Friday, February 28, 2014

Nerd Nursery (Part 1)

Over the last several months, I've been asked this question a lot: "So, do you have a theme for your nursery?"

Me: "Um, a theme?"
Them: "Yes, how are you going to decorate it?"
Me: "Well, we are going to paint the room a different color, but I don't know what color yet."
Them: "And the theme?"
Me:  Blank stare with wide eyes.

My first two children didn't have a dedicated nursery. They had whatever corner of my bedroom we could fit a pack-n-play or crib. We just didn't have a whole room those tiny little humans could call their very own... and really, do tiny little humans need an entire room?  Do they even care? Are they even aware of the color-coordinated sheets and meticulously matching, themed decor?

I'm thinking the answer is no.  Nurseries are for the parents and families. Babies couldn't care less, as long as they have a safe environment to sleep, eat, be changed, and loved. But you know what? Now that we actually have enough rooms, Baby #3 is going to get his own room.  Because hey, nurseries are for the parents!  And I want one this time around! A true, bonafide nursery. I feel so chic.

But I also want it to be versatile enough that he can grow into it, or it can easily be turned into a different room without a lot of work--a guest room, an office, etc. It's more affordable to think long term and be practical in our paint and decorating scheme. (More on that in a future post!)

But a theme?  Well, I've been clueless until recently.  We batted around a few ideas. We're a nerdy, geeky family, so naturally, suggestions such as Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Minecraft came up. While searching for Star Trek baby decor, I found this adorable print on Etsy by barkingbirdart:

I loved it and decided to make it the inspiration for the theme. I also discovered this fun wall art project on Pinterest by vanillajoy and decided to attempt that to go along with the print:

And finally, the room wouldn't be complete without a Star Trek emblem. I decided to brush up on my very rusty cross stitch skills and attempt this pattern from starrley on DeviantArt, since she gives viewers permission to use it:
So the first part was easy--order the print. I received it this week and am simply delighted with it!
barkingbirdart star trek nursery print
Beautiful barkingbirdart print; just needs matted and framed.
The second part was a bit more involved--buy different size embroidery hoops, embroidery fabric and floss, and various colors of fabric. I was able to find some fabric on sale at Hobby Lobby, and since I didn't need much, I looked in the clearance scraps and the quilting pieces instead of buying yards off a bolt. I did buy one yard of a navy blue with silver stars print, because it would make the perfect background, and I could imagine a few other uses for it.

Supplies I purchased:
4 embroidery hoops (12", 8", and two 6" hoops)
Embroidery fabric  (Aida fabric, 14-count, but use whatever size you are comfortable with)
Embroidery floss in black, dark silver, light silver, dark yellow, light yellow shades
Clearance and quilting pieces of small fabric

Supplies I had on hand:
Matte Mod Podge
Sponge brush
Wax paper
Embroidery needle
Felt in several colors
Extra fabric and notions from a pair of my daughter's old stretchy pants (more on that later!)
Craft glue

I decided to go with four sizes of hoops- 12-inch, 8-inch, and two 6-inch hoops.  I knew I wanted a rocket, a planet, the Star Trek emblem, and then something else I would decide on as I went along. For the rocket, I googled "rocket template" and discovered this handy template from lil blue boo

Because I really dislike sewing and hate finishing edges, I decided to try mod podging my cotton fabric to prevent the edges from raveling. I cut out the pieces first using the template, then I placed them right-side down on waxed paper. I put a thick layer of Matte Mod Podge on the back and let them dry. I trimmed off the excess dried Mod Podge around the edges.  Not perfect, but it would work for my purposes!  I didn't Mod Podge the felt, because felt will not unravel on the edges, and I didn't want it to be hard as a rock.
Mod Podge fabric to finish edges
Mod Podge the back of the fabric to stiffen and finish the edges.
I stretched the navy with silver stars fabric on my embroidery hoop tightly, leaving the excess for now. I lay out my rocket pieces on my fabric and tacked them down with small stitches using the embroidery floss that matched the best. I didn't end up using all the pieces of the template, and I added my own red felt "flames." Then I cut out small circles from Mod Podged orange fabric and made "stars" by stitching several lines from the middle of the circle outward. I then cut the excess fabric off around the hoop.  I decided not to glue the fabric down to the hoop, because it seems to stay in place without it, and I want to be able to easily use these hoops again without prying off glue.
Rocket Ship Embroidery Hoop Art
I followed the same techniques for my planet. I traced a circle on the felt to help me cut out a nice planet, then I eyeballed the rings. (You can find planet templates to use, but it was easier for me to just wing it!)
Planet Embroidery Hoop Art
And then I cross stitched my Star Trek emblem. There are lots of good beginning tutorials and videos on cross stitching online if you want to learn how to do it--if you can count and make an "X" with a needle and thread, you can cross stitch!  Of course, I managed to mess up the top of the pattern by putting a gray X in the wrong place, so I had to adjust the rest of the pattern to fix my mistake. I then brought the bottom right point down further because I thought it looked a little lopsided after my correction. Turned out okay, though!
Star Trek Embroidery Hoop Art
Star Trek embroidery with a few fixes; silver gems from my daughter's stretchy pants!
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Side Project- Super easy and free embroidery floss storage!
I have tried leaving embroidery floss in the loops with paper, and inevitably it ends up being a knotted, disorganized mess. I saw embroidery floss bobbins at the store, but I didn't want to spend any extra money. So I made my own at home using an old cardboard box. Cut the cardboard into an "I" shape, then cut two slits into one end to hold the beginning and end of the thread.  Wind the thread around the middle of the "I," and there you go! It doesn't have to be perfect to be functional, and it's free!

