Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Laundry Soap Search and a Review

Okay - so I couldn't think of a good title.

Since we moved here I have had to really work on my homemade laundry recipe. I have been having the hardest time finding the bar soap to grate. I have been all over town and have had 3 options.
I hate this soap. Now, I don't like to use that word....but I really hate this soap. The smell makes me want to run the other direction. And it doesn't clean worth a flip with our water. So, I spent 2 months trying to find something other than this soap all over town. Ugh. Cost is about $2 per bar...just a bit under actually.
I did finally find Zote a place or two. I do like a second. I like to combine it with Lirio. But I can't find Lirio here. And I wasn't happy with how it worked on its own. Cost is about $1.50 a bar.
I found this at the Asian grocery store. Love the smell and it works okay. Just okay. Combined with the Zote it does a decent job....not as good as with the Lirio, but better than anything else I could find in my area. Cost is $.99 per pack of two. Very affordable. The only thing is that it does not list any ingredients. I have NO IDEA what is in this soap. Since part of the reason I make my own soap is my toxic load, this bothers me.
My FAV!!! When I took a trip to Texas a couple of months ago I grabbed a bunch of it and mailed it home to myself (I was traveling carry-on only.). It's about $1.50 a bar...but then I found it at a dollar store near my sister-in-laws apartment - hence the box full I sent home. Except the shipping was like $12. ?????? No way. So much for being affordable...that added like a dollar per bar to my cost.

So, during all of this searching for the right soap, I noticed that my favorite body/hand soap maker had an old fashioned lye soap. I wondered if this would work. After all....what did the pioneers use? And they got really dirty. Or stinky. For real outdoor chores and no air conditioning. Shudder!

So I emailed Amy at Great Cakes Soapworks and asked her if she had ever used it in a homemade laundry detergent.

She had not.

I told her why I was asking and she VERY GENEROUSLY offered to send me the bars so I could try it out...if I would do a review when I was done with it.

This is about $2.95 a bar if I remember correctly. Pure, good stuff I am not afraid to use with our various skin problems. (None of us have a problem with lye.)

So, I made a triple batch to make sure and give it a few months to really test it.
I gathered my usual ingredients. Washing Soda, Borax, bar soap and an oxygen cleaner.
Large bowl, Container to store detergent in (the recipe is on the inside of my lid of the bucket (with scoop - its actually an ice bucket) I found for $1.99. You also need a food processor to make all this fine.
Grate up all your soap and put it in the big bowl. Now add the other powders to it.
From here I am going to put scoops back into the processor to process the powder and grated soap together to get a finer finished product.
If you use the oxygen powder make sure you stand back when you remove the lid. It gets "smokey" and you don't want to breath a lungful of that stuff. Trust me.
Finished product. I like the grated soap to be pretty fine as I use more cold water than anything.

So my thoughts on the Lye soap:

1. It was a drier soap than the others so it crumbled up really well when processed. That just made it easier.

2. It has no smell - no perfume. I really liked this when I made it as perfume smells bother me.

3. It dissolved just fine in cold water....didn't have any residue on the darks.

4. Cleaned as well as the Zote. Not quite as well as the Lirio/Zote combination. MM got lotion all over my bedspread and I washed it with this soap. It did not come out on the first wash (not pre-treated) and was almost gone the second. The next wash should take it all out. That's about what I would expect from most of my soaps without a pre-treat.

At first I really liked that it had no smell. But after about a month I began missing the "clean laundry" smell. You know what I mean? And at about month two I began to notice that since there was no smell already on the clothes...they started to pick up body odors quicker. This was a little then I got to thinking about the stink that is in our clothes but covered up by the perfume smell. Hmm. Kinda gross when you think about it. But, I think I'd rather have the cover-up smell.

So, after 3 months my bucket was empty.

The soap cleaned as well or better than everything I've tried except my Lirio/Zote mix. I'd rate it #2.

The lack of smell/perfume ended up being a down side instead of a plus.

Dollar wise it is the most expensive of my options, especially when you add in price plus shipping. This wouldn't have been an issue if it worked the best because I am more interested in keeping out all the chemicals than the actual cost.

Would I recommend it? Yes - as worth giving a try. If you are worried about chemicals it is worth seeing if it works well with your water. I don't recommend it if you are looking for the cheapest alternative is not that.

