May 29, 2011

Squeaky Clean - Homemade Natural SOAPS & Cleaners

I can't wait to make my own cleaners of all kinds. And I'm not super crafty or even a great cook. I am just curious about something that I know can not not only make a big impact on the planet, but which I also happen to know is easy to do. Most household cleaners can be summed up in two ingredients: baking soda and white vinegar...the wonder components of household cleaning. Check out Care2's homemade non-toxic cleaning kit.

In fact, I recently used this wonder-duo on some super stinky stale laundry.  I'd inadvertently turned my load on and left it on soak...for five days!!! It was only by accident that I discovered the rank laundry when my husband cracked the lid to add some items to what he believed was an empty washing machine. When he opened the lid, I nearly lost my lunch.

After re-washing the clothes, then sun-drying them, they were no closer to being saved from certain death, until I decided to look up online what could be done...and wouldn't you know it, good old tried and true baking soda and vinegar were the two most mentioned solutions. I tried them. They worked like magic. My clothes came out scent free. The first time.

What I find a bit more complicated is soap. Soap is something I use a lot of, and so it's a product that can really reduce my footprint, if I can cut down on both its packaging and harmful chemicals. I looked into soap nuts, which seem a might too gentle for my cleaning tastes, and into making my own soaps from acid and base----Crikey! I don't have the time for that--soap making is a very slow and arduous process. While it could be worthwhile, there are other hobbies I'd rather take up, like guitar or tennis. Neither am I convinced it's significantly more economical or demands significantly less packaging, save for the possible exception of professional soap makers.

What I have found, though, that I'm very excited about is soap flakes. Once harder to come by, Soap Flakes are again available in the USA in compostable cardboard packaging (but be diligent, as they're also found in plastic bag packaging) and can be found online or locally in bulk (if you're lucky) at places like Whole Foods Market. Soap flakes can be used to make just about any kind of soap that one may desire, from hand to laundry. It can be customized in concentration and scent. In short, soap flakes are my new best friend. Visit soap flakes site to check out some great recipes. If you try them and you love or hate them, or have in the past, drop a comment. Are they really more economical? Let me know what you know.

Happy cleaning!

08/2011 UPDATE:
I lost interest in soap flakes, though if I find them reasonably priced in bulk, I may go for them. What I've discovered is it's usually much cheaper and not that much more trouble to simply grate your own flakes from bar soap. Additionally, most of the soap flakes I found were packaged in plastic. So, making flakes myself is just plain preferable.


  1. Ooooohhhh... soap flakes have been on my list of things to try forever. Have you actually used them yet?

    For a while I was doing all of my laundry by hand. (Long story and not nearly as laborious as it sounds since I used one of these: I used Zote bar soap with a vinegar rinse and got absolutely superior results.

    But, when the 1968 Kenmore was finally pronounced completely dead - as opposed to only nearly dead which it had been for some time, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase a fancy shmancy new washer. The new washer came with all sorts of dire warnings that if you use the wrong detergent you can ruin it, so I bought one small bottle of unscented Planet brand HE detergent and figured I'd buy myself some time to research the issue.

    Well, that was a year ago and I'm still only half way through the bottle, thanks mostly to the fact that the new washer is HUGE and it takes me nearly a month to fill it up!

    Soooo, I just wondered if you know anything about whether soap flakes are safe to use on the new high efficiency machines. I'm also curious about your baking soda and vinegar load... did you them both in at the beginning, or did you put the vinegar in during the rinse cycle?

    Sorry to write such long comments... brevity is not my forte! :)

  2. Ahhh...I have it on virgin order, so I have not used it and simply presume it will work well for any type of washer as long as it's mixed to a low sud/gentle soap-i-ness and mixed with other laundry appropriates like baking soda or oxygen brighteners and the like.

    But I'm hardly an expert. And my washer isn't a fancy new one or even a front facing.

    I used the baking soda both in the wash cycle and the rinse and the vinegar in the rinse cycle. Love those results. I heeded a warning not to use too much, as it can apparently leave its own vinegary scent, but my load was fab :)