Happy Natural Sudsing!
There are so many reasons to make your own laundry soap. Not only is it cheaper to make soap in bulk, you end up with a product that is free of chemical perfumes, dyes, or sudsing agents that do nasty things to your skin, and our waterstream. And for an added benefit, re-filling an old laundry bottle with your new homemade soap is a great way to cut down on plastic consumption.
What’s not to love?
There are four ways to go when it comes to making your own all-natural laundry soap. Here’s a brief outline of what to consider.
Store bought biodegradable brand
Pro: This is great if you’ve got the money and don’t have the time to make your own soap. Also, it’s wonderful to support a business that creates eco-friendly products.
Con: When you buy liquid soap from the store, a lot of what you’re paying for is water, shipping, and packaging. Water is heavy, hence the more expensive shipping, and higher carbon footprint.
Made of Fels Naptha soap, washing soda, and borax. A powdered version is easier than the liquid version, but I prefer the liquid kind because I think it dissolves better in the cold wash water. The liquid version does require you to do some stirring to melt the power in warm water and ladle the soap into containers.
Pro: The cheapest way to make soap by far. I got a kit online from www.soapsgonebuy.com for about $20 and it’s been making gallons and gallons of soap for pennies. Less plastic containers are used because you can keep making the soap in bulk and refilling old containers. Less gas is used because the dry ingredients weigh much less than liquid ingredients.
Con: Fels Naptha soap is petroleum based and contains Stoddard solvent, which is an irritant. This is definitely not the most natural way to go, but it is the cheapest. Also you do have to spend some time and energy making this soap.
Homesteader Soap w/ Castile Soap
This recipe also uses washing soda and borax, but the Fels Naptha is replaced with a castile soap like Dr. Bronner’s.
Pro: Castile soap is made with vegetable based oils instead of animal tallow or petroleum based solvents. Vegan! This method also uses less plastic packaging because you can keep making the soap in bulk and refilling old containers.
Con: Liquid Dr. Bronner’s can be expensive, and what you’re paying for is mainly water and shipping. It’s cheaper to grate the solid bars of soap yourself and melt them into water, but that does require some work.
See this elephant article by Sarah Miller for more information on soap nuts.
Pro: Definitely the most natural way to go. The used soap berries can even be composted after you use them. A multi-use liquid soap can be made with the berries for the dishwasher, as a shampoo for dandruff control, or even mixed with water and Neem oil as a pest repellant. They’re also surprisingly cheap.
Con: You will probably have to do a little online searching to order these soap nuts, since they haven’t yet hit the mainstream. You might have to deal with a lot of questions from doubtful family members and friends. But there’s really not a lot of Cons with this method!
And that’s it! Choose the method you prefer, and happy natural sudsing!
Aliza Sollins is an urban homesteader in Baltimore City, MD. Her adventures in vermicomposting, canning, container gardening, knitting and other sustainability projects can be found at her blog.
Here are some photos from a recent soap-making party.