Is liquid laundry detergent superior to the powdered kind?

joyfulguyOctober 15, 2005

What are your opinions about the relative value of liquid and powdered laundry detergent?

It seems to me that hauling all of those tons of water from the plant to the distributor, then to the retailer is heavier than hauling just powder. Requiring more work in handling and higher cost of fuel.

Further, the plastic jugs are made out of petroleum and quite a few are saying that they'd like to cut down on our use/need for that.

Seems to me that gas for cars is a higher priority for me than making a plastic jug to hold laundry detergent - when laundry powder box is made from (local) trees.

By the way - have you planted any trees lately?

They are the lungs of the world. And many are dying what appears to be premature death - suffering from smog, maybe?

ole joyful

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hmmmmmm I use a liquid detergent for washing clothes. I didn't give a thought to the container. I don't like the powders because they don't mix with the water so readily and are best added after the agitation begins - something I am likely to forget once I have walked away from the machine. I will be interested in hearing what others have to say.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2005 at 7:41PM
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I prefer powder because my machine will add powdered detergent at the right time but it will add liquid detergent pretty much as soon as I pour it into the dispenser.

I suspect the paperboard versus plastic jug issue is like the "paper or plastic" discussion at the checkout. There are benefits to both kinds of containers. And, truth be told, many of the most-widely-sold powdered detergents contain a great proportion of products best described as fillers (so they're pretty much unnecessary). We'd be better off without them if we could get folks to accept that a small amount of detergent that doesn't generate a bathtub full of bubbles really can clean their clothes.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2005 at 9:50AM
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I switched to liquid after we had our septic tank pumped out. The guy told me I should ONLY use liquid because of all the fillers in powder detergent. I have a handout that he gave me about it. I'll try to dig it up.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2005 at 2:43PM
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Yes, I understand that there are a substantial number of fillers in usual powdered detergents.

I remember having some a few years ago where a small box, with small cup included, would last one for a long time.

Maybe we should lobby the major manufrs. to cut down on the fillers, as well - then the delivery trucks could have a lot more really good stuff in a truckload - not only less weight, but less volume, as well.

Sounds like potentially a win-win situation.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   October 18, 2005 at 3:06PM
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I use both ....whatever is on a good enough sale. I make sure the plastic container is one that can be recycled and you just know I add water to the last little bit to rinse out the container. One thing I've found is I don't have to use the quantity advised on the box/container...a little less works just fine.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2005 at 11:45PM
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Liquid here. We have hard water and powder detergents just don't dissolve completely! Even with a water softener.
Kathy G in MI

    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 2:27AM
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It depends on the type of "dirt" you are trying to get out of the clothes or whatever you are washing. Here's a partial quote from the link below, which goes into much greater explanantion...

"Liquid detergents are very effective on greasy, oily stains and are convenient for pretreating stains. Most come with measuring caps and many offer refill sizes.

Powdered detergents may be more economical to use. Because they are effective for lifting out clay, mud and ground-in dirt, powders are an ideal choice for childrenÂs play clothes."


Here is a link that might be useful: Choosing a Laundry Detergent - University of Nebraska

    Bookmark   November 1, 2005 at 2:26PM
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R C,

I guess that powdered would be best for us old farts entering into second childhood, then?

ole joyful

    Bookmark   November 1, 2005 at 2:32PM
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'Ceptin' when you're working on your car, OJ!

[Are you still babying the old one along, or did you find a nice 'previously owned' one at a good price??]

    Bookmark   November 1, 2005 at 8:58PM
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We recycle our plastic laundry detergent containers. Pressboard cardboard, like detergent boxes or canned soda boxes cannot be recycled here.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2005 at 11:04AM
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Current car (I hesitate to use the word "old") but it's the one that I've had for some time ...

... is still going.

To pick up son (birthday today) to take about 55 mi. away to turkey supper in community where I was minister 25 years ago. (Holy cats - was it that long ago?)

Brought along a couple of coats in case of misfortune.

Friend called this morning to tell of a potential vehicle for me, so I'll check it out tomorrow, I guess.

Goofed - should have left early this morning, as I want to talk to people in various towns in that county about setting up a volunteer income tax preparation clinic for low income people, in several of them. Volunteers trained by Canada Revenue Agency.

