Soap is the best all-round cleansing agent to use in the laundry, but there are other substances with similar cleansing properties that may be used with good results in its place:

In the leaves, stems, roots, or bark of some plants occurs a soap-like substance that is closely allied to soap in its power to remove dirt. Soap-bark (quillaia bark) is a familiar example of this kind of cleansing agent. When powdered soap-bark is put into water it gives a good lather, and it acts quickly and effectively to remove dirt and stains.

Another substance with soap-like characteristics, but of animal origin, is known as ox-bile, or ox-gall. Soap-bark and ox-gall are doubtless well known to the housekeeper, for they are often used to wash garments easily injured by the strong alkalis, for example, woolens, and fabrics printed in delicate colors.

Bran, rice, potatoes, and starch are frequently recommended as good substitutes for soaps in washing delicate fabrics and colors.

Various substances are used with soap to facilitate or accelerate the washing process. Among them may be mentioned lye, washing-soda, borax, and ammonia; turpentine, paraffin, kerosene, and benzine; and fuller's earth.

Alkalis are often used in connection with soap, in excess of the amount needed to soften hard water, to facilitate the removal of dirt by their direct action on it. In many cases it is a mistake to pursue such a course if the alkali used is lye. The same objections may hold with washing-soda, but in lesser degree. If the fabric is of such nature that limited amounts of lye or washing-soda will not seriously injure it, a strong soap will contain all the free lye that is safe to use. Borax and ammonia are mild alkalis and may be very useful when the presence of some free alkali is needed and the effect of a strong soap would be injurious. They are often utilized in connection with a neutral or mild soap for washing flannels and delicately colored fabrics.

Turpentine, paraffin, kerosene, and benzine are all valuable aids to the laundress, for they exert a solvent action on matter of a fatty nature and thus soften and loosen dirt, materially facilitating the washing process. The disadvantage in the use of these substances is, that clothing in the washing of which they have been used may be insufficiently rinsed afterward and retain the odor of them. Benzine is dangerous to handle because of its inflammability, and cannot be used with very hot water because it evaporates.

Fuller's earth is a valuable adjunct in cleaning, and is sometimes used partly to replace soap in the washing process when the articles to be washed are in a very greasy condition and the use of a strong soap is not sufficient, and when the use of a strong alkali is not advisable.

Manufacturers have put on the market various soaps and powders that have incorporated with them some one or more of the above substances. Naphtha and borax soaps and soaps containing fuller's earth give satisfaction. Good results may be obtained at less cost by the use of soap and the accessory material uncombined, though it may often be more convenient to use the manufactured article that is a combination of the two.

Washing powders are mixtures of soap and some alkali such as lye, washing-soda, and borax, and may have incorporated with them some one or more of the substances of the nature of turpentine, paraffin, fuller's earth. In the case of the poorer powders a "filler" is used, that is, a substance giving weight to the powder and very properly considered an adulterant. The best powders contain large amounts of soap and only small amounts of alkali. A report is made of one of the poorer varieties of washing powder containing only 10 per cent of soap. Enough has been said in connection with the effect of alkalis and their use to guide the housekeeper in her purchase and use of these powders. There may be occasions when a washing powder is desirable, but indiscriminate use of these strong cleansing agents is inadvisable and should not be generally indulged in.