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:
october2012 100
 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.
 You will need one cup each of Borax and Washing Soda, 
an entire small container of generic Oxi Clean, 
one bar of Fels Naptha,
 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 you  back here on Monday for a fun Make-It-Yourself Monday Project!
Many Blessings to you and yours,