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Laundry Soap

Even More on Homemade Laundry Detergent

It is almost time for me to make my third batch of homemade laundry detergent, and we are still going strong with it! We are a household of two adults and each batch is lasting us about six months. You can read about my first batch here and my musings going into my second batch here.

Below are some pictures and tips from my second batch in April. See Tip Nut’s Recipe 1 for the amounts. Update: I’ve added the amounts in bold below (scattered throughout). Visit Tip Nut for a cleaner looking view of the the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

**Grated Soap- 2 cups
I use Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Baby bars as my soap. Many people like Fels Naptha, but it has artificial scent and color in it and has petroleum-based ingredients, plus is contains tallow so it is a no-go for vegetarians. It is a “better” product, but not a “best” product in terms of being EF.

To shred it, I use the grater attachment in my food processor (bought used from Craigslist). I’ve tried the standard blade with the whole bar, but it gets violent in the food processor and make me afraid the thing will bust apart. If you want a fine shred (dissolves more quickly), use the grater attachment first to get the soap to shredded-cheese consistency, then use the normal blade to turn it into a cornmeal consistency.

A canning funnel works well for moving the soap into a (recycled) storage container.

**Borax- 2 cups

I store my Borax in a repurposed plastic container to keep out moisture which causes clumping. Some people think Borax is not a good choice for an eco-friendly household because it should not be ingested. But remember that a big part of eco-friendly cleaning is what is produced in an eco-friendly manner and what it does (or rather, does not do) to our water supply after we’re done with it. In my opinion, the benchmark should not be if a substance okay to ingest. Borax is eco-friendly in terms of production and being in the water supply, so it gets my seal of approval. After all—you shouldn’t eat soap, yet it is a great, safe cleaner. Also, if you have kids, even if you are 100% green clean in your home you should treat cleaning supplies as though they are toxic because your kids will inevitably go somewhere where conventional cleaners are used and they need to have healthy respect for the dangers of those things.


**Washing soda- 2 cups

I store my washing soda in the same way. Be sure to label your containers clearly both on the lids and the containers. They look similar to each other and to baking soda. Not things you would want to mix up!

You’ll also need
**4 cups of boiling water in saucepan
**two gallons of tap water
**a spoon
**a whisk (optional)

**a large storage container

MAKING THE DETERGENT

It just takes a saucepan to melt the soap. You don’t need a special pot, after all you are making a detergent here—almost the exact same thing you can use to clean your dishes.

**On the stove top, boil 4 cups of water.
**Add the 2 cups of soap, stir until it melts


**Pour in the melted soap mixture from the saucepan into your storage container.

Down with the milk jug storage method I used for my first batch! My dear friend gave me a 40 pound kitty litter bucket to use. Perfect!

**Add in the 2 cups of borax and 2 cups of washing soda and stir (or whisk)

**Add in an additional 2 gallons of water and stir


We use a ladle (from a yard sale) to move the right amount of detergent from the bucket into the washer. It lives permanently in the bucket. So, when it is time to use the detergent, we just

**Stir it up before each use and ladle some out.

**For us, about 1/4 cup per load is the right amount.

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9 Changes for 2009- #6 Laundry Detergent

  1. Cut out commercial breakfast bars
  2. Cut out canned beans
  3. Ditch premade hummus (and all those containers)
  4. Use only environmentally friendly dish detergent
  5. Shop Used First

  6. Use only environmentally friendly laundry detergent
    (my preference is homemade)

I’ve already blogged about homemade eco-friendly laundry detergent here (with additional pictures here). But now, four months into using it, I can report back that it works, it really works! We haven’t had any problems and that first batch I made has lasted us until now. As I get ready to whip up some more I am weighing reusing the milk jugs and hosing to siphon it in versus using a five-gallon lidded bucket from Home Depot. I’ve been on the search for a used bucket, but old ones seems to all have had paint or food in them previously, which I am not keen on. The thought of pickle-scented laundry soap makes me just ill.

