Working my way through the list of things I can make, rather than buy, I get to washing machine liquid. I've known for a while that other people make their own, and found a link from someone's blog to a list of recipes (sorry, whoever's blog it was. I've forgotten where I found this). Quite a few of these use borax, which I don't have, but a couple just use soap and washing soda, both of which I have in the house. In fact, recipes 5 and 7 both use just soap, soda crystals and water, but in rather different quantities...
I started by grating a bar of homemade soap (plus that leftover bit of Imperial Leather) and added hot water while I considered quantities. Both recipes call for roughly equal amounts of soap and soda, though expressed differently. I decided to match by weight, as that'll be easier to replicate if I do it again. The first step, then, was to weigh my other bars of soap to find out how much I'd just used. It was about two and half ounces, so I weighed out that quantity of soda crystals.
I then moved on to water - i.e. how concentrated do I want this? Comparing the two recipes, one suggests using four times as much soap/soda as the other per wash. Clearly, this isn't an exact science. If I take the average, that's recipe #5, but use one cup per load. Now, I'm used to using a concentrated liquid, so I'd like to end up with something similar. More to the point, I'd like to be able to fit it in the bottle - even scaled down, this recipe makes over a gallon!
So... I've scaled down the recipe to half, as that's how much soap I grated. That would give me 1.25 gallons, with instructions to use one cupful per load. One cupful is quite a lot - 240 ml, whereas the concentrated stuff I buy uses 35 ml per load. If I want to stick with the same cap measure, I need to reduce the total quantity by that ratio, so ten pints (1.25 gallons) x 35/240 = 1.46 pints. Hmm, how much did I put in the saucepan again?
I hadn't actually measured how much water I put in at the beginning (my excuse is that I thought I'd be adding more to it, and measuring the total). I took another saucepan of similar size and poured two pints of water into it. They looked about the same volume, maybe a bit less in the soapy one, so one and a half pints probably wasn't far off.
With the occasional stir between calculations, the soap had all dissolved (that's probably not technically correct, but I can't think of the right word) into the water, so I stirred in the soda crystals, mixed, and left it to cool. I was a bit concerned by the recipe note that it will gel. Having made it so much more concentrated, would it set solid? By the time it was lukewarm it still looked like milk, and I couldn't be bothered to wait any longer. I poured it into the old bottle, and most of it went in. There was about 100 ml over, which I put straight into the little ball for washing and put a load on. That's about three times as much as I'm expecting to use normally, but what else was I going to do with it?
The washing looks and smells clean, at least with that quantity. After a night in the cold (the washing machine lives in the conservatory), the liquid had set solid, with an unattractive crust of suds on the top. I stirred it with a skewer and it turned into a gloopy liquid, just like the bought stuff, though not as smooth. I can live with lumpy laundry liquid - if it's effective it'll save us a fortune! OK, not a fortune - we never spent that much on laundry, but really, this homemade stuff is very cheap.
Sod. Now I've said that, I'm going to have to work out just how cheap it is. My homemade soap used 23 oz oil/fat, which this helpful conversion page tells me is approx 733 ml. Without bothering to look at each oil separately, that quantity of olive oil costs £2.38 at Tesco prices. Caustic soda costs £2.50 for 500 g at Boots and I used 3 oz, so that's... [can you hear the cogs whirring?]... 42.5p, making a total of £2.81 for the whole batch of soap. I used one twelvth of that for my bottle of laundry liquid, so that's 23.4 pence worth of soap. Not forgetting the soda crystals @ 92p/kilo, or 6.5p for the 2.5 oz I used, that makes a total of 30p for the bottle of laundry liquid. This compares favourably with the £4.30 we'd pay for the stuff we used to buy, I think you'll agree!
About this blog
- Wales, United Kingdom
- In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.