As the snow piles up around Barefoot Farm, my outside chores come to a complete halt.
My husband does the necessary animal care and keeps the stove burning, but mostly February is the time of year for reflection and preparation. I look back on what worked, what didn’t and what I can do to make the coming year flow more easily. This year, in particular, as we adjust to higher costs for electricity and food as well as reduced income as we work less, I am concentrating on ways to save money without sacrificing the things that matter to us. Today is my day to examine the laundry.
As a mother of seven, laundry has always been a huge job. I swear the hamper has not been empty for more than five minutes in the past forty years. I used to purchase a huge plastic jug of detergent, fabric softener sheets as well as laundry boosters and stain formulas every time I went to the market. There are so many problems with doing the laundry this way. The first was financial. This stuff is expensive. Then there are the pollutants. The chemicals I was tossing in my wash flowed right into the septic system and leached into the ground water. Over the years I have also realized the load on our transfer station. Even a tiny town like ours produces enormous amounts of trash that has to be stored, transported and recycled or just dumped in an overflowing landfill.
Some years ago I began making my own laundry detergent. It really only takes a few minutes of hands-on time and I see no difference in the quality of the finished product. I start with a cake of Fels Naptha soap, Borax, and Washing Soda. I also got a 5 gallon bucket form the feed store, a long-handled ladle from the thrift store and a long wooden spoon. I picked up a big pot from the thrift store too as I wanted to keep it just for soap making. One thing I did at the very beginning was to pour 3 gallons of water in the bucket and mark that level on the inside with a laundry marker. My recipe makes three gallons of detergent and if you have the mark you never have to measure the water again.
Some people grate their soap. I find it works better if I shave it with a paring knife. I put it in the pot that is filled with water. If your stove is already in use you can set the pot on the back corner where it isn’t too hot. You want to melt the soap, not boil it. It can take a while for the soap to melt completely, but this is an important step.
While that’s going on, pour 1/2 cup of Washing Soda and 1 cup of Borax into your bucket. Fill it about 1/3 third of the way up with hot water and stir it until it completely dissolves. When the soap has melted pour it into the bucket and stir the glop together until it’s fully incorporated. Now fill the bucket with warm water until it reaches the mark on the inside. Do this in the location where you will keep your detergent as the bucket is heavy and you won’t want to be moving it. Stir it again and let it set for a few hours. You should end up with a gel that is a bit thicker than regular store-bought detergent. I use about a 1/4 cup for most things. Filthy jeans might get a bit more. That’s it. You will be doing the planet and your pocketbook a big favor.
Tip from Kathy: I slipped this recipe in a photo sleeve and hung it from the handle of the bucket. If someone else needs to make detergent they have the directions handy.