Remember a while back when I was waxing rhapsodic about a new laundry detergent powder I had started using that I just loved? Remember how I said “I’ll never use anything but Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder?”
I was getting it on Amazon for around $11 for a 2lb tub, which did about 80 loads of laundry. Throughout the great head lice unrest at our home, wherein I did dozens and dozens of loads of laundry, that detergent served us well. We’re almost at the bottom of our second tub of the stuff, so I went on Amazon to order.
It’s now over $18.00 for a jar of it. What the crap?
I put off ordering more because I wanted to try finding it cheaper somewhere else. Everywhere I checked online, it was over $18.00.
Today I was on facebook when I saw a post from a friend who linked to a youtube video describing how to make your own laundry detergent liquid.
I watched the video, but was revolted by the gelatinous look of the finished product. Searching further, I found a video describing how to make laundry detergent powder. I decided to give it a try.
I went to the store to find the four ingredients needed: a bar of laundry soap, some washing soda, borax and oxiclean. The first place I tried had only the borax and oxiclean, and they were pretty spendy. I decided to try the big grocery chain in town (Super Saver, for you locals). I found everything right there and it was so cheap! The original recipe called for Zote laundry bar soap, but I could only find Fels Naptha, and it was only 98 cents a bar. I got three.
The total for all the supplies: $18.73. Hmmm….hopefully this will make more detergent than my Charlie’s soap.
1. Open the Fels Naptha. Sniff it. Have flashbacks to your Grandmother’s laundry room. Kind of a citrus-y scent, soapy, not bad. Cut the bar in half so it will fit in the food processor grater.
2. Finely shred the soap, much as you would a block of cheese. If you don’t have a food processor, use a regular cheese grater. The finer you shred it, the better. The first bar I grated, I was pushing down the food processor thingy and the shreds were pretty thick. The other two bars, I just barely held the push thingy and the shreds were really delicate. The end pieces that wouldn’t grate and got stuck under the lid of the food processor? I put them in a ziploc bag to use for pre-treating stains.
3. If you don’t have or don’t want to use laundry bar soap, you can use Ivory or Pure&Natural, or whatever soap you like that doesn’t have moisturizer in it. I’d advise two bars of the alternative soap, because it’s less dense than the Fels Naptha.
4. For each bar of shredded Zote or Fels Naptha, add to it in a large bowl:
One cup washing soda (keep in mind, this is NOT baking soda! You can find washing soda in the laundry aisle. It is sodium carbonate, whereas baking soda is sodium BIcarbonate. I’m not a chemist but it seems to me this might be a significant distinction)
One cup 20 Mule Team Borax: Yes, they still make this. Hell, they still make Fels Naptha so why not? I’ve heard that borax is no longer sold in the UK, and it is toxic if ingested. Please don’t eat it. And seriously, store it out of reach of little kids. But it’s harmless when used properly. If you feel comfortable having bleach or furniture polish in the house, then you shouldn’t worry about borax.
One cup of OxiClean powder. This is just what the recipe called for – some comments on the video said it wasn’t necessary, and you might consider one cup of all-color bleach powder, or simply increase the soda and borax each by 1/2 cup. Me? I went with the OxyClean, even though it’s one of those As Seen On TV items. It’s the first time I’ve ever bought it.
5. Mix it all up, and then transfer it into the food processor with the regular blade in it (or use your blender if you don’t have a food processor). Do only about a cup and a half at a time. Tighten the lid on the food processor and process the mixture until it’s finely blended. You’re trying to get the Fels Naptha/bar soap flakes as small as possible.
6. Transfer to an airtight, dry container. Repeat until you’ve processed it all.
7. The original recipe for this recommended 20 drops of an essential oil of your choice (lavendar, citrus, or one scented like fabric softener). I skipped this since I don’t really care any more if there’s perfume in my detergent.
THAT IS IT!
How much of it do you use in a load of laundry?
For regular loads, use one tablespoon. YES, one tablespoon. For heavily soiled loads or extra large ones, use two tablespoons. You might be tempted to add more when you see that it is barely sudsing up, but resist the urge. Suds are not necessary, and since this is low-sudsing, it’s good for your high efficiency (H.E.) washer as well.
My friend recommends stopping the use of liquid fabric softener on clothes and instead adding a little vinegar to the rinse water. I can’t go there – I have a fabric softener bar inside the dryer.
The homemade detergent from today? I made three batches to use up the soap, and ended up with roughly double the amount that came in a container of Charlie’s Soap. Plus, I had enough borax, oxyclean and washing soda left to make three more batches, meaning I’d just have to get three more bars of laundry soap for about $3. So for about $22, I could have enough detergent for about 320 regular loads of laundry.
Compared with just the Charlie’s Soap, I’m saving about 70%. Compared with Tide or All or Cheer? Well, just check your detergent prices, divide it by the number of loads, and see what your cost per load would be. My homemade detergent is less than SEVEN CENTS per load. Even if I did each load with two tablespoons of detergent, that’s 14cents per load.
By the way, I tried out the detergent right away today and it works like a dream! The clothes came out of the washer smelling very fresh. They were very clean. After being in the dryer, there was almost no fragrance at all, which is fine.
If you’re local and want to test drive some before making it yourself, let me know. I’d be glad to share samples.
Below are photos of my process. It only took me about half an hour to make. Let me know if you try it yourself!!
Making Homemade Detergent, a set on Flickr.