I make my own laundry soap. I don't plan on ever buying expensive laundry soap from the store as long as I'm able to stir a pot. There are a million recipes online, but they all use basically the same ingredients. It's also not rocket science, so variations are allowed.
Our well water here is very hard, even with a water softener. I wash almost exclusively with cold water, too, so decided to go with a liquid soap instead of the powder. I also didn't want to mess with a five gallon bucket of glop. I have used gallon milk jugs, the blue water jugs (from when we had to buy water from the grocery store) and vinegar jugs. Use whatever you have.
The recipe I use is:
1/2 bar of Zote laundry soap (pink, grates easily)
1/2 cup Washing Soda (not baking soda, found in the laundry aisle)
1/2 cup Borax (20 Mule Team is a popular brand, also in the laundry aisle)
I put 6 to 8 cups of water in a big pot on the stove. I tend not to measure this. Heat it until it's really hot but not boiling and stir in 1/2 bar of Zote that you were grating while the water was heating. Turn the stove off, and walk away for 10 to 15 minutes.
When the soap has all dissolved, stir in the washing soda. Then stir in the Borax. Carefully pour half of this into each of your two jugs. I use a big measuring pitcher for this, but you can eyeball it in the jugs. You just want to divide the mixture between the two. It won't matter if you have a bit more in one jug. Be careful, it's still pretty hot at this point. Add a couple cups or more of hot tap water to each jug, put the lid on and shake. Let the steam out a couple times. Keep adding hot tap water and shaking until the jug is most of the way filled. You may have to let the suds settle a bit before you add the last bit of water. Then just leave the lid off of it until it cools, and Wal-la! 2 gallons of laundry soap!
This will jell somewhat in your jug. I usually have to take the handle of my wooden spoon to break it up a bit the first time I use each jug. You need to leave some room in the jug to allow for shaking that first time, too. After that, it's just a couple of shakes before I use it, measure out maybe 3/4 cup for each load. Our clothes get pretty dirty here so sometimes I use a full cup. Clothes that aren't grimy would only require less. Don't expect to see a lot of suds in your wash water, but it's still working.
I have used the bar of Zote for a stain remover 'stick'. I also just pour some of the soap onto our jeans that are really grimy for pretreating.
I have to admit, I was a little surprised after I did that first load of clothes. I was so used to the perfumed scent of commercial laundry detergents, and I wondered if the clothes were actually clean. They were. They just smelled like clean clothes with a faint 'Zote' scent that was gone when the clothes were dry.
Edited to add: And the cost? At our little country store today (12-1-10), Zote was $1.05 (I'll get two batches, or 4 gallons), the Borax was $3.75 and washing soda was $2.55. Using 1/2 cup each of Borax and washing soda for every two gallons of finished product...well, I'll get gobs of laundry done.
I don't buy fabric softener sheets, either. I bought a jug of liquid softener, measured out one cup and added two cups of water. I dampen a designated washcloth with this solution and toss it into the dryer for the 10 minute drying time before I hang them up. Most of the time I can use it a second time before I dampen it again.
You might want to start labeling these jugs in case someone else does some laundry.
The Indian Clothesline
Our oldest son, Dan, has traveled overseas a lot. He spent quite a bit of time in India on one of his first journeys. Carrying what he needed on his back, everything had to have several uses. He has a length of para-cord in his pack and he would use that for his clothesline. He would tie loops, knots, whatever it took to put up a clothesline in whatever was in his space at the time.
While he was here one time, he asked if he could put a couple of small nails on the sides of the window trim in a room to string up his clothesline. He tied a loop on one end, hooked that over the nail, stretched out the cord across the room to the other nail and made the other loop where it was needed. Ta-da! Portable clothesline, easy to put up and take back down. That's the Indian Clothesline, plain and simple.
He doesn't use clothespins, even when he's here. He straightens the clothes out and drapes them over the line. A couple hours later, he'll take the clothes off one at a time and drape them the other direction so there's no crease in the middle. And do it again. By the time he takes the clothes off the line, there's no wrinkles and no crease. I guess he's had a lot of practice. I'll probably just keep using clothespins.
I wash only full loads, so one line wasn't enough for me, even with draping socks over the sides of the laundry basket. I can get by with two lines by staggering. I hang T shirts on the back line first, then go back and hang shorter items on the same line, staggering where I put the clothes pins. If I run short on line space, I'll hang socks, etc, over the shirts. If I want to do two loads, I'll put work shirts on plastic hangers and hang them on the line. If there's shoulder bumps, I'll pat them down with a damp hand when I put it on.
What I like best about doing laundry this way? I'm saving a boatload of money, doing the green thing, don't have wickedly stiff clothes (read post below and see how) and I can take the dry clothes off the line when it suits me. I don't have to worry about rain, sun bleaching, blowing dirt, dogs, or wrinkles from sitting in the dryer.