Thursday, April 10, 2008

Doing laundry can be fun (and smell good too!)

This past weekend was one of the first truly warm weekends since winter hit with full force and everyone took advantage of it. I characterized all my fellow suburban and city dwellers as exploding out of their houses. I have not seen that many walkers, bikers and people about for many months. I spent my time pulling weeds (I had given up doing that last fall), talking to the worms I turned up (quite a few are active), reassembling the snowplow-ruined sod, seeding bare patches of lawn, making laundry detergent and hanging out my laundry to dry outside. It was sunny with a brisk wind, thus allowing the clothes to dry well.

The outdoor drying really had me excited. Why? I had forgotten what outdoor-scented laundry smelled like. In the winter, clothes hung in the basement smell a bit like damp places (i.e., the basement). Laundry dried in a dryer smells like chemicals as I use a scented dryer sheet. The good old-fashioned outdoor smell was forever banished from my life--so I thought. Would you believe I tried to hang out all the laundry I could reasonably put together in a load during the weekend? I had forgotten how much I missed the smell of outdoor-dried laundry.

To top off my experience, I made my own laundry detergent using the recipe from The Simple Dollar. I have not bought detergent in over six months and I had about an inch left in the bottom of my liquid detergent bottle. Between my front-loading, high-efficiency washer and the three detergents I use for various purposes, I do not use much each time, about a 1/4 cup. I had planned on making detergent for a while, already having purchased a bar of soap, 20 Mule Team Borax and Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, but the items sat in the basement until I finally decided to make the detergent.

The first decision I made was using up the soap remnants I had. I still had soap left from hotels and slivers of bars that I had used and then put aside. Unlike others, I seem soap-bar-fusion defective so only use brand new bars without the addition of the old sliver. Armed with a variety of five soaps, I warmed water and started shaving with a knife. It takes some time for the bar soap to dissolve in the hot water, probably about 30 minutes in my case, and I did not count on that. That is my impatience showing through so make sure to leave yourself plenty of time to make the laundry soap if you try it.

Once the soap was dissolved, the other steps went smoothly. I added the soap mixture to three gallons of hot water, mixed, added 1 cup of washing soda, mixed ~one minute, added 1/2 cup of borax, mixed about a minute and let sit overnight. The end result looked a lot like Trent's recent post except more slimy and less gloppy. Of course, I had to try it right away and everything came out clean. Since the homemade laundry detergent does not suds up like the store purchased, I added a whole cup to my high-efficiency washer. I am not sure this much is needed, but I will experiment with this. The glops of soap make it difficult to measure easily so I have currently compromised on 1/2 cup homemade laundry detergent.

Since I had saved the previous container of laundry detergent when I emptied it, I transferred some of the homemade detergent into the bottle. This way, I did not change the storage-space needs for my laundry detergent and can use the cap for measuring the correct volume. However, I have to wait until the second bottle is empty before refilling it. In addition, I still have a five-gallon bucket with more laundry detergent. I recommend reusing detergent bottle with screw-on caps. Because the detergent is so gloppy, I am concerned the slimy chunks might clog a spigot-dispensed container.

As for hanging the laundry outdoors, it did not matter which detergent was used. The end result smelled the same--fresh and outdoorsy. I love my umbrella clothesline and do not care who knows it! So I am pleased with my first shot at homemade laundry detergent and am glad the outdoor laundry-drying season is back!

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