Whole Home Detox: Easiest Ever DIY Laundry Detergent
At first I thought DIY laundry soap was a such cutesy idea. When I saw the recipes for homemade detergent literally all over my Pinterest feed, I was like “awww.” So sweet. Repin. Cute for some day when I feel like tracking down exotic ingredients. Repin. Repin. And so on. Then one day…I actually clicked on one and read it.
The moment I realized how much money I could be saving making my own detergent, I had a total Napoleon Dynamite flash (“Yesssssss!). DIY laundry soap is amazing! It’s effective, frugal, and easier to mix up than a 60 second chocolate chip cookie.
Here are some factoids about DIY laundry detergent that you need to know first:
- All DIY laundry soap recipes contain the exact same three ingredients: 20 Mule Team Borax, Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda, and a bar soap. These ingredients deodorize, cut grease, and remove stains. They have been around forever and are surprisingly common. My local Ace Hardware and Wal-Mart had all of them in stock. Each recipe has slight variations in ratios and optional add-ons, such as regular baking soda, Oxy Clean or essential oils.
- You can make a powdered or liquid detergent. Like choosing a detergent at the grocery store, it is a matter of preference. Powder and liquid DIY detergent contain the exact same ingredients. The ingredients in liquid have simply been pre-dissolved in water first. That is why liquid recipes make something like 5-10 gallons. It looks like it will do more laundry than powdered, but it’s not necessarily true. You will use more of the liquid soap per load. (Liquid: 1/2 cup, Powder: 1 Tablespoon). It’s just a question of whether you like your soap ingredients pre-dissolved or not. Liquid detergent takes more space to store, but if you are concerned about soap ingredients fully dissolving you might like it better.
- The soap works! Almost every review I read praised DIY detergent for its effectiveness. Ratio tweaking may be necessary depending on the type of water you have, and how dirty your clothes get (your husband is a mechanic versus a computer nerd). My bloggy friends Audra and Katie who use their own homemade detergents have raved about it. Personally, my gym socks came out of the dryer fluffy and white!
- Both front and top loader friendly: DIY laundry soap is non-sudsing, which according to the reviews I read, makes it safe for all kinds of washers. If you have an HE washer, I advise first contacting the manufacturer. Sometimes manufacturers will not honor your warranty if you use any soap but the HE brands they recommend.
- DIY laundry detergent saves money! In fact, did you know the Duggar family makes their own detergent? This is a family with nineteen children. They are debt and mortgage-free. Their clothes are also clean enough for national television. Dave Ramsey says if you want to be rich people, you have to do what rich people do. Okay then.
And now, my adventure in:
Pick a Recipe: Honestly, this was the hardest part! Did I want to go liquid or powder? Did I want to add Oxy Clean or go with the bare necessities? The deciding factor for me ended up being cuteness of container Yes. I chose detergents by determining which could be stored in a prettier container. Do not ever expect anything less from me. Since a cute jar with a little scoop would be more Pinterest-approved than a recycled Ecos container or a five gallon bucket, powdered it was. Plus, it will take up less space, which as you know, is a big deal in my house. I chose this super easy recipe from Yellow Brick Home. It was the simplest of all those on my Pinterest board. (I added OxyClean, which was not in the recipe.)
Gather Your Stuff: Next, I went shopping for my container. My first order of business was to comb my favorite thrift store for a clear cookie jar with a lid. The thrift store by my house has the best housewares section ever. I dug and dug. I made rounds. I rolled past the same shelves five times like the thrifty stalker that I am. And then, suddenly, there it was. A perfect little cookie jar with a wooden lid, in need of some TLC. For $2.50. I took a quick whiff of the inside before giving it my final approval. (Don’t look shocked. You already know thrift store goods have to pass my sniff test).
I then made my way to Ace Hardware, where I found all of my ingredients. However, I felt like it was a little pricey, and I was right. I found everything I needed for far less at Wal-Mart. The shelves that hold the Fels-Naptha, Borax, and Washing Soda were almost totally picked over. Pinners have been there, I know it.
