Laundry Soap

May I attempt to dissuade you from making your own laundry soap?

(1) Laundry soap is too inexpensive to consider the hassle of an unnecessary extra weekend task.
(2) Homemade laundry soap requires extra steps to avoid soap scum, the anathema of all pre-detergent laundresses.
(3) Homemade laundry soap has a blobulous texture not unlike the liquid secretions of roasted chicken thighs solidified at room temperature.
(4) You will be unable to account for an hour of time to friends and family. It is best that you don't admit you were busy making laundry soap as if you were deposited here from 1850.

Not dissuaded? Cool. Me neither.

So just to be clear - there really is no good reason to make your own laundry soap. Here's what you'll need.

(1) One bar of soap (4-6 oz)

It has to be real soap and not detergent. If it doesn't say "soap" or "100% castile" on the label, it's probably not soap. Common brands include Kirk's Castile Soap, Dr. Bonner's bar soaps, and Sappo Hill. I have the best luck finding these in the hippy aisle; although, I find Kirk's with the regular detergent bars fairly often. Your friendly artisan soap maker down at the farmers' market would also be happy to sell a bar of soap.

(2) Washing soda

This is not the same as baking soda. Arm & Hammer makes the most widely distributed washing soda. If a store has it, it will probably be in the laundry aisle - hanging out around perfectly good laundry detergent that you could just buy and save yourself the hassle of tracking down these obscure ingredients. Or not. It's up to you.

(3) Borax

This usually lives in the laundry aisle right next to the washing soda or sometimes in the pest control section.

(4) A one-gallon container

Mine is from the Home Depot paint aisle.

First, shred the soap with a cheese grater. This happens to be a reject bar of soap that I also made myself. There's nothing like extending your favorite wasting-my-time-making-something-any-idiot-would-buy-at-Target task by preceding it with another task from the exact same category.

Next, pour a kettle of boiling water over shreds and resist the temptation to stir. Stirring will cause the shreds to clump up in a collective effort to resist disintegrating.

Go about your non-prairie-dress-wearing life until the water has cooled to room temperature. At this point, a little stirring should result is a fairly homogeneous soap stew. Transfer to your laundry bucket and add enough water to measure one gallon total.

To this watery soap mixture, add 1/2 cup Borax and 1/2 cup washing soda. Now is the time to stir. A lot. The mixture will transform from a watery soup to a thick gelatinous bucket of goop. The borax and washing soda will look clumped and suspended initially, but should integrate after a bit. It's fine if a few specks remain.

After a few hours of rest, it will completely set up and look like this:

There is one complication. One of the great things about synthetic detergents is that they don't produce soap scum. Soap does, and it's not good for your washer. To avoid this, I add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white vinegar to my rinse cycle. It prevents soap scum, and it also functions as a fabric softener. Thankfully, the scent dissipates quickly, and my linens have yet to come out smelling like pickles. I am the proud new owner of a washing machine with a fabric softener dispenser so I use that for the vinegar (instead of waiting around for the rinse cycle), but my old washer was not quite so fancy so I used a Downy ball instead.

I like 1/2 cup of detergent for a large load combined with a 1/4 cup of vinegar for the rinse cycle.

Oh, and I know I said there was no good reason to make your own laundry soap, but there actually is one. It makes your clothes really, really soft.

Laundry Soap

4-6 oz bar of soap
4 cups water, boiling
12 cups water, tap
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax

Shred soap with a cheese grater. Bring 4 cups of water to boil and pour over soap shreds. Do not stir. When water has cooled, mix until the soap shreds and water are completely blended. Transfer mixture to a container that can hold at least 1 gallon. Add 12 cups of tap water to soap mixture and stir to incorporate. Add Washing Soda and Borax and stir until mixture solidifies.

For large load of laundry, use 1/2 cup laundry soap. Add 1/4 cup vinegar to rinse cycle.