Monday, October 1, 2012

Dirty Low-Down

Our laundry detergent was nearing the bottom of the bottle. I had been reading posts on DIY laundry detergent that is HE and cloth diaper-friendly. With the brand-name detergent completely gone, and two crammed hampers full of laundry, it was time to gather and mix.

There are lots of recipes out there. I hybridized ones found here and here. Absolutely fabulous that less than $20 of supplies makes about a year's worth of laundry detergent!! It's $20 to buy one 200fl 365 brand laundry detergent from Whole Foods (and that brand is the cheapest per ounce for sale there).

None of the recipes I was reading gave information about the ingredients, so here is today's dirty low-down.

Sodium carbonate. Yes, really!

Sodium carbonate, commercially sold as Washing Soda, is heated sodium bicarbonate, commercially sold as Baking Soda. Sodium carbonate is also called soda ash and is alkaline at 11.6 PH in water. For the chemistry lovers out there, I found this helpful as a layperson. Interestingly, limestone and ammonia are used to produce both washing soda and baking soda. Washing soda is a softening agent that helps if you have hard water, or water with lots of minerals. Sodium carbonate is an ingredient in antacid, but large amounts are harmful, so the detergent mix is in sealed containers out of reach of children.

My favorite fact is that natron (sodium carbonate decahydrate) is a naturally occurring version of soda ash; natron is what ancient Egyptians used to dry out prepared bodies to make mummies. My daughter is very into Moses, Egyptians, and a Tutankhamen book lately. Don't worry; the backyard wildlife is safe from any mummification experiments.

Sodium tetraborate, commercially sold as Borax. It is a natural, mined mineral that is alkaline at 9.5 PH. When mixed with hot water, a chemical reaction occurs, converting some water molecules into hydrogen peroxide. Some risks (large amounts - it's a cleaning agent, duh) are mostly associated with ingestion (not at all appealing) and inhalation in dry form (it is safe if in water and rinsed out). It can also cause skin and eye irritation externally. So, the detergent mix is in sealed containers out of reach of children, we try to scoop without creating a dust cloud, and we wash hands after handling it.

Castile soap, containing coconut oil, soap of coconut, vegetable glycerin, and water. This needed to be grated, and looked a lot like cheese! Grating was a task for after the kids were in bed ;-) Castile soap is a vegetable oil based soap, rather than one made from animal fats.

Fels Naptha or Ivory could be used, too, instead of the more expensive Kirk's soap... but it smells so good!

How much did I buy? About $20 worth!
3 boxes Washing Soda (55 oz each)
2 boxes Borax (76 oz each)
3 bars Kirks' Coco Castile (this is for our clothing)
One 5 gallon paint bucket and lid (a 2.5 gal bucket and lid would probably do the trick, too)
One 10 cup locking storage container, like the ones for pasta and cereal (this was for our clothes detergent, the diaper stuff is in the large paint bucket).

Where did I buy these?
Jewel carries everything except the paint bucket. Walmart has everything. Hardware stores might everything too, but I didn't check Home Depot when I picked up the paint bucket.

How long did it take?
Less than 5 minutes to locate and put into the cart in the grocery store.
About 30 minutes to hand grate 3 bars of soap, because I was catching up on the DVR
Less than 15 minutes to mix gathered ingredients

Only 1 TBSP is needed per large load.

Our HE washer has the 3rd load going and all is well.

And because all work and no play makes things boring, we're going to try my MIL's suggestion of making clean mud or flubber with some ingredients thanks to Ooey Gooey Art, Science, and Sensory Play activities.

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