Breezy laundry

The following is a piece I wrote for July issue of Messenger magazine.

Ah, summer. The days are warm and getting longer. The breeze rustles through the big green tree leaves, and I’m doing laundry like there’s no tomorrow.

Not that I love doing laundry, but I’ll admit that hanging freshly cleaned sheets on the line is one of my favorite little things about summer. There’s something deeply satisfying about harnessing all that free, natural energy to dry my linens. And of course, nothing beats inhaling fresh air off a pillow case as your drifting off to sleep to the hum of a fan in the open window.

These are just a few simple pleasures that I try to remember to stop and savor, and a small part of how I’m learning to live a little more simply in the midst of a far-too-often complicated life.

I used to think that “simple living” meant traveling by horse and buggy, sewing my own clothes, or reading by candlelight (all things that I’d be happy to do, by the way). But all that seemed like such an intimidating jump to make from my car-driven, store-bought, lamp-lit life. Simplicity just seemed too out of reach.

But a few years ago a good friend reminded me that taking a turn in a new direction doesn’t have to be u-turn—it can be a gentle fork in the road. The nice thing about forks is that they don’t seem drastic at first, but over time they take you to a very different place than you were originally headed.

In addition to what I save by line-drying, I’ve taken to reducing the cost of laundry by making my own detergent. The ingredients cost about seven dollars and can be purchased at any hardware store. The recipe I use makes approximately three gallons, and a little diluted vinegar works like a charm for fabric softener.

Maybe one of these days I’ll get myself a sewing machine, but in the meantime, at least my sheets are drying in the breeze. 

Laundry Detergent

1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax (optional)

1 bar soap (I use Fel’s Naptha)
3+ gallons water

Bring four cups of water to a very gentle boil in a large pot.
While it’s heating, shred the entire bar of soap using a box grater.
When the water is hot, add the soap in small handfuls, stirring to dissolve.
When all the soap flakes are dissolved, remove the pot from the heat.

In a separate large container (I use a 5-gallon bucket) add three gallons of warm water, the washing soda, borax (if using) and the soap solution.

Stir, cover, and let set for 24 hours. 

After 24 hours your detergent is ready to use. Its texture will vary depending on the type of soap you use (mine is usually rather slimy and glob-y). When you’re ready to wash, use the same amount that you would with a store-bought detergent. Diluted vinegar makes for great fabric softener.  


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: