Friday, February 13, 2009

Make Your Own Laundry Detergent...

I love my wife...and I appreciate the fact that she has almost single-handed handled our families laundry needs over the past decade of our marriage. The only role that I play is that I am the guy who helps to transport the clothing to where it will be folded...and then to take the folded clothing to the drawers. She does all of the actual laundering of the clothing and the folding.

At least part of the reason that she does the folding is because she couldn't abide the pain of watching me try to fold. If I try as hard as I can....and really take my time...I will still mash something the wrong way....and the result will be a unseemly pile of wrinkly clothes. Her arms work like a well-oiled machine. In one fluid movement, every shirt...every pair of pants...whatever garment that makes it's way into her beautiful and yet robot-like hands...lies flat and crisp. You would be amazed to see her in action! I know I am. (For some reason the only place I have her beat would be on folding camping gear...funny how that works).

She has gotten that efficient from TONS and TONS of repetition. A family of 6 can go through a lot of laundry. How many loads a week does your family do? Have you ever calculated how much you spend on laundry detergent each year?

Let's say just for an example that a family of 6 does 5 loads a week. If they purchased Tide for $14.00 and that bottle did 32 loads...then each load would cost .44 cents. (This of course excludes the cost of electricity, gas, etc.) So 5 loads a week x 52 weeks in a year x .44 cents = $114.40 a year on detergent. The numbers would vary based upon the cost of the laundry detergent used...the efficiency of your washer...etc. While $114.40 may or may not sound like a lot of money to you...there is wisdom in the age old adage that "A penny saved is a penny earned." Finding ways to live frugally is wise in lean well as years of plenty.

Here is a demonstration of a method to make your own laundry detergent that you can control what goes into it...for .08 cents a load. That is just $20.80 a year for that same family!!! In our example it could save around $100 a year on laundry! That savings would put around 166 cans of corn or beans up from Winco (on sale right now)! That savings could put a ONE YEARS SUPPLY of wheat for one adult away from the cannery!! Without a cent more out of your pocket...and all it would take is a little bit of time.

Her recipe written out...

1. Grate 1 bar of soap (she uses Ivory)

2. In a pan add grated soap and 6 cups water and heat over med/low to melt ALL of soap. (This is the longest...30-40 minutes.)

3. Once all the soap is melted add 3/4 cup EACH of Super washing soda and Borax and dissolve. If you want to add a scent this would be the time (lavendar EO or Tea Tree etc)

4. Add 4 cups HOT water in bucket once the soap mixture is all dissolved pour into bucket.

5. Stir in 1 1/2 gallons cool water.

It is done and can be used 1/2 cup per load. It will gel up and over time it will separate, that is normal. She said that the one batch will last her family of 3 three months (2 adults and 1 baby)

Here is how much laundry detergent you can expect out of each box...

1 - 76 oz box Borax = 19 batches of soap

1 - 55 ox box Washing Soda = 9 batches of soap

1 - bar Fels Naptha (or other soap) = 1 batch of soap (1/2 soap & 1/2 spotting)

So you should need for family 5 for one year:

1 box Borax - ($3.49 at Winco)

2 boxes Washing Soda ($2.70 at Winco)...x2 = $5.40

9 bars Fels Naptha (or Zote or Ivory) - (Fels is $1.05 at Winco x9 = $10.82) (Fels Naptha is a laundry soap that would be found on the laundry isle)

So the grand total for laundry detergent one year is basically $20!!

If your local store doesn't carry the may be able to request that they order them. If is a place to buy the ingredients online. They even sell it as a kit.

Here is another blog that tells of an experience with making laundry detergent.

Here is a video on youtube about making your own laundry detergent.

Apart from the cost savings...there are other reasons you may consider making your own laundry detergent. Many people claim that they are really sensitive to various detergents...and will break out in a rash from contact. (Others say their rashes are attributable to other factors.) Regardless of who is right and who is is nice to be able to make your own detergent with the "basics" that doesn't contain all of the extra junk that is in a lot of laundry detergents. We often say that "You are what you eat"...and there is truth to the statement that "You are what is on your skin" the things that we put on our skin can be absorbed...and enter our bloodstream.

Another reason to consider making it yourself is that you can control how much you put in of the various ingredients. You can become like a detergent chef...getting it just how you like it.

There may also be an advantage for some in that just a few small boxes makes a LOT of perhaps they can save space in their storage of the ingredients.

One last one...these ingredients have purposes outside of their mixed purpose. With the ingredients can have more options with what you use them for...not just for laundry. Here are some uses of Borax. Here are some more. Here are other uses for Super Washing Soda. You already know other uses for soap! (Fels Naptha can be used for a spot remover)

If you really want to know the more primitive ways of making soap from scratch if the modern resources to mix together were not is how to make soap the old fashioned way.

One other thing that I find intriguing that I found while researching is what is called a "soap nut". It is an actual nut from a "Sapindus" tree that can clean your clothing. It has been used for centuries in other cultures and is gaining popularity in the US as a natural way to clean clothing.

I wish you years of the joy of the look...scent...and feel of clean clothing!


  1. Do you think this could be done in the dry form? I wonder if you could skip the cooking part and just measure the the right ratio of powders and ground bar soap into the wash.


  2. You would need to experiment with it. From what I have read on those that have experimented...they almost all say "You have to make sure that everything dissolves completely". I think that if you don't dissolve it into a liquid...that you may end up with specks of dry detergent on your washed clothing. If you try it and it works as a dry...please let me know!

  3. I have used it in dry form - I have a friend who used it to replace Tide - no regrets these 7 months! We used 2 cups each of the following:
    grated fels naptha soap, borax, baking soda and washing soda(you could leave the baking soda out; or I have a friend who uses baking soda and no washing soda in the recipe for her more delicate clothes and the washing soda but no baking soda for regular clothes).
    Use 2 TABLESPOONSper load - I didn't believe it, but it really works - even on my worst work- and child accident-odors.
    This dry soap can handle freezing, while the liquid will turn into an impossible separated mess if it freezes. It also takes up less space. I do dissolve mine in water as the washer is filling, then add the clothes. One other thought: Ivory bar soap, fels naptha, or homemade lye soap are my favorites for pre-spotting clothes (especially for baby stains or greasy things) - just wet the item, rub some soap on it, rub your hands together with the stain between, and throw it in the wash. Beautiful!
    Have a bright day!
    ~Wendy Ray

  4. Penny pinching without sacrifice - hooray!