By Deborah Tukuah – One of the first things we acquired when we moved to rural America was a wringer washer, so it was only natural that the second thing we would need to learn was how to make laundry soap. Wringer washers are as American as the Columbus washboard from Ohio. I suppose that’s why many of the “country faire” type restaurants position one on the landing. We knew we had finally arrived in the country when washing clothes outdoors with a wringer washer could be done without anyone doing a double take. I guess I cheat a little because ours is electric. When laundering clothes in the wringer, as one sock is drawn through the wringer (cuff first), I join the next sock to the toes. It’s like hooking up boxcars. But the challenge is to do so while the train is moving. I try to keep a continuous line of clothes going through the wringer.
The time I enjoy laundering clothes the most is when it’s time to wash the “whites.” That’s because I can draft a willing partner, our toddler son, to help Mama. As I wring out each sock, briefs, handkerchiefs, etc. I hand them to Josiah. He carries each item dutifully to the basket or dryer, whichever I ask of him and hurries back for yet another item. This keeps me from slowing down as he is back from his brief tour of duty for the next assignment before I hardly have time to wring out the next garment for him to carry. I try to have a lot of little items handy to keep him moving because once he gets started on this mission, he’s quite into it.
Part of what makes laundering clothes with a wringer washer so enjoyable is knowing how to make homemade laundry soap to use with it. Homemade laundry soap is economical to make and has many household uses. Here are a few ideas for how to make homemade laundry soap:
- Grate one cup of bar soap to use as laundry soap. If washing in hot or warm water, add the flakes directly to the water in the washer. If washing in cold water, dissolve first.
- Homemade laundry soap works to remove stains. Wet a bar of soap and rub directly on stained area. Launder as usual. Or, make a past of one teaspoon flakes and a little warm water. The rub into the stain. For tougher stains, use a toothbrush to rub the paste into the stain and launder as usual.
- Garment pre-soak can be made by grating a one-half cup of homemade bar soap and dissolving it in one gallon of warm water. Use a whisk to be sure the flakes dissolve. Allow water to cool. Add garment and soak 30 minutes to one hour. Launder as usual.
Have we given you enough reasons to learn how to make soap yet?
How to Make Laundry Soap. It’s an Easy Soap Recipe for Beginners.
2 quarts of melted lard, lukewarm
1 quart of cold, softwater (rainwater or spring water works best)
1 can Red Devil lye (12 oz.)
Dissolve lye in one-quart cold water. When both the lard and the lye-water are lukewarm (touch the outside of both bowls to judge temperature) slowly stir lye-water into the melted lard. Be careful not to splash lye on your skin. Continue to stir slowly and constantly until the soap is the consistency of pudding and traces. (Trace means that your spoon leaves a trail across the top as you stir.) At this point, pour the solution into molds. Let set overnight. The next day, cut into bars but leave in the mold. On the third day, remove the soap from the mold and stack little bricks to air dry leaving space between bars for air circulation. Allow to cure dry for two to three weeks before using.
Tips for success and safety when learning how to make homemade laundry soap:
- Keep a jug of vinegar handy during soap-making, in case lye spills on your hand or arms. Splashing vinegar on the skin will stop it from burning.
- No need to purchase a soap mold when you’re learning how to make soap: just take a small, shallow cardboard box and line it with a plastic garbage bag cut to size.
- Never use aluminum in soap making. Use plastic, glass or cast iron and reserve those items for soap making only. (Lye reacts with metals such as zinc, iron, aluminum, and tin. Use wooden or plastic spoons and glass or enamel bowls. And don’t use Drain-O because it contains metal particles. ̶ ed.)
How to Make Liquid Soap:
How can one bar of soap be in three or more places at the same time? By making it into liquid soap. Here’s how:
- Grate one bar of soap in the blender.
- Add 1 cup boiling water and whip in blender.
- Add ½ cup of tap water (room temperature) and stir in blender.
- Add 1 tablespoon honey and 1 teaspoon glycerin and stir in blender.
- Let cool approximately 15 minutes, then whip again. Mixture should measure about two cups. Add enough cool water to blender until mixture reaches the five to six cup mark and whip.
- Pour mixture into containers for storage and allow to cool without the lids on for at least an hour. Mixture will thicken as it sets up. If needed, shake before using.
Note: Herbs such as calendula, lavender or fresh pine needles can be steeped in boiling water and strained before adding to the grated soap if desired.
How to Make Soap: Make Your Own Dish Soap
Here is an easy recipe for learning how to make liquid soap for dishwashing. Grate one-half pound of bar soap into flakes and place in a large pot with one-half gallon of water. Stir to dissolve flakes. Boil for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour into a glass jar and allow to cool. After the liquid soap has cooled, cover to prevent the soap from drying out. As the soap cools, it will thicken to a gel consistency.
To help dissolve in the sink and form plenty of suds, place a tablespoon or so into a small jar when ready to use. Add hot water and the lid. Shake to dissolve the gel back into a liquid and add to the sink as you would regularly. It is also referred to as jelly soap.
And to think of all those special soap products sitting on the store shelves. Who’d think that we could take just a few bars of soap and turn them into so many useful household products? I don’t know about you, but it sure feels good to give the pocketbook a little break when I can.
Also, don’t forget that this lye soap recipe is gentle and pure enough to bathe the baby — body, hair and all.
Originally published in Countryside in 2000 and regularly vetted for accuracy.