Friday, 6 May 2011

Soap Experiment

I haven’t written specifically about anything frugal lately, though I would hope that all the reading and walking that goes on here exemplifies an inexpensive lifestyle with frugal hobbies. Most of our frugality probably qualifies as passive – the things we don’t do or buy. Even the active things are small: walking to the store, hanging laundry, cooking at home. Now and then, however, we experiment with a new idea.

We are among the very few people I know who don’t have an automatic dishwasher. I’ve only ever owned one once. It was in the house in SLC when I bought it, probably an old-fashioned model, but I wasn’t very impressed by it, so I’ve never bought one since. For only two people I’m not convinced it actually saves labour.

Anyhow, I noticed a recipe for homemade dishwashing soap on The Simple Dollar (see Question 10) that I thought we could try. I found some washing soda at a hardware store for 85p and we had the other ingredients on hand. We seem to go through a lot of dishwashing soap and through the cheap stuff even faster than the more expensive brands. I also thought it would be a good way of using up some of the many remaining small bars of hotel soaps we collected over the years of business and vacation trips. Even after years of using them at the gym and at home, we still have a significant supply; so bad that I don’t pick them up any more. We also have a significant number of soap bars from Ella’s collection of gifts for Grandma.

I started out grating the soap bars, which was tedious, but Bill got out my grandparents’ meat grinder and that was miraculous: soap bars to soap powder almost instantly. The recipe was relatively simple, but it did warn that the contents would foam after each addition. They weren’t kidding it foamed.

The results initially were worrying, separate solid on top of some sort of liquid. Bill cut through the block of soap with a knife and it did gradually absorb most of the liquid. The instructions do say the result is fairly solid and to put it on the sponge rather than in the water, which is what I do with dish soap anyhow.

It does more or less clean the dishes, but it turns the dishwater a horrible grey and I think it leaves a bit of a film on glassware. Nothing that drying them immediately doesn’t take care of, but more work all the same.

Since then, we’ve talked about other ways to cut down on dishes that need washed: use the same coffee cup all day, the same saucer for snacks, cook larger batches of food so that the skillet or pot that was dirtied provides more than one meal. Perhaps washing dishes more consciously would also help. There is actually a prescribed order that starts with glassware and ends with pots and pans. I think we already do this, but wouldn’t swear to it.

Bill says he doesn’t think the chemistry of the recipe makes sense, mixing acids and alkalis, etc. He remembers as a child there being one type of soap which came in big green or pink blocks and one would ground it up to wash either dishes or laundry: kitchen soap. I’ve no idea what it was or if it can now be purchased, but he wondered if that was the soap we were supposed to have started with. Seems unlikely, given it was an American recipe and kitchen soap is not part of my childhood there.

I’m glad we tried it; it was an interesting thing to try and we had fun doing it. We’ll probably even use the stuff, though I won’t promise. Would I recommend this recipe? Nope. Would I try another experiment like this? Absolutely! We’re considering using just the washing soda in very small amounts – wearing dishwashing gloves, of course.

Putting aside whether calling this sort of thing ‘fun’ is beyond warped....

Do you ever do fun experiments like this in the name of frugality?


Jg. for FatScribe said...

i love it! spending lots more time with my 80 yr-old dad after my mom passed away late last year has meant a lot more frugality on our part. but, he still has money for his wine!

hope your well, shells. loved those posts on your cars!

Revanche said...

I haven't done in a while but I would if I had the time! I just like trying them for the heck of it, because why not? It doesn't hurt anything (usually) and the experience is usually a hoot. More so when I do something terribly wrong ;)

Samantha said...

Love the walks as an inexpensive (and healthy) hobby. We do the same. There is so much to see in our neighborhood.

We also don't have a dishwasher, but I think making my own soap would be too much work. I'm frugal but I'm also lazy.

Shelley said...

Jg. - Hope you enjoy your Dad while you still have him! Glad you liked the car posts.

Revanche - It is about time vs money when you are young. As I've gotten older, I realise it's also about energy. Somethings just have to wait for retirement, I suppose. And like you say - why not?

Bromeliad - Frugal but lazy...sounds very much like a description of me!