Ma here. This morning I had to mix up a new batch of my homemade laundry detergent. We call it NYALS – Not Your Average Laundry Soap. I just used the last of the batch I mixed up a year ago September. I tell ya, I love the stuff!
Let’s take a trip back in time. See, in my younger days, I was strictly a Tide user, first the powder, then, when they came out with it, the fancy liquid. Well, I was going through a bottle on an average of every couple of weeks. Sometimes a bottle would only last me a week if I had a heavy laundry load with bottle babies or spring cleaning. Well, at that time I was lucky to get a bottle for $12.00 each here locally (I did notice online it is less expensive these days). I think the bottles held about 60 loads. To be honest, I can’t remember it’s been so long. The key with getting that many loads out of a bottle was to only fill the little cup to the first little line in the cap. That’s all good and well if you are the only one doing the laundry in your household. I however, was not. We had a teenage girl doing her laundry each weekend in our home and the concept of “only fill it to the first line” just didn’t seem to compute. Teenagers, I tell ya, it seems they always think they know better. I’m not complaining or anything, I actually find it kind of funny now. I gotta admit that I did not find it so comical at the time. That goes hand in hand for me with “Only use cold water,” and “Never dry your clothes on high” to conserve energy. While I did it religiously, others in my household did not. Well, I added it up… at $12.00 – $15.00 a bottle on an average of every other week, I was spending $312.00 – $390.00 a year. Then add on to that the liquid Downy (yes, the same situation on the measuring) at $8.00 – $10.00 a bottle, worked out to an average of $208.00 – $260.00 a year. We were shelling out a cool $520.00 – $650.00 annually. Holy Cow Batman! Are you serious? Something had to change, IMMEDIATELY if not sooner!
I went into research mode, and to my surprise discovered a plethera of homemade laundry detergent recipes. In the process, I Googled the ingredients for the products I was using at the time… Ummm, I’m not gonna go bashing here, but my philosophy is if I can’t pronounce it, then I kind of don’t want to be using it. I can say that I noticed the build up of the products in the cup when they didn’t get rinsed out with every use when anyone other than myself did laundry. I detested that annoying gross drip that ran down the side of the bottle, and the gunk that collected around the caps. I thought, what does that do to our pipes and septic system? What do these unpronounceable ingredients do to them? I also experienced the “spots” left on items if the products weren’t added to the machine before the laundry or if a drop or two of product splattered on a shirt or pair of pants. I was amazed at how hard those little spots were to get out. I determined I could do a better job, not only for our pocketbook, but for the pipes and septic system. I posed the question to Pa, what were his thoughts on me beginning to make my own laundry detergent? He was all about it, with one condition – it must pass the “itchy butt” test. I set out to make my first small batch with which to test. Yep, you guessed it – not an itchy butt in sight! Here we are two and a half years later, and I will never go back.
How do I make NYALS, you ask? Well, let me show you. I gather all my ingredients, and my handy dandy old cat litter container that I mix and store the bulk of it in. This is it – 20 Mule Team Borax, Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, Zote Laundry Soap & the White Distilled Vinegar is my fabric softener.
I choose to grate my soap using the finest citrus zester side of my multi-sided grater. I find it reduces the bar of soap to a very fine powder. This works best for me. I only wash my laundry in cold water and I find that with our particular water here on the OKA the larger pieces of soap just do not fully dissolve in our cold water. I will say that I have tried the microwave method (feel free to Google it) as others do with good results. I just honestly found I don’t like the smell of soap every time I use the microwave for months afterwards. Not to mention the smell of soap in the air was quite strong for several days after using this method. It is a little more work intensive to grate it by hand (I’m on the hunt for a food processor at a garage sale to devote solely to soap), but the results are uniform and fine, just how I like my soap. They do sell Zote chips I noticed, but they are not as fine as I like, and it is a bit more expensive.
I mix all my ingredients in an old cat litter container that I washed out real well. It works like a dream. A 5 gallon bucket would work great too, but I had the litter container already, so free is best for me. I make big batches at a time, because I would just as soon make it once and not have to worry about it for several months. I pour about half of each ingredient in the bucket, then get in it with my hands and break up the clumps that are inevitably always in the Borax, Super Washing Soda and Baking Soda. I don’t like clumps. I tried using a large slotted spoon in the beginning, but found a hands on mixing method works better for me. Plus, in some weird way, it’s actually almost therapeutic for me running my fingers through it all. It feels, well, to be honest, groovy. Once I mix up the first half, I pour the second half in and do it all again. I do it in stages like this to insure it is all incorporated together as evenly as possible. I prolly mix it all a little more than I need to, but like I said, it feels groovy. I mix until my arm is too tired to mix any more.
