Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fun With Suds

I recently made a batch of home made laundry soap, and I just looove the way it smells. It's very evocative of citronella.  A really fresh scent.  The last time I made it, my neighbor joined me and we went "halves" on everything, including the whole manufacturing process. Her daughter came along and helped with the grating (and let me tell you, that's a real help!). I didn't think to take any pictures during all of this, but I did take one of the finished product.

It's crazy-easy to make, your laundry smells so fresh (without all of the heavy perfumes), and best of all it's really inexpensive. It's the perfect thing to use if you have a front-loading machine because it's non-sudsing. And it's perfectly safe for septic systems.

The first time I made a batch (over 25 years ago, omigosh!), I really had no idea what to expect. It smelled good, and it looked like soap should, but I wasn't sure it would actually clean anything because it wasn't sudsing up in the washer. Well, I've come to learn that the suds aren't what actually cleans your laundry. I took a really good look at the water in the washer on that first load, and I couldn't believe my eyes! The water was so cloudy and tan in color that I couldn't tell that I even had any clothes in it!  Now, you may be thinking that our clothes must have been really dirty. I would say just average, nothing too bad.  Well, when I took everything out of the washer, it all looked very clean. I believe this soap removes all of the built up detergents, softeners and other things that built up over time.  And the clothes smelled just so fresh!  I've been sold since that day.

Here's my recipe:


12 cups Borax *  (20 Mule Team)

8 cups Baking Soda  (any brand is just fine)

8 cups Washing Soda  (I use Arm & Hammer)

8 cups Bar Soap - finely grated **  (measured before grating: 8 cups = 64 oz)

OPTIONAL:  8 cups Powdered Oxy type cleaner ***  ($1 stores carry an off-brand that works just as well as the big name brand) 

*You may adjust the Borax according to the hardness of your water. (ie, the harder your water, the more Borax you'll add).

**I use Zote (the pink one), because I really like the scent, but you may also use Fels Naptha or Ivory. Don't use any type of deodorant soap or your clothing (and washer) will end up with a terrible film.

***I started using this in occasional batches about 15 years ago to boost the soap when there are extra dirty clothes to wash.  It's not a required ingredient for the soap recipe, just an option.

First, (and I cannot stress this enough!) slice the bar soap in 1/2" slices and allow to air dry for a day or two, you might want to occasionally turn the slices over during this time.  It's a really moist soap and won't grate finely, it will want to clump instead.  Once you think it's dry enough, place several sliced pieces of bar soap at a time in a food processor and finely grate until it's all grated.  If it's grated too large, it will not dissolve well in your washer.  Just for reference...your grated soap should be much finer than mine is in the picture!

Mix all ingredients in a sturdy bucket (I use a 5 gallon paint-stirring stick to mix).  Make sure to get it thoroughly blended.

That's it.  I use 2 tablespoons (or 1/8 cup if you'd rather measure with a cup) per load.

I wash everything in cold water, so I pre-melt my 2T of soap in 1 cup of water in a mason jar in my microwave.  Especially with this last batch I have!  LOL  (you may have noticed the really large pieces of pink Zote in my picture?)  Just be sure to keep your eye on your melting soap as the microwave tends to cause it to foam up, and from experience I can tell you that it will overflow rather quickly!  I use a whisk to stir the soap during the melting process; it blends it better than a spoon.

I tend to keep a few batches pre-melted so I can just start doing laundry any time I want to.  I store my pre-melted soap right in the mason jars.  The melted soap may become semi-solid, but don't worry!  Anybody who's ever had the pleasure of doing "science experiments" with their kids will know that Borax does some strange things!  All you need to do is shake the jar for a few seconds and your soap will become a liquid again.  You can always zap it for a few seconds in the microwave if you'd like.

I like to add the soap to the water as the machine is filling, and allow it to completely fill before adding my clothes...just to be sure it's dissolved in my hard water. 

This batch will make quite a large amount.  I store my Powdered Laundry Soap in a plastic tub that originally held 35 pounds of cat litter.  It's heavy duty, has a lid and a metal bail, perfect for laundry soap!

PS.  The overall cost for this last batch was 6¢ per load (1 load = 2 tablespoons)! 

Have fun and let me know if you try this.

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