Laundry Tips

Homemade laundry detergent recipe, altered

I've been making the most of this hot, summer-like October weather by hanging out lots of laundry. Today I washed up a few big things for the new baby (like the bumper pad for the crib, which is annoying BUT keeps a newborn safe(r) from toddler fingers!) and tomorrow, if I'm energetic enough, I'm hoping to wash bedding. :)

When it's not too hot or too cold outside, I love to fold the laundry into the basket as I take it down. It gives the children extra time to play outside, and keeps wrinkles to a very minimum. And it helps keep piles of unfolded laundry off our couch. ;)

Anyway, I've been meaning to write about altering the homemade laundry soap recipe I use.

First, Headmistress, zookeeper has a lot of notes about the laundry soap recipe here on her blog. Also thanks to her, I found this page (look at the very bottom!) which has an interesting bit about optical brighteners found in commercial laundry detergents.

Now, about my recipe alteration. The laundry soap recipe calls for bar soap, borax, and washing soda. Bar soap (like the Ivory I was using) tends to leave a scum on the top of the water, and honestly, I'm not really sure how essential the bar soap is to getting clothes clean.

So, I made the homemade laundry detergent without any bar soap -- just washing soda and borax. This resulted in a clear liquid.

I made the recipe double-strength (1 cup washing soda, 1 cup borax, and 2 gallons of water) and I use 1/3 cup for each load of laundry.

Now, keeping in mind that I have only been using this altered recipe for a couple months (not really long-term in my opinion!), here is my opinion:

I think it works just as well as the recipe that includes the bar soap! :) Our laundry smells fresh and clean, and even though it seems practically impossible that a little washing soda and borax cleans clothing so well, it does! (Actually, I think the water and agitation of the washer does a lot of the cleaning!)

For Joshua's (very dirty) work clothes, I had been using 1/2 cup of homemade laundry soap and 1/2 capful of commercial detergent. With this altered recipe, I'm using 1/3 cup of my homemade detergent and 1/4 capful of commercial laundry detergent, with good results. :)

One note about this detergent: Washing soda is rather harsh, so never put it directly onto your laundry. (I know this from first-hand "how did this fabric get a hole in it while I washed it?!" experience.) Just to be on the safe side, I start running water in the washer, add my detergent, and then start adding the laundry. :)

I think warm or hot water gets laundry the cleanest, but I try to find a frugal middle ground on water temperature. Diapers get cold water and one hot or warm rinse (sometimes with vinegar). Joshua's work clothes always get warm wash water. Our whites (underwear, socks, dishrags, etc.) get a hot wash. Most other loads get washed in cold water.

Also, if you feel like you need to see soap bubbles in the washer, then I suggest using about 1 tablespoon of commercial laundry detergent along with the homemade. It'll bubble nicely (and maybe even smell nice, if you buy a kind with scent!). :) I'm pretty used to our clothing not having any scent after laundering, but I do like how it smells after being in our dresser drawers! :)

Borax in home cleaning supplies: How safe is it?

I received this question from Tania:

I was interested in making the cleaning supplies (I'm guessing you mean the homemade scouring powder! Smile) and detergent, but came accross these articles about Borax.  Just wondering what you thought.  It this still safer than store bought cleaning supplies?

Hi, Tania! :)

First, let me say that borax is toxic, and shouldn't be stored where children have access! Just because it's "natural" doesn't make it non-toxic, or as safe as something like baking soda. :) So be sure to read the box and use care when handling borax. :)

Second, now, I agree that the page you sent me a link for makes borax sound rather dangerous! Do I think it's safer than using Comet to cour my sinks? Yes, because in my experience, the bleach in commercial scouring powders is just as dangerous (or more dangerous... just Google that one too! Wink) and I had difficulty getting my sink/shower completely rinsed after scouring with Comet. I would rinse and rinse and rinse, but there was still gritty, bleach-smelling residue. My homemade scouring powder rinses easily and I don't feel as though it lingers like the commercial scouring powder did.

