Small Town Simple

The Simplicity Adventures of a Mother and Daughter

Laundry Day

For some time now I have made my own laundry detergent.  I determined that it didn’t consume much time, it was more economical than purchasing manufactured detergent and I like the fact that every so often I was not throwing an empty plastic jug into a landfill.  And the really big upside is that I know what is in my detergent!  I should make clear that I use a top loading washing machine.  The detergent I make would not work in a front loading machine.  But a small batch would be really good for hand laundry or anything else that needs some soapy water.

The recipe:

  • 2 cups of grated ivory soap
  • 1 cup borax
  • 1 cup washing soda




That’s it.  The only tool it requires is a spice grinder, which I recommend you use one for only this purpose.  I don’t know a soul who wants their coffee beans tasting like soap!  I simply grate up two cups of ivory soap (approximately two small bars), add the washing soda and borax,  scoop into the blender and grind into a powder.  A full load of laundry needs 1/4 cup of soap.  Typically, I double the recipe simply because my container will hold a double batch.  Even if this sounds complicated or time consuming I thought it would be interesting to recall what a typical laundry day was for women (and yes, it was women) at the turn of the 20th century…

  • clothes were sorted based on color, fabric and soil and put into separate tubs of soapy water the night before laundry day (typically Monday) to soak.
  • the following morning the water was drained, the tubs refilled with warm water and the clothes were washed by hand with bar soap with a washboard,
  • anxother rinse, then the clothes were boiled, moved into a tub filled with a bluing agent, another tub if starch was used and then, finally, those wet, HEAVY clothes were ready for the clothes line.   (from:  Never Done: A History of American Housework by Susan Strasser)

Where’s the line that she collapsed in complete exhaustion after a day of laundry?  And guess what she did on Tuesday?  Yep, ironed all those clothes.  So taking about 10-15 minutes to make my own detergent?  So easy!

xo, Carolyn



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