He­len tries her hand at mak­ing her own clean­ing prod­ucts to use on her boat

You don’t need to con­vert your gal­ley into a chem­istry lab, it just seems that way when it comes to pro­duc­ing home­made wash­ing pow­der...but help is at hand with He­len’s tips on her green ap­proach to mak­ing laun­dry and clean­ing prod­ucts

Canal Boat - - Editor's Letter -

Andy con­fessed to­day that he is al­ways con­cerned when I an­nounce I’ve had a good idea. Rude, I thought. So to­day, when I started mak­ing my own clean­ing prod­ucts, I fully ex­pected him to run to the com­fort of the clean­ing aisle in Tesco’s and find shel­ter among the brand la­bels.

But I de­cided to brazen it out. You see, I have a bit of a prob­lem with clean­ing ma­te­ri­als. Ac­tu­ally, I have more than one. Ever since own­ing a boat, I have al­ways tried to make sure that what­ever goes into our grey wa­ter won’t up­set the en­vi­ron­ment. For years I have bought en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly prod­ucts – but they still ar­rive in plas­tic con­tain­ers. In more re­cent times I have dis­cov­ered that I am al­ler­gic to many of the ingredients in com­mer­cial clean­ers, which has only fu­elled my cu­rios­ity about home­made ones.

Af­ter much t’in­ter­web re­search, I de­cided to take ad­van­tage of our brief stop in Leighton Buz­zard to equip my­self with the nec­es­sary ingredients. My list con­sisted of wash­ing soda (Tesco’s £1 for 1kg); Castile soap (couldn’t find this so opted for a big bar of Olivia soap £3.55 for 600g); white vine­gar (Tesco’s 39p for 500mls); cit­ric acid (Wilko £1 for 50g); and some es­sen­tial oils for op­tional scent. I be­gan with mak­ing the wash­ing pow­der. The recipe I’d set­tled on was one suit­able for slightly hard wa­ter, which seems to be what we most encounter: 50g cit­ric acid 55g grated soap 575g wash­ing soda 20 drops of es­sen­tial oils (op­tional) Grat­ing the bar of soap with my cheese grater was eas­ier than an­tic­i­pated, as it was quite soft. I then mixed all the ingredients in a bowl be­fore trans­fer­ring them into the mini chop­per at­tach­ment of my stick blender. The es­sen­tial oils I used were a com­bi­na­tion of frank­in­cense and san­dal­wood but any­thing could be added. I rather sus­pect laven­der or lemon would be lovely. For each load, three ta­ble­spoons is all that is re­quired. I made enough for 19 loads of wash­ing and the cost (with­out the es­sen­tial oil) was £1.88. Or 10p per load. My usual brand costs 36p per load. An eco­nomic win – pro­vid­ing the results are good.

Next, I put my­self to mak­ing some fab­ric con­di­tioner. It is my un­der­stand­ing that the main rea­son for clothes feel­ing starchy af­ter wash­ing is de­ter­gent residue and ir­ri­ta­tion hap­pens to sen­si­tive souls be­cause of a high pH re­tained in the clothes from the wash­ing wa­ter. The an­swer to both these is­sues is to neu­tral­ize the pH. In other words, vine­gar, vine­gar is the an­swer. Se­ri­ously.

I have to say, given how much vine­gar I use in my day job, it seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive to sling it in my fi­nal rinse but I’m game, so I cracked on. This recipe couldn’t have been sim­pler: 500mls White Vine­gar 30drops es­sen­tial oil (op­tional) I re­pur­posed an old gin bot­tle, poured in the vine­gar, and added 30 drops of es­sen­tial oil. That was it. To use, sim­ply add 100mls to the fi­nal rinse, or add it to the fab­ric con­di­tioner com­part­ment in a wash­ing ma­chine. The to­tal cost (with­out the es­sen­tial oil) was 39p with my usual brand cost­ing £2.26 for the same amount. But again, the proof was in the test­ing.

Wash Day ar­rived and it was time to put my home­made stuff to use. I added my three ta­ble­spoons as I started to fill the twin-tub drum, which gave it plenty of op­por­tu­nity to dis­solve. It did not froth and bub­ble as much as com­mer­cial brands but with no Sodium Lau­ryl Sul­fate in the mix, this was not sur­pris­ing. My clothes left be­hind an en­cour­ag­ingly dirty load of wa­ter and are now dry­ing hav­ing been rinsed with the vine­gar fab­ric con­di­tioner. They smell faintly of the es­sen­tial oils I added with­out a trace of vine­gar.

