Over the last year, one of the longest running experiments that I tried on our family was making our own laundry detergent. At first I was very VERY skeptical, as I like CLEAN laundry, and at the time we started we were still cloth diapering the twins.
But when you are looking for ways to cut some serious dough out of the budget without making your family eat rice and beans for two weeks out of the month, this was a BIG expenditure that, if it worked, would put another $20 or more back in our budget bi-monthly.
We had already had to eliminate using fabric softener due to my Littles being allergic to everything I had tried thus far. I also noticed a difference in the overall feeling of our clothing, not that they were not softer or anything, but more that they felt, I dont know, lighter or something. Even my husband noticed it, which if you know the Handy Hubby,
who doesnt even notice when I cut my hair until two weeks later,
that is pretty impressive.
Since that first step into making my own laundry detergent, I have tweaked it, played with it, and found out what works, and what doesnt, in my HE front loading machine. This is the recipe that works wonderfully for our family, and one batch takes us about 3 months to use up….and we have five people in this house, two of whom are incredibly messy toddlers, and the Handy Hubby who is a meat cutter. Does that give you a picture of the laundry I do?
Now, I have been on boards reading about this stuff, and have read people saying: “Ugh, that just seems so MESSY. I dont think I want to do that.”…or “Seriously, you have to GRATE the soap? Sheesh, just go to a cheaper detergent.”
So lets talk about the spirit of making your own detergent.
Does it work?
Does it work WELL?
Yes, yes it does.
Is it kinda like a mad scientist experiment you get to make in your own kitchen?
*insert evil laugh here* Why YES, yes it is.
If you dont want to have liquid laundry, I am ending this with telling you a couple options if you are one of my less industrious, or squeamish friends. I have played with all of them, and it works just as well, just fine, so stay tuned.
Here we go:
Â Ok, so here are the ingredients I use, as well as Dawn, which I forgot to put into the picture, sorry. Little tired when I did this last night, LOL.
Â You will need one cup each of Borax and Washing Soda,Â
an entire small container of generic Oxi Clean,Â
one bar of Fels Naptha,
Â and 2 Tbs of BLUE Dawn Dish Detergent.
SO get all that out and set it on the counter so you have it in one place.
Place all the powdered items into a single container. I have a large old cooking pot that I use for this because often I will make double or triple batches at a time.
Using a whisk, break up all the clumps as best you can, and make sure the Borax, Washing Soda, and OxiClean are well combined.
Next comes the fun part. You can, of course, do this with a food processor, and it happens in a milli-second of the time you would spend doing it by hand. At the time I did not have a food processor, and this is one of the ways we did it. You grate the entire bar of soap finely. You can also cut it into chunks, and pour boiling water over it and let it sit overnight, and it will, most of the time, dissolve. But I am kinda a hands-on person, and we like this way. We have also used castile soap, Dove soap, and the pink bar of Zote. Castile was a bar of soap my kids totally reacted to, Dove didnt seem to get the stains out, Zote clumped up and made a mess even if it did smell good, and so we went back to the original plan of Fels-Naptha, which my family loves. It has a clean scent without being overpowering, and with three sensitive skinned people in a house of five, we have had NO reactions to it.
Come on, isnt that pretty? And it smells wonderful.
Now, for those of you that prefer powder, this is where you stop. You would mix that finely grated, beautiful bar of soap into the powder you just blended together, and box it up. Use 2-3 Tbs per load, and you have cheap, WONDERFUL laundry detergent. My mom likes the powder, and this is what we do for her. She mixes it up once in a while and uses Dove soap. She’s edgy like that. 🙂
For the liquid version, add the soap to a good heavy bottomed pan, and add 1 Quart hot water. Get your whisk from the powdered stuff and stir until it is totally dissolved. This will seriously make your kitchen smell amazing. And people who visit you will think you cleaned for a week.
Totally melted and smooth, see the low suds? This is where you would add the 2 TBS BLUE Dawn for stain removal. I started adding this in July and was amazed at how much easier stains disappeared, and then the clothing did not seem to hold onto stains as much either. You will also use that Dawn in other recipes I am sharing with you over the next couple weeks.
Take a 5 gallon pail and fill it halfway with hot water straight from the tap. If you have a big kid who can do this for you, let them. 🙂 Then you can get started on the next step. This would be about 2-3 gallons of water.
Meanwhile, on the stove, begin to add the powder to the melted soap/water combo while whisking steadily. It will thicken, and foam a little….then it will thin out back to where you started. Just the chemical reactions of adding things together (which is super fun for kids to watch and participate in)
Once everything is well mixed, and no clumping or anything, you pour the liquid from the pan directly into the bucket of hot water, using a spatula to scrape the pan completely clean. Using the whisk, stir it up until it is all mixed well, and add another gallon of hot water (you will have 4 gallons of water in the bucket when done). There will be some foam at the top, but it will settle down over time.
