Sunday, September 21, 2008

Homemade (Vegan) Lavender Laundry Soap

I've been conflicted lately about laundry soap.

I love it when my clothes smell springtime fresh, but I don't like it that what I'm really inhaling is a bunch of petrochemical perfumes. So recently I've been buying dye- and fragrance-free formulations, but I do miss having a little bit of scent to our clothes and towels.

I've also considered making our own laundry detergent, but it seemed like the recipes all had hit-or-miss reviews, and involved mixing huge quantities of strange-sounding ingredients. They also were all liquid detergents, which some people had trouble turning into anything but buckets of slime. Where would I keep all that, and what would I use to mix it up?

Imagine my excitement when I came across this recipe: a manageable quantity, a dry product, a rave review, and the use of a soap I already had and loved!

I purchased the 20 Mule Team Borax and the Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (NOT baking soda; apparently, baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, while washing soda is simply sodium carbonate, making it much more alkaline and therefore more caustic--so you wouldn't want to eat it!) for $6 total at the grocery store (laundry aisle). Then I shredded half a bar of Dr Bronner's in the Cuisinart, pulsed in the other two ingredients, and voila!

The basic ingredients

Looks like cheese!

All done!

The author who posted the recipe gives the cost breakdown as $0.10 per load if you're using a tablespoon of soap. We have a high-efficiency washer and usually use only about half of what the detergent instructions recommend, so we tried this out just using a heaping teaspoonful--so figure less than $0.05! It worked great! I made tomato sauce in a white t-shirt the other day and was somewhat dismayed to find oily orange spatters all over the front of it. It wasn't a t-shirt I wear much except for sleeping, so I didn't bother to pretreat it, but I secretly hoped the stains would come out in a regular cold-water wash. Except for two tiny, faint spatters, the rest of it did! The other laundry came out nice and clean, too.

I was a little bit disappointed that soap which smells so intensely of lavendar in the jar doesn't translate to any real lavendar scent at all on the clothes, but I think this is part of the deceptiveness of modern cleaning products: it takes a lot of chemicals to get those smells to attach themselves to your clothing (or your body, or your carpet, or whatever)! I'll take clean, scent-free laundry any day. And you can't beat the price!

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