They used to be Revenue Canada, then Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, now the Canada Revenue Agency - I think they've been having an identity crisis!

If your Mom comes to visit - don't let her wash your mouth out with soap.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   November 2, 2005 at 2:38PM
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Here I am again, folks,

Just had a message from someone (lurker of necessity) as follows:

Jan's recipe for Home Made Laundry Soap/Cleaner

I can't post at garden web cause I'm not a paying member. But if you want to save a lot of money on laundry soap, it is very inexpensive and easy to make your own. My favorite recipe is:
3 pints water
1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated
1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup washing soda
1 quart hot water
cold water
Mix fels naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints of [w]ater. Heat on low until barely dissolved. Stir in borax and washing soda. Stir until thickened, then remove from heat. Add l quart hot water to 2 gallon bucket. Add soap mixture to bucket and mix well. Pour soap mixture into the bucket, mix well. Fill bucket with cold water and mix again. Let set for 24 hrs. If too thick or seperated, nstir before use. Use 1/2 cup per load of laundry.
I can make this in the US for about 75 cents a gallon. It works great. There are no sudsing fillers so your clothes won't get stiff and need fabric softeners. I use it as a pretreat on stains, too. It has saved me a lot of money. If you'd like to put this on the money saving tips forum I'd be flattered and it might be helpful to somebody on a tight budget. Jan

[ ] indicates editing.

Firstly, where do I find Fels Naptha soap? Same for borax. Also washing soda. (Baking soda I got, in quantity - no, probably not: think it may have been dumped during the recent move.)

Probably helpful to me, too, Jan - and I ain't on a tight budget ... well, I put myself on a tight budget for several personal reasons.

That include saving for possible medical care, nursing home prior to my exit from this part of God's creation (I assume S/He made Heaven, too - though not so sure about the other place, should I be bound there).

Gifts to various churches, charities, bequest to my offspring, etc. - as I am becoming more convinced that there are some very difficult years in store for North American society.

Want some reserves in place to carry me through potentially difficult times - better than if one doesn't have them.

For my offspring, as well - probably more than for me, as, at over 75, my remaining years here are numbered. Of course, theirs are, as well, but probably the numbers are higher than for me.

Good wishes to all for a really fine weekend.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 11:49AM
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I use liquid. I have a front-loading washer, so I don't use much detergent. I've had problems with powder not dissolving. We've had powder residue on our clothes because it didn't dissolve completely. Powder is fine if you're washing a load with hot water, but I use hot for very few things.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2005 at 10:45AM
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Thanks for the post re: the laundry do-it-yourself soap. A couple years or so ago, there were long threads here about that recipe. Many of us made it, and many created modified versions, including some without the water so it would be much less bulky to store.

Fels-Naptha soap is made by the Dial Corporation. You can reach them at 1-800-258-3425. If you can find it in a store, it should be on the laundry detergent aisle. It is NOT a soap for general body bathing.

If there isn't a source for Fels-Naptha near you, you can buy it online at
Mast General Store
. This is just the first hit I got Froogling for it. I'm sure there are other sources.

Borax is "20 Mule Team Borax - Natural Laundry Booster" and can usually be found in the detergent aisle. The box is roughly 10" tall and 7" wide [4-pound 12-ounce size], red lettering on a yellow background with a greenish border. It is also made by teh Dial Corporation, 1-800-457-8739. Or check the web at

You're right... "washing soda" (sodium carbonate) is NOT the same as baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and is usually found on the laundry aisle also. Washing Soda is made by Arm & Hammer, a division of Church & Dwight. Here's a webpage about it...Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda.

Hope that helps you, Ed.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2005 at 12:52PM
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Saw this link in a "cheapskate" type column in a newspaper recently. I have NOT ordered from them, but for those who want to make the 'homemade laundry soap,' this place has all the ingredients...

Here is a link that might be useful: Soaps Gone Buy

    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 8:06PM
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The book "Tightwad Gazette II" that IO just borrowed from the library says that frequently it's more expensive.