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For my last hoop, I decided to go with some stars. About this time, my daughter accidentally ripped a large hole in the knee of her favorite stretchy pants. They are a denim-like material with silver jewels on the bottom. I couldn't patch them or fix them without stretching the whole leg out of shape, and they had seen better days anyway, so I re-purposed them for my project.
Repurposed clothing, upcycle for art

Repurposed clothing, upcycle for art
I cut around the jewels and glued them onto the embroidery hoop art with craft glue.
I cut out part of the leg to be the base fabric, glued felt stars that I cut out by eyeballing it, and then cut out of the jewels and glued them to 3 of the hoops with craft glue to be extra "stars" and tie the look altogether.
Upcycled clothing, star embroidery art hoop
Hoop made from upcycled stretchy pants and felt.
All in all, I think it turned out pretty well!

You don't have to be decorating a nursery to use embroidery hoop art. You can make all sorts of patterns, shapes, and designs using clearance fabric, recycled clothing, buttons, gems, thread, and so forth. I've seen pictures of entire walls covered with different sizes of hoops covered in different fabrics with nothing else on them. It's a relatively inexpensive way to decorate, and it's easy to change it out to something different. You don't have to be a great seamstress--glue will do!

There will be more nerd decorating before this thing is done, so stay tuned...

Live long and prosper,
Mulligan Mama

Friday, February 21, 2014

Intro to the B Team and the 3 F's

Flexibility, Forgiveness, Foresight

"Never say never."

After I had my first two children, I swore I was done producing offspring.  I had them in my early twenties, and both were difficult pregnancies marked by extended bed rest and hospital stays. I also went through bouts of postpartum depression. I was finishing college courses but doing it mostly independently, so I was at home.  A lot.  Just me and the kids. I never really left the house except to go to the grocery store, the doctor, church, and occasionally school.  While I was so very thankful to be able to be at home to raise my children, I didn't have much of anything going on outside the home to keep me engaged, inspired, and growing as an individual. I didn't have many friends, and the few I did have weren't necessarily in the same stage of life as me.  This was before Facebook, Pinterest, smartphones, affordable digital cameras, and all these great social media platforms that help people stay connected, so I had no "stay-at-home Mom" network to connect with to keep me from going stir crazy inside those four walls.

So, it seemed like the best solution was to be done having children.  Two were plenty, and since I had them at a young age, I would be "43 and free" when they were adults. (My sister-in-law and I both joked about that and dreamed of all the European countries we'd travel to when that day came!)

But... as they say, never say never. I was convinced I would never have more children.  But life has a way of surprising us.  As I was getting to know my now-husband, I confessed my fears about more children. In talking about it, I realized that much of my fear was situational, and more importantly, able to be changed and addressed. Sure, I had difficult pregnancies, which physically might have been out of my control, but setting up my life with intentional steps to get out of the house, pursue other things for my own development, and surround myself with loving, supportive people would make a world of difference in my approach to parenting. I also felt much more mature and able to advocate for myself as a mother when I went to the doctor. I felt more mature and seasoned as a parent.

Love makes us do crazy things.  Like taking a chance on happiness. Or getting a puppy.
Kissing a cute puppy
Yes, that's me kissing a puppy, after I said I never wanted another dog. I adore this dog now!
Or... start dreaming about having a baby in my mid-30s. Hey, it happens!  But rather than be terrified by the prospect, I found myself more and more excited about this second round of parenting... or "the B team," as we lovingly started referring to it.

