Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Life Lessons from Homemade Dishwasher Detergent.

Clearly told a big, fat lie last week when I said I'd post the day after I deleted an almost fully-written and edited post. Sorry y'all. 

In my quest for a greener home, I decided to give homemade dishwasher detergent a go. Never thought there would be life lessons in doing so, but sometimes life is surprising like that. 

I've actually made three batches, and needed to do some fine-tuning to get the point like a post was appropriate. Especially since the first batch didn't go so well. 

I found this recipe on line and purchased the washing soda powder and the borax from Amazon (got a great bundle deal), then gathered everything up to make half of the recipe, as I was reusing a commercial bottle which I'd cleaned and sanitized. 

Ingredients for a full recipe
8 cups water (filtered if at all possible)
3/4 cups washing soda (not baking soda)
1/2 cup of borax
1/4 cup of liquid castile soap (unscented or scented, up to you)
- If you want to go completely unscented, stop here. 
- If you want a scented batch, and used unscented castile, you can use essential oils of your choosing for fragrance. 
- I use about 30 drops total for a half batch. 

Directions for a full recipe
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a glass saucepan
- Remove pan from the heat. 
- If your saucepan is large enough, you can continue in it; if not, transfer the boiled water to another non-metal bowl to proceed. 
- Gradually add in the washing soda (again, not baking soda) and borax, until they are completely dissolved. 
- After the washing soda and borax are completely dissolved, add in your castile soap. 
- Stir, and if desired, add in your essential oils.
- Once all ingredients are added, add in the remaining 4 cups of water and give the whole thing a good stir.
- Cover for 24 hours and don't stir it.
- Next day, it will have gotten gel-like. Stir it up and if not already in final container you'll be using, transfer it. 
- Before you use it each time, give the container a good shake or a healthy stir. 
- You only need about 2 tablespoons per load.
- One full recipe makes about a 1/2 gallon.

All ingredients have been added, and cover goes on next.
- Making half of a batch at a time, fills a liter bottle about 2/3 of the way full, but since you only use 2 tablespoons, lasts quite a while. I've never counted how many loads.....
- You must bring the initial water to a full boil. If you don't, the mixture doesn't work as well. (Life lesson #1: follow instructions. The person writing them wrote it out for you for a reason.)
- HEED THE 2 TABLESPOONS. You *can* use more but you just get a yucky film on everything, especially any plastic containers. (Life lesson #2: sometimes less really is more. Sometimes more is just messy).
- For extra green power, use plain white vinegar as your rinse aid. It leaves no vinegary odor, I promise, and definitely help with spots and shine. 

Cost breakdown
I calculate a bottle of commercial dishwashing detergent, without using a coupon, is about $8. 

I spent $31 for a 55 oz. box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda + a 76 oz. box of 20 Mule Team Borax. The liter bottle of Dr. Bronner's unscented castile soap cost me about $16, and I used essential oils that I had on hand already (lime and sweet orange for this batch). 

I used a lot of math really carefully to figure out that I'll be able to make 9 full-sized batches  before I run out of the washing soda. Dividing 9 batches into my total cost of $31 = $3.44 per batch. Plus, still have enough borax for another 5 full batches, so technically, even less than $3.44/batch. 

In short, the cost is over $2.50 less expensive a batch than commercial, the time spent making a half batch is minimal (about 15 minutes active time + the 24-hour waiting period for concoction to gel), and while borax in large amounts isn't awesome in your water table, in these small amounts is way greener than the harsher chemicals cocktails used in commercial brands. Plus, in my case, I've reused a plastic commercial bottle. I say totally worth it. 

Expanding on Life Lessons
For the first batch, I didn't boil the water, and the ingredients literally did not come together. There's was nothing to bind them together. Granted, it still worked but was a lot messier and I used a lot more of the product to get loads clean. 

For the second batch, I followed the instructions, but was still in the mode of using a lot, then wondered why in blazes, every load was filmy and kinda gross. Apparently following the instructions, meant following them completely, like every.single.word. Oops. 

Third batch has worked out way better. Concoction is fully integrated and at two tablespoons, items are clean without a film. YAY! Success. 

It may not be a lot, but I figure every little bit helps. 
And if I learn something in the process, even better. 

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