Says also that, for families using septric system, depending on family size and usage (recommending against long showers) that it's a good idea to get the tank pumped out every three years or so, to avoid having the solid waste build up in it so high that it flows out into the leaching bed, blocking it.

o j

    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 8:11PM
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I was told my the dealer that sold me my front-load Neptune to use powder and also by a repair man because powdered does not use animal fat and therefore there is less chance of mold and bacteria building up and smelling. That's all I know about powder versus liquid.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 5:34PM
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I quit using powdered because about 1/3 of the way through the box it would become one big clump and it would take a hammer to break it apart (unless I had a tightly sealed plastic container to minimize it but still didn't solve the problem). The pieces wouldn't dissolve and I got tired of having to rewash clothes and annoyed at having to throw out the soap.

The other reason I stayed with liquid is that for many years now the liquids have been on sale &/or rebate regularly for end price of free (actually a few times I made a dollar or two) to a max of about $1 for a 100-200 oz jug. A few months ago I bought 4 jugs of an off brand free after rebate and it works fine. I've thought about making my own, but I couldn't make it that cheap. So why spend the time to spend more money? I'm too cheap! :)

I'm not sure where the mold and bacteria would build up because of liquid detergents. I would question the vendor on that comment. You'll have much more mold by closing your washer tight rather than letting it air out and also whether there's good air circulation in the laundry room. My 25 year old washer had a trace of mold around the top when I had it apart a couple of months ago. Wiped it out with bleach and I should be good for another 25 years. Although I do run a bleach load every few months with very hot water on the high speed agitation so it probably cleans it out by doing that. I will say though that I've heard a lot of recommendations to use powdered in front load machines for various reasons. No reason to question why.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2005 at 5:15PM
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when i purchased new washer and dryer a couple of years ago, the manufacturer (Maytag) as well as the guy that delivered the same, highly recommended liquid....and seeing the mess from beneath my old washer was enough to convience me...that powder and junk really takes a tole on the gears in your machine!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2005 at 7:24PM
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I use Sears detergent. Powder in the big bucket. $19.99 on sale for 275 loads. That's double that for my front loader. Use the bucket later for watering plants, washing car, mopping porch etc.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 2:04PM
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The industry says that powder works better than liquid. As far as fillers are concerned, I use SA8 which doesnt have fillers, works better than tide, and costs less than tide.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2005 at 10:39AM
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I use Ajax liquid dish detertent for laundry. It doesn't have enzymes which are tough on sensitive skin, and it does a great job of cleaning. I use 1-2 Tbsp per load in my front load machine. If I need bleach, which I rarely do, I just add that in liquid form. The Ajax gets stains out really well ranging from blood (an occasional hazard of my job) to dark brown clay soil that I get on my jeans in the garden. DH has really sensitive skin, and can't tolerate the enzymes that are in virtaully every laundry detergent I see. If I use 2 Tbsp for every load, I can get 38 loads of laundry done for less than two dollars. It's a great price and does a very good job.
Mrs H

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 10:04PM
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There is a post in this thread that says powdered detergent is hard on a washing machine's gears. Huh? How does the detergent ever *touch* the machinery?

My question is why would one buy, say, 36 ounces of a detergent formulated for front load washers instead of 36 ounces of regular detergent? I have used both. I use a very small amount of the regular; do not have oversudsing; clothes are clean and rinse clean. The 36 ounces of regular goes much farther than the HE variety. Exactly how do the two differ? It seems to me the HE is simply "cut" with an inert ingredient. BTW, I've used the regular for four years without seeing any "damage" to the washer.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 11:29AM
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Others can explain it better than I can, but in theory HE is formulated differently. It should be lower sudsing and have a formulation to be more compatible with the lower water use of a high efficiency machine. Certain parts of a detergent formula are to hold the dirt in suspension in the water so it can be removed. Insufficient amounts of this will not get the clothes as clean. More dirt, the more of this part is needed to work right. OTOH too much detergent leaves residues that often don't get rinsed out and can bother sensitive people, make the clothes feel rougher and shorten the lives of the fabrics.

It reality however, it doesn't really seem to work that way. Many do fine with using less of a regular detergent. Some find that some of the HE stuff is higher sudsing than regular. Suds do not clean in any machine so having suds is not good. Having excessive suds in a front load can be worse than a top loader since it can get into the mechanism and damage the machine.

I'm really amazed that a dish soap works in laundry without sudsing the neighborhood. But if it works, go for it.

