Saturday, July 28, 2012

Laundry soap revisited...

I'm frugal.
Some may call me down right cheap.
That's ok.  When you have a family as big as ours you have to find ways to be creative.  When Bear bought me a new washer and dryer set, we stocked up on Arm and Hammer liquid laundry detergent. I like it, it works and it's pretty cheap too.
But this month, our budget took a major hit.  Big Blue, my '98 Suburban blew the engine. She was very sick.  So, her new heart is costing us this month's grocery budget and then some.  I had to find ways of cutting corners.
We have been living off our food storage this month and doing without the "fun stuff" in order to pay for the "heart" transplant.
I thought that since my laundry detergent supply was getting low I would save my pennies and buy the ingredients to make my own.
I've done this before, and made the liquid kind but I really didn't care for the gloppy goop that I came up with. 
I have no place in my laundry room for a large 5 gallon bucket to sit, and I didn't like having to shake and shake the smaller jugs in order to get it to congeal. When I would melt the soap on the stove, it would bubble up and once it boiled over and created a gross, soapy Mt. Vesuvius, not unlike this mishap.

After a recent discussion on one of my quilt groups I decided to give the dry version of laundry soap a try. 

It couldn't be any easier!! Finding the ingredients was the difficult part.  I couldn't find washing soda at Walmart, though other bloggers say it is there--neither is the fels naptha bars.  I found them today at the Ace Hardware store, all three simple ingredients, right there on the same ailse.

I had quite an interesting convo with the lady at the checkout. The guy behind me called me Betty Crocker, though I prefer Holly Homemaker, or Becky Home Ecky, I'll take what I can get.
One bar Fels Naptha soap
2 c. Borax
2 c. Washing soda
1/4 Purex Color Safe Bleach (totally optional!)

 I came home and grabbed my empty ice cream bucket and lid. Inside I found the trimmings from our home schooler's Ivory carvings from our "trip to India" last fall. 

I threw them in the food processor and the new bar of Fels Naptha and set it to pulse, and pulse, and pulse--then I just turned it on and let it process for about a minute.
Next time I'll grate the Fels Naptha soap first and then pulverize it with the cutting blade.

I dumped the washing soda in and then the borax. I also added a couple of scoops of Purex Color safe bleach powder because I have boys. You mothers with boys will appreciate that.

This is what my mixture looks like.  You can see some little chunks of the fels naptha bar, but it is mostly a fine powder--sort of like cornmeal.

 I use an old medicine cup to measure, it's about 1 1/2 tablespoons of soap.  I have a top loading Whirlpool HE machine, and I poured it into the soap dispenser on the top of the machine.  It runs water through it as the machine fills.  I did notice the bigger chunks of the fels naptha bar stayed on top of the grate/screen portion of my washer. That might be a problem later.

I did read on a blog that if you leave your soap unwrapped in a warm dry place, (top of the water heater, on a sunny windowsill) it will help it to dry out and the soap will be more crumbly and less moist.

I'll update soon with a cost analysis.  That is the point here isn't it?


Anonymous said...

Ummmm..not on top of the water heater! Will draw moisture under the soap and rust the water heater from outside in. Married to plumber, he has seen it numerous times. Just saying...

MaryLu said...

Dear anonymous.
Thank you for that comment, I have to answer you back here since you didn't leave your name. I suppose if you put it on a drying rack or a baking cooling rack on top of the water heater it would be fine, hmm? I only mentioned placing it there because it would be warm and dry. As long as there is circulation around the soap it would be fine, right?

Penny from S.C. said...

Do you mean you also put in Ivory Soap? I'd like to try this but am a little confused. Thanks

Stephanie Newman said...

Good on you for making your own detergent but I have to add, my hubby's background is in chemistry and biochemistry and is very concerned if your detergent is made in the same food processor that you also process food in. He said since the chemicals involved are all toxic and because of the nature of them they can easily work their way into the plastic of the processor and then leach out later into food, contaminating it. Washing may not be sufficient to remove traces of the chemicals involved.
Just wanted to mention this as others are also looking at making the detergent and may be unaware that using the same utensils or processors used in food consumption is hazardous to health. But by all means, make it in a processor you keep specially just for "soapy" stuff!
Do let us know how the clothes wash in it and how it is in the washing machine too, won't you?

Anonymous said...

I personally would not make this detergent, but I also would not be terribly concerned about the toxicity issue. I am a chemist and all of the compounds in the ingredients are mildly toxic (so is Vitamin A for that matter), meaning that you would have to ingest a goodly amount before it likely would harm you. I don't think any of these are labeled carcinogenic (cancer causing). In addition, you have using them DRY so the chance of migration into the plastics of your food processor is virtually nil (zero!) unless you left them in for a very long time.

Dora, the Quilter said...

I've seen many of these and similar recipes and was never able to find out if people were successful using this in HE washers. (I'd have bought the old fashioned kind if I'd known then what I know now!)

MaryLu said...

Dear Dora, the Quilter.
I have an HE washer and I have used this detergent off and on for 2 years. The thing with HE washers is to have a very low sudsing formula. (Which this defitely is.) I have never had a problem with it in my new washer, (or my old 14 yr old Kenmore, for that matter.
I do use vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser to be released during the rinse cycle. I always have, my mother in law taught me to do that.

MaryLu said...

Dear anonymous (the second)
I appreciate you candid opinion. It makes me feel better to know that I'm not poisoning my family. I figured if anything those commercially developed detergents were much worse than tried and true "old fashioned" ingredients.
Thanks again for your comments to my blog.

Anonymous said...

I am interested in making this but I don't have a food processor. Any tips on making it without? If I grate the Fels Naptha bar with a fine grater and then just mix the other ingredients with it, will that work?

What's the purpose of the vinegar in the rinse cycle? I've not heard of that.


Dana said...

I just wanted to add that I make this detergent and I use my food processor as well. For what its worth here are my 2cents:

Grate your soap and then spread it out in a pie pan or on a baking sheet etc to dry at least over night, then use your blade of the food processor to grind it up, you will get a much smaller grainule that way and it will dissolve in your wash easier. The addition of the powdered color safe bleach is a great idea, I've even seen some that use oxiclean in the mix. Good luck,and I love your canning shelves as well!!!
Thanks for sharing!!!

Joanne said...

I used homemade soap for over a year (like your recipe except liquid) and found it really built up on the clothes. I am going to give it another try but be sure to use vinegar in the rinse water as this is supposed to stop the build up. We'll see!!


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