Like cooking and cleaning, laundry sucks.
You know what’s worse? Buying laundry detergent.
Aside from the fact that it is full of all sorts of nastiness, laundry detergent is expensive! And just like toilet paper, it’s money down the drain.
My son is potty training. That means he goes through a lot of clothes and the blankets need washing pretty often. Normal.
What’s not normal is that I have to pay $15 for a bottle of laundry detergent.
I tried some all natural detergents while washing diapers. Rockin’ Green, Soap Nuts… ended up using Tide. They worked. They really did. But I had to order them online, pay for shipping, wait, and they were not cost effective. Soap nuts have the added problem of keeping track of little cloth sacks. And Tide has all the ugly chemicals I was trying to avoid.
Luckily, Dillon doesn’t have sensitive skin.
I just want clean laundry that smells fresh, without taking out a second mortgage. Is that so much to ask?
So, I started looking around on my trusty internet. Laundry soap recipes are scary!
Fels-Naptha? Washing soda?
Apparently, Fels-naptha is just soap. And any soap will do. In fact, there are BETTER soaps to use, because laundry soaps contain optical whiteners, which is really laundry detergent people speak for chemicals we don’t want to tell you the names of. They don’t actually make your clothes any cleaner, they just leave a film of chemicals on them that gives the illusion they are cleaner. Wait, what?!
My next hurdle was washing soda. Apparently you can sometimes find it at your local grocery store or Wal-mart in the laundry aisle. Not mine. No sir. I could, of course, order it online. Amazon even has it as an add-on item. Again with the ordering online, waiting for it to ship. Not really useful. Back to the internet. Did you know that baking soda is just baked baking soda? Yeah, you can stick baking soda in a 400 degree oven, bake it for about 10 minutes and it turns into it’s illegitimate cousin. (Here is a blog post complete with pretty pictures of what the visual difference is.)
Then you get to the Borax debate. Borax is marketed as a laundry booster. However, it might not be as green as you think it is. Is it natural? Yeah, it is. Does that mean it’s good? No, not necessarily. Do your own research, though, and see what conclusion you come to. I came to the decision that if I was going to be making my own laundry detergent, I didn’t want to add Borax, just like with those optical whiteners.
After all those things, you might think it was done. But I kept digging. Or, actually, I grated a bar of soap. It doesn’t take as long as you might think. I used Zote, but I won’t be using it again, since I discovered post-grating and boiling and adding, that it has optical whiteners in it. I was originally going to make powdered soap. But have you ever seen grated soap? It didn’t look all that conducive to cold water washing. Which I do a lot of.
So, I looked into liquid recipes that didn’t require Borax.
I found one. Nothing but liquid castile soap, washing soda and baking soda. Perfect!
If you don’t know, Doc Bronner’s Castile soap is totally fabulous. Especially now that it comes in scents other than peppermint. You can get it both in liquid and bar form. It’s a tad on the pricey side, but you never ever need very much of it. You can use it in place of shampoo, body wash, face wash, laundry soap, hand soap, dog washing soap… I suppose you could wash your car with it, but that seems a bit wasteful. It is low sudsing, which you need in a laundry detergent.
So, I set out to make detergent, forgetting about my grated soap for the moment. I’d found something better! Right up until I was measuring out my fabulous almond scented castile soap. I didn’t have enough left! Dammit!
You know what I did. I got creative. I melted my grated soap into a pot of slightly disturbing goo. (This is part of most liquid detergent directions, promise.) I added more washing soda and baking soda, then mixed it all together. Before realizing I just flat out don’t have enough room to store TEN GALLONS of detergent. Yes, I said it. TEN GALLONS. What the HELL was I going to do with ten gallons? I was prepared for two.
Yeah, I now have a 2.5 gallon jug of soap that is supposed to be diluted into ten. But there is no Borax in it. Yay?
Yeah, I’m totally going to try using it anyway.
Update: Apparently when the recipes say “allow soap to gel overnight,” what they really mean is return to a solid state. My first attempt at laundry detergent can be quantified as a failure. The soap I so laboriously grated and cooked turned into a solid layer on top of the salty water. I broke it up, but it’s not really a “liquid” detergent, but rather a liquid with some solid bits floating in it. Sort of made me pissy.