A blog about "nothing"!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Making your own laundry soap

Several months ago I posted about my desire to make my own laundry soap.  I promised I would post an update, here it is!  Spurned on by a ruined shirt, I was out to make something even better than traditional laundry soap sold in stores.  I think I succeeded.

I did a lot of research and I learned way more than I really wanted to about laundry soap.  Some of it is downright scary, some of it is just ewwww.  First off, there are just way too many chemicals in laundry soap.  This isn't the same stuff our mothers used, not by a long shot.  And we expose ourselves daily to those chemicals by wearing our clothes, sleeping in our beds, using towels.  The thing is, it's not necessary.  Second (and this is the eww part), our clothes aren't really clean.  Here's why:

Most of the laundry detergents sold today have an ingredient that is termed an "optical brightener".  Optical brighteners supposedly take the place of an ingredient from way back when that was called "bluing".  Optical brighteners are chemical compounds that absorb light in the ultraviolet and violet region of the electromagnetic region, and re-emit light in the blue region.  Long story short:  these additives are often used to enhance the appearance of color by making materials look less yellow by increasing the overall amount of blue light reflected.  In other words, they make your clothes "look" clean without really cleaning them.  Military personnel are advised against using detergents with optical brighteners in them because they make them visible to night vision devices, leaving them vulnerable to attack.  Hmmmmm.  My ruined shirt incident was starting to make more sense now at least.

I bought my ingredients and set to work.  I had purchased both Fels Naptha soap and Zote soap in my ingredients run.  Fels Naptha I was familiar with, my mother used it when I was growing up to remove heavy stains (grass, dirt, food) from clothing prior to washing, there was a bar of it sitting in the laundry room for as long as I can remember.  Zote I wasn't as familiar with, but I had read plenty of recipes for homemade soap powder that used it with good results, so I thought I would give it a try.

First off, cut the soap in to cubes:
The Fels kind of looks like cheese, doesn't it? LOL
Then run it through a grater or a food processor to make it even smaller.  I have this wonderful food chopper/processor called a Ninja that I used.

Now it really looks like cheese!!!
I did make one minor mistake at this point--I tried grating the cheese soap by itself and all it did was clog up the food processor and not grind.  Simple solution is to add some of the dry ingredients (the borax or the washing soda) to the soap, makes it so much easier.  Lesson learned!

After adding the rest of the ingredients, this is what my batches looked like.  Let me just say that my soap wasn't even close to fine enough, we have really hard water and I found undissolved soap in my rinse tub.  I solved the problem (sort of, more on that below) by running the batches through the Ninja again until the soap was pulverized.  The batch on the left is just Fels Naptha, the batch on the right is a Fels/Zote combination.  After running them through a second time, the Fels/Zote combination had an orange color to it. 

I used these two batches for several months until they were gone.  I still had some issues with soap not dissolving though, even with it finely ground, particularly in cold or cool water wash cycles.  I suspected the Fels was the issue.  These batches lasted me about 2 months, but keep in mind I was doing a lot of spring cleaning type of stuff, so I was doing more laundry than normal.  (I have the water bill to prove it!)

I decided when I made my next batch it would be straight Zote.  The difference between Fels and Zote is the base--Fels is a tallow (animal fat) base, Zote is a coconut oil base.  I also made sure to finely chop it so that it would help it dissolve in the wash cycle. 
While digging around in my stuff, I found this container to keep it in-perfect!!

Close up of the Zote batch--I had a tiny amount of a prior Fels/Zote batch left which is why you see a few yellow specs here and there.

Here's what I have learned and my observations over the past 2 1/2 months of using this:
  • My clothes smell clean.   Really clean.  I didn't add any fragrance to my soap so the only scent is from dryer sheets. 
  • My clothes look every bit as clean as they did when I was using commercial laundry soaps.
  • I have noticed a SIGNIFICANT reduction in the amount of lint coming off of most of the clothing during the wash cycle that accumulates in our filter.  That tells me that commercial laundry soap is also breaking down the fibers in the clothing, causing premature wear.  Interesting.
  • No skin irritation/sensitivity for me (I have major allergies) or my husband.
  • The straight Zote mixture dissolved with no problems in all temperatures.
Here's the recipe I came up with after doing some research of others, and it worked fine for me.  You can always tweak it for better results, depending on what you are washing, water hardness. etc.

                2 cups of Borax
                2 cups of Washing Soda
                2 cups of finely ground soap (Fels Naptha, Zote or other)
                1 cup of baking soda
                1 cup of Oxiclean

A lot of recipes only use the first three ingredients but I ran across many that used all of them as well but in larger quantities.  I knew from my own prior experience that the baking soda is terrific for neutralizing odors.  Oxiclean is good for helping to whiten clothing.  One thing about both of the last two ingredients, you can always add them to the wash load on an individual "as needed" basis.  It is a matter of personal preference. 

I did learn something disheartening about the Zote after I started using it--it contains optical brighteners.  ARGH!!  I will continue to use it until it is gone, I still have a couple of bars left.  In the meantime I will be looking for something else. 

FYI--I use 1 1/2 - 2 Tablespoons of this for each load (depending on load size), I have a top loading, large capacity washing machine.  This will also work well in front loading washers as it makes next to no suds.  I have a friend who uses it in hers with no problems.

I hope this post has been helpful and informative!  If I come across any further information in regards to this recipe, I will be sure to pass it along.  I encourage you to try it too, it really didn't take all that long to make, it saves money and it's not nearly as bad for you or for the environment as commercial cleaners are. 

1 comment:

dan said...

Yes, your post is really informative! And for sure there is more than one reason to make your own soap!