Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Clean Start

The guests are gone, leaving warm memories and a pile of sheets to wash - which seems somehow appropriate. Christmas behind, the New Year ahead: a good time for cleaning up and making fresh starts. (Although heaven knows I did enough cleaning before and during Christmas.)

Somewhere in the last month or two I came across a reference to homemade laundry detergent. (I really thought it was on Mrs. Thrifty Household's excellent blog, but I can't find any related posts there. Perhaps it was in a comment.) Mr. M and I love to make our own cleaners -  thus saving money, sparing our allergies, helping the environment, and politely thumbing our noses at Dow and Messrs Procter & Gamble, all in one happy chemical-free swoop. So you can be sure that when I read the words "homemade laundry detergent" I perked up my virtual ears and followed the Google trail of soap crumbs (mixing metaphors as I went) to this recipe for powdered laundry soap at the "Make Your Own" zone.

Nothing could be simpler: grate a bar of Fels Naphtha soap...

...add a box of Borax and a box of Washing Soda (washing, mind you, not baking)...

...mix well, then put into any handy container. Add a spare scoop or measuring cup, and there you are!

2 tablespoons will wash an entire load.

I mixed up my batch in a large bowl, which did make me sneeze a bit as the borax got into the air. Next time I'll probably shake it up in a (recycled) plastic bag.

We've done five or six loads with our new laundry soap, and the clothes and towels came out clean and fresh-smelling. One less plastic bottle in our lives; a bit more money in our wallets; fewer surfactants, optical brighteners, and other nasty things in the water supply. A win-win situation.

This mixture also makes a dandy all-around cleaner for heavily soiled floors and sticky baked-on stove grease. (Use sparingly, scrub with a damp sponge or rag, and rinse well.) I plan to try cleaning the bathroom with it next.

And now I have a date in the laundry room with a pile of dirty sheets...

P.S. If you decide to try this recipe yourself, give the box of borax a good allover thumping and massage before you open it. This will help eliminate lumps.

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  1. Oh! Sounds like a wonderful recipe! Thank you!

  2. I'm in! Been looking for a recipe as I heard making ones own detergent was good on the pocket book and environment.

  3. I've been making my own laundry soap for a while now and we love it. Where we live, we can't get a Fels-Naptha bar but a Zote bar works really good too and it's not as powerful as the other.

  4. I do like the sound of making my own laundry soap but here in the EU borax containing products carry a health warning, I think I shall check out why.

    Happy clean start Sue. A spot of spring cleaning beckons for me too.

  5. May give this a go. The older I get the cheaper, eh, thriftier I get.

  6. Dear Mrs. Micawber, thank you for stopping by my blog, and leaving a comment. I do hope you'll have time to drop in often. As I plan to do, here on your delightful blog.

    Wonderful that you have a home-made laundry detergent. But we have one of those new-fangled High Efficiency machines or whatever.... And have to only use a detergent, with the *proper* Seal On It. -sigh-

    Don't you just love, how in our today's world, we are even *given orders* on what to wash our clothes with? NOT! Bahhhhhhh-humbug... ,-)

    "An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves." ~Bill Vaughn

  7. This sounds like such a good idea. I wonder what the equivalent of Fels Naphtha is over here? I've always been a little worried about using Borax, I think I remember reading that is could be quite harsch on the skin.....but maybe I got that wrong and it may have been in relation to small children.
    Wishing you a very Happy New Year for tomorrow. Juliex

  8. I've seen the recipe on a few different blogs so far, but have not tried it yet because we have a specific generic brand we've been using for a few years now that doesn't ignite allergies in either of us. Difficult to change when it takes so long to find something that doesn't cause one kind of irritation or another. We're that way with all soaps. I do remember my grandmother always having Borax on hand, though.

    Wishing you a happy new year!

  9. Oh, I'm going to try this! I've been using Borax for some years as an adjunct to the detergent (Seventh Generation or another earth-friendly type), as it helps eliminate odors. I wonder if the grater on my food processor would take care of the soap grating step.

    Happy New Year, Sue!

  10. Forgot to ask - do you use cold water? With rare exception, that's what I use, which is why I stopped using powdered store-bought detergents - they weren't dissolving. (But that change of mine goes back many years, and I don't have a problem with the borax.)

  11. Oh I'm so glad you posted this!! I've been threatening to try this!! lol!!! I have a front loader (bleck) and I think I have to make a liquid version. But I'm so glad you tried it....I feel braver!! :)

  12. Thanks for all the comments! For more helpful information, follow the link in the post ( and read all the comments there.

    Regarding Borax - as far as I can tell, as long as you don't ingest it or inhale the fine powder form, it is a safe product. I have used it off and on for years as a bathroom scrub and never had any skin irritation. I wouldn't make any play dough or goop with it, or let children handle quantities of it, but I do feel comfortable using it for cleaning.

    Auntie - this homemade detergent is very low-sudsing and I have read that it works in the HE machines - you might want to do some research if you're interested in pursuing it.

    Julie - apparently you can use any soap you like as long as it's "soap" and not some kind of moisturizing bar. Can you get Ivory over there?

    Ginnie - I have used it with cold water and the soap dissolves just fine.

    I forgot to mention that we have extremely hard water, which means that this soap would work even better with softer water. And I should also tell you all that I don't use bleach, so if you like your whites to be super white, you may need to add some kind of enzyme cleaner or safe bleach from time to time.

  13. My Mum swore by Fels Naptha, I don't even know if we can still get it here. I'll have to check.
    Have a Happy New Year!

  14. Dec. 31st

    A Happy New Year to you, my new Dear Blogging Friend!

    "Of all sound of all bells... most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the Old Year." – Charles Lamb.

  15. Just dropped in to wish you a very Happy New Year, thanks for all the cheerfulness, see you soon! Penny xxx

  16. Sue - I am loving this laundry soap (and will do a post at some point!). Last night I talked to my sister who told me their 20-year old washer finally died, and they bought a front loader. Water bill went down $25 a month! Which reminded me of your recipe, so I told her about it and sent her the link to this post, and also that several people had said it was safe to use in HE machines. So, your recipe for happiness and clean clothes has just moved to Iowa.


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