Monday, August 29, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent and Toilet Paper

Look, this is the way I look at things...If you're out of bread at your house, you don't HAVE to run to the store and buy more...You COULD make it yourself...It would probably taste a whole lot better than store bought bread anyway...If you're out of mayonnaise or salsa or even pasta, you COULD make those yourself, too. If you're out of toilet paper, you COULD....wait...ok sometimes you DO need to go to the store. But not always...So before I run to the store (did I mention I live out in the boonies?) I ask myself if the item I need is something I could make myself...Sometimes, the answer is YES.

Yesterday was one of those days. I was out of laundry detergent,  so I decided to try and make some myself. I was tired of paying an arm and a leg for it at the store and I had heard that you could make it yourself at home. I had also heard that laundry detergent made at home was  more natural, better for both you and the environment and could choose your own scent(s)...or choose to leave it unscented...If you make it yourself, not only to you save a bundle of money, but you also don't have any of the chemicals or harsh ingredients that are usually found in store bought laundry detergent. Good enough reasons for I decided to give it a shot.

I was a little apprehensive at first, because I thought if it was anything like making lye soap, I was going to be in for a big learning curve. But, this was surprisingly easy to make-MUCH, much easier than making lye soap and I was very happy with the results. I doubt if I will ever buy store bought laundry detergent again.

This is how I made my homemade laundry detergent.

First, let me mention that there are so many recipes for homemade laundry detergent on the Internet,  I am hesitant to add one here. I will give you the link where I got mine from and say, that, while I was very happy with the results, I think this recipe was a little hard to understand and follow...I have since seen others on the Internet that seem much easier to follow...Here is the link where I got my recipe...and it works fine...Homemade Laundry Detergent
 Most of the recipes out there all list basically the same ingredients. Just decide if you want to make one gallon, two gallons or just a quart and look for a recipe for that...the recipe I used made about 1 1/2 gallons.

You will need:

washing soda (not baking soda) usually found in the laundry section of your grocery store
a bar of soap
a large pot to "cook" it in
a large container to store the finished product in
a spoon to stir with
a grater to grate the soap with
fragrances, essential oils (if desired)

Simple enough, right?

The type of soap that is often recommended is a laundry bar soap called Zote or another soap called Fels Naptha. This is not set in stone, though...You can experiment with this...I used a bar of cold-process soap that I had made previously. I have also heard that you can use Ivory soap.

Whatever type of soap you use, you are going to grate it. This is so it will melt easier. Some recipes call for using 1/3 bar, 1/2 bar or even the whole bar of soap. I used 1/2 bar and the next time I make it, I think I will try using the whole bar.

It is a good idea to assemble all of the ingredients that you will need ahead of time.

Get the borax and measure it into a dish.

Get the washing soda and measure that, as well.

Select the type of soap you will be using and grate it.

Pink Dog soap
Grated Soap
I used a bar of soap that I had made previously, called Pink Dog soap. Pink Dog is a cold-processed soap that was tinted pink, but had no scent, so I thought this would be a good soap to use as a base. I grated my soap with a hand cheese grater.
If I didn't want to use my own soap, I would have looked at the grocery store for Zote or Fels Naptha, as recommended.

 I would have used Ivory soap, as a last resort, if I couldn't have found the others.

Also, get your essential oils or fragrances together, if you are going to use them...For my recipe, I used 1/2 oz. orange essential oil and 1/2 oz lavender essential oil.

Also, get the required water ready.
Pre-measured Water

Ok, so some of the recipes vary a bit here, but basically you put some of the water (read the recipe) in a pot on the stove, heat it and add the grated soap. 
Add Grated Soap to Water

 Stir the mixture until the soap melts.

Remove it from the heat and add the washing soda and borax.

Mix well
Add Fragrance or Essential Oil
Stir until dissolved. Then, add the remainder of the water and stir again.

At this point, you may add essential oils or fragrance if you want your detergent scented. I added orange essential oil because I read that it helped cut grease, and I also added some lavender essential oil...just because...
I do notice that sometimes the essential oils separate a bit from the rest of the mixture, so I just shake or stir it before each use. To me, this is no biggie...

