Monday, December 13, 2010

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

It's cheap, it's compact, and it's easy to store. You can buy a few boxes of the ingredients and have clean clothes for years.  It's even mostly "green". Here's how I made my own laundry detergent.

There are several different recipes for laundry detergent floating around out there, but here are the ingredients for the one I chose to use:

Borax, Washing Soda, Fels-Naptha Soap and Oxi-Clean (Billy Mays would be proud.)

The first ingredient is Fels-Naptha laundry soap. I hear that this can be tricky to find. Strangely enough, I was able to find this in our small town grocery store! Our grocery store doesn’t consistently carry boneless skinless chicken breasts, but by cracky it has Fels-Naptha! As an added bonus, Fels-Naptha can also be used as a remedy for poison ivy.  It will strip the poison ivy oils right off your skin.

The second ingredient, which can also be challenging to find, is Washing Soda. This is not quite the same as baking soda. I also was able to find it in my grocery store but I was prepared to order it online via Lehman's. Alternatively, you can make washing soda by cooking baking soda on the stove or in the oven. If you homeschool like we do, changing sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate counts as a chemistry lesson, an added bonus!

The third and fourth ingredients are common: Borax and Oxi-Clean. Obviously, Oxi-Clean isn't exactly old-fashioned, so you will not find it in every laundry detergent recipe. Some recipes stick to just the first three ingredients or add baking soda instead.

How to make it: Most recipes call for grating the soap and melting the whole lot of ingredients together to create a liquid detergent. You end up with a 5 gallon bucket of slimy goop. That’s A) too much work and B) yet another 5 gallon bucket for me to trip over, so I decided to go for powdered detergent. I grated the soap and made sure my pieces were tiny. Then I mixed it with the other ingredients. I made a triple batch, which I calculated to be enough for roughly 158 loads.




When I did the math, this homemade laundry detergent cost me roughly 7 cents per load. The Tide HE detergent I had been buying at Sam’s Club costs about 20 cents per load. If I had skipped the Oxi-Clean, the savings would have been even greater. But does this stuff work?

Yes, it does. I have a front-loading HE washer which means I need only a small amount of HE-friendly (ie. low-suds) detergent. This detergent fits the bill. I found that 2 tablespoons of the detergent does a great job getting my clothes clean. The freshly washed clothes smelled faintly of the Fels-Naptha (a pleasant scent), but the scent faded quickly. I don’t like my laundry to have a strong smell, so that is a plus for me. All in all, I’d say this is a successful experiment.


Homemade Laundry Detergent Powder

1 bar Fels-Naptha laundry soap, shredded and pulverized
1 c. washing soda
1 c. Borax
1/2 c. Oxi-Clean

Mix together thoroughly. Add 1-2 T. per load for an HE washer, more as necessary for a conventional washer.

If you try it, let me know how it works for you!

23 comments:

  1. I have tried the homemade powder, but I couldn't get it to dissolve in cold water. And I didn't want to have to wash everything in warm water, so I started making and using the homemade liquid detergent. I love it! Stains that have seemed set-in are gone.

    That and vinegar in the rinse makes my clothes so clean!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Which liquid detergent did you make??? I have found several.

      Delete
  2. Really? I only use cold water and I have never had a problem with it not dissolving. My soap pieces are super-tiny because I grind it all together using a food processor, so maybe that's why. I also use vinegar in my laundry, especially with towels.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Food processor!!! What a brilliant idea!!!

    So -- if I grind up my soap in there, can I just wash and then use it for food afterward?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I did. There was no residual soapy smell on my food processor or anything. Whether "food safety experts" would approve, I don't know.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just made this, haven't tried it yet... We have a HE washer, and this might seem like a dumb question, but do I just put this in where I would put the regular liquid detergent or directly in the washer?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lo - Not a dumb question! :) I also have an HE washer. My washer has a liquid detergent dispenser and you remove part of it if you use powdered detergent. I put it in there and it works fine. I imagine you could also put it in your washer before you put the clothes in, too, since that is what you do for Oxyclean. Hope that helps!

    Emily

    ReplyDelete
  7. You use soap to clean your food processor, so I see no difference

    ReplyDelete
  8. i just made this and it works great. i have a top loading he washer.i added one ingredient purex crystals 2 cap fulls my laundry is clean and fresh thanks for the recipe

    ReplyDelete
  9. love this recipe! have been using it for a couple months and it works just as well as store-bought detergent!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ashley - So glad to hear that it is working for you! :)

      Emily

      Delete
  10. HOW MUCH AMOUNT OF SOAP DO I PUT IN FOR TOP LOAD WASHER?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never used this in a top load washer, but I would start with 1/4 cup and see what results you get. If your clothes aren't as clean as you would like, try increasing the amount the next time you use it.

      Emily

      Delete
    2. I use even less...probably 3TB to an 1/8C...and I have a top loader. I put in the detergent, let the water run for a while, then add clothes. However, on one recent run of whites, I did add more. By the time the washer was full of clothes and water, the water was filthy. I decided to drain the water before even washing. I added clean water and another 1/8C detergent and I swear the clothes were whiter than they had been in years. I'm keeping my Purex sheets (which I loved) for emergencies...but I'm never going back. :)

      Delete
  11. Is this hypoallergenic?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I is more sensitive on the skin if you replace the fels naptha with Ivory soap.

      Delete
  12. Do you have hard water where you live? I noticed that I have to use more sometimes since my city definitely has hard water.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have a water softener so that takes care of my problem. :) Hard water sure complicates things, doesn't it?

      Delete
  13. How does this work on oil field clothes or mechanics clothes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry, but I have only used this detergent on your average soiled laundry.

      Delete
  14. Has anyone tried it with Dove soap?

    ReplyDelete