundry,” “getting distracted while doing the laundry,” and “rewashing the laundry because I left it wet in the washer for a week,” then the process gets longer. But as far as my active participation in one load, there’s just a couple minutes to start it and a few minutes to hang clothes to dry or transfer to the dryer. As of yet, there’s no automated way to fold the laundry and put it away so we’re still pretty much just as mechanical as our 19th century counterparts. And while I am missing out on the cardio and muscle-toning aspects of washing king-sized bedsheets by hand, I can start a load while the coffee is brewing and feel productive while reading the morning paper.

If I had a pie chart of how I use the most Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds in my home, the greatest wedge would be laundry. Not because I use a lot per load, but rather because I do a lot of laundry. With five humans, two cats, one dog, and acres of dirt, that’s to be expected.

My laundry cabinet has both Sal Suds and Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap, but I reach for Sal Suds more often because it’s a bit tougher on stains and more effective in my hard water. I got started using Sal Suds on my clothes not because my dad invented it (sorry, Pop), but because as I learned about problematic ingredients in cleaning products, I realized that any of them left on fabrics in the wash were going to spend a whole lot of time in contact with my skin, and my family’s skin. That adds up to a lot of exposure. In the video, I go into greater detail about these ingredients, but the end result was my wanting “clean” laundry cleaners, which the Pure-Castile soap and Sal Suds are.

My laundry regimen is simple. For clothing, I use about 2-3 Tbsp. (30-45 mL) of Sal Suds or 1/3-1/2 c. (80-120 mL) of Pure-Castile Liquid soap for each large load in my regular washer. When I’m washing something grubbier, like towels, I might throw in a ½ c. (120 mL) of baking soda and with the Castile, because I have hard water, I’ll add 1 cup (240 mL) of vinegar to the rinse water via the fabric softener compartment. For an HE washing machine, halve these amounts. Both the Sal Suds and Castile soap biodegrade readily and are safe for septic and greywater systems.

For the inevitable ketchup/grass/last night’s dinner on clothing, I pre-treat the stain by dabbing a small amount of Sal Suds directly on to it before washing. For broader stains, like ring-around-the-collar, I spray them with my Sal Suds All-Purpose Spray.

That’s it. I feel I should apologize for being so simple, but my laundry comes clean, the colors stay vibrantly in place, and my clothes don’t wear down unduly. I’m good with that.

Then comes the drying. Drying our clothes is probably the single harshest thing we do to them, or at least it is once we’re old enough to find that sliding on our knees on asphalt is no longer fun. The dryer shortens the life-span of our clothes, not to mention takes a tremendous amount of energy. Air-drying clothes is best for the clothes, best for your energy bills, and best for the environment.

All this talk about laundry is part of what I rather recently realized are the three foundational pillars of my house: bed, laundry, and dishes. These three tasks control my productivity, my house’s order, and my peace of mind. When my day rolls out in front of me each morning, with its roughly 1202 undone tasks, I get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.  I am a naturally indecisive person – or as I prefer to say, someone who can see the value in many different possibilities. It’s paralyzing. Now I have a starting place. Make my bed, start the laundry, load the dishwasher.

Here’s why. If I do bed/laundry/dishes, then everything else falls into place, or at least it seems to, which is good enough for me. If I neglect bed/laundry/dishes and start elsewhere, then nothing seems done anywhere, regardless of what I might accomplish. At the end of the day, it looks like all I did was lay around.

I’m past the days when life seemed composed entirely of one giant pile of dirty laundry, like some sort of domestic haystack, with kids of varying sizes sliding down it. I don’t mind doing the laundry, but am far happier to have the time with the kids.

133 thoughts on “Green Laundry Care with Dr. Bronner’s (Video)

    • Hi Heather- When used in hard water conditions, Castile Soap can cause fabrics to lose softness and absorbency. Vinegar counteracts this. If you’re using Sal Suds, or don’t have that experience, you can skip the vinegar rinse.

  1. i was using straight vinegar for laundry. loved that it cleaned. loved that there was no residual detergant on clothes therefore no static cling on clothes in the dryer. unfortunately i think i ruined by washer. it was only 2.5 years old and the same parts were replaced 3 times from rust… wash plate, transmission and basket 🙁 i read several sights that say vinegar is safe… and just as many that say it will ruin the vales and seals. just dont wanna risk it again. anyone else have this issue??

