Making Soap

Since there was no way our soap ration was going to cover the amount of dish and laundry soap we use, I needed to find another solution. Luckily, unlike housewives during WW2, I have the internet to fall back on (although they had loads of cool government-issued how-to pamphlets.)

I found the following recipes, carefully totaled up our 12 monthly soap coupons (2 for 6 oz of shampoo each for daughter and me; 3 bars of soap for bath, sink, and kitchen; 3 coupons for 18oz (2 cups plus 4 TBSP) of Borax, 1 bar of soap for dishes, 2 bars for laundry; and one coupon left over for emergencies) and got to work.

First up: Homemade Laundry Soap.  (There are comprehensive pictures at the link, so I'll only post a few.)
1 bar of Ivory soap, grated
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing soda

Mix together, breaking up clumps with your fingers.

(This is two batches of laundry soap, which is our ration for the month.)
Store in a closed jar.
Measure out 1 TBSP for a load of laundry (Warm water makes it dissolve better.) Easy-peasy.

Now for the Homemade Dish Soap.

1 TBSP grated Ivory soap
1TBSP Borax
1 3/4 cups water.

Bring the water to a boil in a sauce pan. Add the other ingredients, whisking to melt the soap.

Let sit for 6 to 8 hours to thicken, whisking occasionally.

Of course, if you're like me, you won't get the directions quite right when you're mixing everything up, since the instructions will be on the computer on the dining room table, while you're busy in the kitchen measuring soap, etc, and will combine everything and bring it all to a boil, which as it cools will become a lovely gelatinous mass, too thick to pour into or out of a bottle. (How's that for a run-on sentence!)

 (Thank goodness I decided to start with the basic recipe, instead of quadrupling it to get it all done at once, which was my first inclination. I'm a bit on the lazy side. Don't judge me.)

I tried adding a smidge more water and whisking gently. It's a bit foamy/lumpy in this picture. Good enough for government work.

 Okay, so it's more of a chunky gel than a smooth liquid. I'll see what the next batch (during the making of which I WILL follow the directions) turns out like.

Will the laundry soap actually clean clothes? Will the dish soap chunks actually be able to fit through the bottle spout? And what about Naomi? For the answers to these and other questions, tune in for my next soap post...whenever my chunky dish soap runs out.


deborah harvey said...

hi, kaintuck!
just found you on 'gorges grouse'. what inspired this experiment in ww II rationing?
is it saving you money?
will look in your past log to see if you already answered my questions.

Catherine said...

Hi, Deborah! I'm glad you asked!

My initial interest in the WW2 era was sparked while rehabbing our 1940's house. When we were replacing the windows, my neighbor (who was born in this house) mentioned that his dad had told stories about how he had salvaged the windows from a house being torn down in a nearby town. He couldn't get new building materials because of the lingering effects of the depression and the looming war. But his dad needed a house for his growing family (11 children!) and managed to build one, mostly using the trees and rock on the property...and a handful of prized mis-matched windows.

Then I watched the wonderful BBC show "Wartime Farm". They mentioned that the British were, paradoxically, healthier during rationing than any time before or since. Their historians showed how they coped with shortages, worked together to support the war effort, and yet enjoyed dances and get-togethers. That got me wondering; they had so little (food, resources), were coping with the constant threat of violence, yet they were healthier and seemed to be fairly cheerful during the war? Why?

I look around America today, and we have so much. There is an absolute glut of stuff--food, clothes, huge houses, multiple cars, myriad ways to entertain or distract ourselves--yet we don't seem to be happier or healthier for all the excess. If anything, we seem more miserable as a country. Why?

So I decided to see if,
One: Is it possible to live on wartime rations and not starve to death? Will we be healthier without an unlimited assortment of food?
Two: If entertainments have to be carefully chosen because of rationing, will they mean more or be more satisfying?
Three: Can we live with fewer things--a wartime wardrobe, wartime constrains on buying stuff, wartime curtailment on travel--and still function?
Four: What changes will it make in us? What can we learn from recreating a forcibly pared down lifestyle? Will we be happier? Will we be healthier? Can we survive?

That's what this experiment is all about.

Penny said...

Hi Catherine,
I am really enjoying this foray into "Of course I can!" Two really great things for me are that I have access to the internet, which led me to your blog through Gorges Smyth's blog, and the fact that experiencing some things vicariously is satisfying enough to me. A third thing, since we're counting, is that you are a very interesting story-telling writer!

I realize you haven't asked for advice from the peanut gallery, but I have a couple of interesting tidbits about soap to share with you that you might find valuable:
I use the "no-poo" method of washing my hair with baking soda and rinsing with apple cider vinegar. It feels as though it's true that this regime balances the pH of my scalp and therefore, I need to "shampoo" less frequently. I have found that my hair seems happier, as well. Soft, relaxed and a bit more curly!

And, I buy pure castile liquid all purpose Dr. Bronner's soap. It's meant to be diluted and used for body, laundry, dishes and other household cleaning chores.
Sorry for intruding, if I have, but your experiment has pulled me in!

Catherine said...

Hi Penny!

I'm always happy for advice from the peanut gallery--some peanuts are much smarter than your average bear (how's that for a malapropism?!)

I tried "no-poo" a couple of years ago and didn't really like it. What I've discovered (now that I have to watch my shampoo usage) is that if I set my hair for curls on day one, brush it our for waves on day two, and pin it up or braid it on day three, I can get by with shampooing every third day.

I bought Dr. Bronner's soap for years...until I splurged on a gallon and it went rancid before I could use it up. In desperation, I bought some Ivory bar soap and have pretty much stuck with it since.

Thank you for the kind compliment about my writing! I hope you stick around...I'm going to be changing things up a bit...maybe explore dabbling in the [SPOILER ALERT!]