Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Feed the Dirt Pennies a Load

As I reported in my Laundry post a couple weeks ago, making my own powdered detergent was a piece of cake, once I located the ingredients, but it didn't actually save mucho dinero over finding planet-friendly laundry detergent on super-de-duper sale. Nevertheless, the powdered batch took care of two weeks' worth of laundry for a family of five, and I still have enough for one more load.

However, the authors of The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques That Save You Money promised their concoction of liquid laundry detergent cost only "pennies a load," so I had to try that next. No, I wasn't going to make my own fireplace bellows or build the kids a "simple solar cooker" or "Make Recycled Sandals from Rubber Tires" (other projects in the book), but this I could manage.

It took a little planning ahead because I needed two one-gallon containers. At our family's milk-drinking rate, that required a four-day lead time. But otherwise the main ingredients were the same: soap flakes, Borax, and washing soda. In particular they said you could grate 1/3 to 1/2 a bar of Fels-Naptha laundry soap or solid Co-Co Castile soap, but in my laziness I bought pre-flaked soap off Amazon. Fred Meyer carries the Fels-Naptha, the Borax, and the washing soda, all right next to each other.

1/3 to 1/2 bar of Fels-Naptha or Kirk's CoCo Castile soap
4 cups water
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
1 Tbsp essential oil (I skipped this)

Since 1/2 of a Fels-Naptha laundry soap bar would weigh 2.25 ozs, I weighed an equivalent amount of soap flakes:

Next, I added the soap flakes to the water and heated over medium until the flakes dissolved.

(The froth is from stirring. It isn't boiling.)
Then I added the remaining ingredients and stirred until dissolved.

Once dissolved, the mixture sat for five minutes over the heat. It said "stir occasionally," but I got distracted and didn't stir at all until the end, and no harm seemed to come of it.

Remove from heat and allow to cool five minutes.

I filled each milk jug halfway with hot tap water. Then I poured half the soap mixture in each jug, shook it, and filled it the rest of the way with warm water. I shook it again and then stored it in the utility room cabinet to await laundry day. (The book recommends letting the mixture sit for 24 hours.)

Just in case, I wrote the directions right on the jug. In fact I wrote several labels on the jugs, not out of fear my children would drink it, but more because my absent-minded husband might. I don't imagine he'd go looking for milk in the utility room, but if I happened to leave it on the washer, I wouldn't put it past him.

Considering the liquid recipe used less soap, Borax, and washing soda, and that it promises up to 50 loads (instead of just 12), this indeed qualifies as an #OrganicTightwad post. But I'll definitely let you know how it cleans. The powdered detergent was great, so I have high hopes.

And a closing note from my other tightwad front: artisan breadmaking. (See this post and this one and this one.) My quest to replace storebought sandwich bread was half-successful. Meaning, my husband and son were just fine with homemade (hub even preferred it strongly), but my youngest thought it was too crumbly in a school lunch, and the oldest didn't want it for toast. Sigh. I'm going to try the recipe again, to get my ingredients more uniformly mixed and the loaves closer to storebought size. They looked great, though, didn't they?

Easy to slice, too.

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