Monday, June 20, 2011

Make Your Own Laundry Soap That Does Not Suck

  Recently, I found a few websites that offered DIY projects and advice articles that were based around being eco-friendly, good for you, and decidedly inexpensive.  The resourceful domestic within me jumped for joy at this, since I was looking for effective ways to save our income and pinch them pennies wherever I could.  And obviously, I wanted to do this while reducing our carbon foot print by consuming less, yet nourishing us with substance.

  One of the User-Friendly How-To's described how easy it was to make your own laundry soap...environment-friendly, inexpensive, paraben/sulfate-free laundry soap.  I really hope there are others out there who feel as giddy about this as I have!  The ingredients were listed as easy enough to find since there are only four, including the water.  And the secondary beauty of this DIY is that it is a flexible recipe -- you can customize the scent and the use the soap you like, not necessarily the soap I decided to use or that is recommended, within reason.  This is only because you shouldn't just run out and buy a bar of Irish Spring, Dial, or Dove.

  Of course, living out here on an isolated-by-ocean little island the size of my hometown, Yuba City, I had to order two of my ingredients on Amazon and pay for shipping...this sounds like it defeats the purpose of this project saving me money, but hold on, I'll get to that...  I ordered the Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and the Castile Soap I wanted, and waited (rather impatiently) for my goods.  Some of my friends (whom I shared my intentions with) realized that places like their local Wal-Mart carried the Washing Soda (this one is a tad elusive).  And to that my Anti-Establishment side snarled in deep hatred (I have purposely avoided shopping anywhere related to Wal-Mart for a very long time), BUT, if I had a local Wal-Mart, I know I would have been spending my $3 on it in their store, pretty much right away.  I was That dedicated.  Plus, I looked everywhere I could on this little island (even called around) and no one carried it.  Hence, the shipping prices.

  The soap that was recommended in most recipes was Fels-Naptha, but because the article author encouraged readers to research other possible soaps (and because that too, contains a few things I feel would defeat the purpose of avoiding certain chemicals), I steered towards the gentle, all-natural Castile bars.  With their non-overwhelming, non-perfumed clean scent, I was pleasantly surprised with the milky-white hunks of soap.  They look like bars of white chocolate and boy is it tempting to bite into them.  Now, you may choose something similar like the classic pink Zote, or a bar of Dr. Bronner's.  I've even read that Ivory soap may turn out some softener-like detergent, which could eliminate the need to buy those big bottles of Snuggle.  You can even add a few drops of a favorite scent of essential oil to the batch!

  Before I get into the (very simple) process of making the detergent, I should give you some cold hard facts....something I've realized a little too late for my own liking, is the amount of and the specifics of  the dangerous chemicals found in our commercial laundry aisle.  I know I've earned myself a big fat DUH! there, but it really is quite frightening that we spend so much on such toxicity.  This applies to our lotions, perfumes, body washes, etc. too, but considering that our clothes are on our bodies almost all the time just allows for these harmful chemicals to be in contact with our super-absorbent skin so much longer.  Most of these chemicals remain in our system for a very long time and have traceable long-term effects that can cause diabolical cancers, infertility, etc.  Those heavily-perfumed dryer sheets we've come to rely on to remove static-cling actually contain carcinogens that literally keep us coming back for more, and those carcinogens, just like the ones in the cigarettes we long to hate, stay in our systems the same way too.  And since our use of these products is ongoing, our bodies can't ever really rid themselves of these harmful agents.  Call me paranoid, but the amount of cancer diagnoses in recent decades is staggering and a lot of people (educated in these chemicals or not) can't help seeing the flashing neon arrows pointing right in this direction.  I can't even stomach what these chemicals do to our environment once they've processed through our washing machines and gone down our drains.  Even if you can't buy this side of the argument, who wants to spend So much money on almost every grocery trip on a bottle or box or something that takes pennies to produce.  Like so many other things, you're really just shelling out the $$$ for the packaging...and you know what you end up doing with that.  So...last but not least, those very same chemicals (detergent and softener) actually wear down your clothing faster than they're intended to naturally from just Wearing them on your body.  No wonder my favorite t-shirts end up so limp and thin within a year!