After you have added any fragrances, you cover the pot and allow the mixture to sit overnight. Sometimes the mixtures "gels" and sometimes it stays watery. It works fine either way. It may depend on the soap you are using and/or your water type.
This is where some research will come in handy. There are some recipes that say that you may need to play around with the ingredients a bit depending on your water. If your water is hard, for example, you may find that you may need to increase the borax or the washing soda. My water is hard and it seemed to work fine, but you may have to experiment with this.

Finished Product
Also, this is a low suds laundry detergent, so don't expect to see a lot of bubbles. But, from I understand, the bubbles in commercial laundry detergents are mostly for "show" and are not what actually does the cleaning. This homemade version has all of the ingredients necessary to clean clothes...

Just for the record, though, the next time I make the laundry detergent, I will probably try another recipe and use a different soap...just to be different...and just to see if I can get one to "gel" even though I know it doesn't really matter...but just know...gel is...kinda cool...

This a how my homemade laundry detergent looked when it was finished. The recipe I used made about a gallon and a half. I put some in a little jar so I could take a picture of it...closeup...but I haven't done that yet.

Now that I have finished making this batch, I have stumbled upon another recipe that I will probably try next time. This recipe is from a blog called The Simple Dollar. I think this one is much easier to follow and this guy got brownie points with me because he tested the homemade laundry detergent against the commercial stuff. He actually had a control and got two shirts, squirted mustard on them, tried both the commercial and his homemade laundry detergent and....well, you have to read it yourself... It is here. Don't hate me after you read his instructions because his are so much clearer and easier to follow...but I guess it's a little too late to tell you that now...:/

Thanks for reading...Hope you try making your own laundry detergent soon!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cotton Pickin' Cotton or Cactus Jack

Well, if you were a cotton boll like one of the many millions in the field across the street from us, you might have thought that you were going to live forever. After all, you dodged the bullet with that last tropical storm that never came. You might have even been thinking that you had  nine lives like that proverbial cat with nine lives.

But, you would have been  wrong, because today the cotton pickin'cotton picker GOT YA! Sorry about that. So long, fellas...

But that reminds me...Today the choice of the day we make Cotton Pickin' White soap or Cactus Jack soap? I thought that in honor (memory) of the Cotton King bolls that were, we should have opted for Cotton Pickin' White soap, but I got overruled.

So, this day turned out to be Cactus Jack Soap Day...not a bad day to have, though...Cactus Jack soap is a lot of fun to make...and even though I wanted to put simulated "spines" on top and got overruled (again) and had to put cumin seeds instead, it was still a fun experience.

So, the first step was to measure the lye and mix it carefully with the water and let it cool down. While we waited for the lye mixture to reach the appropriate temperature,  we hunted for the elusive prickly pear cactus.  We scouted around the desert brush for hours, found some cacti, whacked off some pads and brought them home. We got a million cactus splinters all over our body, but...

OK, we didn't really do that...We went to the store and bought nopalitos (cactus) already despined, washed and ready to go...ho hum...But one day, I do want to go scouting around in the desert brush for hours and whack down some cactus...but I'll skip the part about the million cactus splinters all over my body...or maybe I'll have just one splinter... for effect...I don't know...No, on second thought, I'll just skip the whole splinters all over the body part.

So, then the cactus was pureed in a food processor and added to the lye/water mixture.  We left them both in the bowl together to fight it out awhile...They started out a little rowdy, but after awhile, they both calmed down...and there was peace in the cactus lye valley.

 Next, it was time to color the soap. This is one of my favorite parts.
We were trying to keep the soap as natural as possible, so we wanted to use a natural ingredient for coloring. We chose nettle powder. Nettle powder turns the soap a nice shade of green plus it has the added bonus of being good for the skin...

So, into the pot went the nettle and we blended it up. I really like the shade of green that it produced.

