Thursday, January 21, 2010

My Adventures in Homemade Laundry Detergent

After many attempts to make my own homemade laundry detergent, I have finally met with success! There are  many different recipes and ideas on the internet for making homemade detergent. I tend to be a dabbler and experimenter. I almost never follow a recipes exactly and prefer to take my chances... sometimes the outcome is great and sometimes not so great! I have wanted to settle on one recipe to use consistently for my homemade detergent. I do a LOT of laundry, considering our family is just 4 people (2 big and 2 small!). I also wanted something that would work for everything I launder - from towels to clothes to cloth diapers!
   Homemade laundry detergent making is VERY Frugal (pennies per load), and depending on your recipe, sometimes much more eco-friendly than what you'll find in the grocery aisle (unless you can always afford Seventh Generation, Rockin' Green, BioKleen and others, which I can't unless I find them on sale) Before you simply copy my recipe, I recommend doing some hunting and experimenting of your own. You have to take your own preferences into consideration. How natural/green does your detergent have to be? How much money do you want to spend per load? How much preparation are you willing to do for your detergent? Also the type of washer you use and settings you chose will make a difference in how effective each recipe is. has a collection of different recipes to get your started.

Check out my friend Kara's recipe  - my inspiration!

Another Recipe that inspired my own, from Lindsey at Passionate Homemaking

And finally, my recipe for Cheater's Homemade Detergent - the most SIMPLE recipe you'll find! Instead of making one typical homemade detergent, which usually forms a messy gel (the borax causes this texture), I decided to break it into two simple steps, so I have a liquid detergent and a dry mix that I add a scoop of. Much less preparation, and more customizable for different loads (ex. I use more of the dry mix for cloth diapers).

Step 1 - Liquid Detergent:

Fels Naptha Bar Soap is the main ingredient in my liquid detergent. All you do is grate the entire bar of soap into a large pan of about 6 cups of hot water, and cook on medium until it melts. Be careful not to let it bubble over! Allow this mixture to cool and then add one cup of Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap. You then dilute this mixture with 4 gallons of water. I always save the empty containers of commercial detergent, so I have a convenient place to store all of this liquid! This will be much thinner than regular detergent.

Step 2 - Dry Detergent:

Instead of mixing Borax and Baking Soda into my detergent, I opt to keep the dried powders separate in a 15 quart rubbermaid bin with a snapping lid. I am also a huge fan of Oxiclean, especially for my cloth diapers. I saved myself a few steps and combined all of these powders together in the bin. I mixed 12 lbs each of Oxiclean and Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (these sizes are found at discount stores like Sam's Club and BJ's) with 4lbs of Borax. I'm happy with this ratio using less Borax. It works incredibly well as a laundry booster, but some people do disagree on how environmentally friendly and safe it is. I do what I have to do to get clean clothes and stink-free diapers!

For each normal load, I use 3/4 cup of the liquid detergent and 1/2 cup dry detergent. I should also add that I always use white vinegar as a fabric softener and for it's disinfecting properties. Just add 1/2 cup to the rinse cycle or in a downy ball. A few steps, yes, but so simple, mess free, smells fresh and works GREAT!! Have fun experimenting, you Frugalistas!!!!!!!!


Erika said...

Cool! I ordered some green reuseable dryer sheets and soap nuts from my friend's green Chartreuse business, but I'm up for trying to make my own stuff... and the fels naptha soap is cheap, like the rest of the ingredients! NICE!

Amanda Rose said...

This is wonderful Sarah! I haven't tried homemade detergent in a while but I really like your approach


gabi said...

sweet! i've been toying with the idea of making all my own soaps. i'm glad you went long does each detergent last you??

Heckety said...

Thank you for this info- I've tried a lot of things but not detergent manufacture! So if I blow a hole in the utility room wall can I point my finger to you when the insurance askes me what happened??????

Jessmyn said...

I have used soap nuts in the past and I love them! They are by far the most economical and natural way to do laundry! They got stains out that had been in my clothes for several washes and my clothes came out very soft! We just got a new front loader so I need to experiment with how to use them with the new machine.