Monday, October 24, 2011

walk it like you talk it

So I've been really curious about homemade laundry soap for a long time. Like, a long, long time. Years.

This weekend I finally went for it. Detergent is pricey, peeps! Is homemade cheaper? I'm going to find out. Does it work? So far - and I've only washed 5 loads - the clothes seem clean.

I will admit that there were a few moments, as I sat on my basement floor grating a bar of soap into a recycled yogurt container, when I wondered if I'd gone off the deep end. But then I felt super awesome scooping a tablespoon of my homemade mix into the machine.

I used 2 cups of Borax, 2 cups of washing soda, and one grated up bar of Dr. Bronner's castile soap in tea tree (chosen both for scent and anti-bacterial properties of tea tree oil). Some recipes say use 1 tablespoon per load, some say I split the difference and have been using 1.5 tablespoons in large loads. I knew it wouldn't make suds, but I still watched for them anyway. Nope, no suds. But the clothes do seem clean, they have only the faintest scent of the tea tree oil when they come out of the machine, and really don't smell much after the dryer.

I noticed the towels seem slightly less "fluffy" - I can see the individual loops in the towels more when I am folding them. Also, the whites are slightly less blinding because homemade soap is just that...soap. It is not detergent and lacks the surfactants and whiteners of commercial detergent. But then I thought about the kids my daughter goes to school with, and how I've noticed they often have two different socks on, or one sock inside out, or dingy socks from being washed with darks and colors. And I relaxed about it, because who cares if her white socks don't blind you when you look at them?

I still have a small box of Tide for the tough jobs that my soap won't handle...and again, I just started this experiment so we'll see how it goes. My son has an oral-motor weakness that results in a lot of drool-soaked shirts, which, after sitting in the laundry basket for a few days, can really stink. I've found, up to this point, that only super-expensive Tide gets them back to wearable condition. But who knows? Maybe I can come up with something better (and less expensive).

So far I've spent 10 bucks. But I've only used a fraction of the Borax and washing soda. I'll have to purchase new bars of soap once in awhile, and I'm keeping a rough tally of how many loads I wash so I can see if this is a savings or what. (I'm a stay-home mom of two kids, one of whom is in school...I can manage to keep count of my loads with a scrap of paper and pencil next to the machine, it isn't hard.)

I know, I sound like such a weirdo. Bear with me...I'll report back with my findings.


Karen said...

Not weird at all, but if you start sewing your own maxi pads....

But seriously, I've seen the various formulas for homemade detergent and have wondered how well it works. Thanks for doing the legwork and finding out for me. :)

kate said...

Never, Karen. Ne-ver.

Shari said...

I've been making my own laundry soap for almost a year now and with a family of 7, the savings are incredible. I've noticed sometimes the little kids things can still have a sour smell sometimes but if you can dry them on the line in the sun it gets rid of it. I may try the tea tree oil soap next time. I use a recipe from the down to earth blog which I believe you introduced me to. I've also been making my own dishwasher soap which works perfectly!

Shari said...

Quick question, do you wash in cold? If so does the mix disolve well? I'm using a homemade liquid version but if I could cut out a step (heating the mix with water) that would be awesome!

kate said...

Shari, I wash in warm for most things, hot for whites and really soiled stuff if it can take a hot wash without being ruined. If we feel we need to tackle our gas bill, I will revisit that but for now it works. The mix I made dissolves fantastically well in warm water, and when I rinsed the grater after grating the Dr. Bronner's soap, it rinsed clean in seconds. I think the Dr. Bronner's dissolves very well in most temps.

Amy K. said...

For about two years, I washed my clothes with a combination of borax and washing soda. But I eventually stopped because I noticed that the "detergent" wasn't rinsing off of the clothes. I'd take them out, and they would have a dusting of white powder. It was especially noticeable on the dark clothes. I've thought about trying again, but for now, I just use the cheapest detergent I can find.