Next, we mixed the oils/butters. This particular recipe had olive oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, canola oil and lard. We heated the oil mixture to about 100 degrees.
Last, we blended everything together and added the fragrance. We choose bay/pepper/lime for this loaf. It really is a nice combination, an interesting treat for your nose..

We poured the creamy green concoction into the loaf mold and put the soap "to bed" to gel. The next day we cut the soap and placed it on the curing racks to cure. This soap was such fun to make and I really love the way it came out. I can't wait to try it!

Update: 4/2013
By the way, we did finally make the Cotton Pickin' Cotton soap, too!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Killer Coral and Rattler Red Soap

My husband's been rolling his eyes a lot again...He always does that when I have a new "crazy" idea. In fact, that's how I know I have a really GOOD idea...the more eye rolling I get, the better I figure the idea for me. ha

So, when I decided to make Killer Coral soap in honor of all the coral snakes in Texas, my husband gave me the ole roll of the eyes, so it was GAME ON for me...ha..Actually, he was a very good sport about the whole thing. He even helped me create the layers.

We wanted to use natural colorings as much as possible, so we experimented with natural oxides. So far, we like the look. I decided to use Night Blooming Jasmine as a scent, because I figure snakes and Night Blooming Jasmine are two things that come out at night..Cockroaches also come out at night, but we won't even go there...and I've been asked....but I digress...

So, we mixed up a batch of soap. This one had olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil and almond oil in it. When it had reached a very light trace, we divided it into three bowls-one for red, one for black and one for yellow. I wanted to make my soap know, get the colors in the right order....I figure I might actually save someone's life here....So, red and yellow kill a fellow, red and black, friend of Jack....Ok, I had to make sure to put the red and yellow colors together, so during the whole process, I was chanting like a and yellow kill a husband didn't even roll one eye...bless his heart...not even a slight twitch of that eyeball.
So, we got the three colors all mixed and began the tedious layering process...I'm more of a fling it down and hope it works kind of person and my husband is more of a let's measure this and calculate this and be very precise and methodical about this kind of person, so after a few minutes, I could tell I was making him nervous with my soap flinging, so I let him fling some....Ok, so the really straight parts, that's probably my husband's part and the other adds interest.

Killer Coral in the Loaf Mold

Killer Coral being Cut

Here goes the tomato juice
    Oh, and the Rattler Red? That was so fun! We made that red by using real tomato juice and also some brick red natural oxide...scented it with spicy citrus and lime..."We" decided to make it solid red...for now...But I really really REALLY want to tweak it and make it look more like a diamondback rattlesnake...yeah...I got a BIG eye roll for that one, so I KNOW I'm on to something....I'll keep you posted.                           

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Outlaw Bam! Bam! Bam

Now THIS is a soap I really like...Outlaw soap...complete with "bullet" holes...ha...Kind of makes me want to let loose and break all kinds of rules.. and it was fun to make the "bullet holes"...Well, my husband made most of them, but I helped out. And it was really hard to hit those tiny bars of soap with a 22...ha...not really..We used a metal tube and a hammer. BAM! BAM! BAM!

Casablanca Blah!

Well, there is a movie called Casablanca...and I hate it...hate hate hate it....It ranks right up there with cockroaches...Cockroaches still win, but I really don't like Casablanca...and, of husband likes it.
Now, this has never been a big bone of contention between us-until now...because of what he decided to do.

He decided that it would be charming to have a soap called Casablanca...I reminded him that I HATE HATE HATE Casablanca and would never want to have any soap named after it...So, he decided to put in the MAN section, you know, the section that I have little or no input in...and call it he did...and he even threw in some pumice for good measure.

Well, that should be all I say on the subject, but I'll say a few more words...First, I'll show you what it looks like.
There! Oh,'s beautiful...but I think it's ruined by being known as  Casablanca...sigh...