    • Hi Sarah – I’m guessing the acidity of the vinegar – pH around 2.5 – has been eating away at your washer’s components. It makes sense that it shortened the life of your washer. As much as you’ve enjoyed the results, it might be better for the longevity of your washer to use a soap or non-toxic detergent.

  2. Can you use the Bronner’s bar soap to hand wash laundry in the sink? I’m thinking about using it while traveling, and I won’t have to worry about taking liquids on board a plane if I take the bar soap.

  3. Hello! Last year when I had moved into a new condo that doesn’t allow units to install our own washing machines (there is a laundry room on every other floor) I purchased a little hand-cranked manual washer (the WonderWash I believe its called). I haven’t used it yet, just out of intimidation that I would do it wrong. I decided to finally give it a shot, and was wondering if it would be possible to use Sal Suds instead of conventional laundry powder (which is what is recommended). And if it is possible, what you would recommend as for ratios/amounts. Thank you very much!

    Oh, actually, sorry, as a follow-up to that, I tried washing some of my son’s cotton t-shirts by hand last week just in a bucket with a squirt of Sal Suds. Some traces of toothpaste still remained afterwards. I possibly might need to relearn how to hand wash (or get a better washboard) but I was wondering if perhaps I did not rinse out the Sal Suds correctly? Thank you once again!

    • Hi there- This sounds like a great device! I had to look it up and it’s super cute, too! I think Sal Suds would work great in it. I was reading the washing capacity from their website – Washing capacity: 7-8 dress shirts/ 10 T-shirts/ 2 pairs of jeans. I would start with my general recommendation for hand washing clothes, which is about 1 tsp. Sal Suds per gallon of water. If this is too much, feel free to cut back. If there are specific stains, like toothpaste, go ahead and put some of the measured Sal Suds directly on that before adding it to the washer. I’m curious as to your results! Let me know!

  4. LOVING your products!!!! So happy I found them. I have teens at home washing their own laundry, thank goodness! However, explaining that only 2-3 Tbsp of soap should be used will be a challenge I’m not sure I want to get into. Can the Sal Suds/Water be mixed ahead of time in small batches and they measure out 1/2-1c. for their laundry?

    • Hi Christie- Yes, you can certainly mix the water and Sal Suds ahead of time. For example, if you had a 1 quart empty bottle, add 3 cups of water and 1 cup of Sal Suds. Then use ½ cup of this mixture per load. For my kids, I bought a pump for my gallon Sal Suds online. It dispenses 1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) per pump. So I tell them to use 1 to 1 ½ pumps.

  5. Hi, I am trying to find the best gentle soap for cleaning vintage textiles. I love the look of the ingredients in these products and will switch for my normal laundry.
    Do you think the Sals Suds or Castille soap will be gentle enough for delicate garments, like vintage silk dresses? Also how do they work with woolens?
    Other places like the Smithsonian Museum have recommended Neutrogena original face soap or gentle baby shampoo as gentle laundry washes, but some of these aren’t vegan or don’t seem very ‘eco’.

    • Hi Georgia- Two questions to start with are, can the fabrics get wet and are they colorfast? Cotton and linen can probably get wet. To test them for colorfastness, rub a damp q-tip on an inconspicuous spot and see if any dye comes off. Silk is the tricky one. Silk is a natural fiber, protein based like our hair. It can usually get wet without deforming. It’s the drying that causes the difficulty. If silk dries with any wrinkles or misshapen, the only solution is to rewet it. Silk also is often not colorfast if it is deeply dyed, so do the colorfast test on it first if need be. If you’ve gotten a “yes” to those two questions, you’re ready to handwash. Use cool water with soap – I recommend the Unscented Castile (light blue bottle). Use about a capful in a sink of water. Set the fabrics in the soapy water and let them soak for 10 minutes or so. Gently swish them around in the water and then rinse them thoroughly in cool water. Do not wring them but let them drip dry or place them on a white towel to dry. Avoid using detergents, vinegar, ammonia, or bleach. Here’s a website I stumbled across awhile back that looks like it has some good advice: Care for wool is similar. As long as the label says is can be washed, then use a mild dilution of Sal Suds or Castile Soap. Whichever you use, hand wash is the best way to go. Wool changes size and shape so easily.