  I decided to make my own laundry for every reason that will benefit the long run, and frankly, I knew I would feel proud of my own product and hard work.  This process doesn't even qualify as work, I guarantee you.  For the whopping price of $16 for the ingredients, and having saved a few large plastic bottles, I'd say i made a very good investment.  Pay attention to how much of each ingredient you use for just one batch of laundry soap, because then you'll realize just ow far that $16 will go...

You will need:
Washing Soda
Borax powder (or not if you're allergic)
Bar soap (Castile is gentlest) Dr. Bronner's, Zote, Kirk's, Ivory
Cheese Grater
Large pot and whisk
5-Gallon bucket
(3) 2-liter plastic bottles  or (5) 1.5 liter bottles
Large funnel
A few drops of your favorite Essential Oil (Tea Tree, Orange, etc.) for a personalized scent if desired.

 1. Using a cheese grater, grate 1/3 bar of soap.

 2.  Heat 6 cups of water in a large pot, over med-high heat.  Dissolve grated soap into heated water, stirring frequently.

 3.  Remove from heat, add 1/2 cup of Washing Soda, and 1/2 cup Borax.  Stir until combined.

4.  Fill bucket with 26 cups of hot water.  Add mixture to bucket slowly, add a few (not more than 4-5) drops of the essential oils if you want, stir and set aside.  Let it gel in the bucket for a day or so (a couple days for those who live in humid areas).

5.  Once it has a thicker consistency, position your clean bottles in the sink with the funnel inserted and pour slowly.  Cap 'em up and you're good to go.  The soap will continue to gel itself in the bottles.

  My soap turned out just the way I'd hoped!  No perfumes, no dyes, body/eco-friendly, inexpensive and plenty of it!

Oh and by the way, you only add 1/2 cup of your very own detergent to each load of laundry...see! I told ya it would last!!  And since we're not a very stain-y house, there's really no need to pre-treat, but if you have to, scrub the stains with this same stuff, that's what the Borax is for :)

  The total amount from just one batch, makes 6.75 liters!  Remember how much of each ingredient I used?  Off the top of my head, I'm thinking that I'll get 8 more batches out of the soap I have left, and I'll still have plenty of washing soda and borax left.  So 8 x 6.75 = 54 liters of Laundry Soap!!!  For about $16...damn!

  I certainly hope everyone has as much fun as I have doing this, and comes away with excellent soap to show for their effort as well as a much-deserved sense of accomplishment.  Doing this for yourself is doing something vicariously for the ones you love and the precious world we live in, and we deserve to take a little pride in our work and enjoy the moments in which we live...our great great great grandparents would be so proud, and our children's children's children will be very grateful!

Here are my sources for the recipe, and a couple places that will explain those harmful chemicals I spoke of.

Offbeat Home
Carcinogenic chemicals
laundry ingredients that will make you go, "OMG!"

I am happy with the Non-scent of my laundry :)  Yes, they smell clean, but clean doesn't necessarily have to smell like a perfume, it merely has to Not smell like armpits and assholes.  Also, I've noticed that in this very humid climate I live in (Guam), the soap did not truly Gel.  But this is okay because it seems that the soap simply rises to the top of the water to float, and all it takes to re-incorporate it is a good shake before I measure my half-cup per load of laundry.  So, in case you've realized this result as well and are worried, don't be, the cleansing agents are still very capable, just not as aesthetic.  Happy Laundering!

1 comment:

  1. I am planning on doing this myself as soon as I'm out of the store brought stuff. Also so excited to see Dr. Bronners makes a mild soap which should work perfect for all out baby skin around here. Also just wanted to pass on my ah-ha moment of the day: fill a gallon drink container that has a spout at the bottom with your homemade laundry detergent for an easy pour option!! Next thing I want to tackle is dishwasher detergent... Any thoughts/suggestions??