Do you like it? Go ahead and go to our web site ( and buy it then...See if I care...Why don't you just rent the movie while you're at it? Then, you can watch Casablanca and cry and watch some more and cry again and then you can wash your hands all night long...and your hands will be as clean as a whistle...and I will still hate Casablanca...
Sorry I just had to get that out of my system.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Chachalaca Chocolate Soap

 Here's a picture of the chocolate soap that I made the other day. I call it Chachalaca Chocolate. A chachalaca is a turkey-like bird that we have here in the Rio Grande Valley...and chocolate is...well..chocolate...and I'm fond of both of them, so I paired 'em up.
The bad part is....just looking at these bars makes me really have a hankering for chocolate...chocolate mousse to be exact. They look like chocolate mousse to me and they smell delightful....good enough to eat....but I can't...
But REAL chocolate that's a different story....except for this calorie counting thing I'm on...I'll bet there would be about a thousand calories in real chocolate mousse....sigh...
But I really want it....and...hmmm...I was thinking...about this calorie counting thing and all....hmmmm....I figure I'm getting real good at this calorie counting stuff....I reckon I could count way high by now...probably all the way up to one thousand...yep....maybe even higher...I'd do anything for chocolate...even strain my brain real hard...
Let's see...I've only had a bowl of oatmeal (counting in my head) oatmeal plus real chocolate mousse....hmmm. could work....of course I couldn't eat much else all day...oatmeal and chocolate mousse for my total daily fare? I could still be within my caloric goal. I've done worse, let me tell you...I've done much worse....might happen....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Double Trouble, Twice as Nice

Ok, so my husband and I decided that practicing the art of cooperation when making soap really is the best way to go...We get more done that way and we each get to be creative.

What we decided to do, instead of me making a batch of soap, for example, then cleaning everything up and then having hubby make a batch of soap, was to work smarter. So, we decided to get a super duper BIG bowl, make a double batch, mix it to a light trace, then divide the batter between us.

That way, each of could go along our merry way, so to speak, adding the scents, colors, herbs, etc. that we needed to create our own masterpiece-at the same time. Wasn't this brilliant? Yes, I know, we surprise even ourselves sometimes...If you have a big enough bowl, you can solve many problems, that's what I've learned go buy a big bowl...

My husband made some kind of "special" shaving soap that I'm not privy to know much about. He put it in two pcv pipes to set so the soap would be round. He decided to make it green vomit color, because that's the way he said "real" men like it...He wrapped it in a a couple of (my) towels, and a blanket, and "put it to bed". I think that's a soaper term, although sometimes I'd like to wrap him like that and "put him to bed"...ok, but I digress...

Now, I'm used to seeing weird things, especially in my kitchen (yes, I really said that) but even I had to do a double take when I walked in last night and saw his "babies"  all snug in their blanket "gelling" for the night. ha

Don't know what the belt was for...I just figure those "babies" better gel...or else...I mean, if I were them, I'd gel right fast...ha

Ok, so hubby made the shaving soap and I made Chacalaca Chocolate soap...A chachalaca is a turkey like bird that is native to our area, and chocolate is...well, the greatest thing on the I figured why not put those two suckers together, right? Well, not to eat or anything, but for soap...follow my thinking?  sure you do...we'll get you the help you need later...but for's a picture...
Ok, wait...I can't find a picture yet, so I'll show you what I made yesterday instead...Old news is still good, you know...
Yesterday, I made Chile con Queso soap...yes, it LOOKS just like Chile con Queso, but it SMELLS like citrus...How cool is that?
Ok, so who wins? Green Vomit Shaving soap with mysterious herbs or Chachalaca Chocolate? Ok, I realize now that you haven't actually SEEN either one of these, but that doesn't matter...Just make the determination based on the knowledge at hand...Come on...who wins?

Does it HAVE to be a contest, you ask? Of course, it does...It's always a contest, baby! And I want to win....Ok, I think I win...Look at the facts...I am here, up and at 'em...while he is still sleeping...Now, what kind of a father is that, I ask you? He doesn't even know if his "babies" survived the night...(They did...I checked) So, I think I win by default...yep...another one for me...So that's a million and one for ME and one for him...yeah, there was that time....