Sunday, October 09, 2011

How I Make Laundry Soap

There was a little interest recently about how I make laundry soap, so I thought I'd write up a post about it. I was very skeptical about homemade laundry soap for quite some time. It seemed like a lot of fuss for the money savings. But I'm so glad I finally tried it! It is very simple and quick...I usually mix up a batch at the kitchen table while my son is coloring or playing with puzzles. And if you know my son and how little he holds still, you'd realize how quick and easy this really is. :)

I switched to this soap about six months ago without telling the family. I wanted to see if anyone would notice the change. No one has, so I've kept making it. :)

So, why do we use this soap instead of a grocery store detergent or a purchased eco-friendly detergent?

1. We're saving money. I can make several large batches of this soap for much less than the eco-friendly detergent we had been buying. I haven't run a per load cost analysis, but my ingredients cost about $10 and we've been using them for over six months. I have enough supplies left to make several more batches.

2. We are minimizing packaging waste. My village's waste contract allows our waste hauler to landfill recyclables if they cannot sell them at a profit. So, even though I can place plastic and cardboard in the recycling, I have no assurance they are actually being recycled. With homemade soap my only waste in six month has been two soap wrappers. Once my borax and washing soda boxes are empty, the cardboard can be used as mulch in the garden or composted.

3. We are minimizing trips to the store. Now that we are buying the majority of our food through CSAs and farmer's markets, we are getting the grocery store a lot less frequently. If I can store the ingredients for a six month (or more) supply of laundry soap, I can save a trip to the store for detergent. I can store the ingredients for this soap in a small cupboard in our laundry room...over six months of soap making supplies take up less space than one of those big liquid detergent jugs. The ingredients are also small and light enough that I can pick them up on a walking trip to our local grocer. So, when it is time to stock up, I can do so without making a car trip.

4. There are no questionable ingredients or strong scents. I've never seen an ingredient label on laundry soap. When I make my own, I know exactly what goes into it. Also, since my family is very sensitive to strong scents, this allows me to control what, if any, scents are in our detergent.

I don't claim this recipe as my is available all over the internet in various forms, but they all seem to follow a basic recipe. 

1 cup borax 
1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda)
2 1/2 ounces soap (Zote, Ivory, Fels Naptha, or any basic homemade soap). 

Borax and washing soda are found in the laundry aisle of my supermarket. If you have trouble finding them, look for an independent, mom and pop type grocery and you may have better luck. I've also found them at hardware stores (family owned, not big box) and dollar stores. Zote is carried at the Hispanic grocer in my town, Ivory is found just about anywhere.

I start by grating the soap on my box grater. This actually works better if your soap is not brand new and has had a chance to dry out a little bit. Some people whir the soap gratings in their food processor to make them more powder like. I don't, and the gratings work fine for me. Next, measure and mix in the borax and washing soda. Find a container to keep it in, add a tablespoon scoop, and you're done!

I use between 1 and 3 tablespoons per load, depending on how dirty things are. Our normal loads get one tablespoon. If it's a load of gardening clothes or we've been playing in the mud, I add three tablespoons. Loads of kitchen linens usually get two. Experiment, and you'll figure out what works best for you.

A caveat -- this soap has no optical brighteners, like conventional laundry soap. If that's what you've been using, you may notice your clothes do not look as bright. We'd been using a natural detergent before this so we did not notice a difference. If you choose the Zote soap for this recipe, that type of soap also has the optical brighteners. I tried Zote the first time I made this recipe but found the fragrance to be too strong for us.


Green Bean said...

Really? Any type of homemade soap. This I think I could actually do! Thank you for the recipe.

esp said...

Yup! At least -- as far as I've read. Part of my plan is to start making my soap with a simple lard soap. I can source the lard locally for very cheap from a farmer who raises her animals humanely and sustainably.

Mama and Papa Shep said...

Have been meaning to try this for a long, long time. Good to know you like the end result.

Unknown said...

I'm in the AP group and happened to click on your blog when you posted about the milk. I've had other friends talk about making their own soap. Do you know if this is ok to use for cloth diapers? We're spending a ton of money on natural cloth diaper-safe detergent that we also use for all our clothes and I'd love to find a cheaper alternative. My kids also all have senstive skin too so it was hard finding detergent that worked for the diapers. And I had to get different soap for different kids. I would imagine this would be ok for people with sensitive skin since it's just soap? Will definitely have to try this, thanks!