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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Making Homemade Laundry Detergent/Soap

After eating all that prairie ice cream, it became apparent that my younger kids, especially, had created a subsequent need to do a load of laundry. God bless ‘em!

As luck would have it, however, we had run out of laundry soap and no one had mentioned it to me.  So, I had to make laundry soap before I ‘got’ to do that load of laundry!

It's actually pretty easy and doesn't take a lot of time. The result is a laundry soap that is tough on stains and good for all washing machines, including front loaders, low water, HE, and low-suds machines. I read somewhere once that we are trained to think that lots of suds means good cleaning, but that isn't true. Plus, it is ridiculously inexpensive compared to the bought brands. At only a few pennies per load, you are probably going to be hooked, like I am!

Home Made Laundry Detergent:

Soap: There are several good kinds of soap to use for laundry.  The most used is probably Fels Naptha.  It has a pretty strong scent, though, so if you are sensitive to smells, I would go with Ivory or Castile, but you do need to use a little more of it than the laundry soaps.  Another option is called Zote.  The laundry soaps are found with the laundry products. Ivory is with body soaps.

Washing Soda: Washing soda is sodium carbonate or soda ash (not to be confused with baking soda, which is sodium bicarbonate). It is a laundry aid that helps remove dirt and orders. Arm & Hammer is the most visible brand of Washing Soda and is also found with laundry items. I haven’t ever had a problem finding it, even in smaller grocery stores, but, if you do, it’s easy to find online.

Borax: Borax is Sodium Borate, which is a naturally occurring mineral. It helps to whiten and deodorize laundry.  (VERY helpful with mucky boys!) A popular brand is 20 Mule Team. It also is found with the laundry detergents. Amazing what stuff you’ve looked past all these years, huh?!

Here are the proportions I use—they can be tweeked a bit to your liking, though:
  • 2 cups FINELY grated soap (Ivory, Fels Naptha, Castile or Zote, etc.)
  • 1 cup washing soda (remember:  NOT baking soda!)
  • 1 cup borax powder
  • Enough containers for 2 gallons of soap
  • A large stock pot and a long handled spoon  (at least two gallons)
Grate the soap on the fine side of a standard cheese grater.

Add it to a half gallon of water (in the stock pot, of course!) and heat on medium until it melts. The finer you grate the soap, the quicker this bit will be!

While still on the heat, add the washing soda and the borax to the soap mixture, along with another half gallon of water and stir until it is dissolved.

When everything is melted and dissolved, remove the pot from the heat.

Add the remaining gallon of water to the pot and keep stirring until it is well mixed and starting to cool.

Using a funnel, you can then transfer the soap to clean 2 liter bottles, or gallon ice cream buckets, or anything you have that has a good, tight lid. The bottles work great, because you can easily shake the soap up before you use it, which is sometimes necessary if it starts to separate a little.

After about 24 hours, it will have gelled, but may still be slightly watery. If it completely separates into hard clumps and water, it probably wasn’t fully melted and mixed. Just pop it back in the stock pot and heat/melt again.

Once it’s gelled, it’s ready to go. I use about ¼ cup per load. If you prefer your soap more liquidy, just double the water at each stage and use ½ cup per load.
Note:  If you prefer a dry soap, you can just mix the ingredients (making sure the soap is VERY FINELY GRATED! I would even use a coffee grinder or good food processor to get it as close to powder as possible) and store in a sealed plastic container of some kind or a coffee can. You only need 1-2 tablespoons per load, but, with this method, you will need to use warm or hot water with each wash.

Another note: Because water is so different in different parts of the country, you will need to figure out what your perfect amount is. For me, ¼ cup of the concentrate or 2 tablespoons of the dry is perfect, but if you have harder or softer water, you may have to increase or decrease the amount slightly.

And that is it! You will have loads of soap, that actually works well, for a fraction of the cost of store bought. Awesome, right?!

I think that calls for some ice cream!

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