It is a common household dilemma. Your bottle of laundry detergent is empty, and you have a load of laundry that absolutely must be done today. Thankfully, you don't have to make an emergency run to the store. Chances are, you have the means to clean your clothes right at your fingertips. In fact, you may find the alternatives so effective that you'll forgo your usual brand permanently.
Vinegar can be made from almost any fruit or substance that contains sugar. It is made through a distilling process that ferments the substance beyond the alcohol stage. The acid in vinegar inhibits the growth of bacteria and mold. This is why the ingredient that preserves your favorite dill pickles is the perfect solution for cleaning your home and your clothes. Distilled white vinegar is a very effective stain remover. Treat the stain as soon as possible and wash normally. Pour 1/4 cup of vinegar into the final rinse cycle of your wash to remove excess soaps, prevent yellowing and brighten colors. Vinegar also acts as a fabric softener by reducing static cling.
Pure baking soda is an effective alternative for commercial laundry detergent. Three-quarters of a cup of baking soda cleans a full load of laundry. This can be a costly alternative, so it is best used as a temporary substitute until you purchase your regular detergent. For a long-term substitution, you can easily make a homemade laundry detergent with baking soda, a bar of soap and water. Grate one bar of soap, any brand. Melt the grated soap into a heavy saucepan with a little water. Pour 2 gallons of hot water into a resealable container. Stir in the melted soap and 2 cups of baking soda. Use 1/2 cup per load of laundry.
Dish soap may be used as a handy alternative to laundry detergent, but take care not to use too much. Dish soap produces more foam than laundry detergent; just a squirt or two does the trick. As an extra precaution, add 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle to remove any excess soap that could be irritating to the skin. A larger mixture can be made by mixing 7 cups of water with 1 cup of dish soap. This diluted mixture can be stored in your empty laundry detergent bottle. Use slightly less than the standard measurement for commercial laundry detergent.
A vodka spritz may be the answer if your laundry is not soiled and just needs to be freshened. No, this doesn't mean that drinking vodka cleans your clothes. Simply mix one part water and one part vodka, preferably an inexpensive brand, into a clean spray bottle. Turn the clothing inside out and hang on a hanger. Spritz the clothes with the mixture and place it in a well-ventilated area to dry. The ethyl alcohol in the vodka disinfects your clothing and removes musty odors without leaving an alcohol scent behind.
Judy Prather began writing fiction in earnest in 2004. Writing as J.A. Anderson, Prather's debut novel, "Stolen Memories," was published in 2007. She also has experience as a therapeutic recreation specialist. Prather holds a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation from Winona State University.