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As my lifestyle swings further and further towards a radical self-reliance (even though a friend of mine insists there's nothing radical about self-reliance), it is obvious that additional consideration must be given to the things we take for granted in our lives. A sense of cleanliness and respectability are mandatory if one of the primary objectives is to mingle with the people of the world and seek their stories. It goes without saying that you cannot smell the scent of my active lifestyle through a video posted online, but I guarantee that I am very self conscious as I proceed with my plans of going completely off grid with every aspect of my life.
To that end, I'm creating this content to share how I am undertaking the crafting of my own laundry detergents for use with hand washing my laundry. My equipment and methods might look modern, but I feel very "old school" as I tackle this frankly simple project.
After a bit of research, I found a number of recipes that call out common elements. Lye Soap, Washing Soda, Borax, Baking Soda. All of these components advertise right on their label some sort of odor control, stain removal, or combination thereof. When you look at each of the components individually, they have pros and cons for a variety of different situations. Instead of matching a detergent to a problem, I opted instead to create a one size fits all approach.
So we have our four parts of the whole selected. If you want to, don't feel bad to add a few drops of your chosen essential oil. Instead, I would rather rely on my natural pheromones to do the necessary work in that aspect. Simply put, unscented for me. The wonderful thing about this particular approach is the fact there's no hiding scents even in something labeled as unscented—a very prominent problem in the marketing of consumer mass produced detergents. The way to ensure you have the right amounts of materials is apparently "by weight." In this case, I had six ounces of lye soap bar, so I used the same amount of each of the dry goods. It's about a cup each, though its worth mentioning borax is more dense than the others.
Even better, the components selected here are completely biodegradable and fantastic for the self-reliance lifestyle and "leave no trace" expat approach.
To create the detergent, the process is very straight forward. Grate the lye soap bar. I opted to use a cheese grater from my kitchen to this end. The older the soap, the better, as it's more brittle. Newer soap will clump back together. To prevent this from taking place, I would recommend the use of one of the dry components in the first grinding step. Using some sort of blender, I utilized a small food processor, further grate the soap with one of the sodas. If your batch is too much for the processor, use more than one cycle to ensure it's mixed properly. After that, feel free to add the rest of the dry components and blend again.
The resulting material should be "grainy." Larger particulates than sand... about the same size of grits or maybe couscous. It should be dry to touch. If you pick it up and let it run through your fingers, it should flow freely. It may "clump" if you grab a bit and squeeze it. I don't recommend storing it in a vessel too small to hold the total amount, as you do not want to compact it.
A tablespoon is ideal for light loads, two for large or heavily soiled loads. If you're taking a trip, I'd recommend taking just enough in a sealed container to do your laundry as needed and maybe an extra charge or two in case you find yourself in a situation where your clothes get muddy or fouled.
I hope the information presented here empowers you to take the trip and go on the adventure, comfortable in the knowledge that you can easily overcome the little things we don't consider in the comfort of our own homes.