Episode-655- Listener Calls 5-02-11 — 41 Comments

  1. I researched that laundry soap recipe. The Fels Naptha soap used to be some old-fashioned stuff from my grandmother’s day but it turns out that one of the mainstream chemical companies now owns and makes this stuff and evidently it now has a higher level of toxicity than it used to so some people are no longer using it. I checked Ivory soap on the cosmetics database (run by EWG) and that one also has a medium level of toxicity. I tried using Dr Bronner’s soap to make that recipe and I’m not sure if it actually worked well or not. It didn’t foam up like mainstream laundry detergent but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. I just wasn’t sure so I stopped using it but I still have it stored away. If anyone can determine that it really cleans even if it doesn’t foam up, that would be great!

  2. Thanks for saying what (hopefully) many of us our thinking about bin Laden. I feel for the victims and the many families effected, especially because we will probably never truly know who committed the atrocious acts during 911. As a NYC resident, we have given up way to much (liberties) to this disaster, and to be told this “un-proven” story should be insulting to the American people. Alas, the sheep cheer in the streets…

  3. Comments about GMO foods (around minutes 44-47) always remind me of an old Star Trek episode from 1967 where the crew is tasked with protecting a shipment of quadro-triticale which had been poisoned/engineered to contain a virus that when consumed, blocked the absorbtion of nutrients.

    My son and I have been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity (mild celiac’s disease) that I feel can be attributed to the chemical/genetic alteration of our grain food stuffs. It is very interesting to me that David Gerrold’s fictional story had some very prophetic elements to it. I don’t believe that Monsanto, et al , have any clue what will really happen when their GMOs are introduced in the “wild”. We can only count on history to tell us that anytime humanity sought to play God with nature, nature has a way of getting us back.

    Keep up the good work, Jack. Someday, when I grow up, I want to be just like you!!


  4. I’ve used both ivory bar soap and Dr Bronners to make laundry soap.. neither foam in any significant manner when used.. my clothes seem just as clean using either of these recipes.. and just as clean as any commercial detergent I’ve used..

  5. Laundry detergents are not supposed to foam. In fact they have foam reducing chemicals in them. My family has been using Ivory soap laundry detergent for a long time. My grandma has a short canoe paddle she has been using to mix her 5 gallon batches with for years.

  6. At tax time last year, I found a case of Fels Naptha for a price that equated to about $.85/bar. I had a bucket on hand, but I did have to buy some borax and washing soda. I made a batch, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

    Here’s a tip though; make the 5-gallon bucket of detergent and fill your detergent dispenser from there. Then use half the amount that you would otherwise use. (Since I don’t have an HE machine, I use about 1/3c of concentrate.) It doesn’t foam, it doesn’t leave a residue, and none of us in the family with extremely sensitive skin have issues with the Fels-Naptha.

    I add about 30 drops to my 5-gallon bucket of concentrate. Not only does it smell nice, but lavendar works great as a pest repellent.

    Not including the essential oil, I think a 5-gallon batch costs me about $1.50, and it lasts my family of 5 for about 6 months. Although the dry version sounds like less work, it also washes many fewer loads. (Five gallons equals 240 loads if you’re precisely measuring, which I don’t.)

    It’s also worth mentioning that my mom has used this recipe with her home-made coconut and olive oil soap. She says it works beautifully when done like that as well. I haven’t learned how to make soap yet, so I just snagged the 24-bar case of Fels-Naptha. With another big box of borax and washing soda, I’ll have the supplies on hand to make laundry soap for YEARS, and the dry ingredients take very little space on the storage shelf.

  7. Jack, Great show today, instead of using a bug bomb, cayenne pepper in front of the animals home will work just as good. Once an animal gets a snort of pepper in the nose. They will leave and never come back. This tricks does wonders on ground hogs. As for getting rid of skunk smells try this recipe

    Mix all ingredients together in a plastic bucket;

    1 quart hydrogen peroxide
    1/4 cup baking soda
    1 teaspoon liquid dishsoap

    Use a sponge or cloth to wipe the animal, can do the inside of the mouth but KEEP OUT OF THE EYES! Mix as needed, doesn’t store well after mixing. (

  8. 1st, I was waiting to see what Jack’s comments were on Osama. When I saw the show notes this afternoon about does it matter, I was already thinking no, not really. Obviously Osama’s death is a good thing, and contrary to what Katy Perry said, we didn’t get an eye for an eye because we can’t kill him more than 3,000 times for all the lives he’s taken. I’m glad he’s dead, and it’s a big milestone for the US and those affected by Osama’s actions, but at the end of the day I don’t think it’s going to be an automatic fix for anything. Putting aside all the conspiracy and the fact that some of this doesn’t feel right (tin foil hat sensors are on high alert), and the fact that Obama will try to ride this to a re-election, if Osama is actually dead and gone-a big thank you to the guys that went in and got him.

