Wednesday, January 30, 2013

there's something in the water and, a homemade laundry soap I can live with

Our dryer broke down around Christmastime, and laundry has been so much on my mind this past month. I actually didn't use the dryer that often, but when it's readily available, it's easy to become complacent about having it. And when it's not available, planning for laundry day is all-the-more-important.

Sometimes, the laundry gets forgotten about and snowed on. It happens.


And sometimes, it freeze-drys overnight in sub-zero temps. No big deal.

But, the real revelation of late is that we most definitely have hard water with a lot of iron in it. This is what causes my (blonde) hair to turn orange if left wet, and my laundry to appear a tad dingy. But it's okay, because my experimenting with different homemade laundry soap recipes has finally left me with one I can live with!

Backing up a bit, though...

As an experiment, I went out and bought that dang Tide from the store and used it until the bottle ran out. And you know what? It didn't work any better than my previous homemade formula! At all. This was both depressing and revolutionary at the same time. I was hoping the store-bought stuff would magically cure my laundry woes and give my clothes a fresh start, so to speak, while I worked on the homemade formula. But it didn't do a darn thing. No special stain-removing powers. No brighter colors and whiter whites. No better than new. No nothing (except for being ridiculously overpriced and overpackaged).

Soooo....


Here's the formula/process that's actually been working for me for over three months now. I really like the tutorial using this more concentrated recipe. No more mustiness, and a whole lot less dinginess:

1. At medium-low temperature, heat up a pot with 1.5 Quarts water 
2. Add 1 bar of grated Dr. Bronner's castile soap, stirring a bit until fully dissolved
3. Add 1 Cup borax, 1 Cup washing soda, and 1/2 Cup baking soda
4. Stir again until dissolved and thick, then remove from heat
5. Add about 2.5 to 3 gallons of hot water to the mixture, and mix well. (I use a huge stockpot for this task, and then transfer the soap to smaller containers with a funnel. But, the tutorial I mentioned above uses a 3 gallon bucket with a lid instead, which I find very smart! I would do that if I didn't have to haul my soap down to the basement where my washing machine is).

Other things to note:
--In most full loads of wash I use a whole cup of the laundry soap.
--Occasionally, I'll use oxybleach with a white load, and with towels and cloth diapers, I always run the extra rinse cycle with a full cup of vinegar added to the machine.

Happy, happy laundry days these are!

**Oh, by the way, you can remove the orange from your hair by making a paste of citric acid and baking soda, and allowing it to stay on your hair for 15 minutes. The orange color then rinses away. To help prevent it in the first place, I use white vinegar as my conditioner (diluted with water to about a 1:8 concentration) and have to blow dry my hair after showering. Dingy clothes and orange hair aren't really my style, but I suppose a little dullness of fabric and slight bronzing of locks is okay; A small sacrifice for living in a place where well water still exists!**

16 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I've tried a couple of laundry recipes and did not care for the results. This looks promising.
    Farmhouse hugs,
    Cindy

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  2. I still haven't tried making my own soap. I'm glad you figured out that Tide was no better! That's cool. I know all to well about forgetting the clothes until after the snow, too! Funny. : )

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  3. Hi just a curious question. Is the water still fine to drink in its natural state being full of iron, I assume no one would be iron defiecient as is the case with a lot of Australians, or do you filter it?
    I've never done a test on our water here so now this has me wondering what exactly is in it!
    I use soapnuts in my laundry, and as you did, found that the store bought stuff is not that much better really! I may get a better result from soaking my clothes in it but then again its not really worth the trouble as my eldest son gets a rash from the detergent anyway.

    Have you tried soapnuts?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Michelle,

      Yes, the water is completely fine to drink, but we do use a salt filter for inside the house. There is a product called "Iron Out," which also helps neutralize the iron. Even so, there is a noticeable amount that gets through our filtration system.

      I have heard good things about soapnuts, but haven't tried them myself!

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  4. Nice to see you found a homemade laundry soap that really works for you. I'm sure all our different waters really make a difference in how well they work. How strange about the iron turning your hair orange, I've never heard of such a thing! I guess it's rusting?? It's a good thing you know how to "fix" it!

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  5. I made the switch to natural cleaning products a while back and I think it's finally time to take the next step towards homemade. As soon as I'm done with this last bottle.. Also- are you able to line dry this time of year? Am I just completely naive? I thought for sure my washing would freeze. My friend in Vermont recently told me of this pulley system many old Vermonters have inside their homes for drying their clothes in the winter. Basically, you lower a clothes line from the ceiling, pin your washing to it, and then raise it again. So it's drying in the heat from the wood stove without being in everyone's way. I just can't imagine how to create something like that in my own home though.

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    Replies
    1. Ooh, that pulley system would be so neat to have! As long as it's not snowing, I've actually been able to dry our laundry outside most days, even when the temp is below freezing. The wind we get here helps, as does the sunshine on these cold days. Sometimes the clothes really do have to sit out overnight and kind of freeze-dry (but they soften right up after you bring them back inside). When the dryer first busted, we were in the middle of a snowstorm, so I placed a bunch of folding chairs over the heating vents and draped the clothes over them. They were most definitely in everyone's way - not the best method for sure!

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  6. At least the temps have been pretty mild the last couple of weeks. What is washing soda? And where do you find it?

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    1. Hi Jen, It's sodium carbonate, I believe. I find it in the laundry section at the grocery store, usually on the top or bottom shelf, in a cardboard box.

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  7. What a great post. I have yet to try making my own laundry detergent, but it's on my list. Orange hair though, that would be the worst! So glad you got a solution for that too.

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  8. I've yet to make our own laundry soap so I will thank you in advance for working out the kinks for me :-) You are one busy lady! Hope you're enjoying 2013 so far!

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    1. YOU are one busy lady, my friend :) I'm riding my new year's wave of motivation for as long as I can possibly hold on! ;)

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  9. I'll have to try this out. My recipe is similar, but powdered, and no baking soda.

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  10. Just curious, are you still using this formula? Is it still working for you? I'm also in Colorado and looking for a good homemade detergent that will work with our hard water.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Becca,
      Yes! Still using it, and still happy with it! Let me know how it works for you if you give it a go.
      -Jaime

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