Sources I've seen say that powders are better for certain things while liquids are better for others. Few liquids have enzymes in them.

I just bought two jugs of Arm & Hammer liquid on B1G1F which works fine for me. Course I don't get my clothes that dirty anymore either so most anything is fine AFAIC. Though it's not the best price I've received on detergent it comes out to less than 3¢ per load. Less when I skimp a bit more on a load which I can easily do. I don't spend much on laundry. And my clothes are as clean as any I've seen. Face it, few people get their clothes so dirty that you need the huge amounts of detergents that the makers recommend. The more you use, the more they sell. And in reality, few people can really tell the difference between detergents.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 12:58AM
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Thanks, Cynic. Guess I should check to see if Consumer Report has tested detergents lately.

You are right, few of us need heavy duty cleaners after the baby clothes and baseball uniform days are over. However, now its my DH's new-found ability to spill down the front of his shirts -- usually something oily!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2005 at 12:37PM
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C'mon, now... some of us are just born to drool! :)

You might check the laundry forum. I think there were some threads that listed the CU evaluations on detergents. I don't have much faith in their testing personally but you could check there for the info. There's also a number of threads on various detergents.

Just beware, those laundrymaniacs/laundroholics take their laundry seriously! And have strong feelings on the brands they love! :)

    Bookmark   December 16, 2005 at 7:28PM
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Used to use the powder, found it didnt quite disolve as well as I would have liked. I have three kids so I wash a lot of clothes and have tried many brands. Gain is by far my favorite, my mom swears by Fab...? To make up for spending more on a more expensive brand, I cut my dryer sheets in half. It does the job just as well as a whole sheet.
Huh, never heard of washing clothes with dish washing liquid. I have to pass that on to my mom, she'll try anything once....

    Bookmark   January 7, 2006 at 2:26PM
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On a thread some time ago several people were saying that they only use 1/3 - 1/2 of the amount that the scoops are marked for and find that their clothes come clean.

As someone said, most of us don't get clothes really dirty.

Someone also said that since their baby's days and kids with heavily used clothing, they don't use as much.

I'd think that most of the baby's dirtying would almost wash out with clean water, that detergent to lift heavily imbedded dirt wouldn't be necessary.

And I think that when dealing with a baby's sensitive skin, I wouldn't want to leave any residue in the clothing if I could avoid doing so.

Thanks for all of the info, folks.

Have a glorious New Year, everyone.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   January 7, 2006 at 4:25PM
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I prefer liquid laundry detergents and fabric softener sheets.
I recommend Tide/Cheer/Gain/Wisk/All/Surf/Purex/Arm&Hammer/Sears.
I also recommend Amway/Fuller Brush/Shaklee.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2006 at 6:56PM
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I also recommend Persil.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2006 at 8:32PM
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I haven't noticed a difference myself - used to use powder and now I use liquid and my clothes seem to be as clean as ever!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2006 at 12:54PM
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Earlier in this thread Joyfulguy gave the recipe for the homemade detergent and I've used it at different times and it works just fine, as long as you don't have extremely dirty clothes and best with soft water. BUT - it just really doesn't smell all that great once your clothes are dry. I altered the recipe and added some Simple Green and other things to try and make it smell better, but the clothes still smell "different" (not necessarily bad). It is cheap to make.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2006 at 11:14AM
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Modern liquid detergents are quite powerful, which is why you find your clothes fading rather fast. I use 30% less than what the instructions say and my clothes don't fade so fast. And they get just as clean.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 10:54AM
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My exhusband was a plumber. His clothes were really gross. Also had babies. I used Tide, and Clorox bleach with the whites, exclusively. Every year he'd get new company shirts, and you couldn't tell the old ones from the new ones...that is how white and clean my laundry was.

Shift forward to new DH...a concrete man. Grease and dried on concrete. And four teenagers. Tried less expensive brands and always went back to Tide. Only use powder (we can recycle the boxes, and sometimes I reuse them for other projects). Then I found that Costco's HE formula is virtually identical to Tide, at a signficantly lower cost. So I use it only.

