As many conversations do, it began with a status update on Facebook.  “I feel like such a pioneer woman,” I’d noted one Saturday afternoon, “cooking up laundry soap on my stove.  Just call me Ma Ingalls.”  And with this simple proclamation, there it went, women from Idaho to Pennsylvania to Ohio lighting up my wall, asking questions and exchanging recipes.

Over the years, our four boys have been responsible for the biggest transfer of real estate in the civilized world.  As in the dirt that comes into my back room on their sneakers, jeans, and T’s from those three acres out back.  “They need dirt,” I’d told my husband during the years we’d lived in town, squished onto a city lot the size of a potholder.  “They need a garden to weed and a lawn to mow.”

And dirt they got.  Then, the aforementioned real-estate transfer and the purchase of a large-capacity, front-load washer and dryer set capable, per the manufacturer, of washing 16 pairs of jeans at a time.  (And, if you’re desperate, two medium-sized boys.)

Oddly enough, it was at a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting where my husband, Mr. Finance, was speaking about budgets, that he himself picked up a tip or two on saving money.  That morning, someone shared a recipe for making one’s own laundry soap, and he brought it home.  Knowing what it was costing to “clean up my world,” he said, “I think you should try this,” and he handed it over.

That was a couple of years ago.  Now, buckets and buckets of homemade detergent later, and with hundreds of dollars (I’m sure of it) in savings, I’m happily making up soap.  And, yes, cleaning up my world, one pair of jeans at a time.

I’m so glad I mentioned it to my friends, for not only did I learn that many other families are saving money this way, but I got a new recipe out of the deal.  Following is the recipe I’ve been using plus the powdered one given by a friend.  I hope you’ll find these helpful in your own efforts at grime fighting and cleaning up your own corner of the world.

Laundry Soap
1 bar Fels Naptha, grated
1 cup Borax
1 cup Arm & Hammer washing soda

Grate soap into saucepan with 12 cups water.  Heat until soap melts.  Add Borax and soda, stirring until dissolved.  Pour 8 cups hot water into a 5-gallon bucket, add soap mix, and stir.  Add another 44 cups of water and combine.  I pour this into four ice cream buckets.  Let this cool and set for 12-24 hours.  Use 1/2 cup per load.  If desired, you can add an essential oil, like lavendar, for a fresh, clean scent.

Powdered Laundry Soap
3 bars Fels Naphtha, grated
1 box Arm & Hammer washing soda
1 box Borax
1 4-lb. box Arm & Hammer baking soda
1 big box OxiClean

Mix and store in a 5-gallon bucket with a lid.  Use 1.5 to 2 T (3 T. for heavily soiled loads).

Note:  These are both very low suds and are safe for front-load machines.

Rhonda Schrock lives in Northern Indiana with her husband and 4 sons, ages 22, 18, 13, and 5. By day, she is a telecommuting medical transcriptionist. In the early morning hours, she flees to a local coffee shop where she pens “Grounds for Insanity,” a weekly column that appears in The Goshen News. She is an occasional guest columnist in The Hutch News.  She’s also blogged professionally for her son’s school of choice, Bethel College, in addition to humor and parenting blogs, and maintains her personal blog, “The Natives are Getting Restless.” She is a writer and editor for the magazine, “Cooking & Such:  Adventures in Plain Living.”  She survives and thrives on prayer, mochas, and books.

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