Airing our dirty laundry, part 1

I’ve had several emailed inquiries regarding my laundry soap making, and I wanted to write a post that would answer your questions as well as provide an overview of this endeavor, and then I realized you probably don’t want to read a book on laundry!  So I’ve decided to break this post up into segments (I’m only thinking about you – my loyal reader….**tap** **tap**  Are you still with me???).  I can’t say at this point just how many installments on ‘laundry’ I’ll write, but it’s guaranteed to be packed full of words. Other than that, I make no promises!

You might remember this post from last week about all the wonderful experiments that have been happening around the Burton household over the past couple of weeks (things like beer-making and cheese-making, and some other interesting projects).   Sam and I have been working hard at finding ways to make our life more blessed by living a simpler and more self-sufficient lifestyle, without sacrificing some of the basic luxuries of life like toothpaste, deodorant, and clean clothes – just to name a few.  After all, we don’t want our friends to start dropping dead from all the body odor!

So a few months back I began researching some homemade alternatives to some of my basic personal hygiene products – things like deodorant, toothpaste, chalpstick (which I’m addicted to!), shampoo and conditioner, and liquid soaps.   In my research I came across an article on homemade laundry detergent and was intrigued.  My first thoughts were, Is it natural?  Will it really get my clothes clean?  Will it make me itch?  Is it expensive to make?  Is it difficult to make? As I read more I discovered the answers are yes, yes, no, no, and no.  Since the no’s have it, I decided to try it out.  And let me tell ya girls, it has been brilliant!  Super simple to make too – you only need 3 ingredients, plus a couple gallons of water, a large utility bucket with a lid, and about 20 minutes of time.

Let me preface the rest of this post by saying, I don’t do a lot of laundry.  I’ve read some blogs where it seems that the writer always has an unending mountain of laundry awaiting them.  I don’t have that – thank you Jesus!  I’m blessed in a special kind of way – because I don’t work outside of the home I am able to have a designated laundry day (usually Monday’s), and an average week’s worth of laundry yields about 4 ‘super-sized’ loads, including towels. If you’re one of the many who always has at least two loads of laundry on the floor, I feel for you, I really do, and I can honestly say, I wish I had that problem.  However, with that in mind, using this homemade laundry detergent might just free up enough cash in your weekly budget to treat yourself to a spa day once in a while, especially considering the ever-rising cost of household products…………anyway, back to your regularly scheduled programming……………

Last Monday was my first week to use the homemade laundry soap, and we’ve loved it.  Absolutely no itching, what-so-ever.  No fragrance or filmy residue on our clothes, and it does not react poorly when mixed with bleach for the whites (sometimes the combination of bleach and laundry detergent can yellow clothes instead of whitening them).   And the cost…don’t get me started here!  This is pennies to make and use, compared to commercial laundry detergent.  Plus you can really feel good about washing your clothes in something natural that won’t harm the ground water and environment as all the materials used in it are found in nature…well, maybe not the bar of soap, but we’ll get to that in a subsequent post.  So here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try…and I encourage you to do it.  Besides, what’ve ya got to lose but a little bit o’ dirt?

Laundry Detergent

1 bar of mild, unscented soap (like Ivory or Zote or even homemade milk soap)

1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (this is NOT the same thing as baking soda – the box has to say WASHING SODA on it in order for it to work in this recipe – don’t listen to the grocery store clerk try and tell you it’s the same thing….it’s not – I promise.  I’ll post more on this product in an additional post.)

1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax powder

2 gallons tap water

Essential oil of your choice (optional)

1 (2 – 5 gallon) utility bucket with lid (Homer’s work great and can be purchased at Home Depot for less than $5)

Prep Steps:

Grate bar soap on a box grater and set aside.

Measure out Washing Soda and Borax powder in a small bowl and set aside.

Wash and drain your utility bucket and lid and set aside.

Heat 4 cups of water in the microwave or kettle until very hot.

To make detergent:

1. In a large stockpot (I used an old 5-quart dutch oven) add 6 cups water and grated soap.  Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soap shavings are completely melted.

2. Carefully pour in Washing Soda and Borax powder, stirring continually, until completely dissolved – approximately 3 minutes.  Remove pan from heat.

3. Carefully pour 4 cups of hot water into the utility bucket (you might want to set the bucket on the floor or on a stable chair as you complete these next steps – this will save your back and help to prevent burning/scalding yourself).  Slowly add in the hot soap mixture, stirring gently with a long spoon.  Pour in 1 gallon + 6 cups of cool tap water into the soap mixture, stirring to combine.  *Option* If you’re wanting to fragrance your laundry soap, add in 1 ounce of essential fragrance oil now – just make sure you’ve read the label and the oil is appropriate for topical use, otherwise you’re likely to get a nasty rash from it.

4. Loosely set the lid onto the utility bucket and move bucket to an out of the way spot (careful now, this is heavy) to allow the mixture to ‘gel’.  This can take 24 – 48 hours.

5. Once the mixture has set, it will resemble a large white slab of gelatin, floating in a clear liquid.  You’ll have to give it a stir to break up the jellied soap, so the mixture will be quite lumpy – mostly resembling a large pot of white, partially set jell-o.  Rest assured my friends, you followed the recipe correctly and this will work in your laundry.  For each load of regularly soiled clothes I use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of soap, plus any bleach (or a scoop of OxiClean) for whites or really dirty clothes.

So that’s the basic recipe I used for this detergent.  I will say, it’s not like commercially produced laundry soap.  However, so far, I have had only good results from this product, plus it makes me feel all homestead-y and natural when I tell people I make laundry soap!  I will post more on the ingredients and some observations I’ve found in the next post, so stay tuned.


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