So, Baby will make his arrival in April. His older brother and sister will be almost 13 and 11. That's over a decade between the A team and the B team, but that's okay!  The A team is looking forward to helping out, and I've learned a lot in parenting them that make me more confident this time around. There are things I will do the same; there are things I will do differently. For instance, I will stay home with this baby, just like I did my first two. But this time around, I'm going to try and work very part-time, to keep up my skills in my field and also to get out of the house and be around other adults.  I plan to breastfeed and make my own baby food, just like I did the first time around.  But this time I probably won't co-sleep as long as I did before, so I can get more rest and preserve my well-being.  You get the idea.  But the REALLY big difference this time around is that if something doesn't work out according to plan, I'm going to roll with it and not feel like a failure.  If the cloth diapering I'm attempting makes me want to pull my hair out, I'll send the hubby to buy disposables and pat myself on the back for trying. If I find I need to work more/less or sooner/later than planned for my sanity, then I will do that without feeling guilty.

I've experienced so many different stages a mother can be in-- young mom, older mom, stay-at-home mom, in-school mom, working mom, married mom, single mom, remarried mom. Mom without family nearby. Mom with family nearby. Loner mom. More outgoing mom.  Etc, etc. The thing I've discovered is that there is no "right" way or circumstance to be a mother--there are good parts and difficult parts in every situation, and much of it is out of our control. But you make the most of the hand you've been dealt. If I could sum up what I've learned as a mother these past 13 years as advice to give myself getting ready for the B team, it would be:
  1. Flexibility
  2. Forgiveness
  3. Foresight
Flexibility-- "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry," and the best laid plans of mothers do as well. You may have a birth plan all laid out, you may have read every parenting book you can get your hands on, you may have stocked up on cloth diapers, and have your breast pump at the ready, but in reality, the baby will come when and how he's ready, you'll discover he hasn't read the same books you have (the nerve!), you may hate washing poopy diapers, and formula is not the end of the world. You will have to continue to be flexible in the toddler years, the elementary years, the middle school years, and (I can only imagine) the high school years and beyond.  You are raising a separate individual, not an extension of yourself. Being rigid will only lead to frustration; be flexible and don't sweat the details. Be ready to throw expectations and schedules to the wind if need be.

Forgiveness-- Forgive yourself NOW for all the mistakes you will inevitably make. (My hubby calls this "pre-forgiving yourself"-- making the best decisions you can, knowing that you are human and fallible and forgiving yourself ahead of time for that human element.) Be gentle with yourself. Be honest with yourself and others. Forgive your baby for crying for days on end, because sometimes that's just what babies do. Forgive your toddler for being unreasonable and irrational, because that's how kids' brains work. Forgive your pre-teen for being moody and emotional, because hormones can be beastly. Forgive your spouse for not reading your mind every minute of the day. Take a deep breath. Be flexible and forgive.

Foresight-- An online mommy friend had the best quote ever during a discussion about worrying about our children: "Take the long view and trust in their resilience."  I posted that on my computer desktop so I would remind myself of it daily.  (I wish I could find that old discussion thread, so I could not only give this mommy credit but also kiss her face for that advice!) It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day worries and cares, thinking every decision as a parent may permanently scar and screw up our children. But a loving, supportive environment does much to mitigate those moments of bad parenting. Did you yell at your child? Ask his forgiveness. Does your child seem extra emotional?  Give her lots of snuggles. Don't stress that all of your faults, flaws, and deep-seated insecurities will inevitably transfer onto your children; again, they are separate individuals with their own chemical and genetic make-ups, their own experiences, and their own ways of looking at the world. Will this one evening of crying and yelling change the trajectory of their life?  Probably not. Kids are more resilient than our helicopter-parent culture gives them credit for. Have the foresight to see the big picture of their life, and if the good, loving, supportive moments outweigh the bad, angry, frustrated moments, they are going to be just fine.

As the first member of the B team makes his appearance, I will be posting more about the things I'm learning, re-learning, and changing as I take on babyhood in a different decade and stage of life. I anticipate I'll make a lot of mistakes and have to adjust my plans. But that's all just part of the adventure, right? This blog is part of my plan to be more intentional about reaching out to others and doing something creative while I'm at home with the B team. ;-)

Be flexible, forgive, have foresight,
Mulligan Mama

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sludge and Muck-- Cleaning Your Front Loading Washing Machine Drain Filter

Clean Your Front Loading Washing Machine Drain Filter
The spirit of this blog is all about learning from our mistakes. I must say, I learned a pretty good lesson with this project.

