Monday, November 14, 2011

Simple Science: Laundry Detergent!

This year, we're trying lots of hands-on things.  Since making my own laundry detergent is something I routinely do, I decided to get the kids involved for some simple science.  We had lots of fun with this practical and frugal experiment. 

First, we pulled out our detergent-making supplies:  our 5-gallon bucket (which is actually a kitty litter container that we got from Freecycle); Borax; Super Washing Soda (not to be confused with baking soda); and the hard-to-find Fels-Naptha (ironically, when I went to make this last week, the Fels-Naptha was the only ingredient I had on hand).

The spark plugs each took a turn trying to grate the soap.  It's hard work!

In fact, it was so hard to grate that I ended up shaving and crumbling it with a knife.  Now, why hadn't I ever thought to do this before?  I also think it would have worked to whir it through my mini-prep Cuisinart blender, but I cracked the top to it and it no longer works. 

Next, we melted the Fels-Naptha in boiling water and then added the Borax and Washing Soda.  This might not look appetizing, but it smells like sweet soap, and I really like the scent.

After thinning and cooling the boiling mixture with water, we poured the contents into our 5-gallon tub and filled the rest of it with more water.  The spark plugs loved this part!

Last of all, they each tried stirring the liquid, which gels in about 24 hours.  Mama has fresh detergent, the house smells good, and the spark plugs had fun, all for little cost out of pocket.  That's my kind of learning!

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