The problem with facts

Armed with my new zero waste to-do list and a general air of purpose, I hit the grocery store last weekend with my eyes on a particular prize: Bulk laundry detergent.

I kind of hate my laundry room, not gonna lie — it’s boring in there. Plus we’ve got too much stuff we’ve inherited (Goo Gone) or thought we needed (spray stain remover) and it’s a nightmare. Here’s what I look at every time I open the main cupboard; you tell me if this wouldn’t stress you out, too:

I mean, right?

I mean, right?

Let’s see: Aside from the Goo Gone, we’ve got Lysol (I don’t remember buying that …) and bleach. Washing soda, baking powder, I guess that’s not so bad. The 409-looking bottle actually has some kind of homemade cleaner in it, I forget what, though, and that quart jar of white stuff? That’s when I attempted to make DIY castile soap and it was a complete disaster. I need to get rid of it, I just don’t know how.

So you can see how my tiny dream list of just bulk laundry detergent, homemade stain remover, homemade floor cleaner and a scrub brush is but a pipe dream at this point. On the upside, I have plenty of reusable spray bottles. On the downside, I have to actually deal with this mess.

Feeling overwhelmed, kind of forgot where I was going with this, oh, right, bulk laundry detergent.

In my store, the detergent is located between the jars of herbs and spices and the general bulk bins. I’ve also got one choice each of shampoo and conditioner, a couple of body washes, two kinds of dish soap and a lotion. And seven kinds of Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile, though usually I just get either unscented or peppermint. I’m not one for branching out.

I have a glass bottle that I bought years ago at Ikea (the one and only time I’ve ever set foot in that joint), just thinking it looked cool but without any real idea of how I would use it. It’s hard to clean, so I’m not really comfortable putting foodstuffs inside … but hey, soap! What could happen?

It is a pretty rockin' bottle, which is why I haven't managed to get rid of it in any of my minimalist cleaning sprees.

It is a pretty rockin’ bottle, which is why I haven’t gotten rid of it in any of my cleaning sprees.

I guess I should have read more carefully to make sure it's safe to use in my high-efficiency washing machine. Details. So boring.

I guess I should have read more carefully to make sure it’s safe to use in my high-efficiency washing machine. Details. So boring.

This laundry detergent costs 31 cents an ounce. How do I know? Because some nice person already has figured it out for me:

My kind of math.

My kind of math.

I filled the bottle up because I figured what the heck, I’m there, let’s do this thing, and my receipt shows that I purchased 2.25 pounds at a total cost of $11.23.

But how does that stack up against the detergent I usually get? (Fragrance-free, incidentally. I’m not joking when I say I hate manufactured smells.)

About 20-cents per ounce.

About 20-cents per ounce.

I have had a general feeling that it is more expensive for me to buy in bulk than in packaging, and unfortunately in this case, that is correct: I’m essentially paying 11 cents an ounce more for the privilege of bringing in my own bottle. This kind of galls me, I’m not going to lie. One of the arguments for zero waste is that you’re not paying for packaging, and thus your bills are lower.

That is actually a post on my list: Take five general items that I can get in bulk and then price them against packaged. But that day is not today. Mostly because I keep forgetting that is on my list when I’m at the store.

Now, price aside, I guess this detergent is fine. The smell is what I would describe as “very mild lemon,” and my clothes don’t reek of detergent when they come out of the dryer (they just smell like clothes), so we’re calling it a win. I haven’t used it enough to know if it consistently cleans well, and I have no idea how long my bottle will last. Those parts will have to be continued. I guess the good news is that at least this stuff isn’t tested on animals and, um, it only takes a couple of tablespoons to clean a regular load. And my cute jar is cute! And that’s one less package in my cupboard, which doesn’t win the war, but definitely wins a battle.

Just thinking out loud: I do have other options here, such as scoping out the availability of detergent at other stores and/or making my own (although I’m super cool with buying it pre-made. I’ve made laundry detergent before, and it’s a pain on multiple levels). I’ve also been researching soap nuts; maybe that’s another option.

So that’s the state of THAT. Out of curiosity, do you find bulk options in your area to be more or less expensive than their packaged counterparts? Do I need to just accept this as the price of being an environmentalist, or is okay that I’m a big fat whiner over 11 cents? (PER OUNCE. Good lord, I don’t know if I can get over that.)

Next up: A lightbulb moment at the meat counter.