Laundry liquid and general cleaning

21 May 2018
Buying laundry and cleaning products can become quite an expensive part of grocery shopping, but it doesn't need to be. They are easy to make using ingredients from the supermarket. All these cleaners suit a simple home because they contain a tiny portion of the chemicals found in the commonly used expensive products.  I've included a couple of recipes below for you to try but first we'll start with one of my favourite cleaning processes - soaking.

Soaking and stain removal
I often look for ways to do my day-to-day chores without using any, or very few, cleaning products. I remember when I was growing up, my mum used to soak clothes before washing them. Sometimes she put them into a big copper boiler and boiled them while moving them around with a wooden stick. The washing took hours to do and often she did it on a Friday night after she finished her paid job.

I soak cotton, linen and poly-blend clothes too although I don't do it the way my mum did. If I have something that is badly stained, I fill a large container up with very hot water from the tap, add Disan, an oxy-bleach, dissolve the Disan with my laundry stick and drop the clothes in. BTW, my laundry stick is a spurtle - a scottish stick for stirring porridge. If you want to do something similar, a piece of dowel would work well. Many stains can be removed using this method. You can also whiten your greying whites this way as well.



Another way to remove a stain is to wet the fabric and then rub laundry bar soap or laundry liquid on the stain, roll it up and leave it for an hour or so. You roll it up so it doesn't dry out. Then pop it in with the normal wash and the stain will probably go. If you have a top loading washing machine, fill it for your normal wash, apply soap or laundry liquid to any stains you notice, put the stained clothing in the filled washing machine and let it soak, overnight if possible. The following morning, do your normal wash. Generally all stains will be removed by the soaking.

Soaking is one of those gentle, old-fashioned methods you very rarely hear about now because often it doesn't use a product that someone is trying to push. This type of clothes care is particularly good for perspiration stains under arms, collar grime, whitening whites and general stains. Soaking works really well with overnight soaking in plain water but if the stain is a stubborn one, add some oxy-bleach or rub with soap.

Caring for Leather
You’d think that caring for leather would be pretty straightforward; leather has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years. But no, everyone has their own method, and if you look on the internet, as many claims are made for one method as against it.

There are products that clean and condition at the same time but I prefer the two-stage method because leather usually just needs cleaning. To clean leather clothing, hats or couches, check the seams first and if they’re dusty, put the upholstery head on the vacuum cleaner and go over them. Then add half a teaspoon of Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap, or a gentle liquid soap, to one cup of warm water and moisten a soft cloth – don’t make it too wet. Clean a small area at a time, and finish by rubbing the leather with a clean soft cloth, making sure everything is dry. Every three months or so you can apply a leather conditioner – the products available at car care or equestrian shops seem to be better than those from the supermarket.

For spot-cleaning, deal with the problem as soon as possible. Clean with the liquid soap as above and then nourish the area with a leather conditioner.

Wicker baskets



I have several wicker baskets and they’re all workhorses, used to store everything from potatoes to wool. If you have a dirty basket, brush the wicker with a little liquid soap, not detergent, on a soft wet brush. When you’ve given it a good clean, take the basket outside and hose it down. This sounds harsh, but it tightens up the wicker and pulls it back into shape. Dry the basket in the sun and open air before using it again. If you have fragile baskets, simply brush them over with a dry bristle brush and rub a moist cloth over the wicker, then dry in the shade.

Straw hats
Straw hats can be maintained with a soft-bristle brush (I use a soft-bristle paintbrush), all over, as often as you feel like doing it. To clean a dirty hat, mix half a teaspoon of Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap with one cup of warm water. Dip a soft cloth into the warm soapy water and clean small areas of the hat at a time. Make sure you don’t wet the hat too much, because it will weaken the straw.

For oily stains, sprinkle the area with cornflour or talcum powder and gently rub it into the straw. Leave it for a couple of hours, then either vacuum or brush off. Repeat if necessary. When not being worn, straw hats should be stored away from the sun, either in a box or on a hook resting on the sweatband, not the straw. Cover with a soft cloth to protect it from dust.

Stuffed toys
Read the care label and if the toy can be washed, wait for a dry, sunny day, place the toy in a pillowcase and close with a rubber band. Add laundry liquid or powder and a teaspoon of either lemon myrtle or tea-tree essential oil and wash in cold water on the eco or fast setting. Hang the toy on the line in the sun, using an ear or tag to peg it to the line. Depending on the weather, it may need a couple of drying days.


If the toy can’t be machine-washed, place it in a pillowcase and add 2 tablespoons of bicarb soda. Close the top of the pillowcase with a rubber band and shake it. Try to rub the toy all over through the fabric to make sure every part is covered with bicarb. Leave it for a few hours, then take it out of the pillowcase. Finish off by shaking it outside and then vacuuming the toy with the small upholstery head attached to your vacuum cleaner.

