Why I Don’t Use DIY Laundry Powder Anymore – But You Might Want to

Did you know that in Australia most laundry powders contain one quarter to one third fillers, which have no cleaning effect whatsoever?

That’s one reason I recommend making sure you know exactly what’s in your laundry powder or liquid, whether by making it yourself or finding a brand you trust. The problem with those fillers, aside from the fact that you & the planet are paying for the packaging and shipping of something that is only there to bulk up your product and make it look like more, is that they can stay in your clothes and washing machine and cause problems to both.

They coat your clothes, sometimes causing skin irritations, and trap bacteria inside the fibres, so that just-washed clothes can start to smell again almost as soon as you put them on. This tends to be worst with synthetic fabrics, but can be an issue in other clothes too.

They can also cause problems for your washing machine, as you’ll see in the video. And watching the following video, you might be surprised by the brands that use the most fillers.

As regular readers know, I not only used to make my own laundry powder (or sometimes liquid), I researched the science, wrote about it, and generally was pretty happy with it.

So why have I stopped using it?

Well, basically because I discovered something that works better, is still safe for my kids and my garden, is much easier to dissolve than soap flakes, and is still really good value for money.

Let me tell you the story that made me try it. I was talking with my friend Lis, who has three children, the youngest of whom is only two. Lis told me she used to use the eco-friendly supermarket brands and was quite happy with them (cue groans from other friends in the conversation, who reckon those don’t work At All). Then she had her third child, and he was the Biggest Grot Ever. “I just couldn’t get his clothes clean,” she told me, “So eventually I went back to using [leading supermarket brand]. And it worked.”

Well, this – and our other friends’ reactions – was a surprise to me, because I have only ever used the eco-style brands, followed by switching to my own DIY washing powder. Which I reckoned worked as well as the others did. BUT, I used it – or really, my husband did, since he does most of the laundry in our house – with Preen (before switching to DIY) and then with one of my DIY pre-wash stain removers. And in all honesty, Chris always preferred the Ammonia based one, because it did work better. Without the pre-wash spray, most of those kids clothes wouldn’t come very clean. But that is what we’d always done, so when I switched to DIY it really wasn’t any different.

But, to go on with the story, Lis then discovered – wait for it, can you guess? Norwex laundry powder. And it is not only free from fillers and nasties, but it worked!

Well, I was dismissive of course. I kept using my own homemade washing powder for a couple of months after having this conversation. But then in December, when I hosted a Norwex party myself, I got a bag of the Norwex Ultra Power Plus laundry powder as one of my host rewards. “Well, I suppose we had better use it,” I said to Chris.

So we did. And we never looked back.

It is free from fillers, phosphates, fragrances, dyes, enzymes, and whiteners , and will not leave any residue in your clothes. It’s grey water safe, and it does an AWESOME job on your clothes. It’s low suds so you can use it in a top or front loader. In a front loader, or using the Norwex magnet ball  in a top loader (which softens your water, and which I also got as a host gift), you will get at least 80-120 loads out of one bag, and up to 320 loads. AND, you can use it for woollens, and other delicates, as well as your ordinary clothes.

We started our first bag about mid December, and finished it early March sometime. And that’s despite Chris not knowing about the effects of the magnet ball for a while there, and putting waaay too much in.  With a family with 3 kids, that’s pretty good I reckon!

Norwex Ultra Power Plus Vs Another leading brand | SustainableSuburbia.net The fillers in most laundry powders not only fill up the box to make it look like you're getting more, they also coat your clothes and your washing machine, trapping bacteria and causing skin irritations and smelly clothes.

So how does it compare?

Does it work?

According to my husband, who as I said does most of the laundry in our house, it works better than either my home made laundry powder, or the eco/green brands we bought before. He still often uses a pre-wash stain remover, but now he just uses a 50/50 dishwashing liquid/water mix in a spray bottle.

According to a customer at a recent Norwex party I ran, it works so well her son asked her to wash more of his clothes (out of his cupboard) in it! She told us that he had a shirt he had to wear for band, and phoned her up from school begging her to bring him another one, because it smelled so bad – this was a “clean” shirt, but being synthetic, was particularly affected by the fillers in commercial washing powder. Once she switched to the Norwex powder, not only can he now wear that shirt again, he brought her other shirts out of his cupboard to “please wash too”, with the new washing powder.

What about the ingredients?