I've had my front loading washing machine for about 2 years or so. It's a Whirlpool Duet (Model WFW9250WW02, if you want to get specific). I love it! As per the instructions, I've been diligent to always unload the clothes promptly and leave the door propped open to prevent the growth of mold and mildew in the washing drum.  Initially, I also did a good job running the recommended monthly cycle to clean the washer.

But I started to let that habit slip.  After all, I figured, I often wash towels with hot water and throw some bleach in now and again. Surely that's enough to clean the washer, right?

I had been noticing that when I did a load of laundry, I would often smell a swampy, sewage-type smell as the water drained out.  I dumped vinegar down the drain pipe in the wall where the washer emptied, and it seemed to help a bit.  We have had some other plumbing issues in our basement (i.e. a basement floor drain that kept backing up), so I chalked up the smell to the plumbing issues and not the washer itself. After all, I couldn't smell anything funky in the washer drum. But even after we got our basement floor drain cleared out and the other plumbing issues fixed, the smell remained.

I also started noticing soap suds collecting in the rubber seal by the door, even at the end of the cycle. So I reduced the amount of soap I was using. But then I washed a load of brand new cloth diaper prefolds (that's a story for another day...) with hardly any soap, and there was STILL soap suds in the seal, right by the drain holes.
Soap suds in front loading washer rubber seal
Soap suds collecting in the rubber seal, even after a rinse cycle.
So, I do what I usually do when I have a problem to solve--I Google it. I discovered that I probably needed to clean the washer drain filter located at the bottom of the washer.  This was a very helpful video by murfsappliancerepair showing the process step by step:


Now, this isn't something mentioned in the manual for my washer (believe me, I checked). Perhaps this is a job that Whirlpool thinks should be left to the professionals.  I suppose it could possibly void a warranty if you attempt to do this on your own, so you might want to check. But really, this job isn't that hard.

But if your washer is like mine, it is really, really stinky.

My hubby helped me with this project--my pregnant belly is hindering my ability to lie on the floor with any sort of ease and grace.  He moved the washer away from the wall so we could unplug it from the wall (instead of unplugging the black cord from the mechanism as shown in the video).  On our model, the screws are on the bottom of the panel.
Unscrew panel at bottom of front loading washer
The screws may be in a different place on different models.
Since we don't have pedestals, I had to put a shallow pan on the floor to catch the water. The cap was VERY tight and took quite a bit of elbow grease to unscrew. (Unlike the video, we did not need to pull the mechanism out--it was easy to access right where it was.)
Place pan under drain before unscrewing
Be sure to place a pan under the opening to catch the water!
But once it was free... oh my goodness, the smell.  Here was the source of my sewage fumes.  Black gelatinous goo was caked all over the thing, and I found a couple bobby pins and a large office-style rubber band bound up in it. It literally smelled like a swamp!
Dirty drain filter
For your sake, be glad the filter is blending in with the pan and hiding the extent of the nastiness!
After wiping off the big globs of goo, I soaked it in a solution of dish soap, bleach, and hot water. The cap actually disconnects from the body of the filter (at least on my model), so it was easier to get into the crevices to clean.
Detach and clean filter on front loading washer
I used a Q-tip to clean inside the cap.
I also wiped out the inside of the filter housing with the bleach water solution. In hindsight, I could have poured some bleach solution directly into the drain holes in the rubber seal to see what washed through, but I didn't think about it at the time. I was too mesmerized disgusted by the filter itself.

Once the filter was as clean as I could get it, I put it back together and screwed the cap back on the drain. There are two tabs that meet up when the plug is screwed in all the way.
Reassemble the filter
Two tabs meet to ensure the lid is completely sealed shut.
The hubby screwed the panel back on, we plugged the washer back in, and I ran the cycle to clean the washer, using 2/3 cup bleach in the bleach dispenser, as per my manual.

Not surprisingly, the smell I noticed when I run the washer was and is gone!