I use an old sherbet container which I fill with a smaller amount to use on a daily basis. I see all these purty containers people fashion for their soap on Pinterest and the like, and I think they’re all great. You see, my laundry room is a dark little room that rarely anyone other than myself enters these days. That teenage girl grew up and moved on to a place all her own. On the few occasions she has come back to visit (holidays and such) doing laundry in my dismal laundry room is the last thing on her mind. In my book there is really no reason to get all fancy with showing off my NYALS, this tub works just fine. It was free too, by the way.
One tablespoon per load is generally all I have to use. If I get a particularly dirty load I will use two, but it is the rare occasion I feel that need. If I get a particularly stinky load I throw in an extra cup of baking soda when I add my NYALS. This is a low-sudsing detergent, so if you are a fan of huge mounds of bubbles you will question it’s cleaning ability, and most likely not be a fan. Because it is low-sudsing, it is perfectly safe for your big fancy front loading high energy washing machines. It actually is probably better for them, because it doesn’t leave a build up or film, like I have found commercial products do. I noticed today as I rinsed my hands off after mixing what a squeaky clean feeling my skin had, not at all like that kind of ummm, I guess greasy feeling sort of film left on them if I spilled some of that old stuff on them.
Yes, I strictly use white distilled vinegar as my fabric softener. I just fill my fabric softener dispenser with it like any commercial brand. It works like a dream, and no, my clothes don’t smell like pickles when all is sad and done. It doesn’t leave that film on the clothing and my towels are a minimum of 10 times more absorbent, it’s really amazing. When I do my whites I throw an extra cup of vinegar and baking soda in with my detergent, they whiten like a dream. I generally never use bleach. I must stress here that if you DO use bleach on a regular basis never, ever use vinegar in combination with bleach, they do not mix well and the combination of the two could, in fact, be life threatening. Mixing the two will release toxic chlorine gas. So unless you have a death wish, just don’t do it, mmmmkay?
So how well does NYALS really work you ask? Well let me know what you think. I know, these before NYALS socks are really dirty, huh? Well, don’t be judging. I walk around this house all day in my bare or socked feet, ok, and sometimes outside. It is a farm, after all, and we do have 3 dogs, 2 grown men and myself tracking dirt in and out all day every day. I know the end result isn’t perfectly white, but it is night and day difference to me and I’m quite pleased about it. You come live on Off-Kilter Acres and then tell me if you can keep everything perfectly white without using harsh chemicals or bleach.
Here’s my NYALS recipe – Just multiply the amounts for each bar of soap you use
1 Bar Zote Soap
4 Cups Borax
4 Cups Super Washing Soda
3 Cups Baking Soda
In fairness to the numbers, I Googled current prices and found online that liquid Tide now sells for around $9 minimum, that would be $234.00 a year. Downy is a minimum of around $7.00, which works out to $182.00. That is a minimum total of $416.00 annually, or $35.00 a month. My NYALS costs are as follows: Zote Soap is .99 a bar, I use 3, totalling about $3.00. Super Washing Soda is about $3.00, Borax is around $4.00, and the baking soda costs me less than $3.00. That is a total of less than $13.00 per batch, which lasts me about 10 months, less than $1.30 a month. On a minimum I am saving more than $400.00 a year! I can tell you here and now that I can’t touch the prices listed above on the commercial stuff in our town, I would have to drive at the very least an hour round trip to the closest “Evil Empire” and the prices would most likely still be higher than above, not to mention fuel costs, but I’m trying to be fair here.
Like I said, there are a lot of recipes out there, I am, in no way saying mine is any better or worse than anyone else’s. I just have found that with my laundry, our buttocks, and our water this is the best combination for me personally. Some are hooked on the fancy liquid kind, but I’m just no longer a fan after using my NYALS.
Happy washing to you all, and may you never experience gluteous maximus itchiness!
With that, I’m Off!