Monday, February 18, 2008

DIY: laundry soap


Todd officially thinks I've gone overboard in my environmental canoe (as opposed to a non-environmental cruise ship, if we're going to keep that metaphor afloat. Ugh. Sorry) with this one. I contend that I'm not really overboard until I start keeping compost worms under the sink. Although, truthfully, that's sounding less and less weird to me all the time.

In any case, I finally got around to making laundry detergent. There are two basic recipes floating around the "internets" these days: the gooey gel-like substance you cook up and then store in a five-gallon bucket someplace in your (already cramped) one-bedroom apartment, and the much easier powdered version that requires zero cooking and only a small container in which to store it. Can you guess which one I chose?

I'm really pleased with the results and am now contemplating my labelling options, just so it will be as fun to use as, say, Mrs. Meyer's. Cause I'm a packaging sucker.

If you're interested in trying it for yourself, here's a link to ten variations you could try.

Next up: adding essential oils to the mix. I'm thinking sage and a little lemon, perhaps. Or maybe peppermint? Mmmmm.

37 comments:

  1. Is wanting to put a chicken on your balconey over the top???

    Thank you so much for the links. I saw a recipe awhile ago but it was with Australia products. These are the first I've seen from the US. So THANK YOU!!!

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  2. I made the gel-like detergent and LOVE IT! You are right though, in tight quarters, having that big bucket hanging around probably wouldn't work well!

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  3. Liesl I wanted to thank you for a gorgeous blog! I stumbled upon you purely by accident, and was utterly captivated! I've just finished reading every post of yours, you're like my own little inspirations board...we have very similar tastes and design styles. So, not much about detergent - except lemon and sage, yum! - but plenty of kudos! Keep it up. I'm along for the ride!!!

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  4. I laughed when I read this because I have just spent the morning researching home-made, green cleaning recipes! Have now added this one to my list, off to shop for ingredients.

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  5. The worms? Very easy to manage, and they don't smell bad at all. Try it!

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  6. My friend MaryAnn makes the big-bucket variety. I had no idea there was a powdered, more compact version. Hmmm. Something to think about.

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  7. A caution and a suggestion: For me, there was a cumulative dingey effect after a couple of months, especially with the whites. There are two solutions to this. My wintertime solution is, I run a couple of white loads a month using a detergent, like Tide, to whiten 'em up. Some of the brighter colors need the same.

    My summertime solution is to brighten my whites by drying them out on the grass. Just spread out there in the sunshine on the lawn. They smell even better than clothesline-dried clothes and they brighten up beautifully. Unfortunately in Northeast Iowa our summer is only about 3-1/2 weeks long.

    Anyway much as I'd love to say your laundry soap is a 100% winner, I have to admit that there is something to be said for petroleum-based detergents. :o)

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  8. Oh, and everybody should have a couple of hens of their own. :o)

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  9. That site you linked to is dangerous. I know where I'll be spending most of the day.

    I don't think my hubby would get on board with homemade detergent. I would have to use it on the sly to prove that it worked first =0)

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  10. I love Naptha and Borax and yes my husband thinks I'm a bit crazy too! Naptha gets out almost every stain and Borax removes odors. I'm definitely going to make some of the dry mix. How did you grate your soap?

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  11. I used to make my own laundry detergent (the gooey kind) when my youngest daughter was small cos she was allergic to all the chemicals in the over the counter kind. Since then we have changed to a frontloader machine and I'm not sure how the stuff would work in it... hmmm! Maybe I should try!

    Not only is it good for the environment it's really kind on your wallet!

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  12. I found this to be a really fascinating post. Another thing that I had never thought about doing but after reading about it, it seems so easy that I am going to give it a try. I especially like the idea of adding essential oils, I have yet to find a laundry detergent that I like the smell of. If you come up with a good combination let us know!

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  13. Thanks for the recipes. I had never even thought of homemade laundry soap.

    You should totally try a worm bin! They are very easy to take care of, mine have never smelled bad, and they produce free plant fertilizer. I also live in a small apartment with a tiny kitchen, but they fit right in and happily munch away our food scraps.

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  14. I make a gel-like one, although not the one you linked, that I have no problem storing. It's easy to make and you get a ton more out of it than some of the powdered versions. I just store mine in recycled juice containers and such. Great post!

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  15. Thanks for the links. I've used vinegar as a laundry rinse since the days we used cloth diapers. I've more recently started cleaning the house more with homemade cleansers. We go through so much detergent, this may be much more economical.

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  16. Thanks, all, for the thoughtful comments! Northeast Iowa Mom, I'm suprised that your laundry seemed to get dingy, since the washing soda and Oxi Clean are both brighteners. I'll look into this a bit more and report back. And Stitching Pink, I just used a fine grater for the soap. Tsia enjoyed "helping" one night when she wouldn't go to bed. Cheers, everyone!

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  17. wow, I hadn't thought of making laundry soap, but I kind of like that idea.

    I miss my compost bin...I hope we are motivated enough this spring to make one for our new place...

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  18. I'm thinking of going to a grey water system....I wonder if this soap would be ok????

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  19. Worms bins are awesome, from another apartment dweller. They are easy ad cheap to make from rubbermaid bins and don't smell. One word of caution: don't move with them--dump them on a friends' garden or something.

