This is my life.
On Saturday I helped lead a church retreat called "Seeking Simplicity." That got my church asking and discussing the questions we YAVs have been involved in for our community. What is simplicity? How does it relate to faith? What is the purpose of Simplicity. The retreat sparked much discussion, and Monday, I took the day off and did some simple living crafting.
On my day off with Libby, we made our own laundry soap. Kind of like making flour from acorns, it was something I'd read about, and wanted to do, and finally got around to doing in the YAV house as part of simple living.
Here is the thing. It is so easy a cave man could do it. Easiest chemistry lab I've found. For you chemists out there, this is easier than a phenylalanine titration! I'll explain how. But first,
Why make your own laundry soap?
Our homemade detergent uses chemicals that are safe, easy to pronounce, and good for the fish who live in the water after it goes out the drain. Phosphates in many commercial laundry soaps have significantly contributed to algae blooms and eutrophication in watersheds across the world and have just recently been banned in detergents. Many surfactants (oil dissolving chemicals) are artificial and haven't been fully tested. We don't know what exactly is in commercial laundry soap from the labels and the chemicals come from questionable sources. For the most part it's sold in plastic containers, that nobody rinses out to recycle. And we do this without a thought or care in the world.
Making our own soap can reduce the environmental impact of washing laundry, or at least allow us to control how much we affect the fish by avoiding the use of harmful chemicals. We also become more aware of what chemicals we expose ourselves to in regular chores like laundry. Awareness is 3/4 of simple living.
Furthermore, we can find a greater sense of purpose and connection to things when we make them. For example, food has a different meaning to you when you cook it, than when you tell the drive thru box what you want and pick it up at the window, or you are more connected to your heat when you split wood and stoke the fire than when you switch on the thermostat. Mother Beth who I've met through BFJN suggested making or creating things on our own is more of who God made us to be than getting EVERYTHING from somewhere else. Just like eating the local food, making things we will use connects us to them and to each other more, we are more invested in our lives this way.
Also another insight from BFJN: Economic discipleship: We can save money making our own laundry soap and give more effectively to fight poverty and build God's kingdom with the savings. Stewardship for both our finances and God's creation plays a huge role as we clean up our impact on the watershed.
That's a little bit of the why, so here's how to do it:
Find these things at your local grocery store or pharmacy: Borax, baking soda, Castile soap*. That's it.
(*see notes at the bottom on Castile soap and ingredients)
Option: buy essential oils for smell if you have a particular scent in mind (lavendar, tea tree oil etc.)
Then find a cheese grater (or knife), a bowl, a scooping device (measuring cup is best), and a stirring device. That's all you need.
|Read about Libby's adventures here|
Step 1. Grate the soap. Use a cheese grater or just a knife to shred the bar into small flakes. You can use a food processor, but we wanted to keep it simple.
Step 2. Measure and mix ingredients.
We used the following recipe from a wonderful library book Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World. by Kelly Coyne & Erik Knutzen (read this book and ones on the shelves around it, you'll be making everything yourself)
1 part grated soap (We used 1 cup) ($1.84)
2 parts borax (2 cups) ($1.68)
2 parts baking soda (2 cups) ($ 0.61)
Two other good recipes can be found on the Mother Earth News website linked below:
Laundry soap and fabric softner.
Lavender Laundry Soap:
Stir until well mixed.
Step 3. Store the mixture in an air-tight container. AND LABEL IT as laundry detergent so no-one eats it. Keep it away from small children and YAVs. Give yourself a pat on the back. You've just made laundry detergent!
Step 4. Use 2 Tablespoons (1/8 cup) with each load of laundry. (maybe 3 for very dirty or very large loads)
Measuring down to the ounce used in our finished laundry soap, we used $4.13 worth of supplies to make a soap mixture that should last 40 loads. That's just over 10 cents per load!
*Tips and further soap knowledge
- Read all safety warnings on the products. All are natural, but they are for cleaning so don't put them in your mouth, they taste terrible. and be aware that the dust from borax can irritate your eyes.
- Safety info on Borax: http://avogadro.chem.iastate.edu/msds/borax.htm
- Safety info on Baking Soda http://www.armandhammer.com/ARMandHAMMER-Ingredients.aspx
- Safety info for Castile soap: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/12697644/Castile-Soap-MSDS
- Make sure you don't use "super-fatted" soap bars (Dove, Irish Spring etc.) which have extra oils for moisturizing skin, you don't want that in your laundry. It would just gunk up your clothes because of the extra oil. Most common shower soaps fit this category and are not recommended for laundry detergent.
- A bar of Dr. Bronner's Castile soap is great because it has no extra oils plus it already has the some smells.
- You could also make your own Castile soap from oil or fat which is relatively simple, but takes a long time, and requires safety working with lye. Ask me how to do this or look it up.
- Essential oils for smell (i.e. grapefruit oil, lavender, tea tree oil etc.) can add smell and disinfecting properties to your laundry soap. They are rather expensive and found at some grocery stores and most health food stores.
- We have found that the baking soda removes most of the soap smell. The laundry smells clean, but not like the tea tree soap. Adding essential oils directly to the detergent may be a better way to scent your clothes
- Washing soda is said to be more effective on tough stains and smells than baking soda. From what I've read either is fine, but we went with baking soda because we needed some for cooking and cleaning also. For laundry the borax does most of the work anyway.
- Trivia fact: Triclosan (aka Triclocarbon) the antibacterial agent in most commercial soap bars and hand soaps is terrible for the fish. It is an endocrine disruptor that can make girl fish out of boy fish, and it's in most antibacterial soap. I'd recommend not using those soaps at all for the sake of the fish.