Here are some things I've learned from this endeavor:
  • Use the "Clean Washer" cycle as instructed by your manual. My manual instructs me to do this once a month, which I neglected for well over a year. This cycle uses more water and runs differently than regular cycles to clean the drum thoroughly. There are special cleaners designed for this purpose, but bleach should work as well as anything. Now, this cycle wouldn't have prevent the bobby pins and rubber bands in my drain filter, but it probably would have prevented the build-up of swamp goo.
  • Check the pockets of your pants and shirts when sorting laundry to remove any foreign objects ahead of time.
  • Always check the rubber seal after each wash cycle for hair balls, lint, and other objects.
  • Remove laundry promptly (or use the "Tumblefresh" option if you can't get to it right away) and leave the door of the washer open. I also leave the dispenser drawer open to thoroughly dry.
  • Wipe the rubber seal with a bleach solution if you notice any mold or mildew.
    Mold and mildew build up in the rubber seal of front load washer
    I should have been wiping this out more often...
  • Clean your drain filter on a regular basis.  I've read every 6 months or so is a good schedule, but anytime your washer isn't draining well, looks like it has soap build-up, or smells like a sewer, it might be time to clean it out.
  • Read your washer manual and go to the internet when in doubt!
My laundry room smells so much better after this project! Live and learn, live and learn.

Remember to check those pockets,
Mulligan Mama

Friday, February 7, 2014

Homemade Laundry Detergent + SCIENCE!

Homemade Laundry Detergent + SCIENCE!

The first time I came across a homemade laundry detergent recipe was 15 years ago, when I received the original edition of "More-with-Less Cookbook" by Doris Janzen Longacre as a gift. It was a pivotal book in shaping my views of purchasing, cooking, preserving, and conserving food resources... but the recipes for Homemade Laundry Soap and Granulated Soap included GREASE.  And by grease, I mean leftover congealed tallow from meat cooked in the kitchen.  Now, I love my bacon as much as the next gal, but the thought of adding accumulated fat drippings to my washing machine was just more than I could take. So I put the idea of homemade laundry detergent out of my mind.

But a few years ago, I was looking for ways to save money in every way possible. Laundry detergent was a pricey but necessary purchase. I bought the cheapest formula available, but it didn't seem like it cleaned our clothes very well. Some internet research yielded a variety of homemade laundry detergents, most of which (at the time) involved a process of melting soap on a stove top and stirring everything in a big bucket.  Again, it seemed a bit too complicated and time-consuming.

Then I discovered a recipe that seemed to fit the bill-- cheap and easy! I gave it a try and was pleasantly surprised with the results. (*Note- I'd love to give credit to the websites where I first discovered this combination, but it was several years ago, and a search of my browser favorites only yielded variations of this basic recipe. It was probably several websites that deserve credit! I know you can find this recipe and variations on tons of websites now.)

Homemade Laundry Detergent
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
1 bar Fels-Naptha, finely grated
Borax, Washing Soda, Fels-Naptha for Homemade Laundry Detergent

Grate the Fels-Naptha with a hand grater or food processor.

Grated Fels-Naptha
Fels-Naptha grated with a food processor.
Mix in the 1 cup Borax and the 1 cup Washing Soda, and store in a covered container.
Mix Borax, Washing Soda, and Fels-Naptha
I further broke up the Washing Soda clumps. I store my detergent in an old ice cream bucket. I could easily double or triple the recipe and store it in this container.
Use 1 Tbsp per load of laundry or 2 Tbsp for larger or heavily soiled loads. Voila! Clean clothes on the cheap.

I have a front loading washer, and this low suds formula works well. Put the detergent in the regular dispenser for front loading machines and directly in the water for top loading machines.

I have used this formula for several years. Here are some recommendations gained from trial and error-

  • The Fels-Naptha can be grated using a hand grater, a blender, or a food processor, but a food processor is the quickest and easiest method.

    A hand grater takes a lot more time and arm strength to shred the whole bar of soap. The finer the soap is grated, the better it will dissolve.  I have used a larger grater which yielded bigger chunks of soap, and they seemed to dissolve just fine in warm or hot water. (I didn't try that batch with cold water washes.)

    My blender easily overheats, so I cut the bar into small pieces and only pulse a couple seconds with a little of the Borax and Washing Soda to keep it from sticking.  I have to shake the blender to uncake the soap from the blades to get it thoroughly mixed. Not the best method, but it will work in a pinch.

    A food processor with a grater blade is by far the easiest and fastest method to grate the soap. You don't have to have a fancy one--the one I use I inherited from my mother, and it's probably 30 years old.

