Homemade Laundry Detergent

For years I had made my own laundry detergent and then when we were in the process of moving, I ran out and bought detergent.  Then we had the front load and I didn’t think I could use my homemade powder in it but I was talking to friend a couple of months ago and she was telling me that she has used the homemade powder in her front load and has never had any problems. I’m not telling you it’s ok . . use your own judgment and if you ruin your washer, don’t blame me!  ;)

Some mix 2 Tablespoons of powder with hot water, stir it up and pour it into the dispenser.  Some are able to put powder in the dispenser.  I put the powder right in with the clothes.

There are all kinds of recipes out there, including some that are liquid and some that are powder and I’ve tried several of them but I always go back to the basic recipe which is:

  • 2 parts grated soap (Fels Naptha, Castille, Zote, Ivory – just your basic bar of soap) (2 bars)
  • 1 part washing soda (not baking soda) (4 cups)
  • 1 part Borax (4 cups)

If the soap is real dry and powdery, there’s a lot of dust.  Also, the Borax is dusty.  I recommend doing this outside and using a dusk mask of some kind.

Soap Ingredients

Basically, mix it all up and use about 2 Tablespoons per load.  There are more detailed instructions, tips  and pictures below

Let’s talk about a few things.

The cost of ingredients – The washing soda was $3.45.  I used probably 2/3 of the box.  The borax was $3.38 and there’s enough in that box for two batches.  The Fels Naptha was .97 and I used two bars so the total cost for my batch of soap was less than $6.

How much does it cost per load?  I’m not sure!  How’s that for informative?  I’ve never measured and probably will not.  While searching for information, I came across a blog where a lady said she measured and she got 160 loads from her batch, making it about .0375¢ per load.  I found another lady who had counted her loads and said it cost a little less than .04¢ per load.  I found one popular brand of liquid that was about $16 for 24 loads and that comes to about 67¢ per load.  A less expensive brand was $8.29 for a 32 load bottle and that comes to about 30¢ per load. I’m very happy with anything in the .04¢ range.

How well does it clean?  I find that it cleans just fine. We don’t usually have filthy clothes.  Some folks add a cup of Oxi Clean to the mix.  We so rarely need Oxi Clean that I keep a container of it and add it to the wash only when needed and I can’t remember the last time it was needed.

Does the laundry smell?  There is no “fresh spring” scent or lavender scent in this recipe.  Some folks add Downy® Unstopables™ or the Purex® Crystals.  I do not add either of those to the mix because Vince probably doesn’t want his hunting clothes smelling like “Shimmer” or “Lush” whereas . . I love for our sheets and towels to smell like “Shimmer”.  Whatever that scent is, I love it.

Downy Unstopables

When grating the soap, a very dry bar of soap grates into a finer powder.  A moist bar of soap looks more like grated cheddar.  I had two bars – one that was new from Wal-Mart and one that had been bought from a hardware store and was probably older.  The new bar grated into the cheese like shreds and one bar yielded 5 cups of grated soap.

Moist Grated Soap

The dry bar of soap grated into a powder and yielded a little over 2 cups of grated soap.  That’s a huge difference.

Dry Bar of Soap Grated

Tip:  When making the detergent, open the bars of soap, leave them in a dry location for several days to dry out some.

Some folks put the whole mixture into a blender or food processor, a few cups at a time, to get it real “powdery”.  I don’t and it works just fine.  I’m all about simple and easy and the least possible mess.

The larger container will be stored in the cabinet and the smaller container will be kept on the shelf by the washing machine.

Measuring Spoon

I keep a measuring spoon set on a Command hook on the side of the washer and I always know where it is.

Towel on Dryer

Speaking of Command hooks, I have one on the dryer, on which I keep a dish towel.  Each time I empty the washer, I wipe that rubber gasket to keep it from developing an odor.  So far, by doing that and leaving the door open, I’ve had no problems with an odor from the front load.