It has no ingredients listed on the “Nasties” list by Safe Cosmetics Australia (http://www.safecosmeticsaustralia.com.au/2012/10/nasty-chemicals-z.html) It does have Sodium Silicate which rates a 3 on the Skin Deep database, and can be an irritant. But I know people with eczema and other allergies have used it to improve their skin, so it can’t be too much of an irritant (or else there’s just so little in it, it doesn’t have any effect).  Aside from that, I am perfectly happy with the ingredients list. It works for me.

What about the price? Is Norwex washing powder worth the money?

Check out this comparison Choice did a while ago:
FRONT LOADER – Cost per normal wash (does not include cost of fabric softener per wash)
Cold Power Maximum powder – $0.59
Omo Ultimate powder – $0.79
Cold Power Regular powder – $0.40
Omo Small & Mighty powder – $0.50
Drive Ultra powder – $0.54
Trimat Advanced powder – $0.22
NORWEX ULTRA POWER PLUS – $0.135 total (use no more than 1/2 a tbsp and NO fabric softener is required!)

TOP LOADER – Cost per normal wash (does not include cost of fabric softener per wash)
Cold Power Maximum powder – $0.59
Omo Ultimate powder – $0.85
NORWEX ULTRA POWER PLUS and MAGNET BALL – $0.108 (use less than 1/2 a tbsp and NO fabric softener is required!)

(NOTE: we have a large top loader and tend to fill it up every time, mostly with lots of very grubby kids’ clothes and I calculated we were probably using 16-20c worth of powder for most loads – still awesome value for money though, and we’re saving money on the pre-wash spray ingredients AND saving time – love it!)

So that’s why I don’t use my DIY laundry products any more. But I recommend you do, or else get yourself some Norwex Ultra Power Plus 😉 (If you want to try it without having to buy it, you can always host a party yourself – online or off! Just contact me if you are interested)

What do you use, do you make your own laundry powder, or use a commercial option? Did you know about the fillers in most supermarket brands? And whatever you use are you happy with the results? If you have a different brand of washing powder, I’d love you to try my experiment above, and see how much of it remains undissolved. You might be surprised!

  55 comments for “Why I Don’t Use DIY Laundry Powder Anymore – But You Might Want to

  1. April 1, 2014 at 10:30 am

    Wow that is really interesting! I have just recently changed over to ecostore washing powder which is super concentrated without fillers too, but this seems great too! It is scary that companies are polluting the earth to make the product seem bigger 🙁
    Eleise @ A Very Blended Family recently posted..Fearing JudgementMy Profile

    • April 1, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      It is isn’t it? And actually making their products less effective in the process, which presumably just means you will use more, or have to buy some other product to “strip” it, as people talk of having to do with cloth nappies that start to smell (b/c of the detergent build up – really the fillers!).
      Kirsten McCulloch recently posted..Why I Don’t Use DIY Laundry Powder Anymore – But You Might Want toMy Profile

  2. April 1, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Wow, quite a bit of information and so interesting! I must confess, I buy a commercial brand – which I am quite happy with and it works well for us as a whole family, even the allergy sensitive ones of us – and I have always preferred a liquid option – just me of course xx Josefa #teamIBOT
    Josefa @always Josefa recently posted..Kara’s Party Ideas WorkshopMy Profile

  3. April 1, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Wow this is super interesting! I find OMO is really good but a couple of the others make my skin itchy! Thanks for the post! 🙂

  4. April 1, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    I had no idea about the fillers, but have sometimes wondered what is in the powder I use. I’ve been to a few norwex parties recently and I am still finding it hard to get my head around not having to use any spray, detergents etc when cleaning. Great idea though!
    Renee Wilson recently posted..Back in the gameMy Profile

    • Kirsten
      April 3, 2014 at 11:48 am

      It can take a while to feel like it’s really cleaning can’t it Renee? But it is! 🙂

  5. April 1, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Oh I was very intrigued to find out what you were going to say you used now! I’ve always wondered about the norwex stuff. Thanks for reminding me of it!

    • Kirsten
      April 3, 2014 at 11:47 am

      No worries T’lia 🙂

  6. April 2, 2014 at 12:36 am

    Very interesting reading. I use one leading brand because it doesn’t upset my husbands skin. I’m too scared to try anything else because the few times we have been on holidays, or at my Mum’s and she did the washing he would break out all over.
    Annaleis recently posted..Easy Potato BakeMy Profile

    • Kirsten
      April 3, 2014 at 11:47 am

      Totally understandable Annaleis!

