Monday, January 7

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Making Laundry  Detergent at Home

Seems everyone is super excited that homemade laundry soap saves piles of money.  And that is great news!  But that's not the only thing I considered when I decided to make my own.

After reading a few articles like this one from Natural News called "Your Laundry Detergent may be Hazardous to Your Health"  I decided to research laundry soap a little further. 

We are trying to move towards using more natural products, so was disturbed when reading the list on the EPA's website of what may be in commercial soaps, and that they are of concern to humans, animals and fish:

Surfactants:   Toxicity to aquatic organisms
Builders:   Potential to cause eutrophication in fresh water
Bleaches:  Inherent toxicity and toxic byproducts.
Colorants:  Studies indicate that certain colorants may cause cancer or other adverse health effects
Optical Brighteners:   Potential toxicity to humans
Solvents:  Toxicity to humans and aquatic organisms
Packaging:   Non-reusable or non-recyclable containers

Here is an easy recipe and instructions for making laundry detergent at home, and the cost comparison.

**Please read completely before beginning**

*For my review and what I would change after using the product: scroll to the bottom!*

Needed Supplies:

1 bar of soap, I used Fels Naptha
1 cup of Borax
1 cup of super washing soda
2 1/2 gallons of water
A large pot
A grater
A long spoon
A containers for storage
A funnel if needed

Measure out the Borax and washing soda, set aside.

Using a cheese grater, grate the bar of soap into the large pot.
Add 6 cups of water.
Heat and stir until the grated soap dissolves.
Add the Borax and washing soda.
Stir well.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat and boil for 8 to 10 minutes.
Continue to stir.

Watch very closely as it will foam and may boil over.
Turn off the heat.
Add 1 gallon of hot water. Stir well.
Add additional 1 gallon of cold water. Mix well.
Pour into storage containers using funnel if needed. Let set 24 hours.
Detergent will thicken or gel as it cools.
Shake well before using.
*Makes 21/2  gallons of homemade laundry detergent.

*Use 1/2 cup per small to medium load, and 3/4 to 1 cup for large loads.  

*For my review and what I would change after using the product: scroll to the bottom!*

This detergent cleans wonderfully! But does not make many suds.
Suds or bubbles are cosmetic or for looks so we will “think” the detergent is cleaning. Suds do not equal clean.
Not only is this a money saver, (See my cost breakdown below) but it’s also Eco-friendlier. This detergent contains NO PHOSPHATES! I like knowing what’s in a product I’m using. And, storing your detergent in reusable containers will reduce the amount of plastic bottles in landfills.

~Scented soaps: Use a lavender or similar bar of soap, if you want a stronger scent in the detergent.

~Scented oils, 10 to 15 drops can be added for fragrance, once detergent has cooled. Try the “clean linen” fragrance oil for a fresh laundry smell.

~There will be a variance of consistency depending on the bar of soap you use; detergent may become thicker or be thinner. Some soap bars coagulate more than others.
Clumping and gelling of the detergent is very normal!  If desired use a half a bar of soap for thinner detergent.  Shake or stir before each use.

~The Fels Naptha bar of soap can also be used as a stain and spot remover. Just rub the bar onto and into the spot or stain before washing.

~Bars of Soap that work well:
Use Fels Naptha bar soap for tougher laundry.
Zote or Ivory are also good soaps to use.
Bromer’s is a more natural bar soap to use (what my daughter uses).
Try a bar of Aveeno for really sensitive skin.

~Save your leftover slivers of soap until you have the amount equal to a full bar and use it for detergent making.

~Because of the low suds, this works great in standard or H.E., front load washers.

~Save your old laundry detergent bottles to store your detergent,  and use the bottle cap to measure, which is a ½ cup measurement.

What is Washing Soda? Is it baking soda?

Washing soda is not baking soda. Washing soda is in the laundry section of your grocery store. It comes in a yellow box, made by Arm & Hammer, but it’s NOT baking soda.
Washing soda is Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3); baking soda is Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3).

What is Borax?