It was at this time I had a brief internal debate about whether or not I should add Oxy Clean to my detergent. The clean freak in me was saying “yeah, get it!” while the cheapskate was saying “ah, you don’t need it.” The clean freak won when I saw the Wal-Mart price, so I got a little 1.3 lb can.
Make Your Soap: Once cup of each ingredient and a bar of soap.
123(4) DIY Laundry Soap
- 1 Cup Borax
- 1 Cup Super Washing Soda
- 1 Bar grated Fels-Naptha Soap
- 1 Cup Oxy Clean, optional
Grate bar of Fels-Naptha (just a regular cheese grater is all you need). Mix together in a bowl, and transfer to a cute container of your choosing.
Yield: 45 loads at 1 Tablespoon per load
Gussy Up a Cute Vessel: After I mixed my laundry soap, I gave my thrift store cookie jar a thorough soaking in a sink of hot, soapy water. Then, I raided my stash of Behr paint samples and gave the wooden lid a little coat of Winter Mood. I then discovered that my Oxy Clean contained a little scoop, which was perfect, so I stole it.
Compare To Your Old Detergent: If math makes you glaze over and start daydreaming about what’s for lunch, skip this and take my word for it. For you former bookkeepers, here’s my breakdown of cost.
I grabbed a Tablespoon and transferred my soap from a mixing bowl to the cookie jar, counting each scoop. One batch of this soap makes 45 generous Tablespoons. That means it will do 45 loads.
How does this compare to my Ecos detergent? Well, last time I bought a 100 oz bottle of Lavender Ecos, it was on sale for $9.95 (Regular price $12.89). This bottle does 50 loads standard (100 loads HE). I have a top loader. This breaks down to about $.19 a load when purchased on sale.
My batch of what I’m calling “123(4) DIY Laundry Soap” breaks down to about $.06 per load!
- Borax: 4lbs, 12oz for $3.38 (9.9 cups = $.34/Cup)
- Super Washing Soda: 55oz for $3.24 (7.3 cups = $.44/Cup)
- Fels-Naptha Soap: 1 Bar $.97
- Oxy Clean: 1.3 lbs for 3.86 (around 3 cups =$1.28/Cup)
Total Up Front: $11.45
Cost Per Batch: $3.03 for 45 loads
Cost Per Load: $.06 per load
Keep in mind, this is still with the most expensive ingredient, Oxy Clean added. If you removed that ingredient, you’d be looking at less than $.04 per load!
Run A Load and See if it Smells Divine: Good smelling detergent means a lot to me. This one filled my garage with a clean, homey scent. I loved it. I stored it in my laundry shelf with my Rockin’ Green and the remainder of my DIY supplies.
Kick Yourself For Wasting Money and Not Doing This Sooner. I did. Next month, instead of buying detergent for $10, I’ll go grab a $.97 bar of Fels-Naptha! I’ll do that for a couple of months until I need to get another $3.86 can of Oxy Clean. And so on.
Is it Green? Ecos and Rockin’ Green laundry detergent are 100% crunchy-approved. The Fels-Naptha soap on the other hand, probably not. I’m okay with that. I know the rest of the ingredients are pretty naturally occurring. If I wanted to go au natural, I could use Dr. Bronner’s bar soap. It will cost me more ($4.50 a bar), but it is a fair trade, organic soap. Note: I would NOT use this soap on my cloth diapers! I only use soap specifically formulated for cloth diapers.
So, has anyone out there been making their own laundry soap? What did you think of it? Is there anyone, who after reading this post, would consider making your own DIY detergent? If so, would you make the liquid or the powder?
Update as of 10/31/12: In the process of my whole home detox, I eliminated the Fels-Naptha soap from this recipe and have replaced it with Dr. Bronner’s castile bar soap. I found bars for under $4 at my local Trader Joe’s. This does increase the price of the detergent, but the soap is 100% organic and free-trade with no chemicals. I just did four loads of laundry and it works great. Right now I am using the mint scent, and it smells awesome. Also, I use an extra scoop of my homemade detergent for my towels. I think it has to something to do with them sitting in the laundry basket damp.