Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent 101

WARNING:  Though this post may seem only for the desperate, give it a chance!  :)

I've been looking for ways to save money, so when my friend Beth told me she'd started using homemade laundry detergent at a cost of something like 2 cents per load my ears perked up!  "Is it hard to make?"  I asked, and, "Yeah, but does it really get your clothes clean?" and  "How do you store it?"  Beth is a very NORMAL looking--beautiful, actually--30-something mom of 3 CLEAN children,  so any notion that homemade detergent was for Granola Crunchy weirdos went poof.  My husband teased me that soon I'd be just like Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies, stirring a vat of soap strong enough to eat through the wood paddle.  That just made me mad.  So I gave it a try.

Making detergent is easy and the 3 ingredients I needed were easy to find.  Before I describe the process, know that I've only done about 10 loads with it so far and have these reservations:
  1. I am storing most of my detergent in the 5-gallon bucket I mixed it in, but storing a small "current" bottle in an empty orange juice jug.  Keep ingredients and detergent away from small children!  I really need to put my detergent in a different container because it looks WAY too much like the Tropicana juice on the label......
  2. Store the big vat of detergent in a place where children can't get to it.  For us, I've got a big sunken bathtub in our master bathroom that we almost never use because it's so hard to climb into, and that's where the 5-gallon bucket is.  Believe it or not, toddlers have been known to drown in those buckets, so think through where you'll keep it.
  3. Even the first step of grating the Naptha soap (a step which is done in the kitchen) looks edible, so take care then--not a time to get distracted by the phone.
Okay, now that that's said, here's the recipe:  Duggar's Homemade Laundry Detergent

The Fels-Naptha soap and Arm and Hammer Washing Powder was easily found at Wal-Mart, and we had the Borax on hand leftover from an old Blubber project (try that!  that's fun!). 
Flubber recipe  We already had a 5-gallon bucket from my son Tesla's saltwater fish tank days and I used a pot we only use for camping to melt the soap.  One thing I wish I had with me when I was mixing in the big bucket is a HUGE spoon (or wooden paddle like Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies!)--my spoons kept falling into the bucket.  

The soap is soft enough that it's easy to grate.

Grody old camping pot.

I should have been more patient during the melting and stirring phase.

Here Chop is measuring the Washing Soda.  I guess I'll get some cheap measuring cups at the Dollar Store next time so I don't use our "real" kitchen cups next time.

Peel helped me add hot water to the bucket and stir.  It's so heavy at this point that you want it to be in the spot where it will stay.

Fill it to the top, cover, and let it sit overnight.
See--I should've melted and mixed better.

DO NOT make my same mistake and use an orange juice container--it looks too much like something the kids might accidentally drink!
I've bought some stain stick and plan to be more vigilant about treating tough spots earlier rather than later.  I'm also hanging onto some leftover Tide with Bleach in case my homemade stuff doesn't cut the mustard, so to speak.  So far, after 10 loads or so, I'm pretty pleased and ready to save money!

Do you have any more ideas for saving money?  Please send some comments!


  1. Love your posts! Do ur clothes "feel" different? How is the scent?
    PS - love your use of "grody

  2. So far, so good--the clothes feel the same but I'm trying to figure out if there is a slight scummy residue that will build up over time? Our washing machine is 20 years old and I've never "cleaned" it, so I'm going to look into that and keep observing. The Fels-Naptha smells good! It took me a day or two to make the detergent, and in the meantime every time I walked by the ingredients I thought, "Wow, my house smells clean today!" :)