Borax is Sodium Tetraborate Decahydrate (Na2B4O7*10H2O), all different chemical compounds.
Borax (sodium borate decahydrate or sodium tetraborate decahydrate) is a naturally occurring mineral discovered 4000 years ago, and is found in the western U.S, Chile. and Tibet. The household cleaner 20 Mule Team Borax (not Borateem) is pure borax.

*For my review and what I would change after using the product:  scroll to the bottom!*


Basic measurements first:

8 ounces in a cup

2 cups = 1 pint

2 pints = 1 quart = 4 cups

4 quarts = 1 gallon = 16 cups

So there are 16 cups in a gallon

2 gallons in a batch = 32 cups

½ cup of detergent per load makes 64 loads per 2 gallon batch.


There are 76 ounces in a box of Borax, and the cost was $3.38
8 ounces in a cup = 9.4 cups in a box of Borax. (9 cups)

Washing Soda:

There are 55 ounces in a box of washing soda, and the cost was $3.24
8 ounces in a cup = 6.7 cups in a box of washing soda. (7 cups)

Total Amounts Made and Total Cost:

So with the above measurements, I can make approximately 7 batches of detergent with those two boxes,
(with 2 cups of Borax left over).

I will need 7 bars of Fels Naptha soap, at .97 cents a bar, at a cost of $6.79

My total cost for 7 batches of laundry detergent, 14 gallons, is $13.41
(with a remaining 2 cups of Borax remember!)

I also purchased a large glass jar with a lid for $9.99 to store my laundry detergent, but old detergent bottles or milk jugs will work just fine.



Each batch of 2 gallons of laundry detergent does 64 loads of laundry.
64 loads x 7 batches = 448 - ½ cups (measurement per load of laundry)

Commercial Brand:

Tide costs $15.33 for one large container (100 ounces = 31.18 cups).
On the back of the Tide bottle it states it will do 64 - ½ cups (measurement per load of laundry)

So, let’s see, 

448 loads of homemade at a cost $13.41


64 loads of commercial brand at a cost of $15.33

It's not a hard choice here, the numbers add up, homemade soap works just as well if not better, takes very little time and effort to make, I know what’s in it and it’s Eco-friendlier.

 Happy Wash Day!

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January 22nd:
Well it's been a few weeks since I made homemade laundry detergent.  Now, many wash days and loads of laundry later, it’s time for a review.

First let me give you a little background.

I have, for my entire life had skin sensitivities.  If I touch grass I itch, if I touch certain fabrics, I itch, cornstalks-itch, fiberglass-near death itch, you get the idea.

I can also smell things no one else can, it seems.  And I don’t mean pretty flowers or butterflies. 
I mean I can smell a musty basement or animal pee or something rotting. 
Example:  I can smell a little mouse living inside the installation that surrounds a dishwasher that is built into a kitchen cabinet.  No, really. When no one else could, I could smell the wild animal kind of smell, in my kitchen.  My entire family (and a couple friends) said I was out of my mind or that there wasn’t a mouse or “we don’t smell anything so you must be smelling things”.  I finally threatened to pull the dishwasher out of the cabinet myself, which would have surely caused damage, if my husband did not check for a mouse.  Sure enough, the mouse was there, along with his cozy little nest, neat little piles of cat food, a mini recliner, and mouse pee and poo.

My doc tells me I have what is called “Hyper Senses”, who knew?

Anyway, all that to get back to the review.  I can do the same smelling trick with towels.  I can still smell the musty moldy odor in towels, no matter how hot the water I wash them in.   And because of that, in my bathroom, I only use white towels that have been wash in water with bleach, to kill the odor. 

So back to the detergent.  I have been using this homemade laundry detergent for weeks now and have to say I am pleased with the results.  All my laundry is clean and comes out with a clean linen smell.

And the towels!  My son’s bathroom has colored (color?) towels.  I washed his towels the way I usually do and in hot water, only this time the musty odor is gone! But I doubted my sniffer, (yes, I second guess myself) so I waited until the following week and laundry day and again, I washed all the colored towels with the homemade detergent and hot water, and no moldy musty smell!

