One of my new year's resolutions for 2012 was to make my own laundry detergent. I spent the year, off and on, looking for all the ingredients, which are not that easy to find.
Andy brought home an old container of borax from work, which was the first ingredient acquired.
Then in Cole's one day I spied washing soda and nearly shouted with joy.
But soap flakes completely eluded me. I looked in Bunnings. I looked at the grocery stores. And then, in November, I was marking essays written by my first-year sociology students. Early in the semester I made them write about the social problem they are most troubled by, and then after those essays were finished I told them to do something, anything, to make a change. One of the students had identified consumerism, and the constant need to be spending money, and her social change project was convincing some of her colleagues to do what she does and make her own laundry detergent (along with other anti-consumerist things, of course, but that's the one that stuck out at me). I excitedly read her final essay, in which she reflected on this, and wrote my burning question in the comments: Where do you get soap flakes?!
I shortly got an email back (it's nice to know that some people read my comments!) saying you can get Lux brand soap flakes at IGA. So I looked there, and there they were. The box was about $10, which made Andy raise his eyebrows, but I was determined.
A few days ago, I finally managed to get all three ingredients together (along with some essential oil) and make the damn laundry detergent. There are so many recipes on the internet, but they all made about 10 or 12 litres of detergent. Andy and I only do laundry once a week, or at most 5 times a month, so we have no need for giant buckets full of washing liquid. Even if you do washing a few times a week, this was easy enough to make that whipping up a batch every three or so months wouldn't really be an inconvenience. So I cut the recipe by 4, and put it together like so. It was super easy, and it will go far, so expensive ingredients really work out to be very cheap indeed.
All you need is:
1 cup of soap flakes - these can be bought pre-flaked, or you can grate a bar of soap yourself
1/4 cup of washing soda - not bicarb soda. We have soft water. If you have hard water, try 1/2 cup
1/4 cup of borax
a few drops of essential oil - we used ylang ylang
3 litres of hot water
In a saucepan, mix the soap flakes with a cup or two of hot water.
Cook it over medium-low heat until the soap flakes dissolve. Mine went kind of clumpy, because I didn't put much water in.
Add the washing soda and borax and mix this up. Somehow, adding dry ingredients made my soap go smoother and more liquidy, so I think magic might be involved.
Slowly add in the rest of the water.
If the soap goes lumpy and doesn't dissolve, like mine did, heat it over low heat until it does.
Put in a few drops of essential oil. My advice is to use something you love. Even this small batch will last us for maybe 8 or 10 months, so we're stuck with our smell for most of 2013 - luckily we both love ylang ylang.
Let it cool a bit, then pour into bottles. This part was very messy for me. My funnel is narrow, and clogged up with the thick gloopy soap. So instead I got a plastic cup and scooped soap into the bottles (because the saucepan was far too full to pour). I kind of got soap everywhere, but it is soap afterall, so it didn't take much effort to clean up.
Use about 1/4 cup per load. We've done a load of washing, and it seems to be just fine - not a revolution for my clothes or anything, but it seems just as good as the bought stuff. And considering that the box of soap flakes will probably last about 4 years, and the washing soda will last me decades, well, I think it is worth the savings!