Do millions of loads of washing in a year* and spend less than $10!
If we are friends on Facebork, you have probably noticed that I do a lot of washing. I talk about it sometimes. I talk about the weather and whether the washing is drying. I talk about the pile of washing on the laundry floor from two weeks of rain. I talk about flooding the laundry. And sometimes, like at this time of year, I talk about how it is too warm to have a fire, but too lame outside to dry the washing. Really, I talk too much about the washing.
But one thing I do not talk about is my laundry liquid. The other day I was looking aimlessly at washing detergents at Commonsense and their stated minimal impact on the environment and the number of washes you would get from the amount of detergent. All for a ridiculous price! Ridiculous, as in, unaffordable for my household and most likely many others. Which is why, I suppose, the benefits to the environment were stressed, as well as the number of washes for the price. I’m not really one for spending extraordinary amounts of money on things that should be cheap and straightforward. And my general experience of products ‘green’ is that they will try to trick you into thinking this is the only way to be green. In actual fact, whatever you want to do, there is bound to be a homemade recipe on the internet. And it probably involves vinegar and/or baking soda.
My laundry liquid does not involve either of those things, actually, but baking soda and vinegar do make up my stain removing bag of tricks (soak in water and baking soda, vinegar in the rinse cycle). Laundry liquid is almost as simple – soap flakes and washing soda. What I do is bring a litre of water to the boil, fill a bucket with eight litres of hot water from the tap, dissolve half a cup of Lux soap flakes (or you can grate a nice bar of soap) in the boiling water, add half a cup of washing soda and stir to dissolve. Then you take the pot off the heat, pour in the rest of the water, stir it around and then pour it back into the bucket. I do that little bit of back and forth with the water so that I don’t have to scrape out the pot with a rubber scraper or anything. You then leave the bucket overnight and it will have set into a white jelly. Then you use half a cup of this jelly sludge in a load of washing.
I often use a few drops of tea tree oil, always with the tea towels and sometimes with smelly things. I did once try adding essential oils to the bucket, but found it didn’t make any difference to the smell. You should just add drops to each load you do. Because that is something I haven’t mentioned yet – if you like your clothes to smell like washing detergent, you probably won’t like this method. In that case, you are welcome to pay for the smell of your favourite brand. I personally like the fresh, non-perfumed crispness of the washing, especially when it comes off the washing line. It doesn’t smell yucky, and it doesn’t fell yucky. That can only be a good thing if you’re a little baby with delicate skin or a grown up with allergies to any and all synthetic fragrances. And some adults’ skin is sensitive to soap powder, so there you have my family in a nutshell. And not a soap nut in sight.
As for the environmental impact, well, that I’m not so certain on. The box of washing soda lists a wide variety of uses, and says they contain ‘no phosphates, enzymes or bleach, making them environmentally safe’. And soap? Soap is normal… right? Here is where I come undone, but with plans to experiment. My earlier mention of flooding the laundry was no exaggeration – we have the option of either running the water from the machine through the sink and into the septic tank, or into the downpipe which comes out under the deck. The landlord looked at the downpipe, declared it dodgy and recommended I run the water into the septic tank (the reason for the downpipe being that a lot of people don’t like to overload their septic tank with water). But after a few mishaps of leaving things to soak in the laundry sink, then turning on the washing machine and later finding a puddle advancing down the hallway led me to believe that the perceived dodginess of the downpipe was probably from repeated flooding of the laundry by misfits such as me.
But hey! It’s a hodge-podge greywater system! So I’m going to make a garden beside the deck, fill it with thirsty plants (maybe artichokes too) and see if they flourish. My basic theory on the laundry liquid I make is that it is so diluted it’s impact must be minimal, but let’s test that one out. Let’s see if we can grow cucumbers that taste like cucumbers. And not like soap. BUT if you have a laundry liquid recipe that actually feeds your garden without damaging the planet, whilst ticking all my clean clothes requirements, you should leave a comment…
*This ‘year’ thing is unscientifically proven. I last bought washing soda crystals sometime in 2010 and still have half a box, while the box of Lux flakes was purchased in January of this year and the previous box purchased in September 2009. Plus we had flatmates last year…