Saturday, September 10, 2011

Making your own laundry detergent and staying organized

It's my birthday today and I've had a great day.  Dave made deluxe omelets this morning and got me a coffee from The Polar Expresso, my fav coffee house.  Delicious. 

Not that they're related, but I've been wanting to get a laundry post put together for a long time. I suppose this is my day to do it!  Nothing like celebrating your birthday with laundry, ha ha. 

I do not like to iron, I'm not obsessive about stains, but I do like to have everything clean and without smells.  I also don't like getting backed up on laundry, so I keep a pretty tight routine to prevent that.

I have a laundry basket in the laundry room and a hamper in the master bath.  The kids can put their clothes in either one, but they do not belong on the floor.  

About every other day (or whenever my master bath hamper gets full), I start a new batch of laundry loads.  
  1. darks
  2. lights
  3. darks
  4. towels and rags
The regular loads I wash in a warm or cold wash.  The towels I wash on hot with a heavy soil setting.

     5. cloth diapers

These go in last, usually late in the evening when I'm done with the rest.  I do 2 rinses, followed by a 1-2 hour soak with 1/2 cup of Washing Soda.  This has solved all of my smelly cloth diaper issues and I rarely have to use bleach.  If I ever do have smell issues with my dipes, I will use a few capfuls of bleach in the washing load in order to clear out the smell, but as I said the washing soda has pretty much fixed that.  Then I wash the load on hot with the heavy soil setting plus an extra rinse. 

Doing my routine this way, I'm able to stay up on the laundry so that it doesn't get backed up and I can keep my sanity.

If I have bedding or curtains/pillows to wash, I will do those on the off days.  I don't do the extra stuff on the main laundry days so that the piles won't get backed up. 

As much as I desire to use natural detergent, I have struggled with an eventual problem of our clothes and towels not getting clean enough with prolonged use of natural detergents.  So I would compromise by using natural one session of laundry and the toxic stuff the next time.  Better than nothing right?

In the last few months, I've discovered Soap Nuts
I was skeptical at first, but figured it was worth a shot.  I bought a pound of nuts from Mountain Rose Herbals.  They recommend to use them in a muslin bag (with 5 nuts in it) for each wash and the little bag will go through about 4 washes.  With my High Efficiency top loading washer I found it tore the muslin bag apart and I was finding soap nuts in the laundry.  Not cool for me.  Then I found a recipe for a liquid you can make yourself.  

It works SO well.  I'm happy it's not only safe and easy to use (and make) but it's also affordable.  How great is that?   

I've been using it for about 4 months pretty much all the time and I still have enough for 2 more batches.  So for someone that does a lot of laundry like I do, that means I only need 2-3 pounds of soap nuts per year.  If I pay about $10 a pound, that's only $30 for laundry detergent!  Of course I'm not figuring in the Borax and Washing Soda, but even with those, I'm under $50 for the year.  Not too shabby for a family of 7.

 Boil the water

 Add the soap nuts (aren't they cute?)
I typically double the batch, but this one is a single batch with 20 soap nuts in the 1.5 quarts of water

 Soak them for an hour and then simmer them for an additional hour until they get milky looking
Strain or just sift out the nuts.  Put them into a jar or pourable container
 I keep a jar of Borax, a jar of Washing Soda (not shown) and a jar of liquid detergent next to the washer.  I use a 2 Tablespoon scoop.  So it's 1 scoop Borax *this is for our hard water in Alaska, I don't know if it's necessary in places that don't have hard water*  and 2 scoops of Soap Nut Liquid Detergent

AND those jars look fantastic in the laundry room instead of an ugly red or blue plastic container.  Awesome.
For those people in mild climates who want to be truly sustainable...check this out!!


  1. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I'm going to try this. I bought soap nuts and didn't like washing my laundry with them. Maybe this will make a difference. Thanks for sharing :)

  3. I have never even heard of those. Sounds like it's a great savings for a big family. I really like containers you put everything in too. I am a new follower visiting from 5 Days 5 Ways. Vicky from Mess For Less


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