DIY Laundry Soap

I think every blog out there that has any kind of focus on DIY, frugality, or saving money has a post on making your own laundry detergent.  This one isn't going to be anything life shattering or game changing, just documentation on how I make my particular version. 

I've been really happy with my recipe for some time now, the last couple years I haven't tweaked it at all.  I've been making and using my own laundry detergent for around 8 or 9 years now and I don't ever plan on going back to store bought.  This recipe makes a detergent that has very little smell, and the smell it does have is faint, and tends to disappear the longer it is stored.  My clothes come out smelling like wet cotton, wool, or whatever material they are made out of, not artificial or even natural scents.  I have a real sensitivity to artificial smells and to really heavy natural smells so my main focus with this recipe in the beginning was to get away from the smell of the commercial laundry detergents on the market. 

I'm not really sure how environmentally friendly my detergent is, to be honest.  That is something I am probably going to have to research and tweak in the future when we are able to get on a grey water system.  It's probably something I really should research currently also, since I am concerned with chemicals and sustainability….however, I just haven't.  No excuses there, just something I really hadn't thought about, given I've been making this for so long, far longer then I've been concerned with sustainability. 

Well, here it is:

I start with a big Rubbermaid container, like so:

I add a full box of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda and a full box of Borax:

Next I add a big box of Baking Soda:

Usually the 4lb box.  Sometimes I get the 13lb bag from Costco and just try to guess at about 4lbs.  Real scientific, huh?  Its not really a big deal on getting the amount perfect, this isn't rocket science.  I use the Baking Soda to help remove odors and soften the water a bit more since we have fairly hard water.  Apparently you can make Washing Soda out of Baking Soda by baking it in the oven, however, I've never actually tried it as it's readily available in my neck of the woods and comparable in price to Baking Soda.  

Next I add a medium sized container of Oxyclean:

This probably isn't necessary, however, I do it anyway.  I like the way the soap works better with it, then without it.  I've tried both ways and prefer adding in the Oxyclean.  

I mix up everything I've added so far so its fairly evenly mixed.

Then I add 2 bars of soap, any soap will work.  Usually I use Dr Bronners, or something organic.  If Fate has made soap recently I will use that.  I actually prefer the soap Fate makes, but I make due with whatever I can get when his isn't available.  

I use a microplane:


and grate my soap into the container. If you don't have a microplane, no worries, you can use your food processor, I will go into that at the end.  No food processor either? You can use your cheese grater, however, I just don't feel like it breaks the bar soap up enough to really be worth the effort.  If you don't have a microplane or food processor you should really consider making the liquid version.

Again, mix well.  I usually mix in the soap several times as I'm grating it, it helps it to not stick together as much and I feel I get a more even mix that way.  

Now for the fun part.  Grab your pastry cutter:

I strongly prefer the type that has blades and is nice and heavy.  The wire type is fairly useless for cutting anything in to anything else.  If you get a thin bladed or cheaply made one it is just as bad as using the wire type.  The blades bend and are useless.  Invest in a good pastry cutter, not just for laundry detergent, but for general kitchen use.  If you don't have a pastry cutter, and don't want to go out and get one, a food processor will work, its just a whole lot slower.  

So, next I add a bottle of Dawn:

I prefer the citrus scents, however, it honestly doesn't matter what kind you use.  The baking soda will pretty much remove the smell from both the dish soap and the bar soap, so in the end you end up with non scented soap.  I highly recommend using Dawn over pretty much any other dish soap out there.  I've tried quite a few different ones, natural, organic, whatever, and I keep coming back to the Dawn.  It just seems to work a whole lot better at removing random grease and other stains from our clothes.  

I take my pastry cutter and a couple squirts at a time cut the Dawn into my powdered mix.  It really doesn't take much time at all to do this.  I make sure that the Dawn is cut evenly into all the powdered mix.  You should be able to make a ball of soap that holds itself together if you squeeze it in your hand, but shatters easily when you poke it.  As the mix ages it does tend to get a bit clumpy, however, its easy to break the clumps up with my spoon.   