    2nd-I think the family you were referring to is the Duggars on TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting. We’ve watched most of their specials and episodes, and while I haven’t seen an episode where they talk about making laundry detergent (maybe this was something they put online) it sounds like something they would do. I’ve heard Jim Bob (the dad) say many times that they buy used and save the difference. While I think some of their religious beliefs are a little conservative, they are a very smart, very frugal, solid Christian bunch of people that are all about family. They’re probably preppers but just don’t call it that.

  9. I’ve tried both versions of the laundry detergent–the liquid and the powdered. The powdered one needs warm to hot water to dissolve, in my experience, so I decided to switch to the liquid version to avoid that problem. There is a website that has these recipes as well as the ingredients for sale called Soaps Gone Buy ( A few nice things they have in stock are pre-grated soap and bulk amounts of the ingredients.
    You also quickly mentioned diy laundry softener. I just want you to let your audience know that they should definitely not be mixing vinegar and baking soda together and hoping that it will have laundry-softening powers. They’ll be left with salty water and carbon dioxide. We use about 1/3 cup of white vinegar right into the fabric softener dispenser and then fill it up with water, and it works marvelously. I think the vinegar helps remove any soap or detergent residues.

  10. Been using the laundry soap for over 2 years from a recipe I found right here on the TSP forum.

    Liquid is a pain in the butt to make and keep from glopping up.

    We only use the powder version now, and ALWAYS in COLD water.

    You can get Fels Natha by the case from Ace Hardware.

  11. For the laundry detergent we use Kirk’s Original Coco Castile (Fragrance Free) bar soap which works even in hard water and in cold water. We get it at – it’s very inexpensive and made in the USA. The listed ingredients are: Coconut Soap, Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Coconut Oil.

    Thank you to Elizabeth for the data on using white vinegar as a fabric softener!

  12. I remember a This Old House where they used hardware cloth around the bottom of the porch to keep critters out, wired in a one way door to let anything that was already under the porch out.

  13. Hey Jack!

    To comment on the last of the show. Welcome to Arkansas.

    from somewhere in Columbia County Arkansas

    PS keep up the good info.

  14. Good info. The soap should work well for cleaning clothes and is cheap. However, it will not replace Ivory Snow Flakes for making napalm.

  15. If anyone uses greywater from their washing on the garden then you might want to steer clear of borax as it is an insecticide. We are going to try a recipe that uses grated soap and baking soda.

  16. @Jakematic Thanks for your comment about the using the powder detergent in cold water. You’re so right about the liquid being a pain in the neck. Maybe when I run out I’ll try the powder again. I’ll try to find the recipe in the forums to see if maybe my version was different.

  17. My wife has been hooked on the “liquid” laundry detergent since she made her first batch about a year ago. The stuff does clump some, but we just shake it. Lord only knows the unintended consequences of the “de-clumping” agents in the store-bought brands. I have seen people selling the home made stuff at flea markets in used milk jugs, and I say more power to em.
    For those of you wanting to save a little more money my wife also makes her own powdered dish washing detergent. Also instead of using the “Jet Dry” type products she uses white vinegar. Do a search on any search engine and you can pick a recipe.
    Great show Jack… Thanks for all you do.

  18. Moth Balls work great for running off critters. Just do not use too many or you will run yourself off also….=)

  19. I just got back from Wally-world and bought all products for home made detergent.
    76 oz A&H Washing Soda $ 2.77 each
    76 oz Borax 20 mule $ 3.36 each
    5 1/2 oz Fels-Naptha $ 0.97 each

    I look forward to the savings!

  20. @Elizabeth

    Can’t recall where on the forum the recipe is but this is what I do:

    – grind up soap on finest part of box grater (little round bumpy holes)
    – add 1 cup borax
    – add 1 cup washing soda
    -mix it all up in a zip top bag.

    Most of the time I double or triple the batch.
    No idea where but recently heard someone say 7 bars of Fels, 1 box borax and 1 box soda is the right ratio. Needs to be checked but sounds about right.

    Easiest way to grind the soap I’ve found is to use a 9×13 pyrex pan on your lap with the grater in it.

  21. Jack,
    First, thanks for answering the question, that last bit about having more time than an ant helps.

    RE; China ditching its holdings by trillions. China’s central bankers are saying that their treasury holdings should be reduced to and capped at 800B-1.3 Trillion. Currently they have reserves at 3 trillion, so 3-X= 1.7-1.9 trillion reduction in holdings.
    Hence the statement that they are planning on reducing their holdings by “trillions”.

    Maybe I was off by .3-.1 trillion, but I think its a pretty accurate statement. Unless I’m missing something?
    Anyway, thanks again.

  22. No, no, no, no…to your comments on burning pallet wood. Want to learn everything about wood burning? Go to Yes, it burns hot, but you don’t pack your stove tight with ANY kiln-dried wood. No, pine does NOT NOT NOT produce ANY more creosote than hardwoods. That is a full on myth. Ask anyone west of the rocky mountains or Alaska. They don’t HAVE hardwoods there. They burn almost ALL softwoods.

    Unseasoned wood of ANY KIND can create dangerous creosote build ups. I speak from direct experience. This past winter, I burned 5 cords this past winter (4 of which were PINE)in my wood stove. That wood was cut, split, and stacked in single rows for 18 months. Equilibrium moisture content (EMC) was 14% according to my moisture meter. I just swept my chimney and there was LESS deposits than the previous year, which I burned ALL hardwood (EMC of that wood was around 19%). And that was with an exterior uninsulated masonry chimney (the worse kind for developing creosote deposits due to the hot gases on the cold rock). Any/all wood needs to dry in the sun/wind for AT LEAST 12 months to reach optimal EMC for burning (less in AZ, more in WA). Yes, “wet” wood will burn, but you are wasting energy boiling off all that moisture when that energy could be spent instead on heating the stove.

    I’ve got mixed feelings on this “PINE” myth. On one hand, I wish people would research the FACTS and use the wood properly for inexpensive heating. On the other hand, as long as they believe otherwise, I have a lifetime of free firewood because no one wants it for heating.

    BTW, pallets are rarely fumigated. They are kilned (heat treated) to kill insects. I burn 100% pallet wood in my garage stove. I’ve got 3+ years supply, already cut up and put in 4x4x4 bins. The only cost was the fuel to pick them up (free on CL), which I only did when I was traveling in the area anyway. The only drawback to this is that I have to be careful where I dump the ashes, since they contain many pounds of nails!

  23. Thanks for the helpful information, Jakematic!

    Can you please tell us how much of the powdered laundry detergent you use when washing a large load of laundry?

    Thank You!

  24. My front loading, low water washing machine requires “HE” soap. Does anyone know what this homemade soap would do to it?

  25. @Kim Glad to help out.

    1/4 cup in the bottom of the machine before putting clothes in

    Use 1/2 cup white vinegar in rinse cycle instead of fabric softener

  26. RE: Powder/dry laundry soap vs. liquid laundry soap.

    I briefly worked a temp job after college where I was on a team that answered the 800-phone number (the phone number you find on a package of soap) for the consumer affairs division a huge soap manufacturing company (it was the HUGE mega-company whose initials are C-P). The training I underwent was pretty extensive. They wanted only college grads or else people with a background in science for this job. They needed to train us in some product-related facts that were centered in the realm of chemistry, and they even trained us in the kinds of medical complications that can arise with skin reactions and accidental ingestions. It was actually a very dizzying amount of material to absorb, but I still remember it to this day.

    First, as far as getting soap in liquid form vs. soap in powder form, the liquid form is far less efficient to make than powder form. It takes more energy to manufacture it into a liquid. And then shipping a liquid is far more costly because the weight per volume of a liquid soap is higher and so it drives up your transport costs. This is all part of why they came up with “ultra” detergent, to concentrate it into a smaller volume yet with the same punch to it as the un-ultra-fied version. People just plain LIKE a liquid soap better than a powder. What people hate is when a powder gets all clumpy inside the box, then you have to break up the clumps to try and measure it out. They hate when they use a top-loader and the clumps get stuck in the chute where they are supposed to pour the detergent. They also hate spilling the powder everywhere, especially since after you open a (traditional) box, there isn’t usually a way to close it TIGHTLY, unlike a bottle which you can re-cap. And they hate those instances when the powder detergent doesn’t dissolve properly, leaving annoying pepperings of soap granules mixed in with their wet laundry as they are transferring the washed clothes into the dryer. To avoid almost all of the above, a lot of people (according to the consumer research data that C-P trained me in) will mix the powder with water in a measuring cup before dumping it into the washer. This way they can eliminate lumps and stop clogs, etc. So if they are already taking the time to convert it into a liquid form there in their own house (or at the laundro-mat) then the manufacturer can make money by going the extra step to deliver an already-liquified version –the preference for a liquid makes people want to pay that extra money. But the amount of convolutions needed to manufacture and transport liquid is a huge energy hog. So going with a powder is more responsible I think. (And I’m not talking about carbon footprint either. I’m just talking about the need to use less energy because we’re in an energy crisis right now, carbon footprint be damned.)

