January 17, 2014

My Homemade Laundry Detergent Experiment


Have you ever tried making your own laundry detergent? It is a great way to save money. When I first heard of the concept, I was intrigued. Surely this was a way I could save hundreds of dollars a year. Then I discovered it wasn't quite as easy as I thought. 


My frugal journey began in 2007 when my husband and I were expecting our first child.  I wanted to quit my stressful job to stay home with my new baby.  I wasn't sure if we would be able to manage it.  I started to research ways to save money like a mad woman.

I usually just bought whatever laundry detergent that was on sale that week.  I have never been really brand specific where detergent was concerned.  While I never spent tons and tons of money on expensive detergent, the thought of saving five or ten dollars a month was kind of exciting.  It wasn't a whole lot of money, but it was something.  That was five or ten dollars more we could save towards my goal of staying home.

I will admit, the amount of information on homemade laundry detergent was a bit overwhelming at first.  There are many different recipes to choose from, and they all have different reviews.  Some like a liquid version, while others are happy with a powdered version.  Some people have certain types of water which require more or less of particular ingredients.  It seemed like a crap shoot, but I went out and bought the ingredients and was determined never to purchase laundry detergent again.

Experiment #1

The first batch I made was a powdered version.  Here is the recipe I used:

  • 1 bar of Ivory soap, grated (I used Ivory because I had a ton of it at the time)
  • 2 cups of Borax
  • 2 cups of washing soda

I combined the ingredients and used about two tablespoons per load.  I liked the results somewhat, but it seemed like the recipe didn't last very long.  I found myself painstakingly grating bar after bar of soap.  While I was happy to be saving the money, I thought there had to be a way to make the detergent last longer.  Also, I found myself missing the fresh smell of commercial laundry soap, even though I knew it was just the added perfumes.

Experiment #2

So I decided to make the liquid version.  Here is the recipe I tried:

  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1 bar Ivory soap (again, because it's what I had on hand)
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup Borax

Add the water and grated soap to a saucepan.  Stir on a low heat until the soap is dissolved.  Pour the mixture into a five gallon bucket.  Fill the bucket halfway full of hot water.  Add the Borax and washing soda and stir the mixture until it is completely combined.  I also chose to add some essential oil for a nice scent.  I added about 20 drops of lavender essential oil to the mix.  Cover the bucket and let it sit overnight.  The next day, fill a container (I used an old empty gallon vinegar jug) with half of the soap mixture and fill the rest with warm water.  Be sure to shake the jug before each use.

The directions said to use 1/4 cup per load.  I did that, but I didn't feel like the clothes were getting clean enough.  So I increased it to 1/2 cup, but still didn't care for the results.  

Experiment #3

After that experiment, I found one more recipe that sounded like it might be more promising.  It called for more ingredients, but it also made a ton of detergent.  I was willing to try anything because I really wanted this to work.

Well, I am delighted to inform you that I LOVE this recipe!  It smells great, makes a huge batch of detergent, it's easy to make, and most importantly it WORKS!  One of the best things about it is that it lasts a long time.  I now have a family of five, and I only make this twice a year.  This detergent costs me about $13 dollars to make.  By making this recipe approximately every six months, I am only spending a little over two dollars a month on laundry detergent.  I'd say that is an awesome savings.  Plus, I love making my own things.  I like to know what is going into the soap; anything I can do to keep my family as healthy as possible is a plus.

Here is the recipe:

You will need a five gallon bucket with a lid.

3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap, grated
1 box Borax
1 box baking soda
1 box washing soda
2 small boxes of Oxi-clean (I usually buy the generic version at the dollar store)
1 container of Purex crystals (these are optional, but I love how they smell so I always use them)

I found most of my ingredients on Amazon.  Only recently was Fels-Naptha and washing soda available in any store near me.  

Simply add all of these things to the bucket and stir it very well.  I recommend mixing it up in batches, because it can be very difficult to stir if you add everything at once.  I pour in some of the powder, some of the soap, and some of the crystals.  I stir that up really well, then start another layer.  I do that until I've used up all the ingredients.

The original recipe only calls for one tablespoon of the detergent per wash, but I always use two because I wash very large loads of laundry.  If I only used one tablespoon, I'd probably be able to save even more money, but I'm happy with the results and the cost is worth it to me.

So there you have it. It took a few tries, but we discovered what works for our family and our laundry-washing needs. No matter which recipe you go with, I highly recommend making your own laundry detergent. It's safer, cheaper, and kinda fun, too! 

Have you tried a homemade laundry soap recipe?  Which one was your favorite?  I'd love to hear about it!

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