Monday, September 12, 2011

Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

I attended a workshop this past weekend that taught us the art of making lye soap and laundry detergent at home for pennies.  There are many times where we can make our own cleaning supplies and save money.  These processes are also green.  So our children and the Earth will thank us too.

Making Lye Soap

The biggest problem with making lye soap is finding the lye to make it with.  Other than that, the process seemed relatively straight forward and easy.  Just  be sure to wear protective clothing.  Here are the instructions for making lye soap:

Jennifer's Lard Soap
1 4lb bucket of lard
8.4 oz lye
20 oz water
2 oz of fragrance oil (optional)
Vinegar (This is precautionary.  Should you get the lye on you at any point, simply use the vinegar to neutralize the burn.)

You will need a scale, pans, measuring cups, stick blender, plastic stirring spoons, two thermometers, molds, goggles, apron, gloves and white vinegar.  Use these items only in your soap making and should never be used in cooking again.  Be sure to wear long sleeves, pants, apron, goggles and gloves.  You should have a healthy respect for this process as you can get burned.  Lye is extremely caustic.  Carefully pour your lye into your water.  NEVER, let me repeat that, NEVER pour water in the lye.  You will get a volcanic eruption.  This is dangerous.)  If possible, do this mixing outside.  The fumes are unpleasant and not safe to breathe.  As you add the lye to the water, stir constantly until the water clears.  At this point, you can take the temperature and it will be extremely hot.

Measure the lard and add it to a pot.  Place on direct heat and melt on low.  Prepare any molds you may have.  Jennifer uses Pringles potato chip cans.  Lay newspapers on the counter.  Check the temps of the lye and lard.  Sometimes you can cool the lye faster by placing the container in a tub of ice water.  When both the lard and the lye are 110 degrees, using your gloves and goggles, slowly pour the lye into the lard while you stir with a plastic spoon.  When it has been completely added, begin using the stick blender to stir. 

(I have to add that at this point, we can smell the soap.  It has a naturally good "soap" smell.  I don't know how, as it is lard and lye, but it smells like a plain soap being mixed.  The end result has a good clean smell too.  I wish I could let you smell it.)

Stir the soap until it traces.  At first, your soap will look like a think pudding,  As you stir, it will thicken.  Be sure to continue to stir, but rest your stick blender motor so it will cool and not burn up.  When the mixture looks creamy and mixed together and just starts to lightly trace, you can add fragrances and additives such as honey or oatmeal.  Continue to stir.  If you just want plain soap, continue to stir until you see the drizzled soap stay on top the mixture for a few seconds before folding in.  This is tracing.  It is now time to pour into the molds.  Jennifer pours it into three Pringles cans.  This recipe makes two completely full and one partial.  Place the cans in an area where they will not be disturbed for at least 24 hours.  Wrap them with old towels.  This is a necessary step for the soap making process.  Your molds will get very hot due to the chemical reaction that is taking place.  This chemical reaction is called saponification and it is turning the lye and lard into soap.

After 24 hours check on your soap.  If it is very soft, let it set for another day or so.  When it is ready, remove it from the molds.  If you use pringles cans, you can just peel the can off carefully, so as not to damage the soap.  Let it sit another day and then cut into bars.  Put the cut bars of soap on a cooling rack or lined shelf.  It needs to cure.  At this point, the lye content is only 90%, but will need to cure for 4 - 6 weeks for the last 10% to evaporate.  You need to turn the soap halfway through the drying process-probably at about 2 - 4 weeks, or it will discolor.
Jennifer's Lard Soap.  Feels so creamy and smells so good.
Jennifer sells her lye soap.  If anyone is interested in purchasing, please let me know and I will get you her contact information.

Make Your Own Laundry Soap

Photo courtesy of
Liquid recipe

1 small bucket with a lid (2 - 5 gallon buckets will work)
1/3 bar of Fels Naptha Soap or 1 bar of Ivory soap
1/2 Cup Borax powder
1/2 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
2 gallons water

Grate the soap and put it in a saucepan.  Add 6 cups of water and heat until the soap melts.  Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until dissolved.  Remove from the heat and pour 4 cups of hot water into the bucket.  Now add the soap mixture and stir.  Add another gallon of water plus six cups into the bucket with the soap mixture and stir.  Let the soap sit overnight and it will gel.  Use 1/2 cup per wash load for a normal wash.  

Just remember that this will have the consistency of egg drop soup.  It is also low sudsing, so you won't see a lot of suds.  But don't worry, it is the ingredients that cleans the clothes, not the suds.  

Jennifer told us that she adds Purex 2 color safe bleach when washing dirty work clothes to boost the cleaning power.  It is only $1.97 a box at the big box stores, which is cheaper than Clorox 2.

So how do the numbers add up?  Is it really cheaper to make your own?  Jennifer says it is.  Here, the cost of making the above recipe is .68 cents or about .02 cents per load.  Two gallons will give you enough to wash 64 loads.  Liquid Tide 64 load is $12.47 or .19 per load.  Gain 63 load is $11.97 or .18 cents per load.
Powdered recipe

Rebecca, who knows the chemical processes in these ingredients, showed us a powdered version.

1 bar of Ivory soap or 1/3 bar Fels Naptha
1 Cup Borax powder
1 Cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

Finely grate the soap.  Add the borax and washing soda.  Mix in a canister with a lid and use approximately a teaspoon  per load.  Double that amount for hard or iron water.

Photo courtesy of
Other cleaning

Use vinegar as a fabric softener.  It will take away those off smells and soften your clothes. 

Use baking soda and vinegar for your drains.  Put baking soda in all your drains and toilet.  Add white vinegar.  Follow with boiling hot water to clean out your drains.  I haven't tried this yet, but plan to soon.

There are tons of other recipes for making your own cleaning products.  What do you use to clean?  What are your secrets?  Please share. 

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