I consider myself a fairly green cleaner. Not like some weird version of Molly Maid that only dresses in shades of emerald (that'd be weird), but I do my bit. The floors are washed with vinegar and hot water (thanks Mom!), and the BF even scrubs the bathtub with baking soda on a regular basis. I'm phasing known toxins out of my personal care routine, too for an added bonus. But, it wasn't enough. I needed a bigger challenge. Something to really let me earn my patchouli-scented hippie stripes. And, since I haven't heard the BF comment on how cleaning the house with vinegar makes him crave chips in a while (salt and vinegar, om-nom-nom!), I figured the time was ripe to green my laundry...or at least my laundry detergent.
I've seen a couple recipes floating around, many of which involve ingredients I've never heard of or have know idea where to find (or both). NotHannah, over on her wonderful blog I'm Not Hannah wrote a great post about her forays into home-made laundry detergent, but it involves Fels Naptha soap which I a) had never heard of previously and b) consequently found out may be a bit toxic in it's own right, and most importantly c) couldn't be bothered to go looking for it. Anything slightly odd-sounding is generally difficult to find out here unless you want to drive 2 hours into the city.
Anyways, I found a series of recipes on the David Suzuki Queen of Green blog and I was all like "Sweet! I know what these are won't have to drive to Calgary to get them!" There's a whole PDF of various cleaning methods (which you can find here) which say they have all been tested by the Queen of Green herself. Lovely. So we know this will turn out. (Ha!)
I decided to follow the instructions for the first one, the liquid laundry detergent. For those of you who didn't open the PDF, it goes as follows:
7L of water
1c of soap granules
1/2 c washing soda
1/2 c borax
20 drops essential oil (optional)
It seems a little weird to add that much water when it's all going to go into a washing machine full of water, but whatever. I dutifully measure out my one liter of water into a saucepan and heat it up, while dissolving my soap granules and making sure the whole darn thing doesn't bubble all over the stove. I fill up my mop bucket with the remaining 6L of water, measuring exactly, and mixing in the remaining elements. I pour the hot soapy water in the bucket, give it a stir and feel very pleased with myself and my laundry-detergent-making abilities. Lookit me! I'm so awesome and independent! I don't need mass-produced toxic laundry detergent, I'll make it myself! 7 liters at a time!
7 liters at a time? uh-oh. My brain slowly starts churning and putting 2 and 2 together. Somehow in this VERY simple process, I failed to realize that 7 liters of water on the ingredients list would make this batch at least as large. My plan was to re-purpose my old laundry detergent bottle (Reduce! Reuse! Go me!) which is only 2.4 L. Balls. Well, at least I can pour some of it in there for now until I can find containers for the rest. A pickle jar and yogurt container are rescued from the recycling bin and I begin to pour... well, "pour" is not the exact word. See that bit on the instructions where it says "Soap will gel as it cools?" Apparently it cools rather quickly. And "liquid" laundry detergent is a bit of a misnomer - my super awesome green cleaning power detergent has now reached the consistency of very thick hair conditioner. I can coax it into the wide-mouthed pickle jar and yogurt containers, but there ain't no way it's fitting in that teensy-tiny opening on the detergent bottle. Double Balls.
So here I am with a bottle of Straub's Kosher Dills and Strawberry Activia detergent, and a whole other 6 liters of lavender-scented goop sitting in my mop bucket. This bucket which I now need to wash the floors after my kitchen chemistry experiment (soap flakes go EVERYWHERE). I called up a friend that I was going to meet for dinner, and all she could offer me was an empty wine bottle. I would have been better off with a full one, I think. Preferable a nice white from New Zealand. But then, in a stroke of genius, I thought of the person who introduced me to white wine from New Zealand! The BF! an honourary Kiwi himself! Who conveniently works at a hotel with many MANY restaurants that would totally have large leftover food buckets from the kitchens!
By the time he brought a bucket home from work many hours later, my laundry detergent had become laundry jello. Very, very thick laundry jello. We precariously shook it out of one bucket and into the other and somehow managed to get the near-solid all in without making a gigantic mess. I tried it out the next day, and it seems to work just dandy, although you really do have to put it in the washer first and let the water run for a bit to dissolve it before putting the laundry in.
Here's the kicker though. After going through this entire process, I happened to take a look at the powdered laundry soap recipe on the other side of the page as it was stuck to my fridge. It's the exact same, minus those stupid 7 liters of water.