Yes, more laundry. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been home-gone-home-gone-and-home-and-gone again. It is, of course, loads of fun to get to go and see and do. It isn’t, however, so much fun to come home to the piles of laundry, is it? In all fairness, my son and husband do do some laundry, just not all of it.
One of the things I actually like about laundry, though, is using homemade laundry detergent. While some of my friends and family think I’ve taken the DIY-thing too far, I love the stuff. I have been making it for several years now and, though I will buy detergent if I have a coupon and there’s a great sale, I like not having to buy it, and usually don’t.
Here’s my recipe:
2 parts finely grated soap (Fels-Naphtha, castile soap, or ZOTE)
1 part washing soda (NOT baking soda)
1 part Borax
Optional: Baking soda, essential oils
That’s it. Three ingredients total (or five, if you add the extras), all of which are available at the grocery store or Wal-Mart. The last time I made it, I used a bar and a half of soap, and ended up with enough detergent for around 75 loads of wash.
Now, before you go all “I don’t have time for that” on me, let me tell you that I can make a batch of this in less time than it takes me to get in the car, drive to Wal-Mart (two miles away), buy detergent, and drive back home. And it’s way cheaper. (I don’t have the cost analysis breakdown, but there are scads of them on the internet.)
The most time-consuming part is, of course, grating the soap. Some people use a food processor for this, but I just use a plain old box grater. (My food processor is a VitaMix which heats as it grinds things…I tried it once and thought I’d never get all the melted soap out of the bottom.) Grate the soap finely. Your biceps will thank you.
After you’ve grated the soap, mix it really well with the other ingredients in a big bowl with a wooden spoon. Transfer it to a lidded jar and you’re done. Use 1 tablespoon per load for normal (that is, not too dirty) laundry, 2 for the heavy-duty jobs.
I usually add some baking soda to the mix, just to help get rid of stinkiness (with dogs, a teenage boy, and a husband who likes to work outside, you can understand why). Sometimes I’ll add a couple of drops of an essential oil (tea tree for extra disinfecting, or lavender because I like the smell), but often not.
This works, and it works well. I still use bleach, on a rare occasion (because I love, love, love the smell of bleached sheets that’ve hung to dry on a clothesline). I use bluing, sometimes, to brighten the whites, and I use a pre-treater on the really tough stuff (barbecue sauce, mustard, you get the idea). But for our everyday laundry, this is it.
There are tons of similar recipes floating around, many of which require you to melt the soap, mix in the other ingredients (and water), and pour it into a jug for a liquid detergent. That just always seemed like extra work to me, but if you think you’d like it better that way, you certainly can do that. Just for the record, I’ve never had trouble with this dissolving in cold water. And, although it does make some suds, it won’t be super foamy like commercial detergents. (Don’t believe it makes suds? Try putting your grater in the dishwasher without rinsing it first. Have a mop handy. Not that I know this first-hand or anything.)
I use plain old white vinegar in the fabric softener cup in my washer. No, we don’t smell like it. It fades as it dries. I buy several gallons at a time because: a. It’s cheap, and b. I use it for most all of my regular cleaning (more on that another day). I use it as much to soften the clothes a little as to keep my washer smelling clean. Vinegar helps dissolve hard water deposits and, since we’re on a well, I am all too familiar with those.
I am sure you’re wondering, and yes, I do use this on my quilts. Since there is no bleach or any optical brightener, I’ve had no problems with fading. I don’t wash my quilts a lot, but many of the ones I’ve made do visit the washing machine regularly. Would I use it on a vintage quilt? Probably not, because most of them shouldn’t be washed anyway. I’ll talk about that another time too, but in the meantime, don’t throw your old quilts in the Maytag, OK?
Will you try making your own laundry soap?