Homemade Laundry Detergent

About 6 weeks ago, I stumbled across OneGoodThingByJillee.com while browsing Pinterest. I LOVE her blog! She has shared so many great recipes for homemade products and tricks that I absolutely love. Her recipe for homemade laundry detergent really sparked my interest. It looked pretty easy, and I was almost out of my stockpiled detergent from my couponing days. I also had just found a steal on a front load washer/dryer set ($200 cash for washer, dryer AND pedestals! Thanks Craigslist!), so I was washing like a mad woman. It was the perfect time to test a new product. She had the price breakdown on the post, and it ended up costing about $0.01 per load! With that kind of a discount, no bargain shopper can refuse.

The next step, for me, was to find several other recipes online to see what they shared and what they changed. I ended up using the Dugger family’s method(they wash clothes for 22 people. I figure they’ve got to know what they’re doing!) but adding an extra 1/2c of Borax. From what  I saw, all of the recipes online are very similar. They almost all contain the same three ingredients: soap (often Fels Naptha but it can also be Castille, Ivory, or probably most any soap), Borax powder, and Washing Soda. All three of my ingredients can be found in the laundry section of my local WalMart.

Here’s what you need to gather:

  • 1 bar Fels Naptha laundry soap (this can vary, but I really like the clean smell that it has)
  • 1c Borax powder
  • 1c Washing Soda (NOT the same thing as Baking Soda! Don’t try to substitute. The pH levels are very different in these two products.)
  • 5-gallon bucket with lid (I got the orange on from Home Depot for about $3. WalMart also has them in the paint section. While you’re picking up the bucket, grab a big paint stir stick that’s designed to stir a 5-gallon bucket. It’ll save you a trip back to the store when you realize you don’t have anything long enough to stir with.)
  • Hot water

Here is how I did it:

  1. Grate 1 bar Fels Naptha soap (I actually microwaved it instead, but I won’t do so again. It releases a lot of fumes and didn’t melt nearly as smoothly as some other soap that I grated and melted later.)
  2. Pour shavings into a pot containing 4 cups of hot water and cook, stirring often, until melted and smooth. (I used a regular pot for this because I wasn’t sure how it would react with nonstick finishes. It cleaned up very easily since it was just washing soap out of a pot!)
  3. Pour melted soap into a 5 gallon bucket. Add Borax and Washing Soda. Fill about 1/2 way with hot water and mix until well blended. Fill the rest of the way with water, leaving a couple of inches of headspace in the bucket (you’re going to be stirring it and don’t want to slosh it all over the place.)
  4. Put the lid on the bucket and let it sit overnight. It will solidify to a thick, jelly-like consistency.
  5. Once it has solidified, stir with the paint stick until it resembles egg drop soup. Yum! Call the kids in and tell them that this is supper.
  6. Once your kids have run screaming from the room, fill your container 1/2 way with the soap. Fill the rest of the way with warm or hot water. Close tightly and give it a good shake. You’re ready to wash!

Steps 1-4 took me a total of 30 minutes on a Friday afternoon with both boys at home. Steps 5-6 took all of 10 minutes including harassing the kids. Subsequent refills take 5 minutes tops. It is really fast and easy. I promise!

If you use the detergent before it cools from the diluting step, it’ll be very watery but still effective. You can, of course, add less water to get a more concentrated product. I like this dilution level because one batch makes 10 gallons of soap, and the soap is pretty smooth. Also, I don’t like to measure every time I mix up a gallon of detergent, so I use a clear jug and marked the 1/2 way point on the side with a permanent marker.

Use between 3/4c to 1/2c for normal top-load machines and 1/4c to 1/2c for HE machines. Make sure to give the bottle a shake before you use it each time to make sure it’s still well blended.

If you like your laundry with a scent, you can add 5-8 drops of essential oil per gallon. I have started using a VERY small amount of Purex Crystals (I found it on sale, and I use about 1/3 of the normal amount. This $4 bottle should last me about 100 loads.) to each load to add a touch of scent to ours. I may try adding some with the detergent next time I mix a gallon to save that step.

I think that’s it! I hope you enjoy this as much as I have. If so, share a gallon with someone you think will enjoy it! I have gifted three gallons, and I still have about half of my bucket left!

If you try this, please comment to let me know what you think!

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