Thursday, September 24, 2009

Laundry 101

I do a lot of laundry. I mean, A LOT of laundry. Having 9 children makes me somewhat of an expert on laundry. I don't hate doing laundry, but I'm not singing and dancing when I see/smell my youngest son packing a basket that is twice his size, down the hall. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the laundry baskets are magically filling up while we are sleeping because I sure don't remember my kids wearing that many articles of clothing! No matter how many kids have left the "nest", (3 at last count!), the laundry pile never really seems to decrease in size. And my washer is going ALL DAY!

When my husband & I started breaking down our grocery bill, we discovered that about 30% was going to laundry soap, fabric softeners, and other miscellaneous cleaners! That is almost 1/3 of our food bill!!! Yikes! I know that I would rather buy food, the kind that you can eat, more than I want to do laundry! Then there was the unexplained rashes that only a few of my children had. My husband is an emergency room nurse, but also worked in pediatrics for a few years, and said that it was dermatitis, probably caused by allergies. Now, I'm no a rocket scientist or anything, but shouldn't soap that has LESS ingredients, COST LESS? So, what's a girl to do?

I had read about making homemade laundry soap and thought it was too complicated for me to try. Of course, the book that I read it in, was about life in the good old "pioneer days"! So, it WAS complicated. I mean, where does one purchase lye? And using wood ashes? Huh? I thought the idea was to clean my clothes, not burn my skin off or make the dirt worse by using ashes! I decided that homemade soap was NOT for me.

Then I read a couple of modern day articles about soap. 4 ingredients. And one of them is water! I might be able to do this! So one day, with my husband's help, we made our first batch of laundry soap. The articles had different variations of the same ingredients, so we had to play around with it a little to find what worked for us. We have well water that is treated with salt, so it is really soft. We just increased the bar soap a little. It smells a little like lemons, but leaves no scent of any kind behind. I didn't know if I liked that. I wanted my clothes to smell like they had been washed, so I added another ingredient.

Homemade laundry soap

1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer has one)
1/2 bar of Fels Naptha soap, grated
1 tsp. essential oil (I use lemongrass, but you can use lavender, orange, whatever you like)
(1) 5-gallon bucket (we use an old kitty litter bucket that has a lid)

Grate 1/2 bar of Fels Naptha into large pot. I use my food processor, it washes clean. Add 6 cups of water and heat it until the soap melts. Don't stand there stirring it the whole time, or you won't be able to tell when the soap is melted through all of the suds! Add the Borax and washing soda. Stir and remove from heat. Pour 4 cups of hot water into bucket. Add soap mixture and stir. Add an additional 22 cups of cold water. After you make this the first time, mark on your bucket where the water line is at the end. This keeps you from having to measure out 22 cups everytime! Stir in essential oil.

Let your soap sit overnight. It doesn't look like store bought soap, but it works very well! A friend of mine keeps her laundry soap in old liquid laundry containers so she doesn't have to keep a bucket on display. Wish I would've thought of that!

To save even more money, use white vinegar instead of fabric softener, (I promise, your clothes will NOT smell like pickles!) and line dry your clean clothes! I use my clothesline from spring until the fall rains defeat the whole "drying" purpose. Then I bring them indoors, where my hubby ingeniously hung 2 nifty little dryers (from Ikea) with pulley systems, over our wood stove. The dryer rarely gets used. Maybe that's why we have had the same dryer for almost all of our 22 years of marriage! And the rashes? They are gone. Now, if only we could figure out how to make the laundry disappear!

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