Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Laundry Dilemma

A few days after the wedding in August, the stacked washer/dryer combo, that came with the old farmhouse, conked out on us. The drum on the washer was a write off. It seemed anyone who was even willing to repair it, told us it wasn't worth the cost of fixing. This wasn't an expense we had planned on and the timing was lousy, however, it turned out to be a blessing. The original unit was small, too small for a family of four. Let's face it, I was doing six or seven loads of laundry a week and after a year I had actually become accustomed to this. Oy!

The Artist did the usual internet research he does before making any large purchase and within a few days we had made our choice. As we began our search, we knew we wanted a front load washer. Common sense told us we wanted to use less water, not only for environmental reasons but also because we're on a well, and as country folk know, water, especially from a well, can be a precious commodity. What really surprised us, was how fast the front load washers spin. The saleslady demonstrated the fastest spin cycle on the model we had chosen and I'm pretty sure the engineers at NASA could learn a thing or two from washing machine manufacturers. 

A week later the machines were delivered and the old unit was hauled away as I worked at the kitchen sink, my back to the door. I didn't even turn around to say goodbye.

A month later, the Artist, started commenting on the odor of our bath towels. I'll admit, he has a very strong sense of smell, or maybe my olfactory glands have bit the dust because he is always smelling 'things' that completely bypass my nostrils. This time however, I was in on the game; I could smell it too and every day the smell got worse, much worse. Our towels stunk. Initially, we wrote it off as being a side effect from the machine being new, it would go away in a week or two. It didn't. We searched on line, received advice, apparently it's a common dilemma with front load washing machines.We tried using less soap, rinsing twice, and using different soaps. The Artist claimed he was sure it was the suds inhibitor in the high efficiency soap that was causing the smell. Some ideas worked, but they never seemed to completely eradicate the smell, even for me. And it was getting gross; who wants to dry off with a smelly towel? 

We decided it was time to take matters into our own hands, literally. Well kind of. No, we haven't resorted to washing with a scrub board by hand. What we have done is make our own laundry soap. I read about it in the Ecoholic by Adria Vasil and I read that Jayme from Tales from the Coop Keeper made her own and the Artist found a bunch of recipes here. Everywhere we turned we found inspiration, we considered it a sign. 

We started with these basic ingredients. Washing soda, Borax, which I had on hand for making bath bombs, and bar soap which acts as a natural suds inhibitor, important for front load machines. This Italian soap was what was available at our grocery store and has a lovely smell, that doesn't over power the clean laundry.
 First, we grated the laundry soap.

  For each cup of grated soap, add a cup of Borax
and a cup of washing soda.
Stir together until the grated soap has blended well.
We did a test batch, 1 cup of each ingredient to make sure it would work and we put our recipe through the ringer...we tested it on our towels.
2 tablespoons are all that's required for a load of laundry.
Then we let her rip...and waited.
Some of us were better at waiting than others.
Then, finally, the towels were dry.
And the magnificent and highly keen nose of the Artist was put to work.
Our new laundry soap passed with flying colours.

I've done laundry all weekend, and everything has smelled fresh and clean but there is no overpowering fake chemical smell. That's a plus in my books. The other great thing was that that bar of laundry soap when grated was the equivalent of 6 cups of flakes. When added to the Borax and the washing soda, we have a lot of laundry soap for pennies a load.

Be well friends,


Laurie at Turner Farm said...

Thanks for sharing. I had started to investigate, as we too, have had this horrible odor. I had read Jaymes post and was in the process of some trial runs. Perfect timing.

Deb said...

Wow! I'm going to try the recipe even though my towels don't smell anymore. Also, I leave the door of the washer open when not in use because I read that being closed causes bacteria. I've always done this even with top load washers. Thanks for the recipe!

Osage Bluff Quilter said...

Yes've tried making soap too.

but I've never seen the dry recipe before. It would be a lot less to store.

thanks for the tip!

city hen said...

I love yummy smelling towels and there is nothing worse than musty laundry! Congrats and thanks for passing on the wisdom.

Elle Bee said...

I've been wanting to try making my own detergent too! Fantastic!
Love the big bar of soap with my name in huge letters! :o)

Flat Creek Farm said...

I've made both the liquid and dry. Like them both! It took me awhile to make the change over to homemade. In fact, I kept reading those recipes for making your own detergent. Patti (OBQ) is the one who finally convinced me to try it. And I'm glad she did. Today I actually found bluing in our local grocery store (amazingly). Only I could get excited about this, but I am! Supposed to make the whites whiter. Thought I would try this little add-in and see. Happy Laundry Day! :) -Tammy

Unknown said...

We haven't had a problem with odour in our new front loader, except for the time we kept the wet wash in the washer (closed) overnight. We also keep the washer door open at all times. I will definitely try this recipe out. I find detergent to be so expensive. Thanks so much to you and the Artist for doing the research and sharing the recipe. I'm going to share it with our bil and sil who have a well and septic.

Unknown said...

Andrea, we had the same problem with our front end HE washer. We make our own soap and use just a SMALL amount. If your water is hard, use only dry soap, not liquid. Also, like Deb said above, you have to let it air after using by keeping the door ajar. It will actually mildew inside your washer. Something about the design. If that happens (which has been known to occur in my own household), I just put some vinegar in the wash and then later run some bleach in it with some white towels or something - on HOT water. Pull back the rubber seal on the inner rim and wipe with a paper towel to get any gunk out, too. Doing these things works great!

LOVE your kitty!

Farmgirl Paints said...

Whew...glad you got that all figured out;) Good thing you like doing laundry...ha! Just remembering my recent post and how you said you liked it:)

Jackie said...

Well, I've been thinking about making my own laundry detergent for awhile and yours is the second post I've read today about it...think I'm going to have to try it out. I spend a small fortune on laundry detergent and softener. Glad it's working for and you don't have smelly towels anymore.


~from my front porch in the mountains~ said...

We started making it last year. But I like your recipe a lot more. This weekend is a trip to the big city for groceries etc. and I am going to get what I need for this!
I don't have kids but, between dog beds, dog blankies, cat beds, cat blankies, stinky barn clothes, J's school clothes, goin to town clothes, horse towels, barn towels, horse gads, I may as well have children!
I will let you in on a secret. I love to do laundy. Something about all that clean stuff!

Andrea, thanks so much for your wonderfully sweet comment on my post. I appreciate your friendship more than you know :)
xo, misha