If you don't have a pastry cutter, or want one, then I recommend using your food processor.  You can even grate up the soap with the food processor as well. I recommend using two large containers for this method.  First, mix the baking soda, washing soda, oxyclean, and borax together in one large container.  Take your bar soap and cut it into 1 inch x 1 inch or smaller chunks.  One chunk at a time run it through your food processor with your powdered mixture and dump it into the other container.  Repeat until all chunks are blended in. If you have anything left in the first container dump it into the second and mix everything well.  Next do the same thing with your Dawn.  Fill your food processor with your powdered mixture and drizzle the Dawn in until its ever so slightly sticking together. Empty your food processor into your empty container and run another batch until all the Dawn is gone.  If you have any powder left pour it into the second container and mix everything really well again.  

I really prefer the pastry cutter method to the food processor method.  Using the food processor tends to produce a fair amount of dust from the detergent that is probably not all that great for you to be breathing in.  You should be careful about that if you use that method, a face mask might be a good idea.  I never used one….but probably should have.  With the pastry cutter method there is little to no dust, especially if you are careful when you pour in the dry ingredients.  The food processor method also takes a whole LOT more time.  It always seemed like it would be faster to me, but it always turned into a really slow mess, with a whole lot of extra dishes to clean up.  I can seriously mix in the whole bottle of Dawn with the pastry cutter in less then two minutes.

Next, I jar it up!  I use quart mason jars for this:

Seriously, though, you can use anything.  I just use the mason jars because I have a ton of them….and I use them for practically EVERYTHING.  I tend to buy them at garage and estate sales for $.50 or less each, whenever I see them for that price.  We also recently got severl hundred jars from my Grandmother's basement, so I'm pretty set on jars.  

The last time I made soap this recipe as posted made me 11 quarts.  The cost worked out to a hair under $3.00/qt.  A batch of this will last my household around a year.  I have a front load, high efficiency washer, and I'm doing laundry for just the two of us.  I use about half a teaspoon per load for normal loads, and at most, for really dingy loads, I will use a full teaspoon, but that's rare.  This takes me about 15 minutes to make, including jarring it up.  

I highly recommend checking local prices and shopping around for your ingredients.  I linked to for reference, however, I can find all the ingredients locally for a lot cheaper then the prices online.  I can buy everything listed at my local supermarket, I'd check yours before ordering online.  

My DIY solution to fabric softener?

I buy it in bulk and use it for just about everything.  Its the best bathtub scum remover I've ever used.  Spray it on, let it sit for five minutes or so, and it comes right off with very little scrubbing!  


Clothes lines

I hang my clothes outside.

I haven’t used my dryer in close to a full year now. I have a line and a drying rack indoors that I hang my clothes up on when the weather is too bad outside for my wussy-ness. I hate the cold. This has been working out for me very well this winter.

Last year I had some issues during the winter with my clothes taking way too long to dry so my dad suggested that I use a fan to get the air moving a bit. That worked like a charm. We’ve had so few days this winter that have been too cold or rainy/snowy that I think I’ve only dried my clothes indoors just a handful of times. Mostly I have been paying attention to the weather and hanging them outside.

As you can see I have room for one more line:

There have been enough times that I’ve really needed more space that I think I am going to go ahead and get another one this year. I’m trying to decide between putting in another chain or one of the plastic coated metal lines. There are advantages to both.

I hang everything that would usually go on hangers up wet on their hangers then put those through the linkage on the chain. It takes up a whole lot less space that way and I have the advantage of not having an extra step. I can just take the clothes inside and hang them right in the closet, instead of having to take them off the line and hang them up.

I’m sure my neighbors think I’m weird being out there on these colder days hanging up my laundry. I’m sure they think that I don’t have a dryer. The truth is that I DO have a dryer, I just truly enjoy being outside hanging out the laundry. I even enjoy hanging it up inside, tho not as much as being outside. I’ve noticed a big difference on wear and tear on my clothes too. Especially the pieces that have some kind of elastic in them like underwear and bras. The heat from the dryer tends to ruin the elastic so they go all weird really fast. Hanging them up to dry I don’t have that same issue and they look brand new, even six months to a year after purchase.

