(Reposted with permission from Valhalla Hills Icelandic Sheep )
The Difference Between Soap and Detergent
Soap is made from natural-occuring products. Detergents are synthetic. Both will clean your clothes, but if you have hard water, soap may leave a soap “scum” on your washer and your whites may grow dingy. This is the basic difference, and why detergents grew in popularity. Detergents, however, are often high in phosphates, which are harmful to the environment.
I discovered a recipe for making liquid laundry soap several years ago, and have been using it ever since. Now that recipe is posted on dozens of webpages and blogs, so it may be a bit redundant to post it here. But for those of you who have not seen it before, I’ll save you the google step.
Bar Soap, Washing Soda and Borax
All you need is a bar of soap, some washing soda (not baking soda) and some borax. You’ll need water, a pot, and two one-gallon jugs to store the finished product as well. An optional item would be essential oil, if you want to add a scent to your laundry soap, but you may wish to try it unscented for a while, in case someone in your household has a skin sensitivity.
Fels Naptha is the bar soap most often recommended for home-made laundry soap. It has been around for over a hundred years, so it has the feel of something time-honored and safe. I did a little googling though, and discovered that the “naptha” part is actually a petrolium ether, that Fels Naptha also containes Stoddard Solvent (white spirits) and that prolonged use of Fels Naptha may cause upper resperatory irritation, as well as effects to the central nervous system, kidneys and liver. It is still recommended as a stain remover and laundry soap, but not safe for personal use, with the exception of treating poison ivy.
You can substitute other solid bar soaps for Fels Naptha. Try Ivory, or Castille. Ivory, also a time-honored product, is reported to be 99 44/100 percent pure, and may be the least expensive soap available. It does have a mild scent added, if you are sensitive to fragrances. Castille soap is made from olive oil instead of animal fat. Be careful when experimenting with otber bar soaps. If you notice a bad odor, throw it out and try something else.
Okay, you’ve found a bar of soap. Grate it. Use a cheese grater, or your food processor – whatever – but grate it into small slivers, like mozzarella cheese for pizza toppings. Divide it into thirds, and you will use one third today. Save the other two portions for later use.
Washing Soda, Not Baking Soda
Next you need to find washing soda. This comes in a large yellow box, much like the familiar yellow box of Arm & Hammer baking soda, and is usually found in the laundry and cleaners aisle. You can substitute baking soda if you can’t find the washing soda, but you need to use twice as much, so it isn’t really cost effective. Washing soda is sodium carbonate and baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. Washing soda has dozens of other uses, but rubber gloves are strongly recommended. As I’m allergic to latex, I must avoid rubber gloves.
Borax is a naturally occuring mineral, marketed as a fine white powder that dissolves easily in water. It whitens and freshens your laundry. Although it is natural, it is not necessarily “safe”. Keep it away from small children, and don’t eat it. This too should be found in the laundry aisle of your grocery store. If not, ask your grocer to stock it for you.
Recipe for Home-Made Laundry Soap
|1/3 bar grated soap||1/2 cup washing soda|
|1/2 cup borax||water|
|a 2 gallon bucket||2 empty one-gallon containers|
|1/2 ounce or more of your favorite essential oil (optional)|
Mix grated soap and 3 pints of hot water in a sauce pan. Cook over low heat, stirring some, until thoroughly dissolved. Stir in washing soda and borax, stirring until thickened (and dissolved). Pour one quart of hot water into a 2 gallon bucket, and add soap mixture. Stir well. Add more hot water until bucket is full, mixing well. Set bucket aside until cooled and thickened – about 24 hours. Then pour into containers with lids. Shake before using. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load of laundry.
I like to use empty vinegar bottles to hold the laundry soap. I use white vinegar in place of fabric softener, so I always have vinegar jugs around. Depending on how much you have to pay for your ingredients, this laundry product can cost as little as $0.03 per load! And your clothes come out just as clean.
If you have hard water, you may need to experiment with how much laundry soap you need, or whether adding more washing soda or more borax gives you the proper results.
Also, you may not need a fabric softener any more. I find that if I remove any clothes that are made of 100% polyester, and let them line-dry, then there is no static cling in my dryer. I do throw a couple of tennis balls in the dryer to help fluff the clothes around so they dry faster. And in good weather, I line-dry all my clothes.
One final note: this laundry soap does not suds up, so some people do use it in their HE washers (and using home-made laundry soap may void your HE washer warrenty) Soap and water cleans, suds do not clean. Suds are not good for the environment.
Happy washing! Happier saving money!