January 31, 2011

The Laundry Soap

One of my earliest blog posts, way back when I wasn't actually telling people I blogged and had the worlds worst photos for each post (they still aren't fantastic, but so much better!), I talked about an experiment that Briton and I were doing making Laundry detergent. Or that I ended up doing because Briton lost interest about halfway through. I'd gotten the recipe off of a green living website somewhere and was pleasantly surprised when the soap actually a) congealed into a crazy cool gel that it was supposed to and b) cleaned at least as well, if not better, than the soap we'd been buying. And in the almost two years since that post, we have used, almost exclusively, handmade laundry soap for our weekly mounds of washing.
It sounds very hippie of me, I know. But the reasons we've stuck with it aren't really what you might think. Yes, I love that it is environmentally friendly. The lack of packaging alone is worth it. At some point in the process (when I ran out of washing soda I think) I bought a bottle of Ecos washing detergent to tide us over and have used that jug to mix and store my detergent ever since. So, one plastic bottle still being reused in two years is a nice thing. Plus the ingredients are pretty easy on the planet too as far as I can figure. But that's not the main reason.

I also love that it's cheap. No, really, it's cheap. I'm still on the same box of Borax, am about a third of the way through the second box of Washing soda and have gone through, maybe 4 bars at most of Fels-Naptha soap (you can use any soap, I used Lever for a while but I like the non scent of the laundry bar soap) So again, maybe $20 over the past 2 years? That certainly makes me happy.

But the real drive for my soap making is that I'm lazy. I really am. When I sit on my couch and order my weekly groceries (see, too lazy to go to the store) I don't want to go down to the cave that is our basement laundry area (on the to do house list, move laundry up to bedroom, sigh, someday) and see if we are out of laundry soap. Heck, I don't even want to go look in the panty to see if we are out of beans. Because that would mean getting off the couch. because of this ultra lazy streak, we regularly run out of laundry soap mid week, usually when someone really NEEDS somehting cleaned. So having the ability to make more is just plain awesome.

Since my original batch I've tweaked my recipe, both to accommodate the purchase of a front loading washing machine and the changeover from a bucket to a bottle for storage. And we're pretty darn happy with it. Keeps the clothes clean without having any obvious smells and is quick and simple to make.

Laundry Soap

Grate 1/4 bar of Fels-Naptha into a small sauce pan and add s cups of water. Heat gently, stirring until the soap has dissolved. Remove the pot from heat and add in 6 T Washing Soda (this isn't baking soda, it's washing soda, Arm and Hammer makes it and it looks like a giant box of baking soda) and 3 T borax. Stir until dissolved. Pour into a recycled laundry jug and add enough hot water to fill about 3/4 of the way up. Leave the jug to cool and the soap will turn into a thick gel. At this point I like to shake it up and add a little more water to make it more liquidy. You can also make this in a bucket and just scoop it out with a measuring cup. We use about 2-4 tablespoons per load.

How about you? Do you make anything that most people buy? Anything you'd like to learn to make? I'd love to figure out liquid dishwasher detergent one of these days.