If you want a safer scouring powder, you could always try just baking soda and salt! Or, purchase some sort of all-natural one if you live near a health-food store. :)

About using borax in laundry detergent -- laundry detergent from the grocery store should be stored away from children and has warnings about possible eye and skin irritations. Treat your homemade laundry soap in the same way! :)

To be honest, I am not any expert on borax and its safety. :) However, I've found that many, many ingredients in household products have questionable levels of safety. (Just Google for information about triclosan, sodium laurel sulfate, talc, etc.)

It's my personal opinion that something like my homemade scouring powder (borax, salt, and baking soda) is better for us than using the commercial scouring powders that I have used in the past. :) But definitely, do your own research, and come up with a solution that you feel is best for your home and family! :)

My "spearmint"

Some whites on the lawn...

Remember this post, about putting white clothes on the grass to whiten them from the oxygen output?

Well, I've been trying it! And, while I wouldn't say that grass has some magical bleaching power, I do think that continuous drying of whites on the grass makes them whiter. Avoid the dandelion flowers, of course. Unless you want yellow stains, too. ;)

The first time I put my whites out like this, I told Yehoshua (3) not to mess with them, because this was an experiment. Now, every time he sees laundry on the grass, he says, "Is that a 'spearmint', Mom?" :)

Has anyone else tried this yet? Those of us without dogs, who have sunny and not-too-breezy days... ;)

Your questions answered: Wrinkled line-dried clothes

Stephanie wrote to me and asked,

I SO appreciate your blog; I'm subscribed to it and stay as caught up as possible.  Found your post from last year about line-drying clothes, and I had a quick question about it.  

I have a couple lines set up in our basement to line-dry clothes (not a lot of room outside), but I can't seem to figure out how to avoid getting the "clothespin pucker," especially on shirts (knit/cotton).  I hang them upside down like you do, but I get almost a scalloped edge along the bottom!  Am I doing something wrong?

Thanks for any help you can give me! :-)

Hi, Stephanie! Thanks for writing! I'm happy to write about what we do. :)

I hang our t-shirts outside by just two clothespins -- one on each side. There is usually a small fold at each side, where the clothespin was holding it. I think the breeze helps with wrinkles, though.

Indoors, I use a wooden clothes drying rack. I hang shirts over the rod, basically folded in the middle, and there are no wrinkles or indentions, since there are no clothes pins.

In my experience, clothing hung indoors using clothespins tends to be more wrinkled than clothes hung indoors using a wooden dowel rack.

I think the wooden racks are fairly affordable, and one of those would probably solve the scalloped-shirt issue. :) I wish I had an even more frugal no-wrinkle solution for you!

Do any of you readers have other ideas for Stephanie to try? :)

Your questions answered: Frequency of washing cloth diapers

Some of my diapers, drying on the clothesline

Robin wrote to me and asked,

In your post on housekeeping, you mentioned that you do full loads of laundry, and you also said that you wash cloth diapers 2-3 times per week. Do you have full loads of diapers 2-3 times per week, or do you wash small loads? I am new to cloth diapering, and I am unsure what to do. I only have one child in diapers, so if I wait until I have a pretty full load, it will be at least a week, and the diapers will be very smelly. But, I don't like to do too many small loads because of the waste in running the washer for a small load. Can you tell me what you do?

Hi, Robin! Thanks for asking! I do usually have a full load of diapers after 3 days. I'm sure it depends on how frequently the baby/child needs changed, and my boys have always needed changed frequently. :)

When I had two in diapers, I had a completely full load every 2 days. Since we observe a day of rest each week (Sabbath), I washed diapers 4 times a week -- usually including both Thursday and Friday, even though I didn't have a full load on Friday. That way, I didn't have to wash them on Sabbath and I didn't run out of clean diapers.

