Thursday, March 15, 2012

Here I go being CHEAP again...Laundry Detergent

People do it all the time.

I was first introduced to it when I saw the Duggar's do it on TLC.

I planned on doing it for a long time.

What am I blogging about?  Making homemade laundry detergent!

I did it once before, and's that quick story:
     The first time I decided to make my own detergent, I was looking for a cloth diaper friendly version.  I got the recipe from  It was basically the same recipe I used this time, only I had been convinced that I needed lye soap (so I paid a fortune for some off etsy, it does smell nice and came already grated = score!).  So that was one downer...the $$$ I spend on homemade, natural, organic, lye soap.  Second downer - someone incorrectly told me that I could use baking soda interchangeably with washing soda.  Since I couldn't find washing soda, I used the baking counterpart.  So I had a huge batch of lye soap + borax + baking soda.  Never worked right, nor dissolved right, so it sits on my laundry shelf.  I have since found a recipe that adds a few other ingredients to that mixture (though I don't know what exact measurements I used...) that I might try to add and fix that wasted product.

But enough with the failure!  I did it...I finally did it...I made liquid laundry detergent--enough for TEN WHOPPING GALLONS of detergent!

Here's the low down scoop -
One bar Fels Naptha
One Cup Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Borax

I watched a YouTube video of the mom over at make it before I did.  She had a lot of quick pointers and  tidbits.  There are tons of recipes out there, but this one was quick, inexpensive, and it worked for that mom of ten kids, so I figured it could work for me too.  I wanted to do the liquid version since the powder had a hard time dissolving in cold water, and I wash 98% of my laundry on cold.

Here's what you're supposed to do:
1.  Grate your soap (Fels Napth, Dr. Bronners, Zote, Castle).  You can do this by hand or with a food processor.  {Mrs. Morris always had separate things for use with detergent--a reserved pot, spoon, grater, etc. I used my food processor and dishwashed, then hand washed it, so I think it would be fine to use things for more than one least I hope it is.  I did reserve a spoon and grater just because I had extras and I hated cleaning the grater.)

2.  Cover the soap with water (recipe says 4 cups, but who cares??) and melt the soap.  Stir pretty much constantly and just watch it until it is melted.

3.  Pour into a 5 gallon bucket, and add some water.

4.  Mix powders.  ***Be careful not to inhale this.  I had a headache the rest of the day after making this.  Pretty caustic.  I will probably do my mixing outside next time.  Just FYI.
5.  Pour half your mixture into another 5 gallon bucket and then fill both buckets to the top and stir.
6.  Let sit overnight.  Will gell up, just whisk.  Pour into jugs or store with lid in bucket.

Use 3/4 cup per load for top loader (that is for very large, dirty loads.  I use that much all the time.  This is not a sudsing/bubbly detergent.  Apparently that is an additive that producers of detergent add so you think it cleans better)

What my final product looked like: {pre-overnight gel stage)  After this was done, I set it in the garage overnight.  It got gelled and lumpy.   I just put 1/2 water, 1/2 detergent in my bottles everytime I run out. :)

Some adaptations I made and some questions maybe you can answer:
1.  Instead of dividing into two 5 gal buckets to make 10 gallons, I just filled up one 5 gal bucket and decided as I used it, I would then dilute it 1/2 detergent 1/2 water.  Same difference, only a thicker detergent in bucket.  Anyone know a reason why this should be a problem?
2.  Like I wrote above, I will probably do the mixing outside next time.
3.  I have heard some people say that you should use distilled water so that no mildew or bacteria grows.  I am thinking soap is naturally cleansing/antibacterialish so why would that grow?  It doesn't grow in my other cleaners.
4.  Question for you detergent making mommas:  Why even dilute my mixture?  Why not make my 5 gallon bucket and instead of diluting it every time I refill my bottle at my washer, would it not work to treat it as a "concentrate" and just use 1/2 the amount?  The washer will fill with water, so why dilute it?  Does that help for some reason?  I was thinking if I use 3/4 a cup for a load diluted, I could just leave it undiluted and use 1/2 as much.  Thoughts?
5.  Is 3/4 cup too much?  I don't see how a few tablespoons is enough in a front loader and I need so much.  But it is cheap so if this is okay, I'm fine with it.  I would love to hear some thoughts. :)

Okay, so results?  I am completely pleased.  My clothes come out not overly scented but smelling clean and fresh.  I think it cleans just as well as store bought.  If I want heavy smell I just use fabric softener or dryer sheets for scent.  I think it was a total success.  I still have a few questions about technique but overall I am pleased...and even though I keep saying I'm going to buy one more bottle of store bought so I have a nice big recycled jug to use for my homemade detergent, I can't bring myself to spend the money when this great homemade detergent costs just pennies per load!  WOW!

Thanks for reading!


  1. I am on my second batch of detergent.( I do ALOT of laundry) I made mine in 1 5gal. bucket and just mix 1/2 with water before using. You have a good point though about not diluting. I followed dirctions off of the Dugger website. I usually use more than it call for, just because there is no suds and I think it is a mental thing to think I need more soap. I do use liquid fabric softener, mainly for the scent. I tried to use vinegar for softener, but didn't like it. I saw a recipe for powder, thinking about trying that next time.

  2. Hey! Ive used this recipe 2 yrs...I do one 5 gal bucket and dilute in my laundry bottle. BUT I use 1/2 c in my front loader. I think it could be fine not to dilute at all, except that front loaders use sooo little water. I prob would use undiluted only in a top loading traditional type washer. Have u tried the homemade fabric softeners?