The formula is simple. She puts a bar of old fashioned Sunlight Soap plus three spoonfuls of soda chunks in a jerrycan with just over two litres (one gallon) of water.
She waits for a week until the soap bar is totally dissolved, then shakes the mixture thoroughly and Ta-DA... ! She has created an old fashioned style washing detergent that couldn't be more powerful, without the toxic contaminants, than synthetic washing powders.
And my mother's mixture is dirt cheap! She pours around three cup fulls for every load of clothes she puts in the washing machine. The clothes come out totally clean, soft, freshly smelling! (Confirmed by my father).
The bar of soap costs around 1.29 euros here in the Netherlands (that's without shopping around) and it lasts her as long as around 500g of ordinary washing powder; some seven or eight machine loads.
Having invented her own washing powder, my mother completed the circle that was started over 100 years ago by the Lever Brothers, the UK company now known as Unilever, that produced, but more importantly, marketed this soap to the world.
The Lever brothers are credited with making two important changes to the first commercially available soap bar; they changed the shape into usuable, dividable blocks and they pioneered the first marketing techniques, by the block in radiant blue and yellow colored paper. This made Sunlight soap one of the world's first marketed products.
Prior to the commercial sale of Sunlight soap, people used to create their own soaps at home. Sunlight soap derives its name from the village for Lever workers, Port Sunlight.
Apart from my mother (and as of next week my sister, me, the neighbors, the local mp for the green party and hopefully a bunch of DJ readers), people use sunlight as a personal soap only. It is still around in many countries. In the Netherlands and Belgium it's sold under the original name.
According to Wikipedia, in the US and Canada, the soap is manufactured by JohnsonDiversey. The story goes
that when Sunlight initially hit the US market, the marketing campaign that accompanied was disastrous. Swamping the US market with millions of free samples of the soap, many Yanks were misguided by the colorful wrapping and mistook the label for a lemonade drink mix. Apparently numerous -mainly senior citizens- fell ill, drinking dish soap.
Now, over a millennium and many wise lessons about the negative effects of marketing-driven myth making later, a dissolution of the Lever brothers' legacy might be as easy as their packaging revolution trick was simple.
Throw the bar in a bowl of water, scoop in some soda chunks and do absolutely nothing. When, a week later, you're applying your home made brew, I bet you, this revenge on the multinationals will feel like witchcraft of the first order!
If you decide to try this yourself, by all means, do forget it was my mother who pioneered this thing. I am not allowed to name names. Mind you, she's not intent on repeating any mistakes by heady individuals who mess up the environment anyways. No, no; my mum willfully sinks into oblivion.