Without going through the rant about how a lot of commercial laundry soaps have really brutal chemicals, allergens, strong perfumes, and so on, they also are bad for the environment. There are lots of great eco-friendly soaps out there, but the best and cheapest soaps can be made at home from a handful of really simple ingredients.
This recipe is Borax free, Naptha free, perfume and dye free, and about as gentle as it gets. It’s great for babies, people with allergies or sensitive skin, and doesn’t leave residues.
- 1 bar of soap (unscented, home made is best, but any natural soap is great)
- 1½ cups baking soda
- ½ cup citric acid
- 3 tablespoons epsom salt
And that’s it!
Step 1: Bake the baking soda
“Wait, what?!” Yeah, I know… What you need to do is convert the baking soda to washing soda. You can buy washing soda, but it also typically has perfumes and dyes and such, and it’s super-easy to make it yourself.
For the science-inclined, baking soda = sodium bicarbonate, and washing soda = sodium carbonate. By heating it, carbon dioxide is released, and the extra carbon atom goes with it. SCIENCE!
So, take one cup of the baking soda, and spread it on a pan. Bake for 2 hours at 400°F, stirring halfway through. Let it cool. Keep the other 1/2 cup unbaked. Because this takes some time, and a lot of oven time, it’s a good idea to do this in bulk, and save the rest.
GIGANTIC WARNING: Once you’ve baked this into washing soda, it is a caustic cleaning agent and cannot be eaten. Don’t let its innocent, white, powdery appearance deceive you into thinking it belongs in cookies. It now has the same pH as ammonia so OMG DUN EAT!
Step 2: Grate the bar of soap
Take a very fine grater, and grate the bar down to nothing.
Step 3: Mix the ingredients together
Mix the cooled washing soda, soap, salt, remaining 1/2 cup of baking soda and citric acid together in a bowl. If you don’t let the soda cool completely, you will melt the soap, so don’t do what I usually do and just assume you can throw it in warm. You get a soupy mess. Just let it cool first.
Because the soap is soft, and citric acid is clumpy as fuck, if you don’t store it right. It’s a really good idea to run this whole thing through a food processor. I use this little Cuisinart food processor, because it’s wickedly powerful, and you don’t have to store this massive, insane appliance in your house. I use it all the time.
Step 4: Store it
Because this is a natural soap, it has a tendency to clump up. Store it in an airtight container, and add a pouch of dessicant to keep it dry. (Dessicants are the little silica gel packets you get in a lot of products. Just hang on to them, because they’re really useful.)
Natural laundry soap is great for hard and soft water towns, and won’t leave a residue on your clothes. It costs five times less than commercial detergents, and you can use less of it!
This post originally appeared on Urban Homesteader