Laundry cleaning products to make at home
This is an important part of cleaning, because if you learn how to make your products at home, then customise them to suit your own taste for scent, you’ll do three important things: you’ll make a significant cutback in the chemicals you have in your home, you'll stop adding the phosphates and salt in commercial cleaners to our waterways and you’ll save a lot of money.

These homemade products work well, they don’t take a lot of time to make and they won’t make your skin itchy and red. Many of these products can be used for multiple purposes. For instance, the laundry liquid will clean your clothes and remove spot stains, but with a couple of simple additions, it can also be made into cleaning paste.

Most of all, you’ll know what’s in the products you’re using. You’ll buy only a few natural chemicals– borax, washing soda, vinegar and soap – to make cleaners yourself. If you bought the commercial cleaners and laundry products recommended for the modern home, you’d be using hundreds of chemicals. I think living with fewer chemicals is better for our health and if you've got small children, family members with skin sensitivities, general allergies or a compromised immune system due to age or failing health, these cleaners will serve you well.

Laundry liquid
Makes 10 litres/quarts



Add about quarter of a cup of this liquid to your machine. It’s fine in a cold-water wash and in front or top loaders. You can find borax and washing soda in the supermarket.
  • 1 cup grated soap or Lux soap flakes
  • ½ cup washing soda
  • ½ cup borax 
  • 1½ L /qt of water 
  1. Add the ingredients to a saucepan and heat the mixture on the stove. Stir until all the ingredients are completely dissolved and remove from the heat. 
  2. Pour the hot soapy mixture into a bucket or tub that holds at least 10 L/qt, add warm tap water until the bucket is about three-quarters full, and stir. When the mixture is thoroughly combined, fill the bucket to the 10 L/qt mark and stir. You can add essential oils for fragrance at this point if you want to. 
  3. To store the laundry liquid, gather some containers (clean plastic milk bottles serve the purpose well) and pour the liquid in, leaving enough room in the containers to allow you to shake them well before use. As the mixture cools, you’ll see two layers: a gel layer at the top and a liquid layer at the bottom. That is as it should be. The gel gets quite thick but combines well with a good shake. Alternatively, you can use your stick blender to emulsify the mix.
Stain remover
The laundry liquid above makes an excellent stain remover. Just cover the stain with some laundry liquid and rub it in. Wait for 15 minutes before adding the items to the regular wash.

Laundry liquid cleaning paste
You can use the laundry liquid in other ways as well. Just add ½ cup of bicarb to ½ cup of laundry liquid and mix together to form a thick paste, adjusting the consistency by adding more liquid or more bicarb. This mix can be used for cleaning baths and stainless steel sinks, or for any difficult-to-remove grime on benchtops or around light switches. Store it in a small container with a lid. It will dry out within a couple of months, so make a smaller amount if you need to.

Stainless steel pegs



I have a recommendation for those of you who have problems with clothes pegs. We live in a sub-tropical climate here and when we use plastic pegs they break easily after a month or two of use and if we use wooden pegs, they go mouldy.  Then I discovered stainless steel pegs and I love them. I got mine from Biome in Brisbane. They have a very strong grip and, of course, they neither go mouldy nor crumble. These will last a lifetime. :- )

I hope you're all well and happy. I'll be back later in the week to share our news with you.

46 comments

  1. I love that they have come back with stainless steel pegs. My wooden ones go mouldy and the plastic bestides being bad for the environment just crumble. Glad more sustainable options are coming out. Love the bicarb for the teddy idea too, i often hand make my sons toys and am always worried about washing them.

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  2. Hi Rhonda,
    Thanks for this informative post. I wholeheartedly agree that soaking is one of the best methods of stain removal. I recently revived my husband's perspiration stained work shirts by spraying the stains with vinegar, then soaking in very hot water, followed by washing in machine with a small amount of oxy-bleach powder added to my usual washing liquid. Worked a treat! Enjoy your week, Kelly

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  3. You and I manage our laundry just the same. Sometimes when things get soiled and could be stained I just get it in the washer right away with a full load so that the stain doesn't have time to set. Our soil is red clay and it stains badly so today when my husband got mud on his best pair of jeans we just gathered up all the dirty denim and got a load going. No stain and it was easy to deal with since we acted quickly. As a bonus I have one load checked off tomorrow's chore list!

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  4. I do love that spurtle. Sunlight soap is my stain remover, I do wonder why people spend so much on sprays when something so simple works so well.

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    1. My daughter drew on my leather lounge with blue pen the other day. Any home stain remover I can use?

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    2. Do you mean biro? The longer it's left without treating it, the harder it is to remove. All the harsh things, like nail polish remover, damage the leather. I'd try a soft damp cloth with yellow laundry soap, but you'll need to do it a few times.

