Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Simply Thrifty: Homemade Laundry Detergent

If you google homemade laundry detergent, you will be taken to many, many, many different pages. With each page having a different recipe. I am going to share my experience making my own detergent and the reasons I like it.

I first heard of homemade laundry detergent when I first got married. I was intrigued, but thought I was too busy to research it, let alone making my own detergent. Over the next couple of years, however, I kept hearing about it. My interest just kept growing, but two questions just kept coming up.

1. How hard is it to make laundry detergent?

2. Does homemade laundry detergent actually work?

Finally, about six months ago I found myself to be a new stay-at-home mom trying to budget on just one income. Suddenly I had time to make homemade laundry detergent and the economic necessity to give it a try.

In all of my research I found that all the recipes have the same ingredients, only the quantities vary.

The Ingredients

Borax (about $4.99 a box)

Washing Soda* (about $3.00)
*Important note: You have to use washing soda, not baking soda or Arm and Hammer detergent.
Fels-Naptha ($1.59 per bar)
Other soap bars such as Zote and Ivory may be used. You just want to avoid soaps with heavy perfumes.

The recipe I use is from the Duggar family's website. (I suppose I felt like I could trust them after watching them on their TV show. Silly, but true.)

The Recipe

4 cups hot water
1 bar Fels-Naptha (or soap of choice)
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax

You will also need:
a grater
a 5 gallon bucket with a lid
a used liquid laundry detergent container (optional)

1. Grate the bar of soap. Add to a saucepan with water. Heat over medium-low heat until the soap completely dissolves.

2. Fill the 5 gallon bucket about half full with hot tap water. Stir in the soap/water mixture, borax and washing soda. Mix until all the powder is dissolved.

3. Fill the bucket to the top and cover. Let the detergent sit overnight to cool and gel.

4. The next day, fill a clean, used laundry detergent container half full of with the homemade detergent. Then fill the rest with water.

Yields 10 gallons
and it only costs about $2.00 per batch

Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oils per 2 gallons. (I add lilac or cranberry/orange to mine.)

For a top load machine use 5/8 cup per load (approx. 180 loads)

For a front load machine use 1/4 cup per load (approx. 640 loads!)

I realize that this recipe makes a lot of soap. That is one reason I used this recipe. I was able to make one batch and have it last for a few months. Just make sure you keep the lid on the bucket so nothing (or no one) gets into the soap.

Question #1 has been answered now. I do need to add that I thought the bar of soap would be hard to grate, but found it actually took less effort to grate the soap than it does to grate cheddar cheese.

Now for Question #2. Does it work?

I have noticed absolutely no difference in our clothes since switching and neither has anyone else!

So, yes, homemade laundry detergent works!

I realize that not everyone will be into making their own detergent, but I found it well worth effort. I am saving a ton of money this way too.

There you go, a surprisingly simple way to be a little more thrifty.

Happy Laundry Day Everyone!



Tannie Datwyler said...

Do you happen to know Lisa if I could use this on my son's clothes (he has eczema). He can only have ALL Free and Clear because he breaks out in HUGE angry eczema spots each time I try to switch him to other detergent. I wonder if it would work though if I didn't add any perfumes.... thoughts?? Either way - I could use this for all my other loads of laundry and still buy ALL Free and Clear for my son.

Alyssa Harper said...

Cool! I'll have to give this a try.

Lisa said...

Tannie - I know that the borax and the washing soda are natural products- free of dyes and chemicals. I am not sure about Fels-Naptha, but you could choose a different soap if you needed to (just make sure it wasn't a soap with heavy perfume).

You could make a much smaller batch of detergent to try out. That way if it didn't work you wouldn't be left with a huge bucket of laundry soap laying around.

Britta said...

What about fabric softener? I always put that in with my wash as well- do you still need to do that with this detergent?

Its intriguing, I'm thinking of making it... especially because the price sounds great!

Lisa said...

Britta - Next week I am going to do a follow up post on fabric softener. Stay tuned!

Delia said...

What a great post! Thanks Lisa.

And you can get borax at Walmart for about $3.50 {last I checked anyway} so you can save even more.

JeriLynn said...

Great! I've been wanting to try this out. That sounds so easy, I think I will!! Woot! :)