Saturday, November 26, 2011

No Soap Radio

So...this blog is about sharing a Leo Family practice...making our own laundry soap. We've been making our own soap for about 4 years now, and I can't imagine ever going back to the store bought stuff. We're able to make the stuff for a FRACTION of what it costs to buy it. (I mean....what would cost you 7 or 8 bucks for a thing of Tide can be made for pennies...AND...it works just as well.) There's lots of parts of the process of making this soap that the kids can help out with, which is nice...It's all natural...not to say that you could sit and drink it but...it contains no artificial dyes or fragrances...now, that being said, it's important to note that this soap does not have ANY scent...so, if you LOVE your clothes coming out of the laundry smelling like "Spring Rain" or "Honeysuckle Blossoms" well then...I don't know what to tell you (actually...more on this in a minute).
Before I lay down the recipe/process, let me just say that I am definitely not taking credit for this....there are hundreds of variations of this same basic recipe all over the Internet. I have tweaked my own recipe to a degree, which has never let me down (even in taking care of the "funkiest" cloth diaper). It works great as a pre-treater, as well. Some folks have asked me if it works in front loading washers....which I do not have....but I DO know that I've seen an episode of The Duggar's where they make laundry soap using a very similar recipe...and they use front loading washers so I'll assume that it's o.k. but if you have a front loader, you may want to do a bit more research. Alright...here's how it's done (at least in our home):

You will need these dry ingredients:


Fels Naptha bar soap
Borax
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
(the handsome 4 year old is optional :^)
*remember when I said that the soap has no scent? Well, I've seen some recipes where people add some essential oils....maybe lavender or tea tree oil. We don't do this, so I wouldn't know how much to tell you to add but I'm sure that you could dig around online and find out more.
**Also I should note that not all of these ingredients are carried in every grocery store....you may need to check around....I know that Market Basket has all 3 ingredients...but you can talk to your grocery store manager and they can start to carry these items in your local grocery store if you request them. I did this at the Price Chopper in Webster.

This recipe yields 3 gallons of soap at a time and is a slightly more concentrated soap than most of what I've seen elsewhere online. We need a strong laundry soap around here...we work hard...we play hard...we poop hard.

Wow...that was gross. let's just move on.

You will also need:
A big cooking Pot
1 wooden spoon
1 cup measuring cup
cheese grater
big plastic bucket (preferably with a lid w/ a pour spout)
Something to mix up the soap with (more on this later)

Here's a pic of the first 2 steps:


STEP 1: Fill the big cooking pot about 2/3 of the way with water and cover...bring to a boil. It doesn't matter exactly how much water is in the pot because you are basically going to cook up a concentrate that you will later add to more water to bring it up to the correct final volume of 3 gallons.
STEP 2: Grate the entire bar of Fels Naptha using the largest side of the cheese grater (watch those knuckles). When you are done grating, you should have a pile of something that more or less looks like this:



Step 3: Once the water boils, roll back the heat to medium and add the grated Fels Naptha. At this point you are going to have to stay pretty close to the pot....as there is a tendency for this stuff to boil over if left unattended. Use the wooden spoon and stir, stir, stir until the Fels Naptha is melted. Keep an eye on the heat...if the boil gets too aggressive, tone the heat down.
STEP 4: Once the Fels Naptha is melted, add 1 cup of the borax (slowly...adding it too fast can cause it to bubble over) and stir, stir, stir until the mixture feels fluid and not grainy at all.

Ivy getting ready to measure out some stuff.

Step 5: add 1 cup of the A&H Super Washing Soda in the same manner as the Borax.

Once the mixture is fluid with no graininess at all, kill the heat. Let it sit in the pot a minute.

Step 6: Add a gallon or so of COLD water to the bucket that you will be storing the soap in. Our bucket looks like this:

The fact that it has a pour spout on top is key. It makes the process so much easier. i think that this bucket used to carry Drive Train Oil...I think we got it from some local machine shop. At any rate, you should be able to pick up something similar at Home Depot or whatever.
STEP 7: Add the completed soap concentrate to the cold water in the bucket. Stir. I marked the 3 gallon volume on my bucket with a Sharpie so, at this point, I just use more cold water to fill the bucket to the right height.
STEP 8: Stick the lid back on the bucket...let sit for 12/24 hours.

After you let the soap sit...it basically sets up into a big gelatinous mass (kind of like when you refrigerate real turkey gravy...you know, all wiggly and gross?)
Now...here comes one of the last steps...breaking up this mass into a liquid. Now, keep in mind that this is not going to become a syrupy blue liquid like store-bought stuff, but rather a pale-yellow, kind of watery, kind of chunky slop. But, no worries, because it is all good once it's in the washing machine doing it's job.

STEP 9: Mixing up the soap.
I used to just use a large wooden stick to swish around and break up the chunks as best as I could. It worked o.k. but I was constantly clogging up the pour spout of the bucket with globby chunks that were too big to fit through. About 2 years ago, I switched to this contraption and life got much easier:

What you've got here is a big cordless drill with an attachment that is designed to mix up 5 gallon buckets of paint (can be found at any Home Improvement or Paint store) being wielded by a feisty 2 year old. Now..if you go this route, keep this in mind:
Make sure that the chuck (or, in layman's terms: the part where the drill bit goes into) of the drill will open up large enough to accept whatever stirring attachment that you decide to go with. I have 3 drills, and my stirrer only will fit onto 1 of them. Mix until it is as fluid as you can get it.
STEP 10: Keeping the Soap.
It is quite heavy and cumbersome to pour the soap from the big bucket right into the washer every time so I have kept a couple of old Tide bottles that I fill with my soap (this is where the pour spout on the bucket is KEY). Some folks might use empty milk jugs.
Some folks might make smaller batches of soap and not have to worry about this step at all.

Use it in the same amount that you would use store bought stuff.

And there you have it. Now...all that being said...if you ask 100 people who make laundry soap how they do it...you will probably get 100 different answers. It all comes down to how much you need, how strong you want it to be, and what you will be using it for. This recipe that we use has taken several years to fine tune.

I've never sat down and figured out on exact cost analysis of what I save by making this but, I can tell you that a bar of Fels Naptha costs about a buck-fifty. The Washing Soda and Borax cost about $3 a box, and each box probably has 12-15 cups in each...so...I figure that, give or take, I can make 3 gallons of my stuff for under 2 bucks....whereas it would cost me upwards of 30-40 bucks to buy the same amount at a store. That's savings I can't pass up.

I certainly believe that, for my family, making our own soap is something that helps us stay in obedience of the many scriptures about being skilled, resourceful, and good stewards of our money and time. It is something that my family does together...it is (most times) a blessing rather than a chore. I hope that you give it a shot and reap the same benefits (and $avings as our family has).

Happy Soaping.

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