Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Laundry Soap Opera

I'd been making my own laundry soap (not detergent) for a few years, but when we decided to sell the house and move I decided to put that on hold while we fixed up the place, shopped for a house, and all the projects and chores that go with an interstate move.  I used to make a recipe that made about 2 gallons of soap at a time and required a good shaking before using.  It lasted ages, especially with the front loading washing machine that uses so much less water.  It worked great and felt great.  However, our new laundry room is pretty small and our new washer and dryer are pretty big.   All my storage in there is up high and lugging a giant container off the high shelf and shaking it in a tiny room where I know I'd eventually put my elbow through the drywall was unappealing.

You can add essential oil to give the soap a different scent, but since it doesn't really give the laundry a different scent it seemed like a waste of a moderately costly ingredient; it would nearly double the cost of the batch most likely.

Then, I stumbled a recipe using the same readily available, inexpensive, low-impact, sensitive skin-friendly ingredients that makes a concentrated cream.  It would take a bit more work, but would make over 240 loads' worth of soap.  Pow!  I set about making it and ended up with way more than the recipe said I would.  WOW!  I was looking at nearly 450 loads worth of soap for about $5 (+ the price of canning jars bought to store it in).

The cream was dosed out at 1 tablespoon/load and like the liquid I was using before leaves clothes pretty much unscented which I prefer.

I did my first load with it only to find that the cream didn't leave the liquid detergent dispenser.  Shoot.  I tried again with the powdered dispenser and a bit of the soap went down, but most just slid a bit toward the washer.  Now what?  I had almost 7 quarts of this stuff and had spent about 4 hours over the course of 2 days making, bottling and cleaning it up.  I decided to try diluting it by half with water and it worked!  INTERESTING FACT: If you wash your towels 3 times in a row, even without soap two of those times, they will leave next to no lint (or dog hair) in the lint trap when you dry them.

I'm using both glass and plastic jars and de-scenting the pickle jars by washing them in the dishwasher and then letting them sit a few days with crumpled newspaper sealed inside.  It doesn't get 100% of the scent out, but the soap doesn't pick it up nor does the laundry.

So then I had to go about turning those 7 quarts into 14 diluted quarts.  Sigh.  Well, at this point I was kind of cranky about it and realized I was wasting perfectly good canning jars on all this soap when we had a steady supply of jars from the kitchen getting tossed, because except for some beer and wine bottles at certain breweries and wineries you can't recycle glass around here.  (I know!)  So, I've started shifting the contents of the canning jars over to the recycled food jars.  I decided it was kind of vain and a waste of time and resources to work very hard at getting the labels off if they didn't come off easily, too.  They sure don't look as cute, but I get the satisfaction of knowing I've saved a few jars and lids from the landfill and will have that many more jars for some actual canning which I hope to do this summer and autumn.

Hopefully it won't be long now until we're drying our laundry on the line again.

Yes, this is not a quick project, but since we're a 2-adult household with 2 not-especially dirty dogs, I think this batch will last us about a year.  Doing a year's worth of laundry for about $5 is a nice reward for the time spent, but more importantly we're not putting detergent and other man-made chemicals into our septic and not irritating our skin or our sinuses with strong scents.  OK, my skin and sinuses.  Have the people at the laundry detergent companies every smelled an actual mountain meadow or a real sea breeze?


  1. Excellent, I am going to do this! I can't use anything scented anyway, have all these things and am an old hippie. Thanks!

    ~ Peggasus

    1. A word of warning: when I made the old recipe I used a big stainless steal pot, but since this recipe is a smaller volume I used a non-stick pot. It took about 3 soak and washes to get the smell of the soap out of the non-stick and I never had an issue with the stainless. I don't know what role the concentration of the mix had to do with it, but going forward I'll be using stainless. Assuming I remember in a year when I make this again.

  2. I'm going to have to try this. My man has sensitive skin too. I tried the small batch you gave me on my clothes and it worked great. I didn't have to delute it but then I have a top loader. Thanks for the recipe!


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