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Fresh celery and clean laundry

June 21, 2012 - Ilsa Matthes
For the past few months I’ve been on a sustainable living kick. It started as a way to save money and live within my means, but it has grown into an environmentally friendly crusade against the almighty dollar.

I’m the kind of person who buys a stalk of celery, puts it in the crisper, and politely forgets about it until I am cooking something where celery is of monumental importance. Usually this results in another trip to the store to replace the limp vegetables with something that resembles celery and not a strip of green rubber.

That is why I was so excited when I discovered that store bought celery can be re-grown. Rather than pulling off stalks one at a time, cut the bottom of the bunch off about an inch and a half above the base. Take the bottom and put it in a bowl of warm water in a sunny place. Make sure the cut edge is facing upward. After a few days the outside stalks will dry out, but very quickly the center will fill with new growth. Plant your revived celery plant in some dirt and wait.

Now I have more space in my refrigerator. If I forget to use my celery in a timely manner, it won’t go limp. Anytime I want celery I can just cut off a stalk at a time. I’ve also managed to save a few dollars.

My very first budget-friendly, sustainable living project was making laundry detergent. I just used up the last of my first batch — four months after I made it. There are countless recipes on the internet for liquid and dry detergent, but they all basically contain the same ingredients: Fels-Naptha soap, sodium carbonate (“washing soda”), and Borax.

The recipe I use makes 5 gallons of liquid detergent and is as follows:

    1/2 Bar of Fels-Naptha
    1/2 C. Washing soda (Do NOT use baking soda)
    1/2 C. Borax
    5 Gallon bucket
    Something long to stir with
    A cheese grater, stove, sauce pan, and measuring cups

Grate the Fels-Naptha and add it to two cups of water in a sauce pan on the stove. Simmer and stir until the soap is dissolved. Fill the bucket half full of hot water. Add all of the ingredients including the heated soap and water mixture. Stir, cover, and let sit over night. In the morning fill the rest of the bucket with hot water and stir again. The detergent can be transfered to other containers but must be shaken or stirred before each use.

The cost of this recipe is roughly $1.82 for five gallons. There are no fragrances, no “optical whiteners,” no ingredients I can’t pronounce, and my clothes are clean.

On a related note, I love dryer sheets. I could probably write a Shakespearian sonnet about their many uses. That is why I decided to stop wasting them on my laundry.

My favorite dryer sheet replacement at the moment is a ball of aluminum foil. It clunks around in the dryer a bit, but it’s reusable and does a good job of removing any static that may have built up during tumbling. If your dryer runs hot, you may want to test it on some older clothes first. A little bit of liquid fabric softener on a washcloth thrown into the dryer will also work if aluminum foil isn’t for you.

If you have a thrifty or sustainable living tip, I would love to hear it. Leave me a comment.


Article Comments



Jul-18-13 10:59 AM

Thanks for the good detergent recipe. I keep it handy for the weeks when I can't find any on sale. So far, I've made three 5 gallon batches. I prefer a little fragrance, so I toss in some liquid fabric softener. Works for me!


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