Monday, August 17, 2009

Blood, Soap and Tears

As I mentioned in a previous bloglet, making your own laundry soap is easy, inexpensive, and ecologically-sound. There are approximately 74,300 recipes on the web, so finding one you love should not be a problem! But since you're already here (And THANKS FOR COMING!), I'll share a few tried and tested recipes with you now. Hopefully, by the time you finish reading, you'll know how to create your own homemade laundry soap, without any blood or tears.

The best known liquid recipe out there: (You will find many variations online)

4 Cups hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup Washing Soda
½ Cup Borax

Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (It will gel).

After it's cooled, you can make it smell pretty by adding 10 to 15 drops of an essential oil of your choice, such as tea tree, lavender, or citrus. I love to add peppermint oil at Christmas...who doesn't like smelling like a candy cane? :)

My friend Laura, of Laura's Lathers, suggests increasing your borax and washing soda to 3 cups each, in 4 quarts of water. If you find your clothes don't look, smell or "seem" clean with the basic recipe, give this a whirl. (By the way, Laura makes amazing've just got to try them!)

Do I have to have a big ol' bucket of laundry soap sitting on my washer?

No. I pour the soap "concentrate" (before it's cooled and gelled) into the little "3x" detergent bottles I've saved up. I set them in a sink of ice and stir them with the wrong end of a long wooden spoon, until they gel. I let them cool WITH THE CAPS OFF. (The trapped heat can split the seams on the bottle. What a mess!) After they've cooled, I add water to the fill line, and a few drops of oil, if desired. (Thanks again to Laura, who taught me the nifty ice bath trick!)

What the heck is Fels Naptha?
It's soap. It cleans very well, and is a great stain-treating bar on its own. But it can sometimes be hard to find. After you've tried the recipe once and are happy with the results, you might consider asking your local grocer to sell you a case. Or, as with everything else under the sun, you can buy it online. Try Soaps Gone Buy.

How much do I use?

Top Load Machine- 1/2 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)

Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

Doesn't this take a lot of time?

Absolutely not. A few hours, tops. Buy a BIG stockpot, and a LOT of supplies, and make 6 months worth at once, if you want! That's why I use the little bottles. I can store tons of them in my basement pantry, and bring them up as needed to my laundry room cabinet. (Another benefit of reusing old detergent bottles? With the lid secure, it's easy to shake the gel, and there's a built-in measuring cup!

Will this ruin my stock pot?

Ruin your pot? No. Add a distinctly soapy flavor to your next 5-7 soup or pasta meals? Yes. Take my advice: Go to your corner thrift store or garage sale and pick up a big, old pot that is dedicated to laundry soap making. It just makes it so much easier.

Ack! My detergent is all clumpy! My detergent is solid! My detergent is runny!

Your final product depends on how much water you used and how long it has had to cool and gel. Don't worry, no matter how it looks, it probably still works great!

My soap-making attempt didn't work. There are no suds.

That's because it's not a detergent. It's a soap. There aren't supposed to be suds. Actually, that makes it PERFECT for front loading HE washing machines! You just need to use about half the amount you'd use in a regular top-loading washer.

Will my clothes REALLY get clean?

Yes. For very soiled loads, you might want to add a little extra borax or washing soda straight from the box, but I've tried lots of recipes, and it really does work. Even on cloth diapers!

My detergent smells weird.

Your detergent smells like the soap you used! Don't like Fels Naptha? (Or can't find it?) Try another type of bar soap. Some others that have worked successfully are Ivory, Colgate Octagon, Pure and Natural, Zest, Zote, Kirk's Castile Soap, and Dr. Bonner's Castile Soap (the almond smells amazing!)

How much does this actually save me?

My recipe costs about 2 cents a load. That's a savings of almost $80 a year, assuming I purchased my detergent with coupons, on sale, at the commissary. Your savings may be even greater, depending on your regular brand of store-bought detergent!

Is it really better for the environment?

The short answer: Yes. The long answer: How much so depends on what kind of soap you use. For a really sound homemade laundry soap, use an organic bar soap, like Dr. Bronner's Castile Bar Soap. They're completely biodegradable, vegetable-based, and certified fair trade. They cost more, however. Still, no matter what bar soap you choose, if you're a liquid detergent user, creating your own homemade soaps creates a LOT less waste and uses less packaging than store-bought plastic bottles. Reusing previously-purchased store-bought bottles to hold your homemade supply helps even more!

Can I use this in a cold-water wash?
Yes. And that's one more reason I use the liquid recipe. I find that the powdered one needs very warm or hot water to dissolve well, while the liquid works fine in cold water.

But I WANT to use a powdered recipe!
It's not as cost-saving, AND it requires hot water to work well...but as you wish:

Powdered Laundry Detergent

1 Cup Grated Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 Cup Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Borax

For light load, use 1 tablespoon.
For heavy or heavily soiled load, use 2 tablespoons.

More questions? Leave a comment!
Now get to work!

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Heidi Schaap

Heidi is a child of God, a homemaker, wife to a studly backyard lumberjack, and homeschooling Momma to nine fun, highly energetic outdoorling children. Her family homesteads a small patch of woods in Ohio and when Heidi’s not in the kitchen baking bread or cookies, she’s growing veggies, playing tag with dairy goats, and shooing chickens off the front porch. Heidi loves books, natural living, and coffee…Actually, let’s put the coffee first. She is the author of Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers, a book she hopes will bless you immensely.

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