I don't like to wait longer than 3 days simply because of the smell. Another thing I take into consideration is the weather. I prefer line-drying my diapers since the sun keeps them so fresh. If I have to do a slightly smaller load on one day, because rain is predicted for the next day, I usually go ahead and wash.

I try to conserve water, etc. but I guess using cloth diapers and hanging them out to dry is saving money, even if I have to wash a smaller load every week. I love cloth diapers, anyway, and my youngest gets a rash from disposables, so I guess I don't really have a choice, either. :)

Your questions answered: Whitening laundry

Robolepa wrote to me and said: 

My grandmother was an Italian immigrant. When she would hang the laundry out to dry she would only hang up the darks. The whites she would lay on the grass in the sun. She said the sun shining on the grass released oxygen, which in turn removed stains. Her whites were always whiter than white, and you can't argue with her reasoning. Have you ever heard of this before?

No, I haven't heard of that before! I would be afraid that my grass isn't clean enough, but maybe this summer when the lawn is thick (and it hasn't been freshly mowed!) I'll try it on my cloth diapers. :)

Line-drying clothes -- indoors

My wooden clothes rackHere is a handy "gadget" that has saved us a lot of money through our frugal years. (We're still in them, by the way.Wink) This folding wooden clothes rack was a bridal shower gift, and it stands in our living room all winter (and often in the spring and fall, as well!).

Unlike many of the things I thought I "needed" when we got married, this clothes rack has been used countless times. If our heat is blowing, there is likely clothes drying over the vent. Not only does it save dryer costs, it puts much-needed moisture in the air!

During the coldest months, a load dries in less than 24 hours. In the spring or fall, when the heat isn't used as much, the clothes takes about 24 hours to dry. Longer than 24 hours concerns me, because of mold. Thankfully, if the clothes would take that long to dry in the house, it usually means it's a nice day outside, and I can use my clothesline!

I do prefer my outdoor clothesline. It's nice to be able to wash several loads in one day, and bring in soft, sun-kissed clothes or diapers. But for me, this wooden rack is a winter-time must-have!

Do note that your location, humidity, and outdoor temperatures will determine how well this will work for you!

For more: See Jennifer's page about drying her clothes indoors!

Picking up dirty laundry

Dawn wrote,

It's one of my New Year's resolutions to be better at housework and that means decluttering. I am not the problem but my husband has papers scattered through out the house of his drawings that he draws or articles. I don't know how many times I pick them up into a neat pile and the next day everything is scattered all over! He does the same thing with clothes! It's like telling a child to not throw their clothing on the floor cuz it's still clean! LOL Goodness! ;-) I still love him though.. ;-)

Dawn, I just want to encourage you in your quest for tidiness. :)

When Joshua and I were first married, he would (daily) throw his dirty clothes on the bedroom floor. When I went to tidy up the room, I had to pick up the clothes (and turn all his socks right-side-out before laundering them!) and put them in the basket. I really resented what to me was just plain thoughtlessness and laziness!

Then I read in a book (can't remember what one) that I needed to just forget about it. So every day when I picked up the clothes, I put them in the basket and told myself that I was forgetting I ever did it! The day moved along, and I stopped feeling resentful about it. It took me just a few seconds to pick up the clothes. I wasn't going to let that little bit of time ruin my whole day or turn into a complaint!

At some point, I decided to put a laundry basket right beside where the clothes always seemed to land. Then they started landing in the laundry basket. Yay!

One time, I re-arranged our bedroom, and I moved the basket. The next day, the clothes ended up on the floor, right where the basket used to be! After a few days of that, I moved the basket back. Wink

I tend to be a perfectionist, and Joshua tends to not even notice the smaller details, like inside-out socks or an over-flowing trash can. When I maintain a cheerful attitude and practice a little "forgetting", we complement each other just perfectly!