  7. Bec
    April 2, 2014 at 10:58 am

    I’ve been using Aware Sensitive for 7.5 years (since my son was born – started to use on the cloth nappies) and I’m happy with that – don’t need to use much at all. But you do have me thinking now – I’m going to go check out the ingredients list!

    • Kirsten
      April 3, 2014 at 11:46 am

      I don’t think they have to list the fillers Bec. But try the dissolving test and see if it all dissolves 🙂

      • Bec
        May 10, 2014 at 11:20 pm

        I finally got around to trying this with Aware and I’m happy to report I’m very impressed with the dissolving test. My jar looks like your norwex one!

        • Kirsten McCulloch
          May 11, 2014 at 4:23 pm

          That’s awesome Bec, thanks for coming back and letting us know 🙂

  8. Erin
    April 2, 2014 at 11:28 am

    With a two and half year old with chronic eczema, and easily irritated skin myself, I have always used ecostore, bosistos or aware, as they don’t irritate our skin. Even the sensitive products of leading commercial brands still irritate on first wear. I have always struggled getting the stains out, though. I will definitely be looking into the Norwex products. Do they have a stain/nappy soaker?

    • Kirsten
      April 3, 2014 at 10:03 am

      Hi Erin,
      They recommend soaking just using the Ultra Power Plus itself. I haven’t had to try it yet, but I hear it works really well. You can also make up a paste of it to put on individual stains, though as I said we’ve just been using the dishwashing liquid 50/50 with water and spraying on. I should try the paste on some old stains and see if it helps 🙂

  9. April 2, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    I’ve never had a problem with stinky clothes, but I often find my towels don’t smell that great.
    I’m really intrigued by this. Keen to give it a go I think.
    EssentiallyJess recently posted..Blogging About Not Blogging #IBOTMy Profile

    • Kirsten
      April 3, 2014 at 11:39 am

      Do you use fabric softener at all Jess? Because that can coat your towels too, similarly to the fillers (often worse, in fact).

    • Victoria Tracey
      July 2, 2015 at 3:49 am

      i always used store bought powder and fabric conditioner. Then I read a tip about breathing new life into bath towels, hand towels and tea towels, so I tried it and it worked wonders, clean, fresh and super absorbent once again. You fill your machine with hot water and half a cup of bi carb soda, put it through a wash cycle and spin only, then refill machine with hot water again, this time add one cup of white vinegar, let it go through the wash cycle only then spin(no rinsing in either cycle) this is great to use with brand new towels or old ones. Oh and I’ve just bought my first lot of Norwex washing powder, after finding out about all the fillers and the fabric softener, I decided no more. So I’m on my way to clean healthy clothes…..yahhhhh.

  10. April 2, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Wow,

    That is so interesting. I’m heading to a Norwex party myself this weekend, do you know if they do samples?
    Alisha recently posted..Gardening so far….My Profile

    • Kirsten
      April 3, 2014 at 11:40 am

      It depends on the consultant Alisha – Norwex don’t do samples of it themselves, but I know consultants sometimes divide up a bag into smaller samples.

  11. April 2, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Honestly I have never given my laundry detergent to much thought, but this post certainly gave me something to think about. I think I may just go and try some Norwex and see how it fairs with Master 3’s piles of dirty clothes! Thanks for the tip and informative background.

    • Kirsten
      April 3, 2014 at 11:45 am

      You’re welcome Kira, and I’d love to hear how you go 🙂

  12. April 2, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Kirsten , thanks for the info. It’s definitely something to look into. I use the eucalyptus one from Bosistos I think…party idea sounds interesting. A question though, what does it do to black clothing as I had an incident years ago with a daughters cotton skirt coming out quite faded and not as black after washing it with the Amway laundry powder or liquid, I can’t remember which because it happened at a friends place.
    Alexa-asimplelife from Sydney, Australia

    • Kirsten
      April 3, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Hi Alexa,

      I haven’t had any trouble with it fading my black clothes 🙂

      I’m surprised the Amway would do that though, because I remember my mum used to use it. I wonder if she could have had some left over bleach in her machine?

  13. April 2, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Over here in Brazil, we are left with no many options. I use the OMO, “concentrated” and no sofner but a sip of white vinegar on the last water. Works fantastically on getting rid of washing powdered residues and cloths smells! Also it does brilliant to the machine against hard water. My washing water does irrigate my garden, so I can say I’m happy with it:-)

    • Kirsten
      April 3, 2014 at 11:43 am

      Yes, vinegar in the last rinse is an excellent natural fabric softener, and quite good for getting rid of soap residue too. Glad you’ve been able to find something that works for you Cassiano!