Let this sit overnight, and sometimes even a little longer and it will gel. This is the bucket of laundry detergent the next day. It had formed a slight crust because my floor was so cold, and once I grabbed my hand blender and pureed it, I had perfect consistency laundry detergent that could pour right out of the container. I use about 1/4 cup per load, a little more on super yucky laundry. Our clothes come out clean and soft. Instead of using fabric softener I have learned to use 1/8 cup vinegar at the end of the cycle, and our clothing is just as soft and static free.
We have used this for over a year and I have been amazed at how cheaply you can make this, and how well it works. We have hard water, and for a while our clothes were getting dingy, but when I added in the OxiClean, things got much much better.
So, I hope this helps some of you who have been wondering about how I make our laundry detergent. For those sites that tell you that you have to have different pots and spatulas and everything else to make this, seriously folks, its soap. Just soap. Wash everything really well when you are done, and you have nothing to be concerned about.
Here is the cost breakdown:
Box of Washing Soda: approximately $3.00
Box of Borax: approximately $4.00
(you will use each box 6 times to make a single batch, so per 4 gallon batch the Soda is costing you .50 and the Borax is costing you a little over .60.)
Container of generic Oxi-Clean—$1.00 in dollar store
Fels Naptha Soap: .99 in walmart’s laundry aisle
2 Tbs of Blue Dawn: I have no idea??? 🙂 Maybe .15??
So for 4 gallons of laundry detergent that cleans just as well as everyone else’s that you pay through the nose for, without all the chemicals and nasty additives, brighteners, etc, you will pay no more than $3.25. That means you are making your laundry detergent for around 80 cents a gallon. Pretty dramatic, and definitely FABULOUSLY FRUGAL!
See youÂ back here on Monday for a fun Make-It-Yourself Monday Project!
Many Blessings to you and yours,
I guess this is the year I try this!
It takes a little getting used to, but does a great job! I will be listing all my cleaning products over the next month, Amy, including stain removers, fabric spray (Febreeze), bathroom cleaners, handsoap, etc. 🙂 So keep heading back on Fridays (not that you dont check it out more often than that, friend. ) 🙂
started making laundry soap this past year. I love it! Especially love not having to lug those heavy bottles of laundy detergent home from the store.
No kidding, Veronica. With twin toddlers, anything I DONT have to lug across the parking lot or up the front stairs to get in the house is a bonus situation for me too! Plus, as far as the money department goes, this one is a BIG ONE to put money back in your pocket! 🙂
We have hard water too. I also add a large box of baking soda to my “dry” laundry mix. It contains the same ingredients as your liquid except for the addition of the baking soda and I don’t add the Dawn. Although my stain spray has Dawn in it. I love making my own laundry mix, saves money and works really well.
Yes Joyce, my mom uses the powder mix and loves it, we will have to try adding the baking soda to hers. Although I have to say, if it aint broke, dont fix it, right? She is happy with it right now, but cant hurt. I use a stain spray with Dawn in it too, and that and a few other cleaners are going to be listed next week, so be sure to check back!
My recipe is very similar,but I keep it in a powder form. I have been been making mine for a couple of years now and love it. It has saved me lots of dollars 🙂 Blessings
Thanks so much for stopping by Shelley! Yes, it has been a full year now that we have been doing this, and I cant believe how successful and how WELL this recipe works. Makes me irritated for all the years we spent struggling through detergent after detergent trying to find something cheap and well-working. Sheesh! I cant use the powder in my machine as it seems to clog things up, but wow, do I love how well this stuff works! Thanks for commenting! 🙂
Love the idea of adding the Dawn, I had never though of that (and in my family, I’m the slob who stains her clothing). I’ll add it to my next batch!
ha ha Melissa, I find myself really messing up my aprons, or even worse, my pants when I wipe my hands on them (*ahem*). Still, isnt it amazing how a simple fix can really make a difference? let me know how it works for you, I love honest feedback!
i’ve been making this recipe without the dawn or the oxyclean for about a year,but i might have to try the additions. i have found the whites get a bit dingy so maybe my next batch will include the oxyclean option. Gotta run to the dollar store soon cuz it’s almost time to mix up that next batch.
Thanks for stopping by, and once you use the new additions, let me know what you think?