And there you have it. A big thank you to Amy for supplying the soap and letting me give this a try.

I HAVE to find myself a supplier for the Lirio.

Luckily I'll be heading to Texas in June and will be able to pick up a bunch more...without having to ship it this time.

If you have a different brand of soap or recipe that you'd like to share with me, I'm still up to experimenting -- send it my way!


  1. I use almost the same recipe but have always used Ivory soap. You can buy it anywhere and very cheap! And I love the natural smell of it. I make mine liquid though.... I am sure it would work in a powder also.

  2. Cool! I'll take second place! I'm so glad to know how this works! So the next best thing would be to add some sort of scent and lower the price. I'm actually out of the lye soap at the moment. Planning to make more next week and this one doesn't require any curing time. Perhaps I'll add a little essential oil. I've heard orange is good for laundry.

  3. Since I got my recipe from Carrie, I also make a liquid. I have not ever heard of Oxygen cleaner. What is that for/how does that help?
    I think that the powder sounds sort of helpful - it would take up less room. Thanks for the review. It has given me some ideas to mull over.

  4. I have yet to make my own laundry detergent, I really want to give it a try. Thanks for this post, gave me a lot to think about.

  5. I know that Amy made her Lye Soap with LARD (animal fat), and that's the way the Pioneer's made it, BUT couldn't you just as well use vegetable oil, or nut oils, etc.?? We have so many options these days, it doesn't seem necessary to use animal fat, just because that's the way "they used to make it"! Just a thought!! SCENT IDEA - how about Rose Geranium?? I love the smell of roses on my sheets!

  6. Go with a good old fashioned cold process soap for your base (Like Amy's). I make a Lavender soap that contains Olive oil, Coconut Oil and Lavender EO (the lye is gone thru a process called saponification) and it's nice to know that I'm not damaging the environment or wearing my detergent. All the store bought brands mentioned have either 'optical brighteners' (google "optical brighteners laundry detergent" and you will probably decide like I did to stay away from them), ingredients you can't even start to pronounce (Fels), or a high concentration of environment damaging phosphorus (Lirio... hence why it's so hard to find... it's been banned in many states).

  7. See - I'm so glad I posted this. The whole learn something new every day....

    First, I never stopped to consider the animal fat in lye soap. Just never crossed my mind. So, a soap with a vegetable oil is a friendlier choice on that level.

    And the Lirio? No idea it had phosphorus in it. That would be because the ones I buy have Spanish writing....which would make sense if we aren't allowing them in many states here. Hmmmmmmm. Now I'm crushed since it was my fav. Wonder if the recipe is any different coming from another many don't allow the things we do. But with my luck it would be just the opposite.

    I think I'll give the Ivory a try next go around. Maybe that will work for me.

    Keep the ideals and lessons coming friends!

  8. I use Ivory in mine (liquid/gel). Also, I add nearly a half ounce of tea tree oil and lavender oil (EO) to my batches. They have natural deodorizing/antifungal/antibacterial properties and contribute to a better clean. It's funny because with my recipe my clothes come out smelling line dried fresh even thru the dryer! :)

  9. I use Kirk's Castile Soap. It works great. I found it at Kroger.

  10. I make lye soap, mill five-pound soap loaves with a tool that is similar to a wood plane and I save all the soap trimmings. Once the trimmings have dried for a few days, I put them in a salad shooter and cut them into flakes to be sold as laundry soap to make a liquid detergent. I also have a different formula made just for use in the laundry, it crumbles into a powder very easily.

    There are so many people who are allergic to perfumes in laundry detergent, now I have long term customers for my unscented soap. There is some free recipes on my website

    There is a lot of concern of using chemicals: I prefer SUN brand Oxygen Cleaner, it is cheap and it works well, Washing Soda is not available where I live and I can only get it from a pool supply store and its not very cheap. The Borax is available from Wal-Mart, Food-Lion and some other retailers for a decent price.

    I use 2 oz of dry soap for each gallon of liquid, otherwise it is too thick to use and the lye soap does separate in the container, give the jug a shake and you are ready to wash clothes. I have been using liquid laundry soap for several years and I do not remember just how expensive laundry actually was.

  11. Lirio does not have phosphorus in it. You can continue to use your favorite. It used to, like most laundry products.