Today’s $5 Friday is a bit different – this is not a post about a meal, but it is a post about how to reduce your grocery budget. It is also a further tip about how I continue to spent less than $50 a week on food and cleaning products. One of the things that many people spend large amounts of money on is cleaning products.
Have you ever wondered why ‘soap operas‘ have that name? That’s because daytime television shows were designed to draw in women so that they would then see the ads for cleaning products and buy them. Yes, there is big money in cleaning products. Seriously big money. You just need to go into a supermarket and see the number of aisles dedicated to ‘miracle’ and ‘easy’ products to see that there must be a market. Cleaning products focus on a woman’s fear of being dirty, lazy, or not being able to care for her family. And yes, the marketing for this is usually aimed at women.
My father is a scientist (a chemist). He has often told me that commercial washing powder is incredibly alkaline, i.e. very harsh. If you are working in an industrial setting or factory and have heavy stains on your clothes, then some of those products are probably useful for you. But if like me, you work in an air-conditioned office and you are really washing your clothes to make them smell nice, then the heavy duty treatment is just expensive – not just to buy but because of the impact on your clothes. And some of the commercial products make me itch – not fun for pajamas and sheets. I can’t help thinking that if that is the effect they are having on me, it must be worse for my kids.
I have used this homemade washing powder for years. My recipe will leave your clothes feeling soft, smelling great, and in a good condition. It is also suitable to use for children and babies. It does take a little bit of effort to make, but one batch will last me several months (sometimes up to six months, but then I have a small family to wash for). I usually make double to maximise efficiency. I often use eucalyptus oil, but recently I have splurged on lavender oil. I don’t need to use a lot, but it makes me feel a bit special when I do the laundry as I love the smell.
1 bar pure soap (grated)
1 cup washing soda (lectric soda)
2 cups bicarbonate of soda
up to 20 drops of eucalyptus oil, or if your budget can extend to it, lavender oil
A note on soap: not all bars of soap are ‘pure soap’. I’m not exactly sure what the difference is, but my chemist father tells me there is one and that pure soap is much better. Pure soap is more expensive, but overall this is still a lot cheaper than a commercial product. You can buy Lux flakes but if you compare the unit price once again it is a lot more expensive (from memory around $7 a kilo).
A note on washing soda. This is the brand I buy. I think it is the only brand available in Australia, or at least it is the only brand I have found stocked in supermarkets in recent times. It is usually easier to find in very large supermarkets or in specialty IGA or other places.
- Grate the soap. You can do this using the grater attachment on your food processor, or you can do what I did and cut into pieces and then use a handheld moullinex. Grating first helps as otherwise it takes ages in the food processor and even then it doesn’t really get into small enough pieces.
- Combine all ingredients together in the food processor, and blitz until really fine. Store in an airtight container. Use one tablespoon for most loads of washing unless it is really dirty or large.
- Note: I have a front loader washing machine and I find this works fine. Ideally, you should dissolve in hot water first for a front loader, but I don’t and it is okay. I used to have a top loader for years and this worked fine as well. Actually I think it worked slightly better in a top loader.
- A tip for stains: I find that a few drops of dishwashing liquid work a treat for heavy greasy stains like spaghetti bolognese sauce or grease from bicycle chains, ideally applied as soon as you notice the stain. Washing with pure soap is fine for most other stains such as blood or vomit (no, this never happens in our household!) Use cold water for most stains, at least at first.
- A tip for shirt collars: add a splash of shampooo and massage in before throwing in the wash.
Bicarb of soda $1.50
Letric soda 97c