Laura Ingalls Laundry Soap

If someone had stopped by my house Friday afternoon,  they would have found me, hovering over a pot  of sudsy water, with a huge wooden spoon while vapours of fresh soap steamed up all the windows.

“Come on in,” I would have said, pushing my long braids out of my face, “I’m just making up a big batch of laundry soap fer the washing. Set yourself down and I’ll go out to the pump and get some water to make coffee. Do you mind keeping your eye on the fire for a minute?”

Let’s be honest: making your own laundry soap sounds a bit too “Little House on the Prairie” for most of us to attempt. But  it’s actually a fast, and really fun science project, done in 1/2 an hour thanks to modern conveniences. Of course the real point of making it is not to play chemist in the kitchen, but to save big bucks. Here’s the break down:

I buy tide because I’m brand loyal. I just like it. It costs me $34.96  for a 96-load jug

This Laura Ingles soap costs me exactly a tenth of the price:  $3.45 for 96 loads. And I’m suddenly not so brand loyal.

This recipe is adapted from one I got from my almost-sister-in-law Michelle Young. (Meghan’s real-sister-in-law)

I found everything I needed at Fred Meyer for a total of $13. I’d imagine Wal-mart, Target or any big chain store will have the ingredients.

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Total investment was $13

Here’s what you need:
– 1 bar of soap (whatever kind you like; I used a white bar of Ivory soap because I had it around, and I liked the smell)
– 1 box of washing soda (look for it in the laundry detergent aisle – it comes in an Arm & Hammer box and will contain enough for six batches of this stuff)
– 1 box of borax (this is not necessary, but I’ve found it really kicks the cleaning up a notch – one box of borax will contain more than enough for tons of batches of this homemade detergent)
– A five gallon bucket with a lid (this is the most expensive part, but of course you’ll only buy it once)

– Three gallons of tap water
– A big spoon to stir the mixture with
– A measuring cup
– A knife

This soap (the pile on the cutting board) isn't chopped finely enough-- I went back and turned it almost into a powder.
This soap (the pile on the cutting board) isn’t chopped finely enough– I went back and turned it almost into a powder.

Step One:Put about four cups of water into a pan on your stove and turn the heat up on high until it’s almost boiling. While you’re waiting, whip out a knife and chop up your bar of soap as finely as you can. The finer the pieces, the less time you will be waiting for it to disolve in the water. Add the soap gradually, stirring into the hot water until the soap is dissolved and you have some highly soapy water.

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Disolving the soap…

Step Two: Put three gallons of hot water (11 liters or so) into the five gallon bucket – the easiest way is to fill up three gallon milk jugs worth of it. Then mix in the hot soapy water from step one, stir it for a while, then add a cup of the washing soda. Keep stirring it for another minute or two, then add a half cup of borax if you are using borax. Stir for another couple of minutes, then let the stuff sit overnight to cool.

Make sure there are no little lumps of undisolved soap.
Make sure there are no little lumps of undisolved soap.

Adding the washing soda.
Adding the washing soda.

And you’re done. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll have a bucket of gelatinous slime that’s a paler shade of the soap that you used (in my case it was just clear, since I used white soap). One measuring cup full of this slime will be roughly what you need to do a load of laundry. I used this much for a large load and was happy with the results.

So go braid your hair and get to work! This economy might just turn any one of us into Laura Ingllas.

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7 Responses to Laura Ingalls Laundry Soap

  1. Meghan says:

    Very funny post, Caitlin. Right now I feel pretty acomplished if I get laundry done at all.

  2. becky says:

    You are a girl after my own heart. I have a whole batch of new fresh soap drying on the dining room buffet right now! Can we do some swappin? Actually, I also have the perfect picture to go with your post…it just happens to be on my blog so how about using this for a guest post? Oh, it should have been Little “Hippy on the Prairie”, but that fits ME better:-) Love you!

  3. Shari says:

    I’m a faithful follower of the Pink Peppers……I admire your writing talent, your love of a good book and many other wonderful things you’ve blogged about and as I’ve mentioned before…thanks to you gals I’ve tried many things you’ve written about BUT…….I’m sticking with the BIG box of soap I get at Costco…..just can’t wrap my braids around soap making!!! I did, however, LOVE reading about it. Shari

  4. Terri says:

    This is, I think, a young gal fling.

    I once upon a time made candles in my own candle mold purchased from Fort Clatsop home to Lewis & Clark on winter, made soap (from rendered fat- totally not recommended!), took a fleece and spun it on my very own spinning wheel, knitted with the wool and felted hats and made corduroy pants and dress shirts for my husband.

  5. Emeth Hesed says:

    Wow, Caitlin! You make being frugal look like so much fun! I’ve always wanted to make my own soap but didn’t know how and didn’t really get around to finding out. I’m going to try this. I can’t believe how cheap it is! Dave Ramsey would be so proud of you. LOL.

  6. Erin says:

    I thought of you, Shari, when I saw this post. I truly wondered how far you’d go. Now I guess we know. I’m just wondering if it works…. pretty attached to Tide myself.

  7. Mystie says:

    $35 for 96 loads! At that price, I’d be all over this, too. With a $13 for 200 loads at Costco option, though, I think I’ll just save this in “interesting recipes.” :)

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