A mom who likes to live outside the norm

Homemade Homemaker: Laundry Detergent

As I mentioned in the previous post, I started a “homemade homemaker” class in my home and have decided to do a blog series on all of the things we are making in my class.  I’ve already posted my laundry detergent recipe, but I’m simplifying the recipe for easy reading at the beginning, and adding tips at the end as well as sharing all the cost saving info.

First, the recipe: Laundry Detergent

Items needed:

  • Soap (liquid or bar is okay)
  • Borax (found in the laundry section)
  • Washing Soda (also found in the laundry section)
  • 2-3 gallon bucket or empty laundry detergent containers

It needs to completely dissolve, no chunks!

Fill a large saucepan about halfway full with water and set on medium-high heat.  Add 1/4 cup soap (If you use a bar, you have to finely grate it) and 1/2 cup each borax and washing soda.  Once mixed well, take off of the heat, put into desired container and add water to a total of 2 gallons.  Mix well and let sit for 12-24 hours.  Mix again before using for the first time and mix occasionally when using.  Use about 1/2 cup per wash (1/4c for HE machines or when washing cloth diapers).

As far as containers, I’ve always used two gallon sized jugs.  I pour half of the solution into each container and fill them the rest of the way with water and shake them well to mix.  The first time I use them I shake them really well and if they sit for awhile I shake them again before using.  Super easy.  Other options, you can make it more concentrated and just fill one gallon sized jug and use 1/4 cup per load.  But remember, less is more!  If you’re using an HE machine, I wouldn’t concentrate it or you’ll use too much!  You can also use a bucket with a good lid and scoop out what you use.  I’ve just found using old detergent containers works best for me.

Making your own laundry detergent is a HUGE savings for my family.  This soap works for everything.  Cloth diapers, grass stains, general messes, etc.  It’s strong enough for everyday stains and yet gentle enough for baby’s skin or those with allergies or eczema.  Instead of buying 2-3 different kinds of detergents, one will do it.

Here’s some prices of common detergents:

  • TIDE – 150 ozs or 1.17 gallons of regular detergent at Walmart $17.97
  • GAIN – 103 ozs or 0.8 gallons at Walmart $7.97
  • ECOS – 128 ozs or 1 gallon at Walmart $8.97
  • 7TH GENERATION – 1.17 gallons of 2x concentrate at Walmart $19.97

Here’s the prices of my ingredients:

  • Borax –  “20 Mule Team” borax at Walmart $3.38
  • Washing Soda – Arm & Hammer washing soda at Walmart $3.24
  • Soap – Fels-Naptha laundry bar soap at Walmart $0.97
  • or – 32 ozs of Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap at Whole Foods $14.99

So just buying the ingredients is cheaper than buying laundry detergent.  And you make 6 gallons before you have to buy any more soap (if you grate a bar).  Here’s a breakdown:

  • the box of borax is a 76 oz box and you use roughly 4 ozs per batch of laundry detergent (2 gallons), so that’s $0.36 per batch.
  • washing soda is a 55 oz box, using 4 ozs per batch is $0.48 per batch.
  • if you go the cheap way grating your own soap, the Fels Naptha bar is 5.5 ozs, you use a third of it, $0.33 per batch
  • If you go the “expensive” or easy way, the Castile soap is 32 ozs and you use roughly 2 ozs, it’s $1 per batch.
Grating the Fels Naptha

Grating the Fels Naptha. I just grate 1/3 of a bar directly into the saucepan.

The cheapest detergent (I found anyway) at Walmart is the Ecos at $8.97/gallon. Or, if you go the natural detergent route, the Seventh Generation (at just over a gallon) is $17.97!  I can buy all the ingredients needed for $7.59.  When you break it down to the cost per gallon, it’s a whopping $1.17 for a batch, or 59 CENTS PER GALLON!  If you go through as much laundry detergent as I do with 3 kids, diapers, etc and make 2 gallons every month, that’s $14 per year!!!  That’s even cheaper than I always estimated it to be.  Even if you go the more “expensive” route and use liquid castile soap, it’s still $22/year.

-If you use the Fels-Naptha soap, it’s a very dense and hard soap.  It takes awhile to melt and dissolve into the mixture.  It should be a creamy, yellowish/off-while color.  It will gel more and be similar in consistency to typical, store-bought detergent.  If you use the liquid castile soap, it will be completely clear and be a thinner consistency.  You can honestly use almost any soap: goat’s milk, ivory, etc, but you want to be careful (especially if you use an HE machine) that you choose a low suds soap.  Also think about who will be using it and what ingredients you will want in your soap.

-Be sure to let your soap settle and cool for at least 12 hours before using.

It’s easier than it looks!

For big stains:

  • pre-treat by making a solution of 1/2 cups of washing soda with 1 qt of hot water and keeping it in a spray bottle.  Spray the stain, rub it together, let sit for 10 minutes and then wash.
  • pre-treat by wetting the stain, rubbing with the bar of laundry soap, rub it together, and wash 10 minutes later.
  • Sun your stains.  The sun can bleach most “natural” stains like bodily fluids and outdoor stains.  Wash your clothes like normal and let them dry in the sun BEFORE you put them in the dryer.   This works great for bleaching out baby stains like poop and spit-up.
  • You can always use the store bought pre treaters or oxyclean, but these methods will use what you have already!

Shared with: Fellowship Fridays

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