vintage laundry detergent?

The woman in this vintage ad looks absolutely crazed about Tide's "oceans of suds":

Deranged housewife wielding her "new washing miracle"
Should we be crazy about popular store-bought detergents too or is there a better way to clean clothes? I am on a weird mission to find out...

In the 1920's, Americans used plain soap flakes in their spiffy washing machines that were only invented 12 years prior. Soap alone didn't clean clothes efficiently or perform well in hard water and left a nasty ring around the washer. (Fill in any witty 1920's phrases of exasperation you may know.) Laundry detergent as we know it was created in 1943 by Proctor & Gamble and was surely a lifesaver, worthy of all sorts of hilarious ads showcasing adoring fans. So what's wrong with it now?

I've been hearing so much about homemade detergent lately, but have avoided buying into it for 3 solid reasons:
1.) Grating soap with a cheese grater sounds like a real pain in the butt
2.) Homemade laundry detergent has become somewhat of an annoying trend. Almost like a cult of elitist domestic snobby-pants.
3.) I don't really have any issues with my current detergent.

I started by researching the ingredients for a popular detergent:
Homemade detergent is great for sensitive skin, babies or just a more natural lifestyle.
Is all that junk REALLY necessary to clean clothes well? After stumbling over all those huge words, I realized I DO have issues with store-bought detergent nowadays. Although my all-natural detergent did not include many of these nasty ingredients, I was paying a pretty-penny for it. Even if you believe all those chemicals are safe, it still seems a bit unnecessary when homemade detergent has as little as 4 ingredients at less than half the cost. I still really didn't feel like grating soap, but then I stumbled across this humbling gem:

Years ago a Kentucky grandmother gave a bride the following recipe for washing clothes (phonetic spelling and all) :
  1. Bild fire in back yard to heet kettle of rainwater.
  2. Set tubs so smoke won’t blow in eyes if wind is pert.
  3. Shave one hole cake lie soap in boilin water.
  4. Sort things, make three piles. 1 pile white. 1 pile cullord. 1 pile work britches and rags.
  5. To make starch stur flour in cold water to smooth then thin down with boilin water.
  6. Rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard, then boil. Rub cullord but don’t boil — just rench and starch.
  7. Take white things out of kettle with broom stick handle then rench, blew and starch.
  8. Spred tee towels on grass.
  9. Hang old rags on fence.
  10. Pour rench water in flower bed.
  11. Scrub porch with hot soapy water.
  12. Turn tubs upside down.
  13. Go put on cleen dress, smooth hair with side combs, brew cup of tee — set and rest a spell and count your blessins.

Now that I feel incredibly lazy and ungrateful for my position in society, my multitude of modern conveniences and my grammatical education, I think I can grate some darn soap. As for homemade detergent-makers being an obnoxious cult..well...there are obviously a few good reasons why everyone is jumping on this bandwagon. I decided to make some stupid laundry detergent.

Here's the laziest recipe I found for powdered detergent:
2c. Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
2c. of Baking Soda
2c. of Borax
1 bar of natural soap with no additives (I used Fels-Naptha laundry soap)

Just grate the soap with a cheese grater and then stir all the ingredients thoroughly. You only need 1-2 Tablespoons per wash load, so this will last for 80 loads of laundry....80.

Optional Fabric Softener:
White Vinegar (don't worry, it makes them soft and your clothes will not smell like salad)

Things to note:

- When I sat down to grate my Fels-Naptha soap, I was prepared for the long haul. I wore a plaid shirt, spoke in a southern drawl and channeled my inner Little House on the Prairie, but I easily grated a whole bar in 5-10 minutes. The soap is also a beautiful yellow color and smells fresh and clean. I'm weirdly excited to grate my next bar, but unless I just do one for fun, it's going to be a while.
- You really do only need 1-2 Tablespoons of this's tempting to use more, but you just end up wasting it and needing an extra rinse cycle.
- I could not find the Super Washing Soda locally (apparently, it's sold at Walmart, but I refuse to shop there). I was able to purchase it through Amazon.
- Store-bought laundry detergent costs about 26¢ per load. With the ingredients listed above, this ends up being around 4¢ per load!

I don't know why I fought it for so long (other than the obnoxious amount of attention and popularity it received.) I have noticed no discernible difference in the freshness or cleanliness of my clothes when compared to my old detergent; it seems to work well! If you used a heavily-scented detergent, you might notice a difference, but the Fels-Naptha still gave it a light scent. So here's to grating soap and saving 22¢ every time you run the washer! :)