Many years ago, I set about giving my home a complete "green makeover", and homemade laundry detergent was the very first thing I tackled. I devised a recipe that worked like a charm, and I've been using it with great success ever since. Back then it was all about basic laundering – preserving my colors and brightening my whites – but in subsequent years we've added one small-and-feisty addition to our little family, and said addition has brought with him a whole new level of laundry requirements. Which is to say, I've become a bit of an expert at removing stains.
Do you have a kid? We're talking poop stains on cloth diapers, spit up on my sweaters, homemade green baby food all over everything, and now grassy knees, muddy cuffs, and the occasional absolute disaster. So yes, these days I've got an arsenal of eco-friendly solutions for combating soiled textiles.
My best advice is to try and deal with a stain as soon as you see it – ideally, as soon as it happens. Before you even reach for the fancy products (and we'll get to those in a minute), there's a few simple things you can use to treat the area immediately.
For example: Plain water actually works, but only use it cold. Hot water will set a stain. Vinegar or lemon juice will both act as a whiteners, so feel free to use them on light-colored cloth. For oil-based blemishes, a bit of dish soap will work wonders. Cornstarch (sprinkled on and left for 15 minutes, repeated if necessary) is also great on oils. And finally, for the accident-prone among us, straight undiluted hydrogen peroxide (which is also great for cleaning tile grout) will help to pull out blood stains.
Okay, so that's the first strike. Next we come with the big cleaning guns. And there's two approaches here: DIY or store bought. Both will work, but I prefer DIY because, well, that's just the kind of wild and crazy lady that I am. If you want to go the store bought route that's fine and dandy too. I recommend the non-toxic, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free products made by Method, Seventh Generation, Planet, and Biokleen.
The DIY approach will definitely be cheaper, and tends to be easier on the environment as well. Buying in bulk saves packaging, and mixing yourself saves on shipping. Also, it's fun to play kitchen chemist! Here is my go-to recipe for spot-treating a stain, pre-laundry:
Make a solution of 1 part baking soda, 1 part hydrogen peroxide, and 2 parts very hot water (so that the baking soda will dissolve). Combine all the ingredients in a pot and stir until completely mixed. Store the liquid in a spray bottle for easy application.
Once you've sprayed the affected area, allow it to sit for a few minutes before laundering as normal. For colored garments, this should be enough and you should be good to go. For whites you may want to finish off with a good old fashioned sun bath. Yes, that's right, let your clothing get a suntan. Sunlight is an all-natural and incredibly effective bleaching agent (and heading out to the clothesline is a good excuse to spend time outside in the beautiful Portland landscape) – just ask any cloth-diapering mama!