As the weeks went by, I de­cided to try out an­other recipe. My first had been per­form­ing well, but I think the ad­di­tion of es­sen­tial oils was a mis­take as it has be­come less pow­dery and more sticky. I de­cided to try out a recipe for soft wa­ter: 400g wash­ing soda 340g grated castile soap Made in ex­actly the same way as the pre­vi­ous recipe, this was not a cheap op­tion as the soap was ex­pen­sive. How­ever, in fu­ture I in­tend mak­ing my own laun­dry soap so it will once again be eco­nomic. I am favour­ing this in pref­er­ence to the hard wa­ter pow­der.

On the sub­ject of soap mak­ing, I fan­cied hav­ing a go at mak­ing some to put in­side my fruit net soap bags. Lots of read­ing around the sub­ject made me feel like I was fi­nally get­ting to play with a chem­istry set. It’s proper sci­ence with chem­i­cal re­ac­tions and all­sorts. But don’t let that put you off, I had so much fun do­ing this. That prob­a­bly sug­gests that I don’t get out much, but hey, let’s not go there …! To make a ba­sic soap, I needed the fol­low­ing: 250g ex­tra vir­gin olive oil 50g co­conut oil 40g caus­tic soda 98g/mls fil­tered wa­ter es­sen­tial oils op­tional

I bought my caus­tic soda on­line but I un­der­stand it is read­ily avail­able in DIY shops. Just make sure you buy caus­tic soda and not drain cleaner with caus­tic soda added. The use of such a scary in­gre­di­ent def­i­nitely gave me pause for thought. But with­out it, you don’t get soap. It is im­por­tant to treat it care­fully so I was par­tic­u­lar about wear­ing gloves and glasses. It is also very im­por­tant not to mix the caus­tic soda in a con­fined space, so only make it on a day when it is pos­si­ble to be out­side and avoid in­hal­ing any fumes. Any skin splashes should be rinsed with co­pi­ous amounts of wa­ter.

To be­gin mak­ing this I went onto the back deck wear­ing my gloves, glasses firmly in place with my wa­ter in a Pyrex jug. The caus­tic soda must be added to the wa­ter. If I had got this step wrong, and poured the wa­ter into the caus­tic soda, a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion could cause the soda to ex­pand or erupt out of its con­tainer. As it was, the jug quickly be­came hot as I care­fully stirred the soda un­til it dis­solved. Once done, I left it to cool and went back to the gal­ley to weigh out the oils. The co­conut oil was solid, so it was worth blitz­ing this a lit­tle with my stick blender be­fore the next step. Once the caus­tic soda wa­ter had cooled, I poured it slowly into the oils and gen­tly mixed it to­gether. Then my stick blender went in and for sev­eral min­utes I blitzed the con­tents of my bowl un­til I reached the ‘trace’ stage. This is where the mix­ture thick­ens and re­sem­bles a may­on­naise – like con­sis­tency. It is the start of a process called saponi­fi­ca­tion. Now was the mo­ment to add es­sen­tial oils, but I to­tally for­got. In­stead, I moved straight onto pour­ing it into my moulds. In­stead of buy­ing fancy schmancy soap moulds I used an old sil­i­cone muf­fin tray, which I have had for years, and a take­away con­tainer from our last Chi­nese. These were per­fect. I scraped my soap into the moulds, shook them to re­move any bub­bles, cov­ered them with a tea towel and put them in the cratch to set for 24 hours.

I am an im­pa­tient soul, so I only man­aged to wait about 18 be­fore see­ing if my ef­forts were ready. Both soaps plopped out very sat­is­fy­ingly onto my chop­ping board and I then cut my take­away con­tainer soap into more use­able bars be­fore it hard­ened too much. Cov­ered once again, I left them in the cratch to fin­ish. I turned them daily for a week then waited a full month be­fore us­ing them. De­spite my im­pa­tience, it is nec­es­sary to do this as it takes sev­eral days for the caus­tic soda to fin­ish its work. The rest of the time is for the soap to harden to pre­vent in­stant wear­ing away.

When I fi­nally got to use it, I was de­lighted with the results. The soap lath­ered nicely and felt great. It also smelt lovely de­spite the lack of es­sen­tial oils. Next time I make it, I shall ex­per­i­ment with scent. Wrapped nicely, a home­made bar of soap makes a lovely present. Which brings us to next month. For De­cem­ber I shall be look­ing at mak­ing Christ­mas gift-wrap for home­made presents. Who knew rub­bish could be so much fun?

Here goes...mak­ing the first batch of wash­ing pow­der

The fab­ric con­di­tioner is un­be­liev­ably easy to make and great fun in the process

Re­sult... the se­cond batch of wash­ing pow­der looked bet­ter and kept bet­ter

The take­away tub and muf­fin mould worked well

Adding caus­tic soda and wa­ter starts the process of saponi­fi­ca­tion

The fin­ished soap is cut into handy-sized bars

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.