Sunday, September 18, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have a confession. Try as I might, I am not the woman described in Proverbs 31. You lose me at "She gets up while it is still dark..." (Proverbs 31:15a) and my shortcomings continue through the rest of the passage. Still, when taken in their entirety what this passage seems to say to me is not that I need keep hours with the owls - but that I should be doing everything I can to provide the best possible life for my family, given the resources I have - OR can glean from those around me.

This is where a new fascination of mine comes in. If you haven't heard of PINTEREST, I highly recommend checking it out. I love clipping inspiring ideas & photos from magazines and the internet. This website allows you to organize your ideas on "boards" with links back to the original source! I've cleaned up my computer's files, erasing nearly a Gigabyte of stored ideas by "pinning" them in nice visual order! You can check it out without subscribing, but you'll need an invite to join. Let me know, and I'll email one to anyone interested. My poor mother may have been corrupted by me as I fear she's a complete addict already so please, don't say I didn't warn you about it's addictive qualities!

So... back to the soap. I was searching existing boards on PINTEREST to see what others had pinned, when I ran across a homemade laundry detergent recipe. Years ago I tried a liquid detergent, but it was gooey and left our clothes looking dingy. A dry soap seemed promising however, and I called my mom to see if she'd heard of any of the ingredients. Her response? "That's what MY mommy used on our laundry when *I* was a little girl!" (always a clue that something works - tricks gleaned from those who endured The Great Depression seem to be "keepers" in my experience!)

To the store I went, to hunt down these "antique" ingredients. And to my complete shock, I found ALL THREE at my local grocers!

For this soap, I used:
* 1 cup: 20 Mule Team Borax (my cost: $4.26 for a box)
* 1 cup: Washing Soda (my cost: $2.99 for a box)
* 1 bar: Fels Naptha Soap (my cost: $.99 per bar)
* and a pretty 1.5-2 quart size container to hold the soap. (I chose one from the thrift shop for $.99)

First, I grated the Fels Naptha bar. I used a microplane grater for smaller pieces, so things would blend better. This part takes awhile... it took me a full 20 minutes (Hellooooo Netflix!) to grate a single bar. The house however picked up a very pleasing soap-and-citrus fragrance, that hung in the air for about an hour. To the grated bar, I added the borax & washing soda, and stirred everything together in my pretty container. That's it! It was time to test this little concoction for myself.

I checked about two dozen blogs of others' successes with this and read EVERY SINGLE comment on each blog before deciding to make it myself. Each site said all I would need is ONE TABLESPOON (some claiming they had used as little as a teaspoon!) per load of laundry. Feeling rather dubious, I dropped a single tablespoon into my washer and watched it dissolve away in a few short seconds, tempting me to dump in a full laundry-scoop. It seemed positively ridiculous that such a tiny amount of soap would truly clean anything - especially since I wash 95% of our laundry with cold water! Resisting that temptation, I filled the machine. On a whim, I tossed in my husbands' knock-you-over stinky socks and one of his work-shirts with collar-staining that resists traditional stain sticks & sprays. Forty-five minutes later I pulled things out, and gave them a critical look. The shirt collar is MUCH better - not perfectly white, but better than I've gotten it with anything short of an overnight bleach-soak. And his socks? I sniffed those socks, and all my nose could detect was... CLEAN!

Feeling optimistically impatient & not wanting to wait overnight for things to air-dry, I popped everything into the dryer. Just a few minutes ago, I ran back to check on things. EVERYTHING looks clean. And even those nasty-awful socks smell... CLEAN! There's no fragrance, so I'm sorely tempted to add 1/2 teaspoon of mandarin essential oil since I like my laundry to smell pretty, but it all came out clean. Not just clean... but better than my traditional detergent! After making this batch, I've got enough washing soda left over for at LEAST 3 more batches, and enough borax for at least another 7. At those estimates, this would cost approximately 4.3 cents per load. Compare that to the 14.9 cents per load I paid a month ago for my favorite traditional detergent and there's just no comparison.

Add me to the list of converts, I'm a believer. This stuff WORKS!


Gwen said...

I don't recognize that bar soap your grated. I'll have to look around for it if I decide to give this a try.

homeschoolmama said...

I didn't recognize it either, but my mom did... and when I went hunting it was at the first large-chain grocery store I checked!

Julia said...

Must give this a try with my lemon soap...I know my supermarket sells washing soda but not sure about borax. Maybe I could get that from the local hardware store?