Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Friday, May 27, 2011

How to Save A Million Dollars - Make your own laundry soap.

Happy Friday everyone! It looks like we are all clear on the weather front - whew!

So. Do you want to know how to save a million dollars? Its easy - start making your own laundry soap. I know. Who does that? Um... I do! And so can you. My friend, SD, shared 'how to' with me and its so easy you've got to try it.
This is all you need to save about a million dollars over your lifetime.

A bit of background. I never considered making my own laundry soap and the only people I knew who did was that family with like 20 kids. Plus - why bother? Its so easy just to pick up some laundry soap in the store.

Or is it? I'm actually allergic to anything made by P&G, or anything that's scented so I was limited to exactly one kind of laundry soap. And it was kinda pricey so we'd get it at Sam's Club, and well, you know how that ended. Even "cheaply" at Sam's the only-laundry-soap-I-can-use was still about $11. So I figured I'd give making my own a try. My expectations were really low. The whole thing sounded ridiculous and it couldn't possibly work.

Wow, was I wrong! Home made laundry soap is GREAT! Everyone should make their own. Well, I don't know about those high efficient whirly-go-round washers, but for our regular washer this works just fine.Once you break down the cost per load its so cheap its almost incalculable. Some folks say it cost just pennies per load. How can you afford NOT to try this?

Grate the Fels Naptha - use a cheese grater. Easy peasy!

Here's what you do to save about a million dollars:

1. Go and find a clean 5 gallon bucket. I used a 40 pound kitty litter bucket, of course. I marked a five gallon line on the outside of the bucket.

2. Go and buy the following items:
 - One bar of Fels Naptha soap
 - A box of Arm and Hammer Washing Powder
 - A box of 20 Mule team Borax

3. Grate the bar of Fels Naptha into the five gallon bucket while you bring a big pot of water to a boil. I don't measure the water, I just use a big pot. Like the one I use to boil pasta.

4. Pour the water (carefully!) into the bucket and add the grated soap. Then stir to dissolve the soap.

5. Add one cup of Arm and Hammer Washing Powder and one cup of borax to the bucket and stir like the dickens. I just use a big metal spoon. Easy peasy! Make sure everything gets dissolved.

6. Fill the bucket the rest of the way with warmish water and let it stand over nite (put the lid on so over interested cats don't get into it).

7. The next morning - Oh no! You've ruined it! Ugh! It looks like some kind of weird jello! Actually - its supposed to look like that. Go and find your big spoon and stir it all up again until its liquid. SD says it should look like "cold egg flower soup" when you are done. That's it. I know. How easy is that?

Mixing the soap and boiling water in a kitty litter bucket.  How easy is that?

I keep the five gallon bucket right beside the washer and use a measuring cup to dip it out - stirring occasionally.  Use about a half a cup per full load. We tend to get really really dirty around here and we've yet to need to rewash anything. I like that it isn't scented and that I can use bleach with it without any problem. If we have anything ultra-stinky (* OFG looks accusingly at Nicholas the cat who peed on my work clothes*) then I just add a little bit of a product called "Odoban" to the wash water, which knocks the stank out of anything. The first batch of home made laundry soap we made lasted for over two months. Right there we saved about $22.

The best part - besides you'll be kicking yourself for not doing this sooner? I'm not allergic to it at all. I think everything comes on fresh smelling and clean - without all those extra cleaning products or whatever they put in the commercial detergent. Of course I unraveled the marketing conspiracy long ago that you just don't need to use dryer sheets.  So now we can do laundry every day of the week and twice on Sunday and it still costs us almost nothing.  I figure if we keep this up we'll save about a million dollars -- or there abouts -- over the course of our lifetime.

****** Edited to add:
My pal, KC just provided this info:
For the record - it works well in the front-load high efficiency washers and I just put white vinegar in the rinse cycle - 'bout 1/4 - 1/2 cup. Softens that stiff load right up.

And, SD said the same thing about HE washers. She added that some folks who do this say it actually helps the machine and it works better.

Happy Friday everyone! Now get out there and make yourself a big old bucket of laundry soap!


David P. Offutt - The Gastronomic Gardener said...

hmmm love it! But i do have one of them there HE washers... sounds like I have research to do

kcsunshine said...

For the record - it works well in the front-load high efficiency washers and I just put white vinegar in the rinse cycle - 'bout 1/4 - 1/2 cup. Softens that stiff load right up.

Kristin @ Going Country said...

Yup yup yup. I thought I had really gone over the edge when I first considered making our own detergent. Then we did it and I have never looked back. We do pretty much the exact same thing as you do, same ingredients, kitty litter bucket and all (those things are so useful), but we make a double batch at a time.

Anyone who has children and uses cloth diapers should be making this, full stop. It's safe for your kid's skin, won't bankrupt you because you no longer have to buy that ridiculous safe-for-babies junk that I personally don't think is all that safe, AND gets those nasty diapers really really clean.

So yes. Everyone should be doing this, especially parents.

Now I'm considering making tallow soap to use when I make the detergent. Maybe that really IS over the edge . . .

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hey David! I just found you can use it in HE washers... stay tuned.

