Almost 27 years ago we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy. He was just gorgeous (and still is!), but after a few days he developed a rash, that turned into blisters. His little arms and legs were red, scaly and sore. He cried when we put him in the bath, and he squirmed and wriggled when he had clothes on.
Thankfully he was a summer baby and a singlet and nappy at home was plenty, but dressing him to go out was awful and I'd be crying with him. Our doctor diagnosed eczema and recommended changing our laundry detergent. Unfortunately the detergent he suggested cost almost a week's grocery money - just not viable for us.
And so began my search for a laundry detergent that would clean clothes without irritating.
It took a while, but finally I stumbled upon a recipe for a laundry goop (in the meantime AJ's clothes were washed separately, in just hot water, no detergents or soaps at all). It was a bit of a process to make, but it was cheap and it didn't irritate our skin. I was so happy.
By this time we had two mischievous little boys who loved to play outside. At the time the laundry was outside too, we hadn't renovated yet.
One day I could hear giggles and laughing and the sounds of fun - lots and lots of fun - so you can imagine my joy (not) when I found those two little boys covered from head to toe in laundry goop, as was the washing machine, the laundry door and walls, the floor - even the back verandah had a layer of goop on it. I cleaned it up and made another batch.
And, like they were on a cycle, it was rinse and repeat - they loved the goop so much they played happily in the new bucketful a few days later.
This is why I started making my own washing powder. Cleaning up two large nappy buckets full of goop took ages, although the laundry had never been so clean.
I looked at the recipe, read the ingredients and decided it could be made in powder form. Easy!
Small, experimental batches were made to research effectiveness, cost, ease of making and using until I finally stumbled upon the one I am, along with thousands of other Cheapskates, still making and using in every wash load today.
I still use just 3 level teaspoons to a full load of washing and we are still itch and irritation free and the clothes are clean too.
If you haven't tried it, do. It takes less than 5 minutes to make a batch and costs just 3c a load to use.
This has to be the cheapest and best value laundry detergent around.
Cheapskates Washing Powder
1 bar soap, grated
1 cup washing soda (Lectric Soda is the most common brand in the laundry aisle, or sodium carbonate if you want to buy in bulk)
1/2 cup borax
Mix together and store in a sealed container.
Use 3 scant teaspoons per load for a top-loader and 1 scant teaspoon per load for a front loader.
You can use up the small slivers of toilet soap you collect if you like, ordinary bath soap or laundry soap. This recipe is ideal for using up all the leftovers you collect in the family bathroom.
This detergent won’t produce masses of suds, but it will get your clothes clean.
Costings (as at 19/09/2017):
1 bar laundry soap - 50 cents
1 cup washing soda $1
1/2 cup borax 60 cents
Total $2.10 for up to 90 washes (3 cents a load - actually a little under, I round up, the fraction is too hard for my addled head).
These prices are based on what I found at Coles, using generic laundry soap, Lectric Soda and Bare Essentials borax. You can get the cost down by using soap slivers and buying the washing soda in bulk. I buy washing soda in 5 kilo buckets from Aurora Cleaning Supplies in Dandenong South
Give the washing powder an extra boost if you wash really dirty or greasy clothes by adding one small box of bi-carb soda to the mix.