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  5. I have to say I never seen anyone hang there basket on clothes line.
    Coffee is on

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  6. Thanks for the recipe. I soak my stained clothing in very hot water, too. I add some homemade liquid soap. Those clothespins look very sturdy and strong. I use wooden ones, but our climate is very dry here in California. It's almost like desert air. I still have my thirty year old Kenmore top loading washer. It's working perfectly. I bought it used, for very little money!

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  7. Great wisdom shared here Rhonda.I did feel sorry for Teddy Bear swinging up on the clothes line by himself , though :)
    Jenster .

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  8. I was just reading an old post of yours about laundry soap :D
    With the Borax, is it ok to use right away? With bar soap I thought you had to wait for the lye to settle. I'm only beginning my soap journey, so it's all still very new to me.

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    1. Hi Yarrow. Unlike bar soap, laundry liquid is ready to use as soon as you make it.

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    2. Lye is actually the liquid form of caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) so not related to borax.
      Claire in Melbourne

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  9. I tend to wash most toys in my front loader washing machine on the gentlest setting with a low spin. I'm not sure you can do this with a top loader as the washing is rougher. The biggest enemy to soft toys is a tumble dryer!

    For anyone who feels they can't fit in making laundry products, I suggest they check what is available in liquid form. In the UK I currently buy an unperfumed liquid from one of our most expensive supermarkets (surprisingly). It is very concentrated. I use about a quarter of the recommended amount for hard water and get very good results in a day to day wash. I get at least twice the number of washes as the bottle recommends. Handily of course it is also a lot lighter to carry. I measure it in a plastic medicine measure (vital to avoid waste) and put the measure straight in the drum.





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  10. I had stopped making my cleaners when we were living in our rv while searching for a house. It is time to get back into the habit of making my own cleaners. Thank you for the reminder. It's so simple and I have the space I need now.

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  11. I noticed a grimy collar on a denim shirt yesterday, and planned to wash it today. Thank you for the reminder to soak it first. Thank you for all the other laundering tips as well. I love the photo on your sidebar "work hard and be nice to people".

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    1. 'Work hard and be nice to people' is something to remember as we all progress through life. 🙂

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  12. Thank you for this information. I would like to make my own laundry liquid soap, but do have to ask what is washing soda? What would be an equivalent available here? Many thanks.
    A reader from the USA
    Mary

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    1. Mary, I'm not sure where you can buy it in the US but I found this information for you. Apparently you can buy it online now, read the info and see what you think. http://naturesnurtureblog.com/how-to-make-washing-soda/ It also shows you how to turn baking soda into washing soda by baking it in the oven. I hope this helps.

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    2. Mary, many grocery stores carry this here in the states. Even walmart if you have one near you. It's in the laundry aisle. :-)

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    3. Arm & Hammer makes washing soda. I buy mine at either Kroger or Walmart. Also, if you have a food stain on fabric, why not use dishwashing liquid to remove it?

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    4. Mary, I have purchased washing soda at Wal-Mart and Albertsons. You can also ask your local grocer to order it in. In the U.S. it is in a yellow box (I want to say that it is also put out by Arm & Hammer, but I would have to look tonight) You will find it in the laundry section. Good luck!

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  13. Any good ideas for getting perspiration odors out of clothes? Even after a normal washing the clothes still smell strongly of sweat.

    --Ave

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    1. Ave, have a look at Penny's comment below this one. She is using vinegar in the soaking water for perspiration stains. I use oxy-bleach when we sometimes have smelly towels. Soaking in hot water with oxy-bleach always fixes the smell problem because it kills the bacteria that cause the smell. Why don't you try it and see if it fixes sweaty smells too.

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  14. I have found white vinegar to be so useful when soaking clothes with perspiration stains and soaking blood spotted clothes/ linens in cold water before laundering has saved several items. I have learnt most of my laundering tips the hard way and ruined many things by being impatient and putting them through the washing machine without soaking/ prepping first. I rarely take items for dry cleaning now as I have gained in confidence with hand washing.
    It brought back memories to see teddy hanging on the line - I was overzealous with my daughters favourite bear and tossed him in the washing machine without a second thought. My poor daughter sat in front of the machine watching her bear whirling round and round. I felt terrible but he emerged safely and I only hand washed him with her help in future - making it a fun activity- lesson learnt!

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  15. Happy to see you back on line today. I do lots of soaking for stains as that is how my Mom did laundry too. I have never seen stainless steel clothespins before, something I need to search for. Blessings, Carolyn in Florida

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  16. Thankyou for way to clean baskets, Rhonda. I have a growing collection of these. I looked in to the steel pegs a while ago and couldn't afford them at the time. The bamboo pehs I bought did go mouldy! I keep my plastic pegs in a clean, old plant pot and make sure I bring them in overnight rather than leave them on outside or on the line. Meg☺

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  17. A great alternative use for laundry detergent is as a toilet cleaner. I almost exclusively use this and even though our home uses bore water which can cause staining from the mineral content, my toilet is always white. I just sprinkle a little eco-friendly laundry detergent around the bowl before I leave for work, then give it a very quick scrub when I get home. Better for the environment and one less product to purchase.

