As we travel around the US in our RV, we look for ways to save money and space since we only have limited quantities of either commodity. The second issues is that we are preppers and are always on the lookout for ways to save and store items in an efficient manner. No matter where you go or what you are doing, clothes get dirty and clothes washing of some form must be done. This assumes that if you are reading this you are not a nudist—but then even nudist wash towels, linens, etc. I have an issue with some of the commercial laundry products on the market—they have a number of added ingredients in them that seem to irritate my skin and many leave a residue on my clothes. I always use a lesser amount that what the manufacturer says, yet my clothes come out clean and fresh smelling. When you are outside in hot and humid weather, you need your clothing clean and ready to breathe.
We were recently helping some people with an outside building project when it started to shower down a light rain. Soap bubbles appeared on the man’s shirt as the rain drops dampened the material. More and more signs of detergent residue were evident as the shirt became rain drenched as we continued to work and then the rain stopped. The sun came out and we continued to work. He took off his shirt and hung it on a nearby tree branch to dry. As it dried, you could see soap residue developing over the plaid pattern in a chalky white waves. This soap build-up happens a lot in our society. A friend, who owns a coin laundry facility, told me that most people could do a load of their clothes without putting in any soap powder and their clothes would come out clean. She said this is due to two factors. One is that people over soap the laundry load—the old more is better theory! And the other is that commercial laundry detergent makers put other ingredients in their products that cling to the fibers of our clothing—stuff that really doesn’t help clean dirty clothes. These two things make it hard to properly rinse clothes in a machine. Most individuals today take their laundry load and place it into a dryer. This just dries the residues into the weave of the fabric and hardens it. That is trapped material that keeps fabrics from ventilating properly. It pretty much makes a fabric a solid surface against your skin! We wondered, how could we get our clothes clean and the fibers opened up again?
So, we got the idea to try and make our own recipe of laundry soap and use the right amount of it to get our clothes clean. When we first set out to make our own homemade laundry detergent we thought it would be difficult and a time consuming task– turns out we were wrong. In fact, making your own laundry soap is fast, easy, and inexpensive when compared to the commercial products. The internet search lead us to several recipes, but two basic recipes that produced liquid or powder forms of laundry soap seemed to surface. My Aunt makes her liquid form and swears by its efficiency. But the drawback is that it makes a large batch and I don’t know how it will do for long term storage.
We opt for powder over liquid due to cost of materials, easy storage, and simplicity (the liquid variety takes longer to make, requires more storage space, and is more complicated to produce). I know that there are recipes that call for other ingredients, but I like to stick to the basics. People report putting in rinsing agents, perfumes, and other cleansers to their soap. If your skin can tolerate these items, then I say go for it. Since we use different water sources in different locations, I do vary the routine by either adding a little more of the powder in hard water or adding about ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse. Either way, those adjustments will not make our skins break out in a rash. And I rarely need to put bleach in the wash—even for whites.
Now, time to assemble the ingredients. This powdered detergent recipe simply requires three easy to find in most supermarkets ingredients and takes only a few minutes to whip up. The good part is that it works in all types of machines, the top loaders, front loaders, High Efficiency (HE) machines, and the dual washer/dryer combo found in many RVs.
Each batch yields approximately 32 ounces (between 32-64 loads based on how many Tbsps. used per load).
1 4.5 oz. bar of Ivory Soap
2 cups of Super Washing Soda
2 cups of Borax
Microwave your Ivory Soap for 60-90 seconds – YUP, microwave! Just be aware that you need a full sized microwave. We borrowed a friend’s microwave because the RV microwave is a mini model. The soap expands big time. Alternately, you can use a box grater to grate up the soap. Either way, you need to have the bar soap in oatmeal size pieces for the next step.
Although it looks soft and edible, sort of like cool whip, it is actually an unexpected consistency – dry and brittle – and it will process in a blender or food processor without over working your equipment.
If you are sensitive to smells, work in a confined space, or dislike dust, you might want to consider doing this outside. We were working on a rainy day. Even though it is a dust producing procedure, the after aroma makes your home smell like clean linen.
Put 2 cups of Washing Soda and the soap (you might have to break up bigger clumps) in your blender or food processor and pulse until blended well. Add 2 cups of Borax (here again, break up any clumps) and blend again until well mixed powder is evident. Let the dust settle a minute before you open the lid. The processor produces a fine powder mixture. It reminds me of baby powder.
Your final product will be a nice, fluffy white powder. This detergent smells of Ivory soap and works well at cleaning soiled clothing. We store it in a glass jar. We find that glass jars do well to keep out moisture and varmints. In the south, roaches thrive on soap and will eat through paper to get to it. This jar holds about 40 – 80 loads worth of detergent! Alternately you can use a #10 tin can or plastic container.
Use 1 Tbsp per load (or 2-3 Tbsps. for large or heavily soiled loads or if the water source is hard). It isn’t going to suds up while cleaning like commercial products do. For front loaders or those machines with soap drawers, it is best to deposit your powder on top of your load of clothing. It will get mixed properly. If you are at a commercial laundry facility and must use a dispenser, just mix your powder with a cup of water and pour it in the tray.
Note on ingredients: you can substitute whatever ingredients you are comfortable with. Try the ingredients for sensitivity first before combining. Some people may have a skin reaction or allergy to individual ingredients. If you don’t have a negative reaction to the individual ingredients, you probably won’t have an adverse reaction to the combination of them. Many people cannot afford natural soaps, while some others make their own. Whatever you do, remember that others have their own preference and it’s ok to experiment with new products and methods. Some people like the smell of lavender or coconut oil. You can add those things and it will still probably work out ok. Brands I’ve learned about of commonly used bar soaps include Pure & Natural®, Fels-Naptha® and/or ZOTE®. Both ZOTE® and Fels-Naptha® are made for and sold as “laundry bar soap.” If you’re looking for a pure, natural solution you’ll need to go with a handcrafted, castile, or milled soap so you can be sure of its ingredients.
More Dry Laundry Soap
Do you know the ingredients in your laundry detergent? Look on the label.....Mine at least doesn't even list any.
I make my own with Borax, Washing soda (NOT baking soda), bar soap, oxiclean and scent crystals (totally optional but the smell so good!).
Recipe: 3 cups Borax 3 cups Washing Soda 1 bar Zote soap (14ish oz) or equivalent Fels Naptha or Ivory 1.3 pound container of Oxi-Clean 2 cups or so of scent crystals
Your cost: pennies on the dollar!
DIY 50 Hour Emergency Candles
Candles are an easy-to-use source of emergency lighting and a little bit of heat. I'm shocked to see some of the prices that are charged for long burning candles sold for survival or emergency preparedness - if you want to buy a dozen or so candles, the cost really starts to add up.
Never fear! You can make your own survival candles at home for cheap, using high-quality, long burning soy wax. It's an easy project - the materials are easy to buy and you won't need any specialized tools.
The materials you will need are:
Soy wax flakes. These are commonly used in making scented candles and are sold in craft stores or Amazon. I bought a 10 pound bag from Amazon for $8.90. A pound of wax will fill around a 24 ounce container, give or take. You can use other wax, but soy is affordable, typically has a longer burn time than other waxes and has some other beneficial qualities (all-natural, renewable, etc.).
Canning jars. I purchased a dozen 8 ounce jars from Wal Mart for around $8. If you have jars around the house, no need to buy 'em. We've used jars from jams, sauces and so on for candles in the past.
Wicks and Tabs. You'll want your wicks to be a bit longer than your candle holder is tall.
The tools you will need are:
Scissors: For cutting the wicks to size
Double Boiler: For melting the wax. I don't have an actual double boiler, so I just get a large pot, fill it about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way with water, and then nest a slightly smaller pot inside.
A Pouring Device: I just used a pyrex measuring cup.
Protective Gloves: We'll be using boiling water and hot wax, so you want to keep you hands safe.
The steps are simple. First, you'll want to get your wicks ready. If your wicks are way too long for your container, you'll want to trim them down to approximate size. I had 9" wicks here. Insert the wick into the tab - I found it helpful to use my Leathman to "tighten" the mouth of the tab around the wick, but it's not a must. If you buy pre-tabbed wicks then you can skip this part.
Put your wicks in the jars. Don't worry if they're not centered - we'll fix that after we pour the wax. Now it's meltin' time!
This is my "double boiler." Works well enough. Using a double boiler helps melt the wax gently, avoiding risk of it catching fire, burning, etc. You could probably do it without, but it's not hard to improvise so why not?
Carefully transfer the melted wax into your pouring container. Then, pour away! Don't worry about the container - soy wax is all natural, non-toxic and cleans up fairly easily. Beware if you have a soy allergy, though.
Don't fill the jar up the whole way - leave some room between the wax and the top of the container. You'll want to center the wicks at this point. Then, take a break and let the wax cool and harden up. Almost done!
Last step. After the wax has cooled, trim the wicks as needed--you want the wick to be about 1/4" above the wax. Then, screw the lids on and you're ready for storage!
While some advertise 70+ hours of burn time for 8 ounce candles like this, they're more in the ballpark of 40 to 50 hours, and you'll get the most life out of them if you burn the candles four hours at a time. Since you would only use the candle for about 4 hours every evening, a single candle should last for around 10 days of regular use. Not bad! You can of course use different sized jars--bigger for longer burn time, or multiple wicks for more light.
Including the purchase of new jars, my cost per candle is around $1.62. With recycled jars, it's under a dollar.
These aren't crap materials, either--these are the same quality of materials use for high-end aromatherapy candles that sell for $20 a pop. Another plus - the combination of soy wax's lower melting point and the protective glass jar make this a safer source of light when compared to other candles, oil lanterns and so on.
One modification that I plan to make it to include a booklet of matches inside of each jar - cheap and makes sure you've got a way to light the candle if it's pulled out of storage during a power outage, etc.
Anyways, give it a shot and let us know how it goes! Have fun!