Use Food Processor to Grate Soap for Laundry Detergent
Grate the soap in a food processor, then mix in the Borax and Washing Soda by hand in a separate container.
  • Allow the soap to dry out before grating. Grating it right out of the package is a little stickier process. I buy the soap at least a week before I'm going to make the soap. I tear open the paper and store it in a cool, dry place so it can harden a bit.  It grates much easier that way. But if you just bought your soap and are rip-roaring to make your detergent, you can certainly grate it without drying first!
  • You can use Zote or even Ivory soap in place of the Fels-Naptha. I have tried Zote; I haven't tried Ivory. I like the way Fels-Naptha smells and how well it works, so I stick with that.
  • Use Washing Soda NOT Baking Soda. They are similar but not quite the same thing.
  • Be careful not to inhale the powder from the Borax and Washing Soda when pouring or mixing. It's certainly not toxic, but it is alkaline (more on that later!). Just mix gently by hand, or put on a well-sealed lid and shake gently.
  • Finish out your homemade laundry regimen with some white vinegar in the rinse cycle. It acts as a fabric softener and helps thoroughly rinse out the detergent. Pour 1/4 cup or so in the fabric softener dispenser.
I've seen lots of variations of homemade laundry detergents online and on Pinterest, but this is probably the simplest I've found. Sure, you can add Oxi-Clean or Purex Crystals or other ingredients, but if you are going for the cheapest option, this recipe works just fine.

So why does it work? Don't you need a fancy, expensive detergent to really clean clothes?
Time for the science!
OK, it's been a long time since my last chemistry class, so if I'm not explaining this quite right, my apologies!

The pH scale is a measure of how acidic or alkaline (basic) a substance is, or more specifically, the concentration of hydrogen ions. In the chart below, the lower the number, the more acidic the substance; the higher the number, the more alkaline the substance. Water is around pH 7, which is considered neutral. Borax is about pH 9.5 on the scale, and Washing Soda is about pH 11 (compared to pH 9.5 of regular baking soda).
pH Scale Courtesy of Wikipedia, Creative Commons
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, Creative Commons
Think about your typical laundry stains-- sweat, oil, grease, and the like. These stains are generally more acidic. Oil is not soluble in water, so water alone can't wash away the oil.

The detergent acts as a surfactant, which lowers the surface tension of the water and allows it to better penetrate the clothes and their stains. It emulsifies, or disperses, the oil in the water. The Fels-Naptha has tallow (yep!!) and other ingredients that bind to the grease and oil. (Weird as it sounds, that leftover grease in the kitchen would do a good job after all--clean grease with grease!) The Borax and Washing Soda are alkaline, so they help neutralize the acid, balance the pH, soften the water and enable the dirt and grime to be washed away in the agitation of the washer.

There's a lot more going on chemistry-wise--hydrogen ions, borax converting into hydrogen peroxide, the soda bonding to magnesium and calcium in hard water, etc. But you get the idea.

All laundry detergents--even the expensive ones--have ingredients that complete these basic chemical tasks. They made add enzymes, fragrances, colors, more surfactants, and so forth, but they more or less do the same thing.

For a point of comparison, here is an ingredient list of Tide Detergent-

And check out the list of possible ingredients used in Tide fragrance (Wow, it's a long list!)- 

Here are the ingredients in this Homemade Laundry Detergent:

Fels-Naptha
Soap (sodium tallowate*, sodium cocoate* (or) sodium palmate kernelate*, and sodium palmate*), water, talc, cocnut acid*, palm acid*, tallow acid*, PEG-6 methyl ether, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate, titatium dioxide, fragrance, Acid Orange (CI 20170), Acid yellow 73 (ci43350);  *contains one or more of these ingredients 
Source: http://www.purex.com/products/laundry-enhancers/fels-naptha#moreinfo

Borax- Sodium Tetraborate,
 "a naturally occurring substance produced by the repeated evaporation of seasonal lakes." 
Source: http://www.20muleteamlaundry.com/about/what-is-borax/

Super Washing Soda- 100% Sodium Carbonate

Source: http://www.armandhammer.com/fabric-care/laundry-boosters/Products/arm-and-hammer-super-washing-soda-detergent-booster.aspx

If you want an even purer soap, you could use Ivory or a Castile bar soap in place of the Fels-Naptha. I haven't tried either one, so I can't speak towards their effectiveness.

Have any of you tried homemade laundry detergent?  What is your favorite recipe?

Soap, suds, and bacon grease,
Mulligan Mama

Other sources for the science info:

Clean It Fast, Clean It Right: The Ultimate Guide for Making Absolutely Everything You Own Sparkle and Shine, edited by Jeff Bredenberg.
How Detergent Works- http://chemistry.about.com/od/howthingswork/f/detergentfaq.htm
pH- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PH
Detergent- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detergent