Air Drying Laundry
One of the easiest changes to make to become more self-sufficient is to begin air drying your laundry. This is a must for those who are off-grid but it can save you money and diminish your reliance on electricity even if you are on-grid. It also has the benefit of giving your laundry a fresh, clean smell without the use of harmful artificial fragrances in your laundry products. Sunlight will help naturally bleach and disinfect your clothes. In fact, the pioneers used to lay their bed sheets out on the grass to bleach them in the summertime...
Air drying works well particularly in warm temperatures but can be used in freezing temperatures as well to "freeze dry" your clothes. Basically, the freezing temperatures will turn the moisture into ice, which will then sublimate (turn into vapor), leaving your clothes dry.
Line drying is what typically comes to mind when discussing outdoor clothes drying options. Whether from a scene in a movie or an experience at our grandmother's house, most of us can probably picture lines of rope with laundry hanging from them. This is a fabulous option if you have the space to hang lines or erect a line dryer in your yard. While people tend to think of this as being solely an outdoor option, it is possible to construct a method of hanging lines indoors as well. You simply need something solid on either end of the rope to which you can tie or clip it.
Using a line to dry your clothes is simple. While you can just drape laundry over the lines, it works best if you have clothespins, especially if hanging clothes outdoors. The wind can be notorious for sweeping clothing off the line if it is not properly secured. Clothespins can be found at most retail stores that carry laundry accessories such as laundry baskets and drying racks.
Laundry racks are the most versatile option since they can be used for both indoor and outdoor drying year-round. You can get various sizes to accommodate small to large loads. These can be set up in the yard; on the deck, porch, or patio; in a bedroom, living room, or dining room; in front of the fireplace; etc.
Laundry racks do take up space, so you need somewhere to store them where they will not be in the way. The larger ones can be a bit heavy and awkward to carry, but are otherwise quite portable. If you have a large family, you may need more than one to serve all of your laundry needs. You can maximize your space by folding some of the lighter items in half before draping them over the rack.
Getting a quality rack will save you the aggravation of having one collapse under the weight of heaving clothing, having the rods sag over time, or having a piece break off. There are some great quality wooden racks that, if cared for properly, will last for years. You can find wooden and metal drying racks many places online. You can also find them at retail stores that carry laundry products.
One of the many complaints I have heard about air dried laundry is that people don't like the stiff feeling of their linens, especially their towels. One option is to shake your clothes to soften them a bit before folding. Another option is what I call combo drying. Line dry your clothes, then throw them in the dryer for a few minutes while they are still a bit damp. This will keep them soft, but still provide the benefits of fresh smelling towels and a lower energy bill.
Homemade Laundry Soap
Another way to save money, be a bit more self-sufficient, and decrease your exposure to toxic chemicals is to make your own laundry soap. Our family has been using this recipe for years and has been pleased with the results. It uses shelf-stable ingredients that are easy to store so this is a great recipe to use any time or to just have on hand...
We have made the recipe with Fels-Naptha, Zote, and Irish Spring. When I first started making my own laundry detergent, I used Fels-Naptha because it was the only laundry bar I could find in local stores at the time. It works well, but I really wanted to find a better option with fewer and more natural ingredients.
After doing a bit more research, we now make this recipe with white Zote laundry bars. Why? Of the three soaps we have tried, the white Zote bar has the fewest ingredients and no dyes. The ingredients are: Sodium tallowate (derived from tallow), sodium cocoate (derived from coconut oil), water, glycerin, fragrance (everything I found online says this is citronella oil), and optical brightener. (1) The optical brightener is the biggest questionable ingredient for me. I would rather not have it included, but it is one questionable ingredient compared to several questionable ingredients in the Fels-Naptha. I also have to say that when I lived in Mexico, my whites were never brighter than when I used Zote. Since we have hard water, this is a nice help to keep our whites white. My favorite feature is that Zote uses citronella for fragrance. You probably know that citronella is used to deter mosquitos. What you might not know is that it also has been shown to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties (2)-- an added bonus for your laundry detergent!
A couple of years ago I tried the recipe using an Irish Spring bath bar. While we no longer use commercial bath bars, I read that they will also work for this recipe. I was curious to know how it would turn out if this was all we had to use and since we had a couple of bars left in storage I thought it would be a good time to experiment. I did not like the consistency of the final product. It turned out very watery. Using two bars might have helped, but given that we don't use this kind of soap anymore anyway, I haven't pursued any further experimentation with it. I would be interested in trying it with homemade soap at some point in the future. If I do, I will update this article and let you know how it turns out.
RECIPE & INSTRUCTIONS
1/2 bar of white Zote (400 g. bar) soap or 1 bar Fels-Naptha, grated
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
3 gallons of water
30 drops of essential oils, such a tea tree (optional)
Pour the borax and washing soda into the bottom of a 3 to 5 gallon bucket.
Boil three quarts of water in a stainless steel pot (do not use cast iron as it will ruin the coating). Reduce to a simmer and slowly stir in the grated soap. Use a long handled stainless steel spoon to stir. Avoid plastic spoons to keep the plastic from leeching into your water. I do not use wooden spoons because I don't want the soap absorbing into the wood or drying them out. When the soap has dissolved, pour the mixture into the bucket with the borax and washing soda. Stir well until all the ingredients are dissolved. Add enough hot water to bring the amount up to three gallons and stir well. Close the lid and let sit overnight.
The soap will gel overnight. The next day, take a long handled steel spoon to break up the gel and stir well. I sometimes use a wire whisk to help with this. If you wish to add an essential oil, this is the time to mix it in. At this point, you can pour the laundry soap into containers or you can leave it in the bucket and scoop it out from there. We have done both. It takes 1 cup of detergent for an average load in a top loading washing machine.
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