I initially thought that washing powder was soap based but on closer inspection have found that that is not how it works at all.
Soaps work as an emulsifier which means that water and oils mix and allow the grease and dirt on clothes to be washed out during the rinse cycle. Real soap is made from oil and fats as where modern soaps have had all the oils removed. Clothes washed in soap are generally softer and therefore do not need conditioners to make them soft again.
So here is the myth we have been sold in the past to do the washing :
you need some washing detergent that strips everything out of the clothes and then you need fabric conditioner to put the smell and softness back in. Some powders combine the two.
Historically detergents emerged from a soap shortage after the First and Second World War. Detergents made their appearance and as a result, soap disappeared from our shelves. Surfactant detergents reduce surface tension and allow water to permeate clothes and then mix with oil and grease which is washed away during draining and rinsing cycles. Surfactant detergents are harsher on fabrics, dry them out and can create more static when they go through a dryer.
As a result, the new detergents may have washed your clothes in a different more effective way whilst reducing the items lifespan. You only need to check the amount of fluff in a tumble dryer if you use one. The fluff is the equivalent of fibres lost from your clothes. As a result we have been replacing clothes much faster.
How do we create shortcuts without loss of comfort?
Using washing soda :
For regular wash, add 1/2 cup of Washing Soda along with the usual amount of either liquid or powder detergent at the beginning of the wash cycle. (Always follow machine instructions when adding laundry products.)
For large, heavily soiled wash loads use 1 full cup of Washing Soda along with the usual amount of either liquid or powder detergent at the beginning of the wash cycle. (Always follow machine instructions when adding laundry products.)
For hard water conditions, add 1 cup of Washing Soda along with the usual amount of either liquid or powder detergent at the beginning of the wash cycle.
Washing Soda adds extra cleaning and freshening power to your detergent. Stains and greasy soils sometimes need special handling. Often a routine machine wash will just not be enough to remedy stubborn problems. The most effective way to remove stains is to begin treatment as soon as possible. Although some stains may be impossible to remove, a pre-treatment or pre-soak with Washing Soda is often very helpful; especially for removing greasy stains and embedded dirt from synthetics and cottons.
Pre-soak laundry in warm water (use cool water for non-colorfast items as well as for blood and egg stains). Use 2 tablespoons of Washing Soda per gallon of warm water if pre-soaking in a small tub, or use 1/2 cup if pre-soaking in a filled washing machine. Pre-soak for at least 30 minutes before washing. Wash with 1/2 cup of Washing Soda in the wash cycle, in addition to your usual detergent.
Short cuts to fabric conditioner :
Hang the washing out on the line and let the air freshen it naturally.
If using a tumble dryer, put some fabric conditioner on a small sponge and tumble with the clothes. The smell will linger nicely at a fraction of the cost.
This is a first step in changing your laundry habits. When you have decluttered your surfactant supplies you can start to look at alternatives such as Ecover.