Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Making my own laundry and washing products!

I've heard of making your own laundry detergent before. I wanted to try it eventually, but I'll admit I was afraid it would be a huge, messy bother. Then a lady I used to go to church with started making hers and selling it for $1/gallon (she makes the liquid kind). When I found that out, I knew it had to be costing far less than $1/gallon to be worth her while, so I decided to look into it.

After I read about how to make the liquid kind, I knew I didn't have the storage space for a 5-gallon bucket of liquid detergent ... I didn't even have the 5-gallon bucket! :) But I kept reading and discovered a "recipe" for the powdered detergent.

I don't remember the exact website where I got the recipe, but there are lots of websites out there, and most of the recipes are about the same. So let me share them with you, in case you're interested. Hopefully you'll see how easy this is and what a money-saver it can be.

First of all, you need the following items to start:

  • washing soda (NOT baking soda) - $2.99 (will do multiple loads)
  • Borax - $2.99 (will do multiple loads)
  • 1 bar soap (avoid beauty bars, although Lever 2000 seemed to work nicely this time) - around $1
Just a few quick warnings before we go on: If you have breathing difficulties, you may want to wear a mask to make this. The powders are very fine, and they could irritate your breathing if you breathed them in. (This is not usually a problem when you're using the detergent, since you won't be mixing and stirring as vigorously as when you make it.) Some people also recommend wearing gloves because of the Borax, but it didn't bother my skin at all. If you have sensitive skin, it might bother yours.

You may have a time finding the washing soda. My Wal-Mart used to carry it in the laundry aisle, but now they don't. They've replaced it with a bigger box of baking soda. There is a difference: baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, while washing soda is sodium carbonate. I managed to find my box at Giant.

Some sections of the country carry a special bar soap for making laundry detergent. It's called Fels Naptha (Zote is another) and comes out to around $1/bar. They don't carry it here. The closest thing I could find was a bar of Octagon washing soap at Food Lion for $1. However, I made my first batch with Lever 2000 because I love the scent of it and someone else had successfully used it, too.

The first thing you need to do is grate the bar of soap, using a fine cheese grater. (You'll need two cups of grated soap; a regular-sized bar should be perfect.) Don't worry, it should be perfectly safe to use your actual cheese grater for this since it really is soap and soap is what cleans your dishes. Wash it well afterward, and it should be fine. If you prefer, though, you can find cheese graters at most dollar stores. It looks like this once it's been grated:

I wanted more of a fine texture, though, since it will be mixed with washing soda and Borax, both of which are powders. So I gave it a whirl in my food processor. Again, this should be fine since it's just soap. It ended up looking like this:

Then all I had to do was add 1 cup of washing soda and 1 cup of Borax, stir it really good and put it in an old Cool Whip container (clearly marked) in my laundry room. It only uses 2 Tablespoons per full load, so if you have a small load, you can get by with just 1 Tablespoon.

How well does it clean? Well, I've read that many people compare it to Tide with Bleach Alternative. One guy even did a comparison with two identical stains and found that this homemade version cleaned as well as Tide with Bleach Alternative. Considering the fact that Consumer Reports considers Tide with Bleach Alternative to be the best cleaner on the market, that sounds pretty good to me!

As always, remember to pretreat any stains for best results. (You need to do the same thing if you're using Tide with Bleach Alternative.)

Just what is the cost breakdown on this detergent? I'm not completely sure yet, since the washing soda and Borax both make several batches per box. But several other people have done cost breakdowns and report that this is under $0.10 per load, usually under $0.05 per load.

I've used it already, and I really love it.

But that's not all I made. I hate paying big money for fabric softener, so I looked up a recipe for that, too. You need these:

I made up half a batch because that's all I had containers for, but here's what you need for a full batch:

  • 3 cups distilled vinegar
  • 2 cups hair conditioner (dollar store varieties work just fine)
  • 6 cups water
Mix them all together and use 2 Tablespoons (1/8 cup) per load. Here's what it looks like when it's done:

It works great - my clothes have never been softer!

I also made dishwasher detergent because I ran out of that recently and didn't want to buy the expensive stuff. You need:

  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup Borax
Mix those together and use 2 Tablespoons per load. To avoid etching your glassware, make sure you use rinse agent. Plain old vinegar makes an excellent rinse agent.

I hope I've inspired you to give them a try. They are very easy with minimal time involved, and they can save you a lot of money.


Rhonda said...

I tried the liquid recipe years ago and did not really like it.
But your dry version sounds great - I've already got the Borax.
thank you

Melinda said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I believe I will try these out!

Wouldn't you know I just bought detergent and fabric softner today! After using these up I will save the bottles to store the homemade. Thanks again. :)