Saturday, May 26, 2012

Clean Freak

Alright, I am moving into all-out hippiness and that's ok. I decided to try making my own soapy products; laundry detergent, dishwasher soap, and soap wash your dishes. My first reaction to homemade recipes like these is 'geesh hippy.' But then again, why do we have these arbitrary rules on what should and shouldn't be homemade.

And I like being a hippy. So here it goes.

Washing soda- $3.24. (yellow box) Main cleaning agent. More caustic than baking soda.
Baking soda- $0.99 (orange box). Not crucial, you can stick to washing soda only but it works well if you are washing with hard water.
White distilled vinegar- $1.1. Softens clothes.
Borax- $3.38. Helps remove stains. Sometimes called "20 Mule Team."
Lemon juice (not from concentrate). You can grate a little of the zest and mix that in too.
Fels-naphta soap- $0.97. Or just your favorite bar of soap (Ivory is good too).
Castile Soap- $9.95. Kind of expensive but worth it. Very concentrated and environmentally-friendly soap. You can by it unscented or scented (almond, lavender, eucalyptus). If you are using the unscented version, you can then add a few drops of essential oil to your final soapy mixtures. This was the only expensive ingredient, but you use so little of it, it's worth it in the long run.

Make sure to read ALL the instructions before getting started!

Powdered Laundry Soap
1 cup of vinegar
1 cup of baking soda
1 cup of washing soda
1 cup of borax
1/4 cup of liquid catile soap.

Just pour all the ingredients together and mix, mix, mix!!! This is the key here, if you stop mixing and stirring too early, the ingredients congeal together in a solid white chunk.

FYI, when you add the vinegar to your mix it will start fizzing. You just gotta keep mixing until it gradually dries and looks like cottage cheese or popcorn. Then you can let it dry for about 1/2 hour and squish it to get a fine powder. You're done! Make sure to keep in an airtight container. This makes about a quart of soap and you should use about 1/4 cup per load.

I also decided to try liquid laundry soap. The powdered version takes up a lot less room, doesn't need to be heated, but is more time-consuming and stressful to make. In case you didn't hear me before, you need to stir, and when I mean stir, I mean freaking stir.
A long time.
Or it will turn into a hockey puck.
You'll try to chisel away at it.
And you'll eventually throw the whole thing away in frustration.

The liquid version is a lot easier...

Liquid Laundry Soap
1/2 Fels-Naphta soap
1 cup of borax
1 cup of washing soda

In a large pot, bring 1 gallon of water to a boil. Grate your soap as you would cheese and mix it in.  Add the borax and washing soda and lower the heat. Once everything has melted, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool down.

Then dump everything in a 5 gallon bucket and add another gallon of cold water, stirring slowly. Let sit overnight. By morning, the soap will have "gelled." You can either transfer all this into an old laundry soap container, divvy the mixture into two empty milk jugs, or keep everything in the 5 gallon bucket. Done!

Dish Soap
1.5 cups water
1/2 cup castile soap
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp shredded soap

This is pretty much the same thing as the laundry soap. Bring the water to a boil and melt the grated soap. Turn off heat and add all the other ingredients until they are dissolved. This mixture is pretty concentrated so use sparingly or dilute in water. If your soap isn't scented, you can add a few drops of tea tree oil.

Dishwasher Soap
1.5 cups of water
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup castile soap
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp washing soda

You can add 2 tbsp of lemon juice if your soap is not already scented. Bring the water and vinegar to a boil. Turn off the heat and add all other ingredients until they are dissolved. Again, this is concentratedl; use 2-3 tbsp/load.

I did not perform a fancy scientific experiment to keep track of how many loads of laundry I get from store-bought soaps vs. homemade. Websites and blogs have calculated all this pretty precisely. All I can say is that all the items cost me roughly $20, which is the same as a large container of laundry soap at Costco. After making all this though, everything except the soap bar looks barely touched, which means I can still make several more batches with the remaining ingredients. The price breakdown seems to be $0.01-0.10 per load with homemade recipes vs. on average $0.25 with store-bought detergent. Other people factor in time spent buying the ingredients, etc. Honestly, I just wanted to test this out.

A few reminders
-Your soapy mixtures will not have as many suds. Store-bought versions are made to produce a lot of bubbles, but it does not make your laundry any cleaner.
- Same goes with smell, we're so used to store-bought soaps that are overloaded with 'fresh mountain air' or 'wildflower meadow' smells that at first your laundry won't smell as clean. But it is! Again, if you want soaps that are more scented, there are a variety of essential oils you can buy. Don't add perfume though.
-Definitely invest in a funnel.
- All of the liquid soaps might separate or harden between uses. No big deal, the mixture is still fine, don't throw it away. Just shake or stir before using.
- Some conversions
1/4 cup castile soap = 1/2 bar of Fels-Naphta soap = 1 bar of regular soap.
You can use all three interchangeably. The soap bars just need to be grated and melted.
- Watch out these soaps and chemicals are all very concentrated, I got a huuuge soap high doing this.
- These recipes came from various cool blogs, if you want to check them out!

Next on my list? Homemade shoes. Why the heck not.

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