the great laundry soap dilemma

Periodically, I go on a statistics binge.  I record how many servings I actually get out of a box of Goldfish crackers (their estimated serving size is about what I give out for a large-ish snack), how many servings I can get out of an average-sized bag of grapes (I average about nine), and even how long a bar of soap lasts in the shower (Irish Spring lasts us about two weeks).

Washing machineA while back, before I had a time-consuming infant, I experimented with making my own laundry soap.  Being not-so-adventurous (and also not having a gigantic bucket handy), I opted to make the dry variety.  I found it agonizingly slow and blistering to grate the necessary laundry bar soap (Zote was by far worse than Fels-Naptha); after making three batches, I began wondering if it was worth all the effort.

An internet search for cost estimates of homemade dry laundry soap have it pegged (most often) between $.05 and $.07 per load.  Having made my own a few times, I did a cost-estimate and found that (depending whether I could find Fels-Naptha or was stuck with Zote), my cost was about the same as those folks online.  While name-brand detergents are generally pretty pricey, I could get a generic jug of 100-load laundry soap for $5.00 on sale—just as cheap as the homemade stuff.  Since I was at the near-bursting point of pregnancy when my homemade soap ran out, I bought the stuff from the store.

But after I got the stuff home, curiosity got the best of me.  I plunked a sheet of paper and a pen on top of my washer, and I started slapping down a hash mark for each load of laundry I did with that liquid soap, just as I had done with my homemade powder.

Now here I must pause to confess that I am cheaper than all get-out: if my washer is chock-full of stained baby gear, I fill my HE washer’s soap dispenser to the “Normal” line.  If that baby is just running sheets or is slightly less than super-full, I fill the dispenser to a titch below the “Normal” line.  Yep, I’m that cheap.

This detail makes what I’m about to say all the more remarkable.  I bought a jug of laundry detergent labeled “100 loads”.  If there were enough light in my laundry room, I would now be able to see the bottom of that jug, though it’s not quite gone yet.  So far I have done 49 loads of laundry.  (Remember, I’m not even filling the cup to the “Normal” line.)  That puts my total cost per load much closer to $.10 rather than the anticipated $.05.

Now comes my agony.  If I recall correctly, it took me at least a half-hour to grate the bar of laundry soap into usable form.  I have a food processor, but since I use that to prep baby food (or will again soon) I don’t want it all soap-coated.  So.  How much wallet-savings is my time worth?

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