I laugh now, but I’m sure it must have frightened my husband and kids a little when I rushed at them, eyes wide, shoving a towel in their face, excitedly yelling “SMELL THIS!” OH MY GOD, SMELL THIS! It's the small things, gets me every time.

What I would do different.

Water:  I added about ½ gallon of additional water to the recipe, which made it just about the perfect consistency.

Containers:  The big glass jar (see photo above) I purchased looks oh so cool, but is not practical.  I switched to plastic containers with lids for easy pouring and handling. These Simply Lemonade bottles work great, and lemonade is good good.
I even considered reusing the commercial detergent bottles, but I’m so excited (and proud) of my homemade laundry detergent that I don’t want to disguise it or hide it.

Measured Amount:  I NEVER (well almost never) do small to medium loads of laundry. The ½ cup measurement given in the recipe is for a medium size load of laundry.  I used ¾ cup of store brand for large loads, so I’m doing the same with homemade.
I use an old measuring cup to get the correct amount of detergent each time.
The new measurements and cost comparison works out to approximately:
300 loads of ¾ cup of homemade detergent at a cost of $13.41
compared to the commercially made detergent at 43 loads of ¾ cup at a cost of $15.33
I love that! 

Fragrance:  I did not buy the store brand laundry detergent with a heavy chemical fragrance before making my own.  Instead I used fabric softener with a fresh linen scent.  I am still doing the same with this homemade detergent, using a store bought fabric softener, but only until I find a good recipe for homemade. 

Just a thought:  Have you ever stopped to think about how much fragrance chemical they must put in laundry detergent in order for it to remain in your clothes even through the rinse cycle?  Yikes!

Hope this has helped in your decision to make your own laundry detergent!



Anonymous said...

Would you share the results of your laundry after using the homemade soap.

Kim said...

Hi Elizabeth! Don't you just love the homemade laundry soap? I make mine with Zote since I can't seem to find Fels Naptha but it's my understanding from people whom have tried both, the results are the same. It really cleans wonderful.

alexis elizabeth said...

I laughed outloud in regards to the SMELL THIS bit. Very true. :)

Elizabeth said...

Review is now posted, yes I love this soap

Anonymous said...

I'm finding it very difficult to read your page. The background is beautiful
but in full color, hides the written content. Fading the background would make it easier to read. Just sayin ..........

Elizabeth said...

Sorry you are having trouble. I am on the site now and all seems to be fine. The background the actual writing is on should be white. I also pulled this site up on my Droid and still do not see the problem you mentioned.

Elizabeth said...

Kim: love the new laundry soap and still using it! I may try zote soap, heard it was also very good.
Alexis: You know, it can get really crazy around here, lol said...

I mixed in some tea tree oil and mint to give my detergent a scent and it worked great and always smelled fresh no softener required! I just put a few drops of both till I was satisfied. It didnt take as much as I would have expected. I'm making some tomorrow after we are back from hauling some hay. Once I get some essential oils ordered I might try cinnamon or lavender next. I want to keep it with a smell I can live with and hubby wont get mocked for having on his clothing XD. I'm allergic to synthetic smells and just want to stay away from harsh chemicals as much as I can

Elizabeth said...

Ourhomesteaddream: Thanks for the tips. I will try the tea tree oil too! Soft clean smells are what everyone here likes, and I'm with you on the synthetic smells, no can do.
Thanks for the comments,

C Sherwood said...

I followed the recipe exactly, even added the extra water & mine turned into solid jello soap lol! I had to heat it back up & add 2 more gallons of water & then I still had to stir it every hour to keep it from turning too solid again. I then had to use a hand mixer on it because there were still big chunks, after that it is now sort of like runny jello. The soap works really well though, the laundry smells clean, the real test will be on the musty towels that i can never seem to get clean

Elizabeth said...

C Sherwood: Sorry you're having trouble. Yes it does "Jell" up, I just add a little extra water, either when making it or into each container. If you can get pass or work-out the consistency issue, you will find the soap is fantastic and smells great. It seems to depend on the type of bar soap use as to jelling up. And I so agree with you about the musty towels, as I wrote it the follow-up review, the towels were the real test for me. Thanks for the tips!

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Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Thanks and glad you like the post, stop back anytime

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