Saturday, December 8, 2012

All Natural Homemade Laundry Soap

All natural, homemade products of all kinds are quite popular these days, and for good reason. We're finally figuring out that all those chemicals aren't good for us. I've seen lots of blogs and posts and  pins touting the easy, frugal and natural way to make laundry soap. Since my laundry water drains out into the yard, and the ducks like to splash in it, keeping my laundry water safe is very important to me. I've always made sure to buy liquid laundry soap without sulfates, and I quit using softener when I learned that it messes up the duck reproductive system (who knew?!). And of course, keeping costs low is always appealing. So I decided to give it a try once my last bottle of Purex was used up.

Here's the basic recipe:

  • 2 cups shredded Fels Naptha bar soap (about one bar)
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup washing soda

All of these items can be purchased in the laundry aisle of your local supermarket. I didn't buy washing soda, however, since I have bags and bags of baking soda stashed all over the house. (Why? Because it's only available in the summer, with the swimming pool supplies, and I add it to my laundry to soften our rock-hard water and whiten whites without using bleach, to scrub pots & pans & the stovetop, to remove odor from Little Old Lady Dog's accidents on the carpet, etc, etc. So I stock up. And with my laundry room in its current de-constructed state, stuff like that gets stored wherever it fits.)

Anyway...baking soda can be converted to washing soda by heating it. High heat causes baking soda to lose water and carbon dioxide and become washing soda. I googled the method and found two options:  bake it in the oven or cook & stir on the stovetop. I went with the oven method, but next time I think I'll use the stovetop, as it is more accurate. Since I wanted to double the above recipe, I spread out two cups of baking soda on a baking sheet, then baked it in a 375°F oven for 1 hour 45 minutes. It was hard for me to tell if it was done, but guessed that this was about right. The stovetop method is to put the baking soda in a pot on high heat, checking the temperature frequently. At about 212°F, it will begin to steam. Continue cooking until steam no longer appears and the baking soda has reached about 370°F. Whichever method you use, allow the washing soda to cool completely before using it.

I shredded the Fels Naptha using the fine grating side of my grater, because I wanted it to be fine enough to dissolve easier in the water. This took FOREVER and yes, I grated my knuckles a few times! Wearing gloves may have protected my knuckles, but all gloves are too long for my short stumpy fingers, and I always end up grating the fingertips of the gloves, so it's better for me to go bare-handed. OK, sort of better.

Measure out all the ingredients into a large bowl and stir with a slotted spoon. I would highly recommend that you wear protective gear when mixing your laundry soap. The fine dust cloud that arose from the bowl made me sneeze and sneeze and sneeze. Next time, I'm snagging one of my hubby's face masks. Or at least tying a hanky over my face. Transfer to an air-tight container.

To use, let the water run a bit into the washer tub (about an inch worth), then sprinkle 2.5 tablespoons into the water. (This scoop I found in my kitchen drawer holds exactly that amount! I have no idea where it came from originally, however.) More sneezing ensued when I sprinkled the powder in the water this morning. Perhaps I will need to wear a mask every time I do laundry...hmmm...that's gonna be a pain. However, my towels came out smelling extra fresh and clean, and felt super clean as well. As long as I can get used to holding my breath while adding the soap, I think I'm really going to like my all-natural laundry soap!

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