One of the most important parts of Urban Homesteading is using less of everything.
I do volunteer work for the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC, and was looking to get donations for soaps and detergents for the wildlife care centre. When I was looking into the amounts the care centre needed , the amounts were staggering! Not only did they go through a buttload of laundry, they were going through, by my estimates, 4-10 TIMES more detergent than they needed.
“What, were they just freepouring a vat of detergent into each load?”
No, that’s the crazy part. They were using the cups that came with the detergent. The problem is that the cups are WAAAAAAAY bigger than a normal person would actually use. In fact, they’re 4-8 times bigger than what a regular load would need.
Most soap companies are in the business of selling you as much soap as possible, and having you go through it as quickly as possible. They sell “extra power” detergents that are “super concentrated” with “grease busting super powers” and “xray vision”… ok, maybe not that part.
The point is, the marketing for soap makes you believe your clothes are SO DIRTY that you need to use a ludicrous amount of ultra powered soap to clean them. How much soap, in fact?
Ready for something crazy/slightly gross?
If you take a load of dirty clothes and run them through your washer with NO soap, you will likely get enough suds and soap that’s left over in the dirty clothes to wash them clean again.
Yeah, go read that sentence again.
We use so much soap, that the machines can’t even rinse it out, and there’s a butt ton of soap residue sitting in our clothes and against our skin ALL THE TIME. Not only that, but we’re pumping soap into the aquifers, and wearing down our machines because of the insane amount of soap we use. We even add extra rinse cycles to machines because we can’t get all the soap out, so waste even more water. The last time I had to get my washing machine repaired, the repair guy said overuse of soap was the #1 cause of his dishwasher/washing machine calls.
So it’s time to address all the myths about soap:
Myth #1: Soap Makes things clean
NO! The majority of the cleaning of dishes and laundry (and everything, really), comes from water and agitation. Dirt dissolves in water, and needs no soap. The only thing water cannot do is get rid of oil, and because our body naturally produces oils, soap is necessary. THE ONLY PURPOSE OF SOAP IS TO MIX OIL AND WATER. Yup. That’s all it does. And as soon as you have enough soap to mix oil and water, you don’t need to add any more. How much soap is that? About a drop in 4L of water. Yeah, that’s all.
Myth #2: Bubbles are how you know soap is working
Noperino. Soap contains surfactants which help them bond with oil, and make bubbles, but most commercial soaps also contain foaming agents (such as sodium laureth sulfate) which make them foam up more, and bubble more. But the foaming agents aren’t necessary, and a lot of soaps, like dishwasher detergent, are designed without them, so you don’t have crazy spilly, overflowing with bubbles dishwashers. Most natural soaps don’t use them, and so foam less, but that doesn’t mean they work any less.
Myth #3: More Soap = More clean
Ungh, this is the worst part. By adding a butt ton of soap, you need waaaaaay more water to rinse it off. Ever try to clean out a soap dish, and it takes forever to clean off all the soap residue? Yeah, it’s like that. The more soap you add, the less likely it will rinse off, and you’re left with soap residue on your clothes and dishes, which can cause skin irritation, rashes, and is wasteful and expensive.
“So how much soap should I use?”
Laundry Detergent: 1 tbsp of concentrated natural soap, max of 2
Dishwasher Detergent: 1-2 tsp
Dish Soap: 1/4-1/2 tsp
(stay tuned for recipes on how to make your own laundry, dish, and liquid soap!)
“That’s totally not enough!”
Yeah, it’s going to feel that way for a while until you find everything is just as clean. I didn’t even notice the difference for a while until I stayed at a friend’s house who washed my clothes, and used so much soap that I immediately broke out in an itchy rash. Was not pleasant. I had to go re-wash all my clothes in cold water, just to wash out the soap. But the difference is huge, and you save a TON of money.