I like to read product reviews before I try something but I always wonder how long they used the product before reviewing. I know I'm guilty of trying something a couple times and then offering up my opinion only to find after weeks or months of use that I don't really like it as much as I thought I did. So I decided to give an updated review on the various soaps that my husband and I have been using for the past year and a half.
We first made our own bar soap in February of 2008. It's a relatively simple process but it is time consuming and you will want to purchase equipment explicitly for soap making so you don't get lye in your soup pot! We found ours at a local thrift shop. Our first batch was unscented and my husband and many of our friends found the lack of smell disconcerting. I still don't really understand why the absence of smell is a problem but for the second batch we made this winter (one batch lasted the two of us a year) we added citrus essential oil. I can smell it but just barely, it is enough that my husband is happy. We use it for hand soap, body soap, and shampoo. At first my hair which is thick and curly went a little crazy and I had to use leave in conditioner to tame the frizz but after a couple weeks it calmed down and my hair is now wash and wear again. I think the bar soap is pretty much perfect for all uses but my husband disagrees and would prefer a liquid soap for body and hands. Eventually we will give that a try.
Soap wasn't our first attempt at personal toiletries though, shaving cream was. Another simple but time consuming project this lasts a very long time. My husband is in fact still using that first batch made in February of 08. It makes a thick and creamy shaving cream that works well with straight razors but doesn't foam up they way a storebought brand would. My husband did need to purchase a shaving cream brush to apply it to his face and neck. I'm not entirely sure why, I think it helps smooth it out on his face for more consisten coverage. I stopped using shaving cream entirely and just use soap and water.
In stark contrast to these successes have been our utter failure at finding an effective eco friendly or homemade dish washer detergent. We've tried Method, Seventh Generation, Phosphate Free Palmolive and a mix of borax and washing soda with varying degrees of success. None of them worked really well and none of them gave consistent results in different dish washers. My best advice is unfortunately to experiment and find out what works for you.
What we do use borax, washing soda and grated fels naptha soap for is laundry soap. Mix
1 cup grated Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup 20 mule team borax
You can use the same ingredients and make a liquid laundry soap but the powdered version takes up a lot less space to store and is certainly easier to prepare. I use 1 tbs for a regular load of laundry, 2 tbs for J.'s heavy duty (and often really dirty) work clothes. I use cold water for everything and line dry it. The clothes come out clean with a faint "soapy" smell. We've been using this for almost six months now and I don't see any need to switch. Unlike the soap and shaving cream this is super easy to make. And all three cost pennies on the dollar to make versus what it would cost to purchase at the store.
Do you make any of your own soaps?