  14. Plaxy
    April 4, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Hi Kirsten
    I’m definitely going to try the Norwex stuff.
    I’ve always used the ‘eco friendly’ brands too and not even any stain remover (except sometimes Sards Wonder Soap – is that full of bad stuff? ) and just put up with not very clean clothes. My five-year-old son’s are pretty bad. I’ll let you know if I see an improvement!

    • Kirsten
      April 6, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      Yes do – I would love to know how you go 🙂

  15. B
    April 9, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    As someone who suffers from Chemical Sensitivities with chemical fragrances being one of the worse offenders I wish more people were aware of the issues that laundry/cleaning/personal care products can cause to the environment, themselves and other people – especially those with sensitivities to chemicals.

    This condition is not currently considered a real condition by the medical community and from experience most people don’t take it seriously. Had I not got this condition I am sure I would not be anywhere near as aware of the issues as I now have to be.
    Those who have such a debilitating condition can not do much about it or get the word out as they are usually stuck at home due to the limitation this condition imposes on them. I really encourage people to be aware of the issues and do what they can. The companies selling these products rarely take on the responsibility of caring for the environment or the impacts their products have on people.

    I can not even be in the same room as some clothing or sheets due to the smell alone causing me problems. If someone has previously been in the room with deodorant and left the room it still affects me. Unfortunately in this day and age it means I have to live a very isolated life at home.

    I really encourage people to be aware and do what they can.

  16. Jill
    May 8, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Kirsten I’ve been using and enjoying your washing liquid recipe for months now. Yesterday I made a new batch but it seems to have set to a jelly consistency. Is that likely to be because of the cold weather? If not, what am I likely to have got wrong?
    Cheers,
    Jill

    • Kirsten McCulloch
      May 8, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      Hi Jill,

      Mine often does that, but if you leave enough head room in the bottles to give it a good shake, it should liquify up again.

      Does it usually stay liquid for you?

      • Jill
        May 8, 2014 at 5:49 pm

        It has always stayed liquid in the past provided I give it a good shake up, but this time I can’t get it to move. It is very cold here in Toowoomba at the moment – could that be the problem? I managed to shake squeeze some into a container and add hot water to soften it, but the dispenser for my top loader can’t cope with thick liquid so I had to throw it in with the clothes.

  17. Amy
    April 7, 2015 at 6:49 am

    So what are the actual ingredients in the norwex laundry soap?

    • Carol
      October 12, 2015 at 2:54 pm

      I would be interested to know this also….seems no one not the bag or the consultant at the party or the company would tell me what is actually in it!

      • October 12, 2015 at 3:09 pm

        Hi Carol,

        I think I emailed Amy about this, and I have emailed you – it may depend where in the world you are whether you have the old or new formulation, so just reply to me if you’re not in Australia or the US and I will see what else I can find out. I’ve sent you the ingredients for the new formulation.

        Kirsten
        Kirsten McCulloch recently posted..Why Microfibre Instead of Vinegar? And Why Norwex?My Profile

  18. May 4, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    I am a fan of DIY and natural cleaning materials, but in terms of laundry aids we don’t usually use DIY.

  19. Kirrily
    October 13, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    Hi Kirsten,

    After reading your review on Norwex Laundry Powder, I have been very keen to try. I have 4 children who always seem to be extremely grubby, not to mention hubby’s work clothes… I was really hoping that Norwex would be the answer to my laundry nightmare. I get so frustrated when I remove clothes from the washing line only to have to rewash (or scrub) them because they haven’t come clean.

    I finally obtained some Norwex laundry powder about 3 weeks ago, and to say I’m disappointed would be understatement. I am still having to rewash clothes… I have a HE front loader and have been using between 1-3 teaspoons while experimenting, but without much success.

    I am curious to know whether you wash on hot or cold?

    Perhaps, my expectations of having clean clothes after the first wash will never be met…

    Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

    • October 14, 2015 at 1:29 pm

      Hi Kirrily,
      I’m so sorry you’ve been disappointed. I usually wash in cold, I find it works fine either way.

      I do have a very grubby daughter (my middle child) whose clothes I pretty much always pre-spray beforehand, as they are always covered in ground in dirt.

