Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

I can't believe I hadn't done this before!

Once I hit the blogosphere, it didn't take long to find some great ideas. One of the first ones I found was how to make your own laundry detergent.  When you have a family of five, you do LOTS of laundry.  And that stuff is expensive! So I started asking about it on my Facebook page. Turns out I was the last to know about this money-saving treasure (well, not exactly the last...). But many of my friends were already doing it, and saving big-time! One friend suggested looking up thefamilyhomestead.com for more information. Her post on making homemade laundry soap gave me all the information I needed to get started.
So I made my first batch a couple of months ago, and just finished it last week. I wanted to use it for a while before I formed an opinion. Now that I have that experience, I will share it with you.

What you need:
1/2 cup Borax Powder
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1/2 bar Fels-Naptha Soap
box grater
large pot
large bucket for mixing
2 empty 1-gallon jugs

I found the Borax, washing soda, and Fels-Naptha soap all on the same shelf on the laundry detergent aisle at my local Walmart. The boxes are each between $3.-$4., and the soap was $1. And considering that you only use 1/2 cup of the powders per batch, you can see that the cost per load is very minimal.  The box grater and large pot are from the kitchen; they wash up just fine after using them.  I bought a 5-gallon bucket for mixing.  It's plenty big; the recipe makes about 2 gallons, so there's plenty of room to stir.  And I recycled 2 gallon-sized milk jugs to hold the finished product.  You could also recycle your laundry detergent bottles for this. Now, just follow these directions:

  • Grate the soap, and put it in the large pot. Add 6 cups of water and heat it until the soap melts, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the Borax and washing soda, and stir until it is dissolved.  Remove from heat.
  • Pour 4 cups of hot water into the large bucket.  Add the soap mixture and stir.
  • Add 1-gallon plus 6 cups of water to the bucket and stir.
  • Let the mixture sit for 24 hours. It will gel during this time.
  • After sitting for 24 hours, give it a good stir to prepare it to be poured.  Place a funnel over the top of a clean, empty gallon jug. Pour slowly; the detergent will be somewhat lumpy.  The recipe makes about 2 gallons.
  • Use 1/2 cup of detergent per load.
I do not have a high-energy washing machine. But from what I've read, this detergent is safe to use in them.  It is very low sudsing.  That was the very first impression I got when I used it for the first time. I added it to my water as it was running, and there were hardly any suds.  However, it's not the suds that make your clothes clean-it's the ingredients in the detergent. Here are a few more impressions and opinions I have on the detergent:
  • It has a different consistency than the store-bought liquid detergents. It's sort of liquid, sort of gel-like--that's ok.
  • Once it has been sitting, it will separate somewhat. This is a picture of my jug that has been sitting untouched for a while. That is also ok.  All I do is give it a good shake to mix it up good each time before I use it.
  • It leaves a very faint clean smell to my clothes after they've been washed. Now, I like a good smelling detergent. I will probably add an essential oil to my next batch to give it more of a scent. Lemongrass oil has deodorizing properties. So I'll just add 1/2 to 1 ounce of that during the mixing process. 
  • It cleans my clothes. That's the most important thing after all, right? My son plays baseball, and had a real dirty uniform after one particular game. It was the perfect test for my new detergent. It was a small load, and I used the 1/2 cup of detergent on a heavy-duty cycle. The uniform looked good as new!
  • The cost savings are incredible! One batch makes 2-gallons for less than $.75. You just can't beat that. For that reason alone, I strongly recommend taking the time to make your own.

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