And sometimes, eventually, one or both of us changes... and the annoying habits disappear. For the record, Joshua now turns his socks right-side-out and puts them in the laundry basket. He says that I nicely asked him to and he had no idea that they shouldn't be left inside-out. Joshua also says that "disappearing" baskets make it harder to comply. Wink

From my inbox: Laundry stains and pre-treating

Carey wrote,

"I wanted to thank you for all of your posting on line drying clothes for me! It has been very helpful. I also made a more concentrated version of "the homemade laundry detergent" and I'm having trouble with it not washing out fat based stains on my boys' shirts. Have you noticed this, do you have to do a lot of pretreating?"

Carey, you're quite welcome! I love line-drying my laundry, so it was a pleasure to write about it. :)

To answer your question, no, I don't do a lot of pre-treating on my laundry. I don't think I've ever found a detergent that takes out grease stains without pouring the detergent right on the stain and scrubbing a little.

Most of my laundry is not very greasy. It's just the four of us, and my boys are still young. Yehoshua (2.75 years old) still wears a bib at every meal! And I wash his hands whenever he eats. I'm pretty particular about food -- it stays in the kitchen, at the table, etc. We still have dirty laundry, obviously, but I try to minimize the mess and work involved.

I wash my husband's work clothes separately, since they're the dirtiest things I launder. I wash those in warm-cold water and use extra soap/detergent. They still have stains sometimes, but they have holes, too, and I'm not too concerned. I feel like they're clean, and they just get dirty the next day anyway. ;)

Here is my "take" on laundry stains.

We have some nice "church clothes" and we are very careful when wearing those items. (And we wear them for a limited amount of time, not just all day!) I change my clothes right before we head out the door. This clothes rarely gets stained, but when it does, I pre-treat or do what's needed to remove the stain if possible.

We also have decent, every-day clothes. We try to keep this clothes in good shape (like I mentioned earlier, Yehoshua wears huge bibs at mealtimes, which seems to be one of the worst culprits for messy shirts!) but we also don't really worry if it gets stained or worn. It's clothes, after all.

I hardly ever pre-treat anything. I do line dry the clothes, so sometimes if a stain doesn't come out with one washing, I'll pre-treat it the next time (since the heat of the dryer hasn't gotten to it to "set" the stain). Other times, not.

And then we have the clothes (mostly just Yehoshua's!) that is always stained. Bibs, cleaning rags, dish rags, and some t-shirts. It's around-the-house clothes and I don't bother to try to keep it looking perfect. If we have to go out, we wear something nicer.

At any rate, this is what works for us! Most of our clothes was either given to us or purchased at rummage sales or garage sales, and we've always been blessed with a supply of nicer things just as the older was getting worn-looking. :)

P.S. Baby poo stains I do try to get out, if they're in a noticeable place on the baby clothing. :) Usually some scrubbing and some sunshine will do the trick! :)

Making concentrated homemade laundry soap

Today I was making my homemade laundry soap, and decided to try making it concentrated.

 Even though it only takes 15 or 20 minutes to make a batch of laundry soap, and a batch lasts for several months, I like the idea of a concentrated soap. After all, isn't everything that's sold in the store these days marketed as "concentrated"?! 

I started my batch of laundry soap and I doubled everything except the water.

I thought I was on my way to great success. My laundry soap looked just like "All Free and Clear" and smelled so fresh.

Of course, it was also boiling hot. I stirred it in the bucket as it cooled. And thickened. And thickened. And soon I had something that looked more like hand lotion than All Free and Clear.

Having read about others encountering the problem of slimey lumpy masses in their homemade laundry detergent, I decided to see if the soap would dissolve satisfactorily in cold water (because I don't use hot or even warm water for everything). The soap left floaties when mixed with cold water.

So I boiled some more water and stirred it into my soap. Making concentrated soap turned out to be twice the work (almost :D) and I still ended up with my regular laundry soap! I think I'm going to just follow the recipe next time. You know, in 10 months, when I finally use all this up.

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