Is Homemade Detergent Safe to Use in Today’s Washing Machines?


Dear Mary: Today a Sears repairman came to put a new part in my washing machine.  He saw soap residue on the inside and told me I was using way too much detergent.  Also, he didn’t like that I was using a homemade detergent that contains Dawn liquid.

He said borax should never be used for laundry in modern washing machines.  Mine is 10 years old.  He also said dish detergents, especially Dawn, should never be used because they don’t rinse out completely. That leaves soap residue which becomes a medium for mold and microbial growth.


Modern detergents, he said, should be used at the rate of one tablespoon per load. Water level should be medium, large at the highest, and never the super or plus level I often used. That leads to spill over which results in soap residue in various unreachable parts of the machine (unreachable unless you take the machine apart, as he did).

He showed me all the mostly dried residue, which he cleaned and vacuumed out before putting the machine back together.

He also recommended a second rinse to get rid of soap residue.  I had been using only one rinse on most loads.

And he recommended a product called Affresh, which is supposed to clean out residue.

He says you can tell if you’re using too much detergent or the wrong kind of detergent by filling the tub with water, adding nothing to suds and noticing if there are suds in the water.

Now I’m flummoxed as to whether or not I should continue to use your washing machine detergent recipe.

Thanks for any advice you can give on the subject. Jean, MN

Dear Jean: Using too much of any product in a washing machine is not good for it. So whatever product you use, you need to measure carefully, erring on the side of too little, not too much. I am curious to why a manufacturer would create a super or plus level if doing so is bad for the machine. But I’ll leave that part up to you. I guess I would stop using it for the reasons he mentioned.

I do take issue with some of the information he gave you. Dawn is a safe product for clothes washing provided you are not using too much. So is borax (I get letters from readers saying that borax will ruin your machine, but I can find no credible evidence for this statement, nor for using Dawn). As for his recommendation for Affresh, there are many commercial products out there for washing cleaning. Curiously, many manufacturers, such as General Electric (I currently have GE stackable washer and steam dryer and love them to bits), recommend chlorine bleach for the cleaning cycle, together with exact instructions for how to perform this clean once every couple of months.

I regularly use the second rinse option along with a bit of white vinegar to make sure all detergent is getting removed, leaving clothes soft and fluffy without any softening products.

So there you go. Who can you believe? I guess in the end you must go with your heart. As for me, I’m sticking with the homemade recipe. It’s better than anything I’ve ever purchased and I’ve been using some version of homemade for many years. I haven’t seen a washing machine repairman in more than 30 years. Thanks for writing, it was great to hear from you.

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Dear Mary 25 Comments

How to be Prepared, Not Scared


We get so many earthquakes in Southern California, we’re on first-name basis with the world-renown seismologist at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. Dr. Kate [Hutton]. She’s become a local icon, popping up TV the minute we start to rock and roll, keeping us cool, calm and collected.

While we have hundreds of small quakes every day, now and then we can actually feel one. That’s when my mind naturally moves to thoughts of disaster preparedness. Now I’m not talking weird or paranoid kind of “prepper” stuff—just the basic, commonsense quick list of things every family needs to have on hand. It’s good to be prepared because it offers peace of mind and a sense of calm.


Below is a list of basic emergency items, together with links to where you can find these items priced competitively. Use it to review your family’s level of preparedness. If you come up lacking, start right now to get things in order. I can tell you from experience that being prepared brings with it a level of calmness and assurance that will help you think more clearly when disaster pays a visit, and sleep better, too.  Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Home & Family 4 Comments

Tips to Slash the Food Bill


Food prices have increased so dramatically in recent years, a trip to the supermarket is enough to ruin your appetite. With food weighing in as the second biggest monthly expenses for many families, we all ned to find clever ways to save. I’ve got some great tips for driving those costs down.


Hire help. Would you fork over $1.25 a week for someone to help you scour the aisles of your supermarket for the week’s best sales, figure out which coupons go with those sales, tell you exactly where those coupons are, figure out the net cost, show you how much you’ll save and then hand it to you in a tidy list? Then you need to check out The Grocery Game. I’ve been a big fan of founder Teri Gault since the days she shared her handwritten shopping list with just a few friends. Now Teri’s List is available for supermarkets nationwide. Tip: Try a free 4-week trial.


Get more than books:  Amazon Grocery offers hundreds of thousands of nonperishable grocery items, with free Super Saver shipping on orders over $35. In exchange for competitive pricing, you’ll be buying in larger quantities than at a traditional grocery store. But here’s the fun part: Amazon offers plenty of varieties. Where else can you find all 70 Jello-O products and more than 35 different types of mustard? Amazon Grocery also carries diapers, pet supplies and laundry products. Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Food & Recipes, Home & Family 2 Comments

Conquering Credit Cards


Credit cards can protect you and your money. But it’s so easy to get burned! Are you feeling more controlled by your credit cards than in control? You have legal rights that protect you, but loopholes give credit card companies an advantage. Consumer confusion can mean big profits for them. Here’s the insider info you need to take charge once and for all.


Freebies might not add up. Many credit cards offer enticements such as frequent-flier miles, cash rebates and purchase discounts, but may charge higher interest rates and big annual fees.

Insider tip: If you don’t pay your balance in full every month, chances are the heavy interest plus the annual fee will be greater than the value of any freebies you’ll get. When you roll a balance into the next billing cycle, you lose your grace period so every new purchase begins accruing interest the minute you leave the store. You may be better off switching to a no-fee, now-rewards, lower-interest rate card while you are paying off that balance. Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Home & Family 1 Comment

3 Ways to Cut Your Bills by 10 Percent or More


Money a little tight? The secret to getting the cash coming in to exceed the cash going out is to reduce your spending. It’s as simple—and as tough—as that.

But once you understand that cutting expenses is really like giving yourself a tax-free raise, the job gets much easier. The challenge is to find realistic yet painless ways to trim spending without taking all of the the fun out of your life.


Go on a cash diet. It’s best to spend only cash in order to curb mindless spending. Surveys indicate that cash customers are more mindful of what they’re doing, and therefore spend 17 to 23 percent less than those who pay with plastic.

Also, limit ATM trips to once a week. Develop an envelope system for areas that can get out of control, such as office lunches and entertainment. Take your ATM cash and distribute it among your marked envelopes. When you go to lunch or a movie, take the money from the corresponding envelope. When the money is gone, that means no more spending until the next fill-up.  Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Mary's Perspective 6 Comments