Soap, Take...what number is this? Oh, Okay. Soap, Take 3.

 The chunky dish soap just didn't work. (I'll talk about the laundry soap in a moment.)

To be totally fair, I didn't properly follow the dish soap recipe the first time. But the second time? Yeah. Not as chunky, still does not cut grease! Why, oh why, would anyone want a dish washing soap recipe that won't get grease off the dishes?!?

(Don't take everything the government says at face value. Notice the quotes around "soap"? Just sayin'.)
So I've been experimenting.

I know you can use wood ashes to scrub greasy pots. Wood ashes+water=lye. Lye+fat=soap. Scrubbing with wood ashes saponifies the grease on wet dishes. Theoretically, this would give you grease-free dishes. But, here's the kicker. It hasn't been cold enough (yet) to fire up the wood stove and all of last year's ashes went on this year's garden. Plus, we use the fireplace ashes for traction on the walkways after a snowfall, as well as on the plants. Do I really want to run the risk of falling on my patoot this winter because I used all the ashes cleaning the dishes? I think not. Plus, ashes are messy.

Ashes are out. Strike one. What about bleach?

Washing with the dish soap and then rinsing the dishes in a sink of bleach water cut the grease...some. I was annoying not having the second sink to rinse the dishes off while I washed them, which necessitated rinsing the dishes beforehand, then stacking the wet, drippy, dirty dishes beside the sink and on the counter. Plus, when it came time to scrub the pots...well, the second or third time I knocked the pot I was scrubbing, while trying to balance it on the edge of the sink, into the sink and splashed myself with grey, greasy, grimy dish water, I decided I wanted my second sink bowl back.

Bleach is out. Strike two.

And then I had an epiphany.

Because we use a kerosene stove, the bottoms of our pans get blackened by soot from the open flames. (Kerosene isn't the cleanest burning fuel in the world. But "free" covers a multitude of sins. I, for one, will willingly scrub pots for free kerosene. Don't judge me.) In order to get the soot off the pots and pans, I'd squirt a bit of the homemade dish soap on the bottom of the pan, add a decent amount of baking soda, and then scrub with a wet stainless scrubber. Soot came right off...and the pans weren't greasy afterward. Hmmm...

Maybe baking soda would work.

So what I've been doing is putting a squirt of soap directly on my dish sponge, adding a sprinkle of baking soda, and scrubbing the plates to grease-free happiness. I'm probably using a bit more soap than I would otherwise, but with better results. So far, so good.

Score: Baking soda for a win. Dish soap, still not that great.

(Just in case I forgot to mention this: the homemade dish soap does not make suds. No bubbles. None. Which takes quite a bit of the fun out of doing the dishes by hand. Just sayin'.)

Which brings us to the laundry soap.

Rubbing alcohol gets out grass stains (Biology 101. Chlorophyll dissolves in alcohol.) Hydrogen Peroxide will get blood out of anything...although the whole foamy-exothermic-reaction-thing is a little disconcerting. Rubbing alcohol followed by Ammonia gets grease out of clothes. So really, there isn't much left for the laundry soap to accomplish besides just getting light surface dirt off. (It certainly doesn't remove any stains that are even remotely oil-based.) Which, honestly, plain warm water and a good agitator will accomplish without extra soap.

Score: Laundry soap, better than nothing...useless without pretreatments.

My take-home on homemade dish and laundry soaps: If there is no alternative, yeah, they'll "work." If you have access to any detergents whatsoever, grab them, store them, use them. They are worth the money. You'll have clean dishes, clean clothes, and most importantly....



Gorges Smythe said...

Remember that baking soda is an abrasive, so you might not want to use it on Grandma's fine china. Very informative article.

Catherine said...

Good point, Gorges. We only break out the china for holidays...most of the time we use Grandma's mass-produced iron-stone-type dishes that are thick enough to stand up to everyday use. I don't think there is an abrasive made that could hurt those dishes!

Thanks for following along with our little experiment. I'm going to post the first month's results wrap-up (electricity/weight/clothes/exercise/etc.) on Monday, barring any last minute disasters.

Penny said...

Just thinking out loud here...I wonder why I have that children's camp song stuck in my head; "great big gobs of green greasy grimy golpher guts..." Also, I had to go back and read the post about why you are doing this. Way to be committed! (in a good way)

Catherine said...

Penny--I LOOOOVED that song as a kid!! (Singing: Mutilated monkey's feet, little baby birdie feet...and me without my spoon!) Kids revel in sick humor. Too bad that doesn't extend to them wanting to scrub greasy grimy dishes!

Thanks for stopping by!

deborah harvey said...

people are touting the homemade laundry soap made from grated bar soap and saying how good it is.
hardness of water has something to do with its effectiveness, no doubt.
are you using it in your washer?
it is said to be okay for washing machines but i won't put it in ours, which warns to use only detergent for 'h e' machines.
tell more about the laundry situation.

when elbow grease was necessary, as we can see from your dish experience, people used scrubbing boards, not machines,for their laundry.
thank God for machines.
it is good to have knowledge and nonelectric equipment in case of need, but it must have been brutal for washerwomen in times past, especially in winter.
then there are references to 'housemaids knee'.
i figure people were in some pain a lot of the time.

Catherine said...

Deborah--We're on well water, with lots of iron in it, which probably does have something to do with the soap problems I'm having.

I second you thanking God for modern washers...and dryers. When our HE washer died last year (power surges killed it), we washed clothes using a pair of wringer mop buckets and a (brand new, clean) toilet plunger for several months until we could buy a top loader washer with as few electronic components as possible.

Hand washing wasn't as hard as I had expected, but it definitely took longer to get loads done, because you could only wash one or two items at a time. Each bucketful got 50-100 plunges in each bucket (wash/rinse) before being squeezed in the wringer and dumped in the laundry basket to take outside. I did end up with blisters a few times from trying to wring extra water out of some of the clothes.

Hanging clothes outside was problematic when it rained (and it rains a lot in the Appalachians) and hand washed clothes took twice to three times as long to dry in the dryer. The thought of trying to cope with having to do our family's laundry by hand during a freeze was what drove me to insist on replacing the washing machine.

(We keep the buckets/plunger in storage for power outages.)