Washday blues

Just before I whisked the girls off to New York (and more of that another time), a nice PR asked me to try Comfort’s new ultra-swish scenty range of fabric conditioners. Of course I said yes, though I didn’t let on that I have a little secret these days about laundry. I make my own washing powder.

Yes, that’s right, I make it. And no, I’m definitely not one of those knit-your-own yoghurt types who prides themselves on hand-looming the breakfast cereal and milking my own yaks. I didn’t even really know you could make washing powder until recently. It sort of came about by accident, last summer.

First of all, the cats got fleas. This was despite my (admittedly rather sporadic) application of anti-flea stuff. So I went out to get some more. But the cats still had fleas and, horrors, gave them to us. This meant, according to the vet,  I had to hoover the whole house every day for a week, while bestrewing our home with insecticide. Naturally, I wasn’t too keen. It’s a big house. Hoovering it once a week virtually kills me. I thought I’d have another go with a deadlier cat treatment, but when I got to the pet store there was a queue of people, all waiting to pounce on the new stock of cat insecticide. I did get some, but I wasn’t surprised when, again, it didn’t work. It seemed clear that the fleas were becoming immune. I had a look online for natural flea deterrents which would be less likely to make us all (including the cats) glow in the dark. Borax was mentioned a few times. It was also cropping up quite a lot in recipes for laundry detergent. It suddenly occurred to me that I could kill two birds – or fleas – with one stone. If I made a flea-repellent laundry powder and washed everything the cats sat on and all our clothes, the fleas would surely decamp to friendlier digs.

And, readers, it worked. I used borax substitute as there seems to be a debate about the safety of borax itself, but the powder cleaned all our clothes just as well as the shop stuff, and got rid of the fleas as well. I’ve been using it for a year now. As we have one eczema sufferer and an asthmatic in the family, it seemed a good idea to be using fewer chemicals in the house. While I can’t claim that those conditions have cleared up, they’re certainly not worse. And the powder is way cheaper than supermarket stuff.

Here’s my recipe:

2 parts borax substitute

2 parts washing soda

1 part grated soap.

All the ingredients can be very easily sourced online or from a household store. Just mix them up in a big tin or empty laundry powder container. You can also add essential oil to scent your mixture. I started off with lavender but am now using orange oil which is rather lovely. The powder works very well, though I still use a specialist stain pre-wash spray for bolognaise stains and the like. You don’t need a fabric conditioner, either, as the washing soda softens the clothes and also descales your washing machine! Use the same amount as you would of your normal powder. It won’t produce any soap suds, but don’t worry, it’s still washing (and it’s kinder on your machine).

So why, you may ask, did I want to try Comfort’s new Creations range, made in association with Coleen Rooney? Well, partly because Coleen is apparently a scent expert and the bottle I tried was a rather delicious-smelling Indian Rose and Musk flavour. And partly just to see if I was depriving my family of anything by not purchasing such products any more.

I can tell you that the Comfort added a very nice scent to our wash. Clever Coleen! So, if you want very nice scent on your clothes, this is the thing for you. And if you don’t want fleas, make my washing powder!


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