Monday, February 27, 2012

Am I Going Crunchy?

You know, I never considered myself any sort of 'natural'  or 'crunchy' woman. I wear makeup, dye my hair and prefer shoes. It's funny how things change.

Since I left my 'real' job almost five years ago to stay home with The Girl we've had to figure out how to make ends meet with less. Sure, I've worked part-time, but we all know how well that pays. Over the years I've taken up couponing, cooked more, rediscovered the resale shops and all that stuff we moms do to make it work.

Last year I started making my own cleaning solution. It's fabulous. A $2 gallon of vinegar will last me years. Plus, with the addition of a little essential oil I can make it smell lovely too. At a friend's suggestion I started making my own coffee creamer too. Now I have lovely vanilla creamer without all those hard to pronounce chemical additives.

Over the summer I discovered a recipe for homemade liquid laundry detergent. I thought it seemed simple and easy. Boy was I right. A $10 purchase of ingredients later and I was off to the races. I saved store-bought detergent jugs for a few months so I had enough containers to hold my homemade stuff. Then one day, I just did it.

Of course, then I had to put it to the test. It looked just like the stuff from the store, but did it work? I washed our laundry for a while, even The Chef's stained work clothes. And sure enough, it worked just as well as the pricey stuff I'd been buying for years.

Here's the best part. I bought the ingredients for $10, which is enough to make the recipe three times. That means I can do 400 loads of laundry (or more) for $10! That's pretty cool.

Here's the recipe

1 cup washing soda (I use Arm & Hammer)
1/2 cup borax (I use 20 Mule Team)
1 bar soap (I use Fels Naptha laundry soap which you can get for a buck)
Approximately 3 gallons water

You’ll also need a container of some sort to make this in (I use a five gallon bucket), something to stir it (I use a large wooden spoon), another pot to boil soapy water in (I use the pot in the picture), and something to cut up the soap

The night before, chunk up the bar of soap using a knife or run it over a box grater. Put the soap pieces into a heat safe lidded bowl. Then heat up some water until it boils then pour it over the pieces. Let it sit overnight until it's a soft gooey mess.

In the morning, put about four cups of water into the pan and put it on the stove on high until it’s boiling, then lower the heat until it’s simmering.
When the water is boiling, carefully dump in the soap.

Stir the soapy water with a spoon until all of the soap is dissolved. Eventually, the water will take on the color of the soap you added, albeit paler. I used Fels Naptha soap for this, which was a square yellow soap. I learned that on medium heat, you'll want to simmer for at least 10 minutes to ensure a good consistency in the end. But watch out, it can boil over!

In the end, you’ll have some very warm soap soup:
Dissolved soap

Next, get out your large container and add three gallons of warm to hot tap water to it. I’m using a five gallon bucket that I had lying around:

Empty bucket of water

To this bucket add a cup of the washing soda and the soap solution you made and stir. After stirring, you’ll have a bucket full of vaguely soapy water:

The Bucket

Don’t worry if your batch doesn’t match the color of my own – it varies depending on what kind of soap you use. At this point, let the soap sit for 24 hours, preferably with a lid on it. I just left our bucket in the kitchen sink. Periodically give it a stir. I tend to stir mine once an hour or so until bedtime, and then not again until the next day. The stirring only takes a few seconds each time

When you take off the lid, you’ll find any number of things, depending on the type of soap you used and the water you used. It might be firm, like Jello; it might be very watery; it might even be like liquid laundry detergent. I find if you use the Fels Naptha and softened water it turns out just like store-bought liquid detergent.

Just stir it up a bit and it’s ready to be used. You may find you need to shake the detergent before using it if you don't do a lot of laundry. This is because your homemade version doesn't have all those bizzare chemicals in it that the detergent makers use to keep it from separating.


  1. Thanks for this! I've been trying to be thriftier lately as well as using more natural products with less harsh chemicals. I've been using my own homemade face wash & moisturizer for a couple months now, as well as homemade shampoo & conditioner! Laundry detergent is the next logical step :)

  2. Good for you. If you have sensitive skin, I've heard people have used Dove or Ivory soap instead of the harsher Fels Naptha.

    Would you be willing to share the face wash/moisturizer recipes? That sounds great!

  3. BTW Rachel - I love your blog, I added it to my blog list here.