    Thanks for the recipe, i will try it--I have been making my own cleaners for a while now, hadn't thought to try laundry doap.

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  20. For the person wondering about the front loader.... I was living in Europe when I started making my own laundry soap powder. Put the soap directly in the machine and it will dissolve much better. You can also dissolve the powder or gel in some hot water first and try pouring it in the drawer.

    I used to have a worm bin under my kitchen sink when I lived in a one room apartment. I moved to Europe and had to get rid of it but I would start another one if I could.

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  21. If you are having issues with whites getting dingy, lemon juice does the trick. I refuse to use bleach in our house so lemon juice is my answer to everything!

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    1. How much lemon juice do you use? I love the homemade detergent, but I did notice a few items were a bit dingy.

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  22. Anonymous9:58 AM

    I love my worms! Happy hardworkers...definitely not smelly. My tomato plants love the finished product!

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  24. Anonymous10:41 AM

    I made the liquid stuff, but instead of leaving it hanging around in a bucket, I funneled (sic) it into some old laundry detergent bottles I had, and my friends had. Don't know if that will work in a 2 bedroom apartment.
    Also, if you use a 1.5 cup of oxyclean, you would be able to clear up that dingy whites problem, or lemon juice might help.

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  25. Anonymous5:14 AM

    This is awesome!
    Well done and thanks for posting it!

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  26. Be careful when using this laundry soap with wool clothes. It's very alkaline and could severely shrink them under the right circumstances.

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  27. Great photo! Somehow you made laundry soap look lovely .. =)

    As a note, I've been using the liquid goop for a year or so now. I add half as much water as the recipe calls for, and VOILA: double-concentrated soap that takes up half the space. Also, it's purely cosmetic, but i take a hand blender to the stuff after it sets up, giving it a much more consistent texture. (So as not to frighten people in the laundromat... =) I use a little off-brand Oxy in each load, and rinse with vinegar. Works great!

    I can never seem to add enough essential oil to make it smell purty (apparently you're supposed to use a LOT more than I'd thought - 80-90 drops??) so the best solution I've found thus far has been tossing a tennis ball in the dryer with a few drops of oil on it. Two would probably work better, since sometimes I end up with only half the load smelling lemony, but since I don't play tennis... someday I'll have to scrounge up another.

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  28. Thank you for this post - I was searching the "internets" for a recipe on making your own soap and came across your blog. I'm having so much fun reading through many more of your posts.

    I can see from your photos and descriptions that we live in the same building complex - neighbors :-)

    I am a knitter, and sewer as well - that is when I can find time in between writing my own "green" blog.

    Looking forward to future posts of yours.

    Kirstin

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  29. Thank you for posting about laundry soap. Because of you, I am now making my own laundry soap and I LOVE it. (And also- thanks to you we now have a 10 gallon rubbermaid sitting in our living room with worms in it! ) Thank you for you posts.

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  30. OMG!!! I stumbled across your blog and figured we would give your laundry soap recipe a try...We have 8 children (7 of them boys) and we go through tons of laundry soap....I tried it and I am hooked!! Not only does it work excellent...I like it better than the tide I had been using...I am using the powdereed version...Altough I have always been hooked on the smell of tide, I sure do enjoy the light smell of this soap...Thanks!! ~Paula

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  31. I've been thinking about making my own laundry soap, more for the money-saving than the environment thing. I've heard other people say after a while things get dingy too, so I'm scared to try it.

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  32. our husbands must be in the same boat. i'm actually waiting for him to go out of town so i can make laundry detergent. it's looking like next week - hope i can find the washing soda in time. i'll pour it into the laundry detergent bottle we are using now, he'll never know the difference. what am i saying? he never even goes into the laundry room!

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  33. I love this site. I have made the gel type laundry soap and I feel that it is as good as any commercial soap Ive used. I use Ivory soap and found that my laundry smells fresh and clean. Ivory is easier for me to find and not as expensive as some of the other soaps listed in the recipe. I reduced the amount of water to hafh and store in a smaller container. I just dip right from the bucket.

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  34. I'm going to jump in!
    What a relief to hear I'm not the only one with a husband who'd object. How to sneak in a powder where there used to be a bottle of goop?

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  35. Anonymous5:55 PM

    I've been using the dry version made with Fels Naptha, borax and washing soda. It cleans really well and I use at most 2 Tbs per large load for jeans and heavier dirt. Also, try a cup of white vinegar (the cheapest gallon jug I can find) in the rinse cycle to remove excess detergent. Clothes come out smelling fresh and very clean. Also, I've noticed that there is now very little static in the the dryer--maybe the petroleum-based detergents cause much of the static as they build up in the clothes over time? I use a micro-plane grater for the Fels Naptha--grates it nice and fine.

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  36. Hi all, I've been using homemade laundry detergent for months now & I've noticed that my whites become dingy (even when I use bleach). The only way I can get them clean is to wash the whites every once in a while with a commercial detergent. So my question is if some of you are using lemon juice how much and how often? I am having a clothes line installed in the back yard this summer to help with the whitening issue but I would really like to stir away from detergents all together. I've tried Vinegar, bleach, peroxide, baking soda,spray 'n' wash(gets best results), oxi clean, salt. I am stumped so I will try Lemon Juice but need to know how much and when? Sorry for rambling 10 month old wont leave computer alone lol :)

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