Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Green Laundry

I celebrated Earth Day by making homemade laundry detergent.  Yes, that's the type of thing I do for fun.  (Don't judge me, lol!)

Anyhow, this was something I've wanted to do for years.  Years!  I've honestly been thinking about this since my first job out of college, which was, um, a long time ago.  Long enough that I could have made many hundreds of batches of laundry detergent between then and now.
But did I?  No.  Can you say procrastination?

So this year was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, and it seemed like a good time to make some detergent. 

First, I had to research.  Liquid or powder?  Powder is easier to make and store, and it's always been my preference among commercial laundry products.  Okay, that was easy.

Next, a recipe.  I found many, but used this one because it was easy to follow and I liked the pictures.

Then, the ingredients.  That's where it got a little harder.  I found borax at the first store I went, but I had a hard time finding washing soda.  I know, I could have ordered it, but I was on a deadline.  April 22 was looming!  And I didn't want to drive all over, wasting gas.  So I hopped on the InterWeb again, back to the helpful Instructibles page.  There was a comment saying you could call the company and find out where it was stocked in your area.  So I called Dwight and Church at 1-800-524-1328 and gave them my zip code, and found out Arm and Hammer Washing soda was sold at a grocery store less than a mile from my house.  Cool!  Okay, now I just needed the soap.  Fels Naptha and Zote, the two recommended brands, are still proving elusive.  If I want to try them, I might have to resort to ordering them.  But in the meantime, I had read enough web sites and blogs to know that just about any bar soap will work, and Ivory is highly recommended.  So I bought a 3 pack of Ivory bars for $1.07, and I was in business.

I won't bore you with the details.  Read the directions on Instructibles, it works just the way it says.  I think it took about 10 minutes from start to finish, and that includes the time it took to play with the soap shavings a little before continuing.  I haven't done the math yet, but I bought all the ingredients, which will make a minimum of 3 batches (1 bar of Ivory per batch), for less than the cost of one box of Tide (my former detergent of choice).  A batch of homemade powder will clean about 32 normal loads, using 1 Tablespoon per load. 

And the million dollar question:  How does it work?  Surprisingly well.  We don't have heavily soiled clothes, but we do have a 15 year old washer and really hard water, and 1 Tbsp of this stuff handled a load of laundry just fine.  In fact, I made sure to wash my gym clothes, using the sniff test both before (ewww!) and after.  Any (ahem) aroma of exercise was gone.  I pretreat stains, so there were no worries there.  The spousal unit did comment on the lack of fragrance.  He feels clothes should have a "clean" smell, I feel they should have no smell.  But I'm willing to play with some essential oils to come up with a fragrance he likes.

All in all, homemade laundry detergent was a success!  And now we are using fewer chemicals, doing less damage to the water system, and are ever so slightly less reliant on big corporations (except for our washing soda and borax), which is a good thing.  Plus, it's kind of fun to make. The next project will be homemade dishwasher detergent...

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