      Norwex does a pre-wash stain remover which is great, but it’s a gel, which I find too hard with her cloths, so I vary between diluting it 50/50 with water in spray bottle, or using the heavy duty DIY spray on my printables (which has Ammonia in it, so not for people with respiratory issues at all). I find if I don’t do one or the other, they don’t come clean no matter what else I wash with.
      (Here’s the link to the printables in case you don’t have them: http://sustainablesuburbia.net/non-toxic-printables)

      Good luck – I hope you find a system that works for you.
      Kirsten McCulloch recently posted..Why Microfibre Instead of Vinegar? And Why Norwex?My Profile

  20. Lori
    October 30, 2015 at 3:12 am

    I don’t trust a product if they won’t put an ingredient list on their label. The Norwex consultant whose party I went to just messaged me this morning. She talked to the company, and they told her they don’t put out the ingredient list, basically because they don’t want anyone else making their recipe. That isn’t a very good excuse because they don’t need to put amounts on the label. They said you can ask about a particular ingredient and they will tell you if it’s in their detergent or not. I do not know every ingredient out there, so this doesn’t seem plausible. I was interested in trying a new detergent for my husband’s clothes, but I’m sticking to the one I order right now, it has the ingredients on the label.

    • October 30, 2015 at 10:37 am

      Hi Lori,

      Fair enough. I don’t really know why they don’t put the ingredients on the label, but they certainly make it available. I can send them to you if you like – as I said above, they reformulated it slightly earlier this year, so I am not certain if they have the reformulated version in all countries yet (cause I know the US got it before we did here in Australia), but I expect they do. In any case, that’s the list I have.

      If you like, I can send you it along with the MSDS.

      Cheers
      Kirsten
      Kirsten recently posted..Why Microfibre Instead of Vinegar? And Why Norwex?My Profile

      • My
        November 6, 2015 at 4:54 pm

        Hi thanks for all your info!!! May I,get a forwarded email of the MSDS, too? My son isbhighlt allergic and I. Always looking for safe and cleaner methods.
        Thanks,
        My

        • Kirsten
          November 10, 2015 at 1:59 pm

          Of course! Sorry I didn’t see this before My, but I have just emailed you.

          • Jo
            December 7, 2015 at 12:50 pm

            I would love a copy of the ingredients too!

          • Kirsten
            December 12, 2015 at 10:38 am

            Sorry Jo i just saw this… I am in a hurry now, but will email you tomorrow. If you don’t hear from me, feel free to remind me by emailing kirsten @ sustainablesuburbia . net

  21. February 12, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    That was a very informative post.I was fed up with the laundry powder as it made the clothes dull and rough.Now I will try out this one.I follow the DIY tips and love them.
    Valerie Sabin recently posted..Why Numerous Homeowners And Professionals Suggest Fleck Water Softeners?My Profile

  22. February 26, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    I need to try this out. Very creative DIY.

  23. Rhonda
    May 16, 2016 at 6:44 am

    Hi Kirsten, I’ve just come across your post whilst searching for a list of ingredients for the washing powder! I would be very interested to know what they are if you could email them to me also? I’m mostly wanting to find out if it contains optical brighteners as some of the clothing I have for my children recommends not using a detergent containing these as the cause fading to the garments. Thank you in advance 🙂

    • Kirsten
      May 23, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      Hi Rhonda,
      No worries, I will send the list to you – but I can tell you straight out that it doesn’t contain optical brighteners 🙂

  24. August 12, 2016 at 1:53 am

    In September all ingredient lists for every Norwex product will be made available. I saw people asking. Until then you can contact the company or your consultant about specific ingredient concerns.

  25. Diana
    August 24, 2016 at 3:45 am

    Where can I find the ingredient list for the laundry detergent? Last I remember Norwex didn’t offer ingredient lists on most of its products, which is a red flag for me personally.

    • Kirsten
      August 25, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Hi Diana,

      Norwex are actually releasing ingredients pages on all their products in September. I think you will be able to find them right on my Norwex website (https://kirstenmcculloch.norwexbiz.com.au/) but if you can’t, let me know and I can email you whichever ones you are interested in.

      Cheers
      Kirsten

  26. Natalie VanderHeide
    September 21, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Thank you for the great post. I have been chasing the ingredients for the washing powder too. Just checked your Norwex website and haven’t been able to find it on there. Would you please email it to me please? Thank you!

  27. Ming
    November 4, 2016 at 1:31 am

    Hi, I’m interested in the choice comparison that you referred to in your post. I can’t seem to find it on the choice website. Could you point me in the right direction? Thanks.

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