Saturday, January 21, 2012

Frugal Home Series Part 1: Homemade Laundry Detergent

Frugal Home Series Part 1:  Homemade Laundry Detergent

I love me some laundry.  It reminds me of my mom.  She loves it, too, and growing up our house always smelled like clean laundry detergent and softener.  Our clothes were always perfectly cared for, folded when they were warm so that they wouldn't wrinkle.  She never taught us how to really do laundry until it was time to go to college.  I thought it used to be because she didn't want us to ruin our clothes (or hers), but I really think it was because she loved to do it.

{Side story- when we were living in Prague, my Mom and Dad had to fly to the states to go house hunting in Kansas.  I was a sophomore in high school and my brother was a freshman in college.  My sister was 13.  My parents left Danny me in charge for a few days while they were out of the country.  It was awesome- I cooked, cleaned, and did laundry (thanks to a cheat sheet my mom left for me!  This is where my love affair with laundry began). I made sure the doors were locked at night, that we made it to school every morning, that we had lunch money (which had to be rationed because the star of this story hoarded her lunch money for a week to pierce her belly button when she was 13.  Yeeep).  Mini-mom at work.  It went great, except for when my little sister decided to sneak out of the house, run downtown with one of her friends, and then go "missing" for a few hours until her friend's sister tracked them down.  O. M. G. what a brat.  You might be thinking, "WHAT were her parents thinking?!"  My brother was in college, so I don't think they were thinking anything except that we are great kids and I was born with the soul of a 30-year-old (so says my mom).  That Chrissy- always been a rat!  Gotta love her!}

In the fall, I made dry detergent with my students (they loved it, as did their parents) and used it until I ran out (I loved it, too).  Can I make a confession?  Even though it's not true, I feel like dry soap doesn't get things as clean as liquid does.  Lame, I know.  It's in my crazy head.
SO, I figured I'd try making the same detergent, but in liquid form.  Love it 10x more!

I left the baking soda out this time, but if you want BRIGHT whites, add 1/2 cup to the whole mix.
  •  1 Bar Fels Naptha Laundry Soap {not natural, but only $1!  If this irritates your skin, or your baby's, then my sis-in-law uses 2 bars Ivory and you can also use Castile.  I made some with Ivory as well and love it, too.  Don't use anything with a lot of oil- it's awful for your clothes (but great for your skin!)}
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1 gallon + 1 pint water
  • Optional- 1/2 cup baking soda
  • Grate the bar of soap as explained in this post (cheese grater!).
  • Bring a quart of water (4 cups) to a boil on the stove and slowly add the soap, stirring gently (not all at once.  Trust me).
  • Reduce the heat and let it simmer gently until all of the pieces of soap are melted/dissolved.

  • Add the borax and washing soda and stir until they are dissolved.
  • Pour the soap/borax/soda mixture into a large container and slowly add a gallon of hot water to it.
  • Stir until the mixture is well mixed.
  • Let it sit overnight. It will "gel" together.
  • Stir or shake the soap each time you use it.
  • Use 1/4 cup for a front loading washer. Use 1/2 cup for a top loading washer. 
There are 16 cups in one gallon.  We made 1 gallon + 1 quart, which is 20 cups total.  One load is 1/2 cup, so this recipe will make 40 loads.  Total cost is:
Bar of soap:  $1
Water:  Free
Borax: $.34 (9 cups per box, $3 per box.  We use 1 cup)
Washing Soda:  $.40 (same reason as Borax)
$1.75 for 40 loads, or about a nickel per load.
Using Ivory soap is even a little cheaper.

The dry detergent post I linked to will have a printable, or you can use this one!

Next- Cheap, amazing fabric softener.  You are going to hide in a cave in embarrassment after you see how much money you are wasting on Downy!

*Edit 3.25.12:
The first time I made this, it came out to be a nice, consistent thickness without any "glops".  I think it's because I was so anxious for it to cool and be ready for use that I kept shaking it.  Since then, I have made it countless time (I have been using this detergent for several months and love it more and more everyday!) and there are several "glops".  Now, once cool, I like to run it through a sieve so it's a nice, even consistency.  Works like a charm.
I have been making batching with Ivory soap to use on my gentle cycle in place of Woolite and it's great.  For a full batch, I use 2 bars of soap.
A recycled gallon-size vinegar container is the perfect storage!

Skip To My Lou


  1. I am going to have to try this and see if it works on my cloth diapers without giving Claire a rash. It's SO much cheaper than buying laundry detergent!

  2. I know! I read that you shouldn't use Castile on cloth diapers. =( Boo. I checked it out thinking of you! Becky said her Ivory soap works really great. Maybe that would help?

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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  5. I've seen other recipe with same amount ingredients that makes 10 gallons... thinking that yours is Concentrate?

  6. I made this last night and this morning, it is totally solidified! Any suggestions?

  7. NKA, did you add the right amount of water? Make sure you added additional water after boiling/adding all of the ingredients.
    Mine usually separates overnight. The top half is a neon liquid, the bottom is almost solid. I run it through a sieve. I know, it kinda sucks and takes a few minutes, but the outcome is totally worth it. I put a sieve over a huge bowl, pour it in little by little, and scrape it against the mesh with a rubber scraper. Keep going until you are done, then pour it back into your container. All you will need to door is shake it before you pour each time. Works like a charm.

  8. Mine solidified too. Is there any way to save this batch? I know I added the right amount of water because I wanted it to turn out right but when I checked it this morning it was a complete blob that wouldn't move.

  9. I'm excited to make this. do you still make this and use it?

  10. Ok, I use a similar recipe only you melt the grated soap in about a gallon of water over the stove in a pot. Mix other ingredients into 5 gallon bucket with 4 1/2 gallons of hot water, until disolved. Once dry ingredients have dissolved in bucket, and soap has melted in the pot, you add the soap to the 5 gallon bucket and stir. Allow to sit over night. It will gel and separate, some of it will be watery, while parts of it will be like hard jell-o. I put mine through a strainer, an old window screen will work, and then mix again. Makes 5 gallons. Good for HE and fron load machines.

  11. Ingredients says 1 gal + 1pint water, but directions say 1 quart and 1 gal


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