Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Zero Waste Challenge: Make your own laundry soap in 30 minutes

All you need is a 1/2 cup each Borax and
washing soda, plus 1/3 bar Fels Naptha,
grated finely, and water
© L. Kathryn Grace
Why in heavens name would anyone want to make their own laundry soap? First reason, our commitment to becoming a zero waste household. Second, we're cutting back on plastic.

Blogger Crystal Miller furnished the recipe, which is nearly identical to several others I found around the web. I link to hers because she offers additional information about the ingredients and answers a lot of questions.

It's so easy! In this post, I'll show you how I did it, share the amazing cost savings, and tell you how it it worked.

First, collect the ingredients and utensils

All you need are three low-cost ingredients, a bucket and a lid. We used our old kitty-food bucket, which is a little big, but works fine. No new plastic! Here's the complete list.

  • 1/3 bar Fels Naptha*
  • 1/2 Cup washing soda*
  • 1/2 Cup Borax*
  • Grater (To grate the Fels; a food processor is said to work well, but I don't see the need)
  • Large sauce pan
  • Extra large measuring cup or jug for measuring the hot and cold water
  • Wooden spoon
  • Two-gallon bucket with lid 
*As with any household cleaners, read the warning labels on the packages and store ingredients and finished product safely, especially if there are children in the home. 

    Make the soap

    "Egg-noodle-soup" mixture
    Isn't it pretty? Smells good too!
    © L. Kathryn Grace

    It's very easy to make. Took about half an hour, start to finish. Here's what you do.
    • Measure the ingredients and assemble your utensils.
    • In a large saucepan, melt 1/3 bar finely grated Fels Naptha in six cups water, stirring frequently.
    • When the soap is completely melted, add and dissolve the 1/2 cup Borax and 1/2 cup washing soda. Set aside.
    • Carefully measure 4 cups (one quart) hot tap water into the bucket and add the hot soap mixture.
    • Mix thoroughly, then stir in an additional gallon of tap water (cold is fine), plus 6 more cups.
    • Mix again, cover and set aside for 24 hours.
    • On laundry day, give a quick stir, scoop out half a cup, and toss in with your clothing as you usually do, according to your machine's instructions.
    Most of the recipes mention the pretty "egg-noodle-soup" appearance of the finished goo. Sadly, this image doesn't do it justice.

        Tip learned the hard way: To reduce melting time, finely chop any large, ungrated bits. Total grating and chopping time: ~5 minutes.

        How well does it work?

        The good news: Many stains on our kitchen linens, some of which we use in place of paper towels these days and which get a real workout, were gone. They came out sparkling white without bleaching, a first. Darks and colors? We see no difference from commercial product laundering after several loads.

        On the other hand, our most difficult load--stained, sooty, old cleaning rags--came no cleaner with the homemade soap than with any of the commercial brands I've used over the years. No worse. No better. You might say it's a wash.

        How much does it cost?

        Cost per load

        Seventh Gen: 36 cents
        Homemade:  2 cents
        I was shocked at the difference in cost per load: 2¢ for my homemade soap, versus 36¢ for Seventh Generation, the commercial brand I use.

        Miller's costs, at just 1¢ per load, were half mine. You will find a cost breakdown on her recipe page.

        Coming up

        Next Monday I'll show you how I arrived at those figures, how much we expect to save over a year, and how the cost stacks up when we factor in my labor. You might be surprised. Best news of all, we'll keep an estimated eight 100-ounce plastic bottles from the waste stream over the next year. And we don't have to buy any plastic to do it!

        Disclosure: Should you click through on the kitty-food bucket link in this post and purchase something during your visit to Amazon, there is the possibility I might earn a few pennies. Wouldn't that be a thrill.

        We make peace in a million small ways every day.
        All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.


        Cinner said...

        Hi Kathryn, I stopped by to say hello and now I think I have to try soap making. surprised at how easy it sounds. I hope you are well. your blog looks fabulous. I am staying a while to catch up on some of your posts. take care.

        kario said...

        This might be a fun thing to do with my girls on a rainy weekend! Thanks.

        Deb Shucka said...

        Wow! This is amazing. Does this homemade detergent work in front loading machines? How do you store it? How long does it last?

        Hayden said...

        ok, I'm finally back to pay attention to the detail and - make my shopping list. Thanks for doing, and thanks for posting - will probably make my first batch this weekend.

        Anonymous said...

        Can't WAIT to try this and blog about it! I'll probably make a How To lens on Squidoo, too, if (when) I like it!

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