I’ve been making laundry detergent for years now. Above, Pudding’s friends and constant companions got a much-needed scrub down. Nice to capture the jacaranda in full bloom… Our grey-water drains into the garden, so I’ve always bought laundry powder that is phosphate and enzyme free. At some stage I clocked how easy it was to make laundry detergent myself, and since then I have made it scores of times. Like every aspect of the hand-made life, my commitment comes and goes. When I am feeling past capacity, even the ten minutes required to make laundry liquid myself is a bridge too far. But with three small children, the laundry is a monster that takes constant management.
With one toilet-training toddler, and a season of gastro on horror-repeat, the washing machine has been powering away constantly. This laundry liquid recipe makes about a bucket of soap, and I go through about a bucket a week. That’s a significant saving in the budget, and like anything made by hand – very satisfying. There are a lot of recipes you can find online, but here’s how I make mine – the simplest possible base. You can add borax, you can add a little food colouring, you can add essential oils for fragrance. I’ve done all of these at one time or another, and when the kids are helping that’s fun. But right now, I’m all about throwing together the basic, working-dog detergent mix and getting the job done.
1. In a big saucepan, mix together 1 cup of pure soap flakes with 1.5L of water. (In Australia, we can buy pure soap flakes at the supermarket. If you can’t, grate any soap you like until you have a cup-full.)
2. Simmer this on the stove until the soap dissolves, then take the mix off the heat and add half a cup of washing soda. Back on the heat, stir through for a minute or two until the mix thickens.
3. Take the saucepan into the laundry or the bathtub (anywhere you can get a bucket under a tap), pour the soap mix into a bucket and add hot water until you have 9 or so litres (usually, near the top of a good-sized bucket. Your science can be sloppy here!) That’s it. This detergent mix will cool into a jelly-like soap, and I scoop a couple of cupfuls into each wash.
I usually wash in cold water with no problems, but this handles hot too. If you have some hefty stains, you might need extra product, but for your everyday piss, shit, vomit, bolognaise sauce, mothers tears and other common stains of family life… the Mogantoshy Washy-Washy will do the job. Happy washing my friends, and remember: keep your enthusiasm! Do it, like I tell the kids ‘with a smile like a Mormon wife.’ And if it helps, the vocabulary of a happy sailor on shore leave.