Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Homemade Laundry Detergent

There are many recipes available on the World Wide Web.  I suppose I like mine best because it's the only one I've tried.  After researching just a few minutes though, I might update mine a little... I'll let you know soon because I'm almost out.  I might also make stronger detergent so I can avoid making detergent as often. 

Do you have any idea how much laundry four children create?

The way I figure, it takes me less time and significantly less energy to make my own detergent at home in my jammies than to .... get dressed, get everyone else dressed, get out the door, get into the car, get out of the car, get into the carts (yes, cart-s, plural), get into the store, avoid an incident at the store, get out of the store, get out of the carts, get into the car, get out of the car, and get into the house.

I always have the ingredients on hand to make more detergent day or night.  And one of these days I'll make detergent because it's the most economical way to go, and I want to be thrifty.  But for now, I have to because it's the most economical way to go, and I cannot be anything other than CHEAP.

  • Fels Naptha - it's a bar of soap.  It cost $1.26 when I bought it at Fred Meyer many moons ago, but I most recently purchased it at WinCo for $1.05.  $0.21 goes a  long way at my house!
  • Washing Soda - it's on the detergent aisle at your store.  I've seen it most places detergent is sold.  It comes in a yellow box and has the Arm and Hammer logo on it.  It is NOT baking soda.  It's washing soda.
  • Borax - they changed the packaging lately... it looks late 70s/early 80s now to me. 

  • Using my last commercial container of detergent (2 gallons), I fill the container up with water from the tap almost all the way leaving a little "head space" as they say in the canning world.  
  • Then pour about 1/2 the water into my big stock pot.
  • I shred 1/4 of my Fels Naptha bar (I score it to know when to stop shredding.  See picture.) and over a medium heat, melt the soap shreds into the water.  (I don't hang around for this process because it takes a few minutes and I turn my venthood on high to do it because I think it has a strong smell during this phase.) 
  • I use a wisk to make sure it's thoroghly combined/melted.
  • Then, I add my Borax (1/8 c) and my Washing Soda (1/4c) and make sure they're dissolved too.*
  • Then, I pour in the remaining half of the water in my container into the pot and heat it all warm up.
  • Finally, I let it cool slowly and wisk while it's cooling then it doesn't gel as badly.
  • Pour it back into the container once it's cool several hours later (though I do use it 1/2 a cup at a time if I'm out).
*I found a recipe just now that calls for glycerin.  I'm wondering if it acts as an emulsifier and prevents gelatenating (my new word). 

Laundry Day
When I do the laundry, I add the same amount of detergent I would if I were using the commercial stuff.  I also add about 1/4 cup of baking soda to the detergent bin and then I put some vinegar in as softener.  Of course, just like it did in 7th grade, baking soda + vinegar = foam so look out.  I don't mix mine.

I do pre-treat stains with Shout or Spray n Wash or whatever I have, but I will be attempting to make my own stain remover soon so stay tuned. 

I have been using this in my HE machine for over a year and it works like a charm.  I buy vinegar and baking soda at Costco.


  1. SUPER!!!
    How much do the supplies cost in total? And how many loads would you say this 2 gallon recipe would wash?

  2. Do your clothes come out smelling strongly? I have a son with asthma and need to be sure I wash our clothes without too much scent.

  3. Have i shared an even easier version a friend of mine uses and swears by? Same ingredients and no water involved! Hardest part is grating the Fels Naptha.

    1 Fels-Naptha laundry soap bar
    1 Cup Washing Soda
    ½ Cup Borax

    Grate soap or break into pieces and process in a food processor until powdered (I just grated on the teeny side of the cheese grater and that was it). Mix all ingredients. For light load, use 1 Tablespoon. For heavily soiled load, use 2 Tablespoons.

    She also uses vinegar as a fabric softener.

    She was very skeptical but loves the results - she is to your point in the future where she can afford pricy laundry soap but prefers this method because it works so well!

  4. The initial investment is around $12, I think. My recipe does about 50 loads. I bought my supplies over a year ago and I have only had to purchase more FN. Total investment in laundry detergent over the last year: $15 maybe.

    It has virtually no smell at all (add essential oils if you want them). It is strong when you're melting the Fels, but if you use the dry recipe Hollis mentions you won't get that.