Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Grow Your Own Laundry Detergent
We started processing our alternative laundry detergent the other day. For about 50 cents worth of cheap white vinegar added to our soapwort concoction we made enough laundry detergent to last approximately six months. I'm waiting for the plants to go to seed before making more this fall. My wife wrote a whimsical post Saponaria Officionalis...What? back in February with links providing more information on this wonderful plant.
In our ongoing endeavor to tread more lightly on the planet and focus our energies on the use of more natural products we are constantly experimenting with a wide variety of plants that can be used for more than just food sources. Only a few hundred years ago many people were much more versed in the forgotten art of self sufficient living, using natures vast array of resources to aid them as they went about their daily tasks.
My wife and I have "advanced" from chemically ridden cleaning products like Purex- free and clear, to supposedly better Seventh Generation laundry soap, to this↓...soapwort. Truly free and clear of man-made chemicals, and about as pure and natural as it gets.
We break down this perennial's second year roots, leaves, stems, and flowers to make soap. The leaves off first year plants work as well but the root is more potent.
First we cut and chop the various parts of Saponaria Officionalis into more manageable pieces.
Then it is added to the cauldrons to simmer for 5 or 6 hours breaking down the plants tissues, helping to release the sudsy saponins contained therein. We let ours sit overnight before straining the pale green liquid.
The next day you simply mash the leaves up and remove them, making sure to squeeze all the remaining saponins out. Then carefully strain the remaining debris. The hardest part is straining the liquid because it really does want to foam up quit a bit...pour slowly.
Straining the soapwort - look at all that foam! The bucket was only part way filled and already overflowing with suds. For whatever reason the pouring action really causes the suds to form.
Luckily, years ago we saved about 20 of these laundry bottles that we now use to hold our homemade soap. We add 2/3 cup vinegar, to prevent against mold, to each bottle. The vinegar also assists as a cleaning agent, a product I also hope to make myself sometime in the not too distant future.
There you have it, laundry soap grown next to the basil in our garden. Keep in mind that soapwort should not be added to pizza with the basil as it does contain toxic saponins. Regardless of what the many herb books, and herbal internet sites out there suggest, I would give serious thought to consuming this plant in any form for medicinal purposes...just my opinion. I'm formulating a plan to make a shampoo using this same herb, vinegar, and ground flax as a thickener...I'll make sure and share if it turns out.