I read an article yesterday, and it gave me the push I needed to (finally) make my own laundry soap.
I've had the recipe and a bar of soap sitting on the table for several weeks, and I ran out of detergent about two weeks ago. I've been using a bit of washing powder, a bit of Borax, and a squeeze or two of Dr. Bonner's Peppermint ... but the Dr. Bonner's is REALLY expensive to be using as laundry soap.
So, I made some.
The article states that we don't really need any detergent, at all, to clean clothes. It's the agitation that gets the clothes clean, which, the article states, is why, before laundry detergents were invented, people still managed to have clean clothes (of course, "clean" is really subjective, isn't it?").
I knew that ... sort of.
I knew that soaking the clothes for, at least, a half hour before running them through the wash cycle gets them cleaner than a longer wash cycle. For a while now, I've been filling the washer with clothes, water and soap, and letting them just soak until I know I have time to get them washed and put on the line (sometimes they'll soak for a full day before I get around to them ;).
Then, I run them on the shortest wash/rinse cycle. I believe I'm saving electricity, because the washing machine isn't running for as long as it would if I ran the clothes through a regular, but longer, cycle. ... but I haven't measured it.
I haven't noticed a significant difference in how clean the clothes are ... but then, I have never been one to obsess about having the whitest whites. Come to think of it, most of our clothes are dark, anyway.
And they don't smell bad. In fact, between the peppermint soap and hanging them on the line, our clothes actually smell pretty nice ;).
So, I guess they're getting clean.
1. Dissolve one bar of grated soap (your choice, and homemade soap works, too. I used Ivory, because that's what I had) into 4c of almost boiling water.
2. Pour soap mixture into a bucket with 3 gallons of hot water.
3. Add 1c of Washing Powder and stir until dissolved.
4. Add 1/2c Borax (optional, but is used to boost the cleaning ability of the soap) and stir until dissolved.
5. Let sit until it thickens into a gel.
6. Use up to one cup per load of laundry.
Given that soap isn't even necessary, according to the article, I use about 2/3 cup per wash, and will start decreasing the amount until I find the balance I like. The estimated cost per load for homemade detergent is from two to five cents.