Never, ever have a problem with lumps or undisolved soap...put it in before you add clothes. Let the water dump down on it and it breaks it up. I use the lowest marking on the cup for a full load and clothes always come out clean. I've only been thru 3 washing machines with 2 husbands and four kids, and it's never been a problem with the detergent. The problem comes from an overloaded machine.

I'm a real cheapskate, but I will not scrimp on laundry products, dish soap or toilet paper. Have used the same brands for 25 years and I swear it's saved me a lot more money in the long run.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2006 at 3:19PM
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I've been trying the washing up liquid idea for a few weeks now. I bought some cheap store brand dish soap for £0.13 for a litre and have been using two tablespoons per wash. The clothes come out spotless. The foaming is very minimal since it's diluted in plenty of water, and it rinses away without trace. Actually, it's made the inside of my machine look very clean.

I worked out I can get about 36 washes from one of these cheap bottles. That's 0.0036p per wash.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2006 at 3:36PM
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Pesky1, you bring up an excellent point on saving money. Sometimes it's just plain best to go with what works best regardless of the price. Trying other stuff can be expensive and frustrating.

I don't have issues with laundry so for me I go with the cheapest. I have real issues with people buying the specialized brands for 50¢-$1.50 per load and trying to tell me it's cheaper than store brands! My clothes are clean, don't smell and I'm wearing jeans from 15 years ago. All this from cheap detergent and in a 26 year old top loader that those on the laundry forum want to call "clothes shredders"! LOL Just goes to show that sometimes people get a little exaggerated in their claims and defense of what they like.

Back to what I was saying. I gave up on buying "bargain brand" dish soap. Simply because Dawn & Joy do the best job for me, at a reasonable price. I've also had to throw away too much of the other stuff I tried with the intention of saving money. Again, sometimes the better stuff is the better buy.

Happy bargaining everyone!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2006 at 4:54PM
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I agree - sometimes "cheapest" ain't always "best".

Could you maybe have put the stuff that didn't work well for you ...

.. into a yard sale?

Course - the return on the investment wouldn't be so hot, in that scenario.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   February 5, 2006 at 4:26PM
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Joyful, my MIL puts things she doesn't like in her GS. We can't get her to understand that she shouldn't stock up on an item until she's tried it first to see if she likes it.

She doesn't understand she can return unused items to the store, but instead GS's them for pennies!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2006 at 3:06PM
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Not many stores around here let you return unused stuff (that was surplus) - unless there's something wrong with it.

Some will.

Somehow, "I bought four years' worth when it was on sale - and found out I didn't like it".

Especially if you bought it four years ago and just hadn't got around to returning it before.

o j

    Bookmark   February 6, 2006 at 4:05PM
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Yo yall best start payin attention before yall get jumped, powder detergent is the killer of liquid, i did 3 project on it and powder got many different type of stains out way better than liquid, so yall better shut yall mouths before i kick yalls ass'!

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 9:41AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

And you are...?

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 10:10AM
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Decaf, Patrick, decaf.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 5:41AM
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"""Posted by beache (My Page) on Mon, Oct 17, 05 at 14:43

I switched to liquid after we had our septic tank pumped out. The guy told me I should ONLY use liquid because of all the fillers in powder detergent. I have a handout that he gave me about it. I'll try to dig it up.""

I was told the same thing by our septic guy, but I refused to listen...several months later, we had to re dig the tank and I saw for myself all the blockage caused by powder. We got all the grates clean and I switched to liquid. Haven't had a problem since.

I now make the liquid that was posted eariler. It doern's have much of a smell, so I got around that. I buy a bottle of Gain and add about a cap ful of that to the bottle that I keep my homemade in..smells just like Gain.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2009 at 11:43PM
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Thank you, little bit ... for sharing your message ... and for having such a good memory!

I've been living for a time in what used to be old step-uncle's 2-bedroom farmhouse ...

... with a septic tank, of course.

If it needs pumping ... the landlord'll pay the fee.

But - he's a good guy and I wouldn't want to do him dirt (if you'll pardon the expression).

He swept my lane this morning, even though there was little snow accumulation on it, riding his open-to-the-elements tractor.

I'll have to ask around among the local women to get their opinions and report of their experiences on the issue. And put in what I've heard - you know me: it's hard for me to keep my mouth shut!

Have a lovely weekend.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 1:55AM
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