Thursday, February 4, 2010

Homemade Laundry Soap

Lately I’ve become more interested in becoming more self-sufficient. Not only that, but I’m more interested in using/eating products that either have fewer chemicals/preservatives in them, and/or that I make at home so I know exactly what is in them. I’m not going all tree-hugger, but I am trying to put fewer chemicals in my body, and I’m interested in living a simpler life, hence the making things at home. That, plus I’m sick of being furloughed and losing 14% of my salary, so I'm trying to save money in creative ways.

This year, I’m starting a garden (though those of you who know me know about my black thumbs, so it’ll be interesting) in order to have fresh produce around the house. We just purchased a steer and a hog from a friend of Grant’s who raises livestock raised on his own, homemade, organic feed (this is a great arrangement until a few years down the road when we can move back to the country and raise our own animals). My friend’s mom sells eggs from her chickens, and we buy those when we can. I'm also going to take canning lessons from my friend's mom so I can learn to can things like tomatoes for salsa and spaghetti sauce, pickles, beans, etc. I was raised in the country, and I raised livestock, but we didn't do a lot of "homemade" things at our house - although my mom made some GREAT homemade pickles when I was a kid. Too bad she stopped...

I’ve also been reading a book called "Storey’s Basic Country Skills.” I bought this awhile ago to learn how to can foods, and have ended up learning so much more from it! It talks about finding your land in the country, planting gardens and fields of hay, raising livestock, making soap, and canning/storing your harvest, plus a lot more. I’ve also read a few articles on the “Simple Living Movement.” I’m not ready to dump all my possessions and move to a 100 sq. ft. cottage in the woods, but it has made me realize that I can spend more time doing things at home, instead of buying things in the store.

Case in point – I recently watched an episode of “18 Kids and Counting” (now “19 Kids and Counting”), a show that I’ve really begun to enjoy. In this episode, they made homemade laundry soap. It looked easy and inexpensive, and one batch of soap lasted their family (of 20 at the time) 2-3 months! Imagine how long this soap that costs under $2 to make would last my family of two!

So I found the recipe on the Duggar’s website, and did a little Googling. Turns out it’s a very popular recipe using Fels Naptha soap, washing soda, and borax. I had borax at home already, and I was pretty sure I could find the other ingredients easily enough, even though I’d never heard of them.

Turns out I was wrong.

However, after much running around town and almost purchasing the remaining ingredients online, I found everything I needed at Winco, of all places. (Note – once I found the soap, I told my mom about it, and she said Fels Naptha is what my dad uses for poison oak…in case any of you out there are as allergic to poison oak as my dad).

Anyway, I made the laundry soap and so far, I really like it. It has a pleasant smell, yet when the clothes come out of the washer, they just smell like clean clothes, rather than an overpowering perfume smell like some laundry detergents.

Here’s the recipe, along with a few pictures of my soap-making process.

Homemade Laundry Soap
1 bar Fels Naptha Soap
1 cup Washing Soda (I used Arm & Hammer)
½ cup borax

Grate the bar of soap ( I was going to use the grater on my KitchenAid, but ended up just grating it by hand, which was easier than I thought).

Melt the soap in a large saucepan with 4 cups water. When all the soap has dissolved, pour it into a clean 5-gallon bucket. Add the washing soda and borax, and stir until all the powder dissolves. Fill the bucket with hot water, then put a lid on the bucket and let it sit overnight.

(The liquid will become a gel after sitting overnight. I thought it would become a gel like a liquid laundry detergent, but mine became an almost solid gel. This may have been because I put it in my garage and temperatures overnight were in the 30’s to 40’s.)

Fill a smaller container (something with a lid – can be an old laundry detergent container that you’ve cleaned, a glass jar, etc.) with equal parts of the soap/gel and hot water. Shake well to combine (the total laundry soap from this recipe is 10 gallons; if you have two 5-gallon buckets you can add the extra water now, but I just mix half detergent and half water when I refill the smaller container).

Use 1 cup of the soap for each load of laundry. On the Duggar’s website it says if you have a front loading machine to use as little as ¼ cup (although this soap doesn’t get really sudsy, so I think you’re okay to use more than ¼ cup).

I made a note of the date I made the soap, and I’m excited to see how long it lasts me. Ten gallons of laundry soap for under $2!!

Here are some pictures from my laundry making process, although I forgot to take pictures of all the steps:

This is the bar of soap that you grate and melt. It cost $1.26/bar at Winco.

After I dissolved the grated soap in water and mixed it with the powders, I filled the bucket with hot water. I stirred it some more, and this was what my bucket looked like before I put the lid on.
Okay, so I forgot to take pictures of lots of the steps. But at least I took a couple!

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