    As for the old fashioned soap flakes that our grandparents use to use, that was as cheap as it got. And the stuff did a good job.

    One last parting thought about the utter importance of laundry soap ….

    I was house-sitting at an inner-city friend’s house last year for a week and I needed laundry detergent to get my laundry done. I took a stroll through my friend’s (not so nice) neighborhood to the local corner gas station/convenience store to buy a bottle which I knew would cost me an arm and a leg (because most anything you buy from a place like that is way over-priced), but I didn’t care about a one-time purchase because it was just for the weekend. I scanned the shelves looking for laundry detergent, but all I found was bleach and fabric softener, but no laundry soap. I asked the cashier. She said “Oh, that’s one of the items we have to keep behind the counter because people steal it.” I expressed my shock. She said “Yeah, I’ve had people walk in, grab a bottle, head for the door, and say to me all cocky and attitude ‘What are you gonna do? Call the cops?'”

    So yeah … laundry soap is a must-have. Probably a good barter item for a SHTF scenario too.

  27. Correction: not the chute for a top-loader, I meant the chute for a front-loader. (Sorry.)

  28. Couple of comments. I know a guy that hooked a pipe to the exhaust of his truck and stuck it in a skunk hole and suffocated it. Might be an issue under the house but a good airing of the house should cure that. Also, if you can buy a piece of property that can be farmed or otherwise used to generate cash, your property could pay for itself by renting it out or working it yourself. The good thing about this kind of investment is the income will keep up with inflation, where cash savings loses value over time. When the depression happened, people were self sufficient. Today, people have no idea how to take care of themselves. They are the biggest concern in an emergency since they think they are somehow entitled to what ever they need, by whatever means they can get it.

  29. I make laundry gel by dissolving scraps of homemade soap in boiling water. Add either washing soda & borax or plain baking soda – works both ways – to the washer, and put white vinegar in the rinse cup.

    I’ve also made laundry powder by grinding pure coconut oil soap very finely and stirring with washing soda & borax. Concentrated stuff, only 1 tsp per front-loader. Problem is that it’s extremely labor intensive to grind the soap with a small flour mill. Using an electric grinder sends clouds of soap dust all over the house. Have to work on that.

    Sponsor question: I ordered some things from Emergency Essentials about 10 days ago. Got an order confirmation but no charge or ship notice yet. What’s a reasonable time to allow before contacting them again?

  30. Re laundry soap and scents – I’m such an idiot!

    I have a ton of good homemade soap I got from Brian over at

    Next batch I’m gonna grind a bar up and add it to the mix.

    I’ve never felt cleaner using it to wash me, so why not add some to the laundry?
    He makes a killer pine scented one called Mountain Air.

  31. I use soap nuts for laundry. You do not need to make anything just put 6-9 nut in a muslin bag and through them into the laundry. You can use until they turn gray or mushy. I also ordered seeds so I can grow the plant on my property. You can buy the nuts dried and ready to use from

  32. Here’s a tip for reading the Micro Livestock ebook. Instead of changing your screen resolution, most web browsers have a zoom option. Typically pressing CTRL then the plus key will zoom in. CTRL then the minus key will zoom out. This is for PCs, not sure about Mac/Linux.

  33. didn’t you mention a PDF trick for Google on this episode
    Do share.

  34. @Jack, you can also use CTRL and + (or CTRL mouse wheel) at the same time to expand the ‘resolution’ of your browser window. It works in both Chrome and Firefox. You can tap CTRL + 0 to return to the default size. I use this when my eyes stop working and thought you might find it easier than changing your resolution manually.

  35. For a downloadable free copy of the book Jack mentioned, “Microlivestock: Little-Known Small Animals With a Promising Economic Future”, go to the site, type in “microlivestock” in the search box, and click the first link that comes up. It’s one pdf with the entire book in it. Turns out the information is given away for free to other countries.

    A note on homemade soap- I’ve made the powdered version for about two years and it works just fine in front loading “HD soap” machines, for those of you wondering.