Zote, the Economical Soap for Hand-Laundering Shirts

Shavings of Zote Soap, Made with a French Chef's Knife ©M-J de Mesterton
Shavings of Zote Soap, Made with a French Chef’s Knife ©M-J de Mesterton
Zote Soap and Boraxo for Economical Laundering ©M-J de Mesterton 2009
Zote Soap and Borax Powder for Economical Laundering ©M-J de Mesterton 2009

Zote soap comes in a huge, bright pink bar. It’s made in Mexico, but has been gaining popularity in the U.S. I discovered it long ago when searching for Octagon. Zote is not only mild and fresh-smelling, but is an effective stain-remover when rubbed on a wetted spot before washing. It can be grated and added to a general laundry load. Zote, cut into small chunks, is also an effective fishing-bait, especially loved by catfish. Zote is also suitable for bathing and dishwashing. It contains coconut oil, a natural “optical brightener”, tallow, and citronella.

Zote soap is available at Walmart, and on-line at Lehman’s, home of the butane-powered clothes iron seen here at Elegant Survival.
One bar of Zote will last many months, when kept clean and dry, and usually costs a dollar or less.

For washing men’s shirts: wet the underarms, cuffs and collar, then rub these areas with Zote soap. Soak overnight in a small tub of water. Then, scrub the areas with a small brush–a nail brush is a handy tool, available at Walmart for under a dollar. If you need more suds during this process, rub more Zote onto the fabric. Agitate and rinse shirts, then hang to dry. You may wish to use a washing machine for this step, but use your gentlest cycle to prevent the sleeves from getting twisted while spinning. Hand-washing will give your shirts a much longer life than just throwing them into the washer would do, or worse yet, sending them to the cleaners. To read more about shirt care at Elegant Survival, use the search-box.

©M-J de Mesterton, January 2009

Hand-Washed, Sun-Dried Shirts: a Natural Luxury


Washing and Drying Your Shirts
A well-made shirt can cost $500.00 or more. That is an investment to protect. Your shirts will last much longer if they are washed by hand and hung to dry. Don’t use so much detergent that it takes a rinsing marathon to remove it. “A little dab’ll do ya”, as the old Brylcreem jingle said. Ideally, one would hang shirts on a clothesline, upside down, with clothespins. This keeps pinch-marks off the important areas of your shirts. The sun will dry them in no time. Alternatively, one could hang them indoors, perhaps out-of-sight behind the the shower curtain, on hangers. A sturdy spring-rod, placed inside the shower area for the purpose of hanging clothes to dry will not interfere with your existing shower-rod. If you don’t want to get hanger-marks on the shoulders, just put wash-cloths under them, over the ends of your hanger. The worst thing to do, even if you wash your shirts in cold water in the gentle cycle, is to dry them in a machine–doing so will quickly degrade your shirt, which will die an angry death before its time. My husband and I have shirts from France and England that are twenty years old, and in perfect condition.

An electric, energy-consuming dryer is an enemy to high-quality clothing. In fact, dryers shrink clothes and wear them out quickly; lint is composed of fibers that a machine robs from your clothes. You’d be surprised at how swiftly shirts dry naturally, and when they are just a wee bit damp, they’re easy to iron. In cases of stubborn collar and cuff soil, when hand-scrubbing fails, you can still wash your white shirts in hot water, soap, and a little bleach if necessary, as long as they are rinsed well, and then hung to dry. (Bleach alternative may be a better choice, if you can get it to work on stubborn stains.) Bleach is to be used only after stain-removal steps like soaking in Zote soap or Octagon have been attempted without success. Always use as little bleach as possible, diluted before adding to wash-water, and only on white shirts. Bleach has a corrosive effect on your shirt’s fibers. The sun will do some natural bleaching of white cotton. Save costly energy and prolong the life of your shirts by hand-washing and sun-drying them.

Giving your precious shirts to a dry-cleaner or other laundry service is wasteful. They crush buttons and machine-dry the poor things. Do clothes hanging on a line outdoors conjure up bad images for you? Too bad, because it is one of life’s simple luxuries to be able to dry a beautiful, well-made shirt in the sun–some of the best people do it. Believe me, it’s not remotely infradig to care for your own shirts. After all, who cares for them more than you do?

~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton, May 2008

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