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  18. Does it take a strong grip to open the metal clothes pegs?

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    1. I have no problems using the metal pegs with my 70 year old hands, mochagrams.

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  19. I used to make your washing liquid Rhonda, but found that when I moved into a smaller house I just didn't have room for the bottles. Instead I use your recipe to make a laundry powder. I mix just the soap, washing soda, and borax in a one litre jar and use a dessertspoon in the wash. I wash with cold water, and have never had a problem with it not dissolving and it cleans beautifully. I do use oxi-bleach in my loads of whites and to soak stained clothing. I also have a bar of soap at the laundry sink that I use on my daughter's makeup stained work shirt collars before I wash them.
    Melanie Murry, I too have been known to use my laundry powder to clean the toilet. You are right, it does a great job :)
    Noni from Adelaide

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  20. I've been using your laundry liquid recipe for a couple years now, Rhonda. I love that it doesn't have any fragrance, and only a few chemicals. I have a very sensitive nose, and almost all store bought laundry detergents make me sneeze.

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  21. Thanks Rhonda for a very informative post.
    I really like your laundry powder recipe but will make the liquid version when I next run out as I would like to try it out as a stain remover too.
    Helen from WA.

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  22. I read a great tip for getting old stains out of vintage fabric, which has worked so well on stained white collars! Soak in the recommended amount of Napisan (or other soaker), then hang in the sun without rinsing or washing. The combination of sun and the soaker will bleach the stain out. Works so well! If the clothing is too stiff & starchy to wear after that treatment, you might need to rinse it afterwards.

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    1. Hi Rebecca. That is how I treat stains but I always rinse the chemicals out. It works well.

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  23. I must confess I'm very lazy on the washing front. I tend to wash first and cross my fingers that the stains will disappear!! Sometimes this actually works ;) I do tend to spot clean stains straight away on any 'good' clothes with castille soap and water which has so far been an easy fix for most.
    I absolutely love those pegs Rhonda. These are going on the shopping list when the current plastic ones expire (they've had a good run as they're going into their 9th year of use - weather being a little gentler on them down here). Thanks for the link.
    Cheers,
    Laura

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  24. Rhonda this is such an interesting post as always. Disan must be a wonderful product as I was interested to see you soaking coloureds with whites in the same bucket. That is something I would never do with Napisan for example as the colour would run into the whites. Can I buy Disan from the supermarket, and I am presuming that an oxybleach cleans but is gentler than the other soaking products on the market. Also, I love the sound of the metal pegs. Just what I need living in the tropics. Thanks so much, Pauline

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    1. Disan is from Aldi
      claire in Melbourne

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  25. Thank you Rhonda for the laundry overview, I often forget to soak but I will include it in my routine from now on.
    Something I would like to add is that many fabrics that are listed as "dry clean only" on labels can actually be washed; the foremost example is wool - I wash suits and coats in the machine on the wool cycle at 30 or 20 degrees C. I do the same with most handknits, especially socks that include nylon.

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  26. Thanks for the stainless steal peg tip. I live in Darwin and have no end of trouble with plastic and wooden pegs... Cheers, Ria

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  27. Rhonda, thank you so much for relaying how to clean leather. My husband has a leather recliner and the retailer said to just wash with warm water. I tried this but the oil left from his hair or body did not come off with just water and I was at a loss as to how to clean it. I am anxious to try your method.

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  28. Thanks Rhonda and everyone for the information on washing soda. I'll check it out the next time I visit Walmart.
    Mary

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  29. What a great refresher post. I was just thinking the other day about your post on cleaning wicker baskets and meant to access it; but just forgot for awhile when I got busy. Lo and behold, here it is! Thank you.

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  30. Thank you Rhonda, I am transitioning from supermarket products to making my own. I have already started making some products and your recipe list above has filled in the gaps of the ones I still need to make.

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  31. A little late, but...I have been using the wool dryer balls (imported from Australia). I use Dr. Bronner's lavender soap in my recipe but you cannot smell the lovely lavender soap when the laundry is done. By adding lavender essential oils to the wool balls, there is a hint of lavender in your dried clothes.

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  32. Hi I have just made my first batch of Laundry liquid and added cold water to the hot mix instead of warm water ! It has gone sort of stringy and I wonder if this matters ?
    I love all your advice and the blog . Have bought both your lovely books and another one as a present. So glad I found you .

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    1. Hi Linda. If you mix it up well, using a stick blender if you have one, it will be okay.

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