I’ve been considering getting rid of my dryer completely. I would really love to put a sink in next to my washer, since its in my fish room, I could really use the water source! I probably won’t, at least not any time soon, but it is something I am considering.


Anachronism: Line Drying Clothes

In much of the US, people EXPECT to do their laundry using a washer and dryer. Driving through most suburban neighborhoods, you wouldn’t see people out hanging clothes on a line to dry. In fact, many neighborhood home owners associations BAN line drying of clothes as an eye sore.

Thankfully, there’s not a home owners association to bitch at us, and so we have taken it upon ourselves to annoy the neighbors by going back in time to the very recent past. The funny thing is, not many people realize just how much energy drying their clothes uses. An average family can spend a good $100 to $200 a year according to the EPA using a clothes dryer instead of line drying clothes. At an energy cost of near 1000 kWh / year, switching to line drying clothes could power an average home for a month.
Yesterday, I helped Fin put up the clothes line, and she’s switched to that from the dryer this summer. Line dried clothes have so far, been an epic win in this house, if only for the fact that my shirts actually seem to loose that dude-funk when they’re left in the breeze for a while. The amount of time to do the laundry isn’t much changed, and the clothes get dryer much quicker than you’d expect.
It’s also nice to be outside spending some time with Fin doing something together. The downsides? Well, I guess people get to see your socks and undewear hanging out there:
Also, clothes dried by the sun do have a tendency to fade faster. Still, if your homeowners association allows it, I recommend the practice. If they don’t, well, maybe you should question them as to exactly why they consider it an eyesore. The idea that trying to save energy, help the environment, and reduce costs is an eyesore, well, it’s just sorta sad. This blog is about changing that before the rest of the world leaves us in our own wasteful dust.

Laundry and Composting

Well, we got a composter! 115 gal compster for $50 at Lowes, not a bad deal. Also I am making sun tea, that’s what’s on the top there. Sun tea says “summer” to me. 🙂 Anyone out there make sun tea? Its easy: take a glass jar, fill it with water, add either loose tea or tea bags, set in the sun. You can pretty much forget about it all day or for a couple days depending on how strong you want it. I use loose tea and when I bring it in I strain it then put it back in the same jar and put it in the fridge.

We got the laundry line set up, yay! I really like hanging out clothes, its very relaxing. I don’t spend any more time on it then I would if I was using my dryer. You think it would take more time but it really dosn’t Things take a bit longer to dry then they would otherwise, but really not by much. Also I can leave them on the line as long as I want and don’t have to rush to the dryer when it beeps or risk having the clothes wrinkled, or worse: over dryed.

There are alot of advantages to line drying clothes besides just the energy savings:

1) They last alot longer
2) They don’t shrink
3) They smell better
4) The sun helps remove stains
5) Sunlight helps to disinfect clothing

I was talking to my dad today about line drying clothing and he said he can remember helping his mom to actually wash clothes by hand and use a wringer to wring them out. Then they would hang clothes out on the line. It hasn’t been that long that people have been using washers and dryers. I don’t think I would like to give up my washer, but I really do enjoy hanging out the clothes.

We hung two green plastic/wire lines and one chain line. Its an actual chain that I got that was intended to be used to chain pets. My idea was that I could hang hangers through the loops of the chain and they wouldn’t slide along the line. It worked very well! I was able to space out the clothes like I wanted to and not have to worry about the clothes bunching up or the wind catching them and blowing the hangers off the line. I usually hang up all our shirts and my jeans so I didn’t want to be doing too much extra work here. What I did is hang up the shirts, put them on the line, and then when they are dry I can just bring them in and hang them in the closet, no extra work! I used clothes pins to hang up the jeans, towles, and socks/stuff then folded it into my laundry basket as I took it down. Easy!

Here are some great links if your interested in getting started yourself:

This one is *awesome* for learning about all the different methods and styles: