I’ve been writing this Rescued Recipe column for 8 years now, and this is the first time I’ve shared a recipe for something other than food. But a three-ingredient recipe for a powerhouse homemade powdered laundry detergent changed everything for me and I wanted to pass it along to you. In some ways, it’s the ultimate definition of a “Rescued Recipe” since one of the three ingredients, 20 Mule Team Borax, has been around since 1891 making it 123 years old! After doing an extensive amount of research on homemade laundry detergent, I kept coming across the recipe that seemed to be a favorite for people wanting a more natural product for their clothes and a real money saver for their wallet. Unlike so many other homemade laundry detergent recipes, this one didn’t require melting the soap or any other challenging step. You simply grate a bar of soap, mix together two other ingredients and you’re done. After making my first batch, I was stunned to find out that all I needed was 2 heaping tablespoons per wash (including cold water wash) for sparkling clean, almost glistening clothes. The question for me then became, what’s the rest of the ingredients in store-bought laundry soup that requires an entire cup per wash? I’m all for modern technology and revolutionary products that make our lives easier. But in this case, in my opinion, the old way is better. Much better.
2 cups (1 bar) pure Castile soap, grated fine *(See soap options below)
1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (Not baking powder)
1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
Using the smallest holes on cheese grater, finely grate the bar of soap into a mound of flakes. (Don’t use blender or food processor.) In a bowl, add soap, Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and Borax. With a spoon, mix together well and store in airtight plastic container. Use 2 to 2 ½ heaping tablespoons per full load.
There are many choices for natural bar soaps: Pure Castile (lavender and unscented), Fels-Naptha, Ivory and Kirk’s Hardwater Castile. Avoid using heavily perfumed soaps. I found Kirk’s Castile soap at Safeway, Fels-Naptha at Wal-Mart and unscented or lavender pure Castile soap at Walgreen’s. All generally found in the laundry aisle.
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda: The only place I’ve found this product is at Fry’s Food Stores. Be sure it’s the Washing Soda and not the detergent. The boxes look the same. Arm and Hammer Washing Soda is an all-natural detergent booster.
20-Mule-Team Borax: Available at Wal-Mart, Target and Safeway. According to the website www.20muleteamlaundry.com, 20 Mule Team Borax is 100% natural and 99.5% pure (there is about a half of 1% of naturally occurring trace minerals). Once removed from the ground it is washed, dried, and boxed for consumers. Borax is also a detergent booster.
Two parallel 40-year careers in media and in food that still excite me to this day. 24 farm animals that remind me that there are always needs much greater than mine. A tiny bit of free time here and there to go fly-fishing. And a kitchen that has become the joyful and busy heart of my home and my world.