    • Thank you Lisa, so helpful! Your advice is very similar to others in the vintage business. I finally understand the difference between detergents and soap.
      So am I correct in saying that Sals Suds is a detergent that will be appropriate for washing cottons and linens (possibly woolens too), while your Castile Soap is (obviously) a pure soap and more appropriate for washing silk? (once they have passed the colourfast test.)
      Thanks again

      Ps I just cleaned my shower with Sals suds, white vinegar and baking soda and it was so easy and smells great! 🙂

    • Hi Georgia- In general laundry, the Castile and Sal Suds are pretty interchangeable. However, in considering the Smithsonian recommendation, Sal Suds is more similar to Neutrogena or baby shampoo. As you said, Sal Suds is a detergent, as are Neutrogena and the baby shampoo. I trust their research on this and they likely have reasons for not recommending a true soap. However, on woolens, I have found the Castile to work well. You could likely go either way on woolens.

  6. I have not (yet) switched to Sal Suds for my laundry. I can tell there is build up on my clothing (umm… gross.). Will Sal Suds strip the build up off or should I strip my clothing using something else before starting with Sal Suds? Thanks!

    • Hi Mary – I haven’t had that situation, but I really think Sal Suds would be able to get rid of the dingy build up. In addition to the Sal Suds perhaps add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the loads for some extra scrubbing/whitening action.

  7. Hi Lisa,

    I noticed the Sal Suds description states it can be used in hot or cold water for laundry. I could not find any info on the Castile Soap regarding this. I am curious if Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap is effective in both hot and cold water for laundry as well.


    • Hi Deana – Ooh! Great question! Yes, the Castile works just as well hot or cold in the laundry. I’ll look into getting that info out there! Thanks for the heads up!

  8. I love my Dr Bronner’s Sal Suds. A transformation happened when I switched to it in my front loading washer.

    I’ve never used fabric softeners, only a “free and clear” type of liquid detergent, plus borax and sometimes baking soda.

    I didn’t know that most liquid det. gets a slick goo when it’s mixed with water. Dr Bronner’s doesn’t, so THE STINK IS GONE!
    Also, when I checked the filter after several weeks, there wasn’t the slimy yuck of previous years, just a piece of lint. That’s all.

    I also didn’t realize that my old detergent caused contact dermatitis. Now the bumps on the backs of my arms are GONE! They’d been there for decades.

    Wow! Thanks, Dr Bronner’s!

    • Hi Wende- Thanks for that testimonial. It’s great to hear Sal Suds is working for you!

  9. Do you add the baking soda in with the sal’s suds in the same slot at the same time? Or do you add the baking soda directly to the drum with the clothes?

    Also, any suggestions for getting tough stains out of carpet or an area rug!

  10. Hello,
    My laundry machine requires me to pour the detergent directly into the wash. I just bought the rose Dr. Bronners castile soap. Would I pour this soap and vinegar directly into the wash? Also what measurements would i use if so.
    Thank you so much!

    • Hi Mary- You don’t want to pour the two in together on top of clothes. The vinegar will react with Castile Soap, causing it to unsaponify (more on that here: Castile Soap is perfectly safe to pour the soap over fabrics. In my top loader, I put 1 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle compartment. If your machine doesn’t have one, you can leave the vinegar out. Or, if needed for odors, run the full wash cycle then add vinegar and run a rinse-only cycle. Some readers tell me they put vinegar in a fabric softener ball, although I haven’t tried this method.

  11. Hi Lisa, I have a question about the bubbles, I have HE washer (front load) and I don’t see any bubbles while doing laundry, however it is clean and doesn’t have any scent. Does it mean Sal Suds is still working? Or should I be adding more? I have hard water here, I did the test with castile soap and the water was very cloudy.

    • Hi Anna- I love bubbles, but they really are a false indicator. Although we often associate bubbles with cleaning power, there is no actual connection. HE machines use so much less water that the bubbles (which are soap and water, not soap alone) don’t form as much. If you’re seeing and smelling clean clothes, you’re good.

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