Skin Irritation, Hard Water: DIY Laundry Detergent Troubleshooting

in Cleaning Products,DIY

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Irritation and Yellowing

Lots of folks choose DIY detergents for skin irritation.  But then they’re skin is still irritated!  There are no additives, right?  And why are my clothes getting dingy and yellowing?

Amazingly, it’s NOT additives that get most people.  It’s the pH of the clothes when they come out.  Even with no additives, alkaline laundry can irritate skin.  Skin like a pH of about 6.5.  Laundry water is almost 11.  Professional laundry services have know this for ages.  They “sour” the laundry to get it back to an acid pH that you skin likes.  Acetic acid (vinegar) is generally the SOUR used by industrial services; it also removes rust yellowing and graying.


So, REGARDLESS OF WHAT DETERGENT YOU USE, help out sensitive skin by SOURING your laundry in the rinse.  1/2 cup in the rinse compartment is more than enough; you might be able to get away with 1/4 cup.  Just play with depending on how well your clothing was rinsed.

Hard Water, Harder Water

Vinegar in the rinse will also help remove hard water deposits on clothing. If you want to use it pre-emptively to keep those particles suspended in the wash water, you can use vinegar or citric acid in the wash. But, if you have any significant water hardness, it might take a lot more vinegar than you want to fool with. Lemi-shine citric acid at $4/72 tsp is cheaper for me than vinegar. 4 cups vinegar equals one tsp of citric acid in water-hardness-suspending-capabilities. The other problem is hard water starts eating away at your diy savings because you have to add so much more washing soda to the mix to keep up the pH. For every cup of vinegar you add to the wash water or for every tsp of citric acid you add, put in 4 extra tsp of washing soda.

So here are my hard water dry detergent mixes for you to try. Tell me how your experiments go!

I Think I Have Hard Water Mix
1/4 c citric acid
3/4 c finely ground soap
2 3/4 c washing soda

Mix in can. Shake a lot first day. Will try to clump. Use 3T per standard load. Vinegar in the rinse.

I Pretty Sure I Gots the Hard Water Mix
1/2 c citric acid
1/2 c plus 2T finely ground soap
2 cups plus 6T washing soda

Same mixing instructions as above, use a rounded quarter cup per standard load. Vinegar in the rinse.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 hwiens July 31, 2012

Does anyone know of a good resource for buying citric acid? I’ve checked out local Walmart and two grocery stores and no one knows what it is….lol Thanks

2 Jessie August 1, 2012

Thank you! I got citric acid just because of your posts on this and dishwasher detergent. :)

3 Kristen August 6, 2012

I get my citric acid mail order from

4 Callie August 8, 2012

You can find citric acid with the canning stuff right now. I’m not sure if it’s the cheapest way to go, but it should be enough to see if it helps your laundry.

How much would I add to my HE washer? ‘Cause I know I gots hard water. :)

5 Callie August 8, 2012

I forgot to say that I found my small bottle of citric acid at Lowe’s with the canning supplies.

6 Ivory Soap August 11, 2012

start with half the recommended amount for top loader. tell me if it works. Hard water is why “detergent” was invented.

7 Erin August 14, 2012

We have the most awful water I’ve ever seen, it stains the shower stalls rust brown in a couple of weeks after I scrub them with extremely caustic cleaner to bleach them. I mix TSP (trisodium phosphate) into the washload, 1 tsp per load, and this makes a huge difference with the dinginess too. It binds to any iron in the water and takes it out of the clothes and down the drain.

8 Ivory Soap August 16, 2012

Yes phosphates became popular in detergent for a very good reason.

9 Stephie N September 11, 2012

Salt in the wash works great as a water softener (and clothes softener) I used to rinse with vinegar and still come out with rough diapers (vinegar in the rinse helps soften too) then I remembered how bad hard water we have here in denver and went looking for natural water softeners. . . charlie’s makes one that I realized was just essentially salt, ever since I’ve been adding roughly a tsp with each load of plain ol table salt and the diapers almost feel brand new! softer and don’t irritate my girls legs anymore! :) cost is around 50 cents per 75-100 loads. . . works for me!!

10 Tommie March 21, 2013

I am new to your site and I love it already. Just have one question where do I get or find Washing soda????
Thanks in advance

11 Daisy March 21, 2013

Tommie–Thank you! You can usually find washing soda in the laundry aisle of most larger supermarkets.

12 Jeni Wendell March 24, 2013

Any tips for a scented fabric softener? I’ve tried wool dryer balls with essential oil but the clothes don’t smell like the oil at all. I currently use 1/2 cup of vinegar as a rinse but I need something with a scent.

13 Laini December 30, 2013

You can either buy citric acid in the laundry section of grocery stores under the brand name Lemi-Shine, use lemon Kool-Aid or bulk Wylers quart of Light (sugar free) lemonade mix from Dollar Tree.

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