Thursday, November 18, 2010

DIY Laundry Detergent

My friend Jeanine gave me a recipe for homemade laundry detergent and I decided to give it a try. First of all let me say that this sounds like a daunting task, but it wasn't as much work as I thought it would be. If you really want to save some money on laundry detergent, this is the way to go.

Materials Needed:
  • Fels Naptha Laundry Bar Soap
  • Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (not to be confused with baking soda)
  • Borax
  • 3 gallon bucket
  • cheese grater
  • large pot 
  • long-handled spoon
  • water
  • funnel
  • something to store your detergent in
  • essential oil (optional)
Where to Buy:

Fels Naptha, Borax, and Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda are all found in the laundry aisle of grocery stores. I know for sure that you can buy Fels Naptha at Meijer and Kroger. I paid $1.29 for one bar at Kroger. Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda is available at Meijer, Walmart, and Kroger. I paid $2.89 for a 55 oz. box at Kroger. I had previously purchased Borax for making Safe and Green Household Cleaner. It can be found at Meijer, where I paid $3.42 for a 76 oz. box, and it is also available at Walmart. You may also find these products at other stores or online.

How to Make Laundry Soap:

1/3 Bar Fels Naptha Laundry Bar Soap
1/2 Cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda
1/3 Cup Borax
2 gallons hot tap water + 8 cups tap water

  1. Grate soap bar and melt in a pot of water (8 cups) on low heat, stirring as needed. (Note: The smaller your grated pieces of soap, the quicker this process will be. I found the most time consuming part to be waiting for the soap flakes to melt--about 35-40 minutes-- so I would advise grating your soap as finely as possible.)
  2. Fill a bucket with 2 gallons of hot tap water.
  3. Add washing soda and Borax to bucket of water and stir to dissolve.
  4. When bar soap is completely dissolved, pour mixture into the bucket and mix thoroughly with a long handled spoon. 
  5. Pour directly into your containers using a funnel or store in the bucket if it has a lid. (I used 3 clean gallon milk jugs. Jeanine told me that she uses 3 100 oz. Dynamo jugs.)
* Makes approximately 2 1/2 gallons of laundry detergent. 
* Use 1/2 cup of detergent per load.

Tips and Suggestions:
  • This soap will not produce lots of bubbles. This is okay, though, because it is not the bubbles that get your clothes clean, anyway!
  • The mixture will be clumpy and will need to be shaken or stirred before each use. (I just shake up my milk jug before using the detergent.)
  • Do not use regular soap to make detergent. Soap that is made for your skin can stain clothing.
  • Jeanine adds 1 tsp. of orange or eucalyptus essential oil when making her detergent. I did not do this because I didn't have any and I prefer not to use soap with fragrance. (Unfortunately, the Fels Naptha has a fragrance. However, it doesn't transfer to the clothing.)
  • This detergent doesn't work well for removing odors, particularly urine, so Jeanine says to add 1/2 cup of ammonia when washing especially stinky clothes.
  • Jeanine tells me that she has tried other laundry bar soaps, but she feels that Fels Naptha is the best.
  • I have still been using a commercial pre-treater to tackle tough stains. Sometimes, I also add Oxi Clean to the wash load.
  • I have used this detergent to wash everything except diapers. After doing some research online, I do not feel comfortable using this on our FuzziBunz. I found that Martha Stewart recommends using Borax and washing soda for diapers, but it is the Fels Naptha that I am concerned about. It is a soap and soap is not recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Be sure to label your containers with all ingredients. I also wrote a reminder on each container to shake before use and to use 1/2 cup per load.
Is It Worth It? My Opinion:

The ingredients needed to make your own laundry soap are not difficult to find. The entire process of making laundry soap is not complicated. It does take some time, but it's far from being an all-day chore and the amount yielded should last a few months so you will only need to make detergent a few times a year. To me, that is worth an hour or so of my time, especially once I did the math and figured out how little this homemade laundry detergent costs. I will break it down for you:

  • Fels Naptha = $1.29/bar. Divide this by 3 since you only use 1/3 bar to make a batch of detergent and you get 43 cents per batch. Remember, one batch of detergent = 2 1/2 gallons.
  • Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda = $2.89/55 oz. or 0.0525 cents per oz. You use 1/2 cup per batch of detergent and that comes to 21 cents per batch.
  • Borax = $3.42/76 oz. or 0.045 cents per oz. You use 1/3 cup per batch, which costs 0.1197 cents. (I rounded that to 12 cents.)
  • Add 43 + 21 + 12 = 76 cents per 2 1/2 gallon batch. If you use 1/2 cup per wash load, you will get 80 loads from one batch of laundry soap. After dividing, that comes to a grand total of....
0.0095 cents per load! I know that sounded too low to me, too, but I double-checked the math. This is absolutely, positively, waaaaaay cheaper than buying commercial laundry detergent. Plus, by making your own, you know exactly what is in it.

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