Last year I started making my own laundry detergent and I'm quite satisfied with both the cleaning power and the cost. The added bonus is that I don't have loads of plastic bottles cluttering up the recycling bin (and they never seem to last as many loads as they advertise anyway). My recipe?
1 box borax
1 box laundry booster (Arm & Hammer)
3 bars of ivory soap, grated
essential oil for fragrance (optional)
One heaping tablespoon is all it takes for a full load in the washing machine, and it works beautifully in the newer high efficiency models as well. One batch lasts my family a little more than 2 months (family of 4).
Next chapter in laundry.... the dryer went out about 2 weeks ago. This one is a used one that we bought several months after moving here. My mother just about had a stroke when I told her we were drying on the line. My mother grew up living simply out of necessity and can't understand why anyone would hang clothes out if there is a perfectly good dryer to do the job for you. She also used to think that "green living" was for people that lived in green houses. We did try line drying exclusively, but after several months my skin would get irritated, especially with my jeans from the scratchy line-dried clothes. So we abandoned the line for a used dryer, and that poor sucker finally gave out the week before last.
After that, I only line dried occasionally because it was never convenient (but when is laundry ever convenient anyway). A couple of years later Steve installed one of those whirly, space saving line dryers in the backyard. I still only used it occasionally, and mostly for sheets and so forth. My excuse was that I was working full time I'm not in the habit of hanging out clothes in the dark. Truth be told, the dryer was usually full of a load all day that I would have to fluff again anyway just to get the wrinkles out.
So my dependence on the clothes dryer hinged on my ability to produce soft, fluffy clothes that line drying did not. So when the dryer blew the other week, before rushing out to buy a new (or used) one I researched online some homemade fabric softeners. I came up with this recipe courtesy of http://www.oldcentennialfarmhouse.com:
2 cups of inexpensive hair conditioner
3 cups of white vinegar
6 cups of water
I mixed the three ingredients up in a gallon jug and used the name brand fabric softener ball that came with my machine. Presto. It did work. Now behold, I did not get the fluffy results of an electric dryer but at least my skin is not irritated and the bath towels don't double as sandpaper. So, for now it's working. Just remember to shake it up every time you go to fill the ball.
There was one last drawback to hanging out clothes that I'm not crazy about that I haven't addressed yet. Because of my busy schedule, I'm not always able to hang clothes out when it's sunny or get home in time before it starts raining. Out of necessity, I was forced to hang up some clothes last week that had not quite dried on a cold, overcast day on hangers in our laundry/pantry/mud/craft room. In this multipurpose room, Steve had already hung up some white metal shelves used for closets up on the walls for storage that he bought at an auction very cheap (storing our mason jars and canning pots, also purchased at auctions or thrift stores). They were the perfect distance from the wall for a hanger and you could hang your clothes perpendicular to the line rather than on the line. The shelves are up higher so there is plenty of room to hang jeans, etc. with the hangers with clips on them. Best part is that an extra step is saved when those clothes that hang up are already on hangers! And I can hang clothes out in any weather at any time of day, no worries about the rain.
Well, so far so good. I'm not ready yet to say that I absolutely will not go get a new (used) dryer. But after several rounds of air drying and line drying exclusively I can see that it's totally doable. I'm also thinking that the spot where the dryer was would make a good spot for a .....