And run run run! LOL
I make this same recipe but use it in powdered form. My sister uses the liquid version… I’m going to let her know about the Dawn! (Right now we both use a homemade satin treater) This is a great picture tutorial and I have to say my boys LOVE to help make laundry and get all dusty. As a homeschooling mom I find it makes good a math lab! 🙂
I know Gretchen, isnt it fun when we can get our kids involved in mixing things together, teaching them about measuring, and dumping, and mixing? My kids TOTALLY love doing this kind of stuff, so we have fun with it. Just as fun as making up the Master Mixes, but they dont get as enthused about this as they do having cookies or something, LOL.
Thanks for commenting and dropping in!
I just wanted to say WOW!! I just made a batch of your laundry detergent and I ran out of containers to put it all in!! I was amazed at exactly how much that small amount of ingredients made up. Between the liquid laundry bottles I have been saving up and the plastic orange juice jugs I have over 447 ounces of liquid detergent. That doesn’t count the little bit left in the bucket that I will finish up today doing laundry. That equals to over 225 loads of laundry for what? About $3.25 total cost!!! Last week I paid $4.97 for a 75oz bottle of Arm & Hammer…and that was the bonus bottle that contained 8 “free” loads!! To equal what I made yesterday & bottled up today I would’ve had to have bought 6 bottles of detergent. At 5.00 a bottle+tax!! That’s over $30.00!! So in just one batch of homemade detergent I’ve already saved over $27.00. That’s a tank of gas for my Honda!! Thank you so very much for sharing your knowledge with us. I truly appreciate you!!
I tweaked a recipe I found and this seems to work great for us. I have to say I was shocked when my step son asked me when I was making more soap when we ran out and I just grabbed a thing of laundry soap at the store and he’s asked me to make him some for his new apartment when he moves. It’s not often a teen boy likes stuff like this!
Anyway, here is what I use and what you will need to make your soap:
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
2 bars of soap
7 gallons of water total
1 large tub. I use a Rubbermade storage tub. (I think it’s easier than a bucket when you need to stir it).
A large metal spoon (you don’t want to use wood or plastic, it will hold onto the soap smell). A slotted spoon works best for the final step of stirring.
A large heavy metal pan
You can use the Felz Naptha or the Zout soap, but I have found I don’t care for the smell of those and they both gave my girls a rash. I have read that others that have sensitive skin haven’t had any problems with those soaps, but we did. I have used the Dr. Bronners bar soap and really liked it but switched to a soap I buy @ Sprouts Farmers Market Store (it is cheaper @ $2.49 a bar). I have no idea the name of it (ugh, sorry) but I can tell you it is sold unwrapped and is round. It’s the only soap at Sprouts that doesn’t have any packaging on it. It is in a long brown box and sold individually. I use the Lavender one. It smells amazing when you’re making it, but doesn’t have a strong enough smell to make your clothes smell like that. My suggestion is to use a soap that smells good to you and isn’t filled with a bunch of chemicals. I read every ingredient on every bar of soap my first time making it.
Grate the 2 bars of soap
Pour one gallon of hot water into the heavy metal pan and put on the stove. You don’t want it to boil, just below boiling. If it does start to boil, just lower the temp. just a touch. Very slowly you want to add the grated soap. I put about a half a handful at a time into the pan, stirring as you do. Wait till it is dissolved and then repeat until you have melted all the grated soap in the water. This is the most time consuming part of the whole process. If you add too much soap at once, it clumps and takes forever to dissolve (I learned that the hard way). It will get a little foamy.
While the soap is on the stove dissolving you can pour 2 gallons of HOT water into your tub. Pour the 2 cups Borax and 2 cups Washing Soda into the hot water and stir until it is completely dissolved. Once it is completely dissolved pour the remaining 4 gallons of water into the tub and stir.
Once you have all the grated soap dissolved completely and the borax and washing soda is also dissolved, pour the pan into the tub and stir.
This is where it gets interesting, the science kicks in and your soap will begin to thicken. I take the time to stir it often! I make mine on a day I know I’ll be around the house all day. Most recipes I have read say to leave it for 24 hours. I did that and hated that I had to sit and stir a lump of gel, for a very long time, and still had lumps. I will usually stir it really well every hour or so for the rest of the day, before I pour it into my soap containers.
When you use it, shake the bottle before you pour it. It does like to separate a little. This recipe seems to not do that as much as some of the others I have used. I also have read people using 1/4 cup or less per load. I just use the lid of the container just as if it were store bought soap.
You can add a few drops of essential oil to it when you’re stirring it in the end, if you like to have a soap that leaves a smell on your clothes. I haven’t tried that but a friend has and loves it.
All the research I’ve done says that “oxiclean” type products are activated by hot water, do you think it would be more cost-effective to just add powdered oxiclean to each load as needed? I’ve also read that Borax naturally converts to hydrogen peroxide when mixed with warm/hot water… wondering if you’re noticing any color fading problems? I’ve always just added Borax to a load if I felt it would be beneficial.