Thanks KC! I'll add your info in the text. SD said the same thing too.

Kristin - I can't believe I was lulled into thinking that regular people couldn't do this. Just think about all the oil/resources we are saving on doing this locally, having minimal packaging, and not to mention we aren't senseless victims of marketing (hey.. I used to do marketing! oh no!)

David P. Offutt - The Gastronomic Gardener said...

Momma says, "Marketing is the devil!"

Lindsey at NW Backyard Veggies said...

I love this idea.
I'm doing it!!

Anonymous said...

I have been wanting to do this for over a year now but my local wal-mart (yes...I know...)didn't carry anything but borax. None of the other grocery stores or drug stores did either. Then, while recently on a couponing expedition for $1 detergent I looked over my shoulder and lo and behold what do I see?! Borax, Fels Naptha and Washing soda all on a shelf, gettin' friendly next to each other! Once I've exhausted my stockpile of laundry detergent I'm making my own.

Chai Chai said...

I am a mindless drone who can't resist the compulsion to make my own laundry detergent whenever I hear the jingle/catch phrase "easy peasy".

Curse you, you magnificently manipulative marketing manager!

I MUST give this a try - thanks OFG.

Veggie PAK said...

I have been unable to find a source for Fels Naptha soap. My grandmother had a bar of it on a stump under the washpan by the stream on her farm. I wanted it for nostalgia, but now I want to try to make laundry detergent. Where do you get yours.

sheila said...

Been making my own laundry soap the same way as your recipe for the past 4 years. I only wish I'd known about this when my 5 kids were little (2 at a time in diapers for several years running) and we did multiple loads per day. Now it's just me and at a couple of loads of laundry a week I'm not going to live long enough to save my million.

Next you should try soap making with lye and fats. Not quite as simple to make as laundry soap, but dirt cheap if you have a free source of fats from butchering. So easy to make a big batch that will last all year. Only problem with soap making is it's addicting and you will want to try making all different types and scent it with all kinds of stuff. I've done lavender, citrus and for my next batch I want to try milk soap scented with coconut and chocolate. Homemade soap is amazing stuff, full of glycerin and leaves your skin soft like you washed and then put lotion on.

small farm girl said...

I am sooooooo going to try this!!!!!!!!I just bought laundry soap. It was so expensive I about though,"Do I REALLY need clean clothes?" Now the answer is YES!!!!!! Thanks!!!!!

Summersweet Farm said...

Yay join the club! I've been doing this for ages and I love how easy and cheap it is! I also have an HE front-loader and it works great - I just use 1/8 cup of the powder because it's less messy than the liquid stuff. The only thing I've found over the years is that the clothes will gradually get sort of dingier looking (because of the lack of commercial whiteners and brighteners) I just buy a small bottle of the commercial stuff about once a year to get it looking back to snuff.

Summersweet Farm said...

Oh! I thought I should also comment that the last time I was at the grocery store, they had STOPPED CARRYING the washing soda and borax!!! ACK! I'll have to shop somewhere else or order online.... so much for saving oil by reducing our packaging consumption, if I have to air freight boxes over here.

Renee @ Horse Power Ranch said...

@ Summersweet Farm- You stated that you use the powder- I assume you use the same ingredients as OFG (less the water), shake well, then just use 1/8 cup? I am a powder type, not a liquid type so I wanted some clarification on your method/recipe. Thanks in advance. Renee

Summersweet Farm said...

Hi Renee! My ingredients are simple: 1 bar soap (ivory or Fels or my own homemade) to 1 cup borax to 1 cup washing soda. I grate the soap, then give everything a whirl for a while in the food processor til it's an even powder. Then that's what I use, a couple tablespoons at a time!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Thanks SSF!

Renee @ Horse Power Ranch said...

Thanks ladies. OFG, you are an inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing all of your wonderful information, recipes, stories, trials, tribulations, "barn yard" rap, pictures, etc. (I learned about your blog on BYC. I took a look, and got hooked. It has taken me about 3-4 months to read from the beginning to today.) Thanks again. Renee

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Aw shucks, Renee. Thanks for following along - and feel free to pitch in any time. I love that we can all help each other out.

Tracey said...

Contrary Farmer has a great blog about using washboards and hanging out to dry in the fresh air. I am still hunting for the Fels Naptha though but am sick of paying big bucks for laundry detergent. We just moved to a rental without a washer and dryer and am thinking of going the old fashioned route as my goal is to get completely off the grid eventually.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Tracey, don't you just LOVE the contrary farmer?!?! Gene really is wonderful - he knows his stuff. Let us know how the "old fashioned" route works for you!

Tammy said...

Will you repost or email me the link where you discuss dryer sheets? I've been trying to eliminate these stupid things all year. Thought I had it licked with the dryer balls, but now that winter is back, the static cling is CRAZY!! Thanks for the post. Gonna give this a try (provided I can find the ingredients out here in SoCal! Happy Monday...

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hey Tammy!? couldnt find a way to email you and posted over on your site. and didnt want you to think i forgot. as far as the dryer sheets go... i just stopped using them. yep. cold turkey. and we really havent had a problem with static. i just shake everything out and we're good to go.

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