Thursday, December 16, 2010

Coffee Talk Thursday: Powder or Liquid?

So the question today is--admittedly--somewhat random, but I know we as moms have an opinion on it (and I'd love to hear yours). What do you prefer when it comes to doing laundry: powder or liquid detergent, and why?

I've always used liquid, because there were brands that I liked, and usually I could snag a bottle on a great sale at the grocery store. However, clothes kept coming out of the wash with dark spots (almost greasy-looking spots) on them, and I knew they didn't go in that way. After experimenting to see if it was happening in the washer or the dryer and settling on the washer, I called the manufacturer to ask if they had any clue what could be happening. They put me in touch with our local appliance store, who would service the machine.

Apparently, the problem with liquid detergent is it is paraffin based. At the high altitude at which we live, the detergent does not fully dissolve in cold water (possibly even warm), and it builds up a residue inside the drum of the machine. This residue then was leaking out onto our clothes, according to the appliance store owner.

His recommendation? Powder detergent.

You can make your own following this recipe:
Powdered Laundry Detergent - Top load machine
(I'll add pictures, so you can know what you're looking for)

1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup - Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*
½ Cup Borax

-Grate soap or break into pieces and process in a food processor until powdered. Mix all ingredients. For light load, use 1 Tablespoon. For heavy or heavily soiled load, use 2 Tablespoons. Yields: 3 Cups detergent. (Approx. 40 loads)

*Arm & Hammer "Super Washing Soda" is not the same as Baking Soda. I find it at my local ACE Hardware. It must be sodium carbonate!
Yes, I have tried this homemade recipe. My husband likes the smell of it (the Fels-Naptha soap). I think it works ok. I always at least 2 tablespoons, and if I have OxiClean on hand, I add a scoop of it to the load too.

Lately, though, I bought some  Arm & Hammer Powder Laundry Detergent on the recommendation of a friend's mother. I think it works well, and it smells good too! I really like the kind with Oxi-Clean in it.

The problem is--the spots persist. I have started using vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser, because I've heard it is a great and frugal softener, and it helps wash out the soap.

Has anyone else ever had this happen? Have you figured out how to fix it, short of getting a new washer?

What do you like to use--liquid or powder detergent, and why?

(Linked to Frugal Friday)


  1. I like liquid. For years I used powder - I guess because that is what my Mom used and my husband's family used it too. But, I always had a difficult time removing stains once we had kids. Once our old washer died and we replaced it with a new HE front-loader, I have had success with removing most stains. However, I don't think it is just because of the washer. I also at some point switched to liquid detergent and started using warm water washes instead of cold.

  2. Have you tried pouring a cup or two of bleach and then running an empty load on the longest and hottest setting? Or they make washing machine cleaner tablets, I think they're called Affresh. That's what people suggest when their HE washer gets funky...

  3. I prefer liquid because powder sometimes seems to stick to my clothes and then I have to run them through an extra rinse cycle. But I also haven't had the same spot issues you talk about with liquid. Although I usually use liquid, I sometimes think powder actually does a better job of cleaning, and I've heard friends say the same thing.

  4. I use your exact recipe for laundry soap with vinegar in the rinse cycle. I have a front loader, so the rinse cycle is really good... that might be the bonus?

  5. I use this recipe too but in liquid form and also use vinegar! It's fun to see something that I've been doing for while in order to become more frugal on one of my favorite blogs! I do pretreat heavy stains with the Fels Naptha bar. Wet stain and rub the soap into stain until suds appear. Seems to work for me but I don't have 3 active boys like you, just one. :-)

  6. I use liquid form for colors, and powder form for whites. However, I use ZOTE pink soap or Ivory soap. I dislike the Fels Naptha soap, as I have noticed that it leaves my whites looking dingy. I use the powder with pink ZOTE soap, because it takes longer to process, therefore, making for whiter whites. I use the ZOTE to pretreat stains as well. I have 3 kids, ages 4,5,and 8, so they are masters at making messes. I also like to use vinegar during the rinse cycle when I remember. Works well for me. May give someone soemthing to think about.

  7. I will have to look into ZOTE. Thanks for the tip. Where do you find it? I think I've seen it but can't remember where :)