“After the ecstasy, the laundry.” I’d say that famous zen saying also holds for agony.
Yes, the laundry always awaits.
So, after the stress of planning for hurricane Sandy and a nor’easter that blew in days later, and a case of swollen thumbs and elbow tendinitis that came from a day of overzealous firewood-stacking, I turned to the laundry. (I’ll forego weighing in on whether the local, state, and national elections caused ecstasy or agony in my household.)
Ecstasy or agony, laundry is a metaphor for everything about daily living that demands attention, and so also becomes part of a spiritual practice.
In this case, it meant turning my attention to making new batches of homemade laundry detergent and oxygen bleach, both of them cheap, easy, effective, and non-toxic to humans and the environment.
Ten minutes of time and a few pennies worth of ingredients makes two gallons of excellent laundry detergent. Here’s how I do it:
I heat a gallon of water in my stainless-steel stock pot and add about a third of a bar of grated goat-milk soap, stirring the mixture until the soap melts. (You can use any hard soap for this recipe; I use the biggest holes on a cheese grater)
Then I add half a cup each of washing soda and borax, and continue stirring until the powders dissolve.
Finally, I add another gallon of hot water, stir the whole thing, and let it sit until the mixture cools. The end result: a lumpy gel that I funnel into a few recycled plastic detergent containers.
Because it’s lumpy, I shake my homemade mix well before measuring out ½ cup per load of wash. My lumpy gel works as well as any purchased detergent I’ve used.
I use unscented soap, because many scents in personal-case and laundry products make me sneeze, or even give me headaches. But if you like scented laundry, use nice-smelling soap or add a couple of drops of an essential oil to the pot while the mixture is still warm.
Homemade oxygen (non-chlorinated) bleach
This is a cinch to make, and it not only works well on most fabric stains, but you can also use it to clean just about everything--even as a gentle disinfecting wash for fruits and vegetables.
Here’s how I make it: I mix equal parts of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and baking soda with two parts of hot water and shake well, then funnel it into a light-excluding bottle to maintain the stain-fighting power of the peroxide. That’s it!
Although my homemade product doesn’t have the same disinfecting power as some commercial liquid oxygen bleaches (i.e., for disinfecting cloth diapers), I find it works equally well as a stain-remover.
Be forewarned: It doesn’t spray the way commercial liquid oxygen bleaches do, because the baking soda settles. I just shake it well and squirt or sprinkle it onto stains, or add add half a cup to the wash water.
Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.