For newcomers, here is a quick summary of why to consider eco-friendly laundry detergent:

Pretty much all conventional laundry detergents also contain phosphates and bleach, like dishwasher detergent does. (Read the issues with them here if you missed that post.) Most conventional laundry detergents also contain non bio-degradable, petroleum-based ingredients. I bet you picked up on the first problem right away: non bio-degradable. That means it doesn’t disappear when it goes down your drain. Realizing that water facilities simply cannot clean out every single thing from the water, and the fact that the stuff they do clean out has to be disposed of somehow was huge wake up call to me. Previously, it had really been out of sight—down the drain—and out of mind for me. But, that simply is not reality.

Then there is the big issue that petroleum is a non-renewable resource. I think we all know what that means since petroleum is hugely politically charged. Reducing American dependence on foreign oil is something we can hear on the news every single day, as are finding new places to drill and the ethics of if we should drill in those places.

Traditional detergents in the US also tend to contain ingredients that have already been banned overseas because of their impact to the environment or personal health, bleach, and artificial fragrances which may exacerbate allergies. (Remember that you can always look up the safety sheet for your favorite detergent here.)

In addition to checking out my previous entries, fellow blogger Kath has some interesting things to say about her experience with making laundry detergent. Check it out here.

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Laundry Soap Close Up

Close up picture of the soap separation. This will begin even as you move it from the pan to storage. A good stir (or shake, in my case) will remix it.
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Homemade Laundry Soap

Left Image: Left jug is recently shaken and mixed.
Right jug is unshaken and has settled into soapy layer and watery layer
Right Image: When mixed right before use, the laundry soap is creamy and slightly bubbly

After trying several batches of dry laundry soap, my husband asked me to make a liquid one. The liquid/gel I made is #1 from this great website, Tip Nut. We are very happy with the way the soap works. We now use it for all of our laundry and have successfully used it at all wash temperatures. The three dry recipes we tried were Tip Nut #4, Tip Nut #9, and a mix of half borax and half washing soda. While the dry ones all seemed to work equally well, my husband prefers liquids laundry soap/detergent. Since he does the laundry, I am happy to whip up whatever works best for him!

In my pictures you can see that I have the laundry soap in milk jugs. I do not recommend this unless you have hosing available to siphon the cooked soap from the pot through the slim necks of the jugs. Since my husband homebrews, we did have a suitable plastic tube, but this ended up being messy, frustrating, and time consuming as the liquid congealed into a gel. Stick with a bucket! The soap will separate and requires stirring or shaking before use to remix the water (which will settle) and the soap gel (which will float). In the picture on the left, the left jug is recently shaken and mixed, the right jug shows the settling and separation.

n.b., Homebrewing husbands may not be thrilled with such use of said tubing since soap makes beer go flat. Eeek!

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Why in the world I would make my only laundry soap? For us, there are four answers to this:

Environment – Environmentally, making my own laundry soap is a good choice because it doesn’t require an endless cycle of new packaging production, shipping, and disposal/recycling. Also, most commercial liquid detergents have petrochemicals in them. Not only are petrochemicals bad for the water supply, but they use petroleum which is a non-renewable resource and is so very politically charged right now. Here is a link on Dr. Bronner’s Soap (eco-friendly, organic, and fair trade) which is the soap I use in my cleansers and laundry soap: here.
This site lists many names for petrochemicals that you might see in the ingredients list of your soap/detergent (should the manufacturer actually disclose what is in their product).

Health – My husband has contact dermatitis so artificial fragrances are bad for his skin. The artificial colors, scents, and additives in most commercial detergents are of concerns to many people. Personally, this is an area that I approach with caution, but am not alarmist over. Look up your favorite detergent here so you can make a decision about what is best for your home.

Cost – Making laundry soap is dirt cheap. Though I personally have not calculated the cost, others who use similar recipes cite $0.03 per load. For me, the low cost is just an added bonus to the more important reasons above.

Fun – For me, stuff like this is an enjoyable hobby that yields a usable result just like cooking, homebrewing beer, etc. I find it fun and I like the whole “science in action” aspect.

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