Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Basic Laundry Detergent

Whenever I talk to people about DIY projects and how much I enjoy them, one of the first questions I get is "do you make your own laundry detergent?"

Laundry detergent is one of the most popular DIY right now.  My guess is because of the savings.  A bottle of Tide can cost close to $20 and will give you about 90 loads.  Even though there are many ways to make your own detergent, it usually costs a few dollars to get the same amount of loads.  Some people claim they can do 150 loads of laundry for $2.

Making your own laundry detergent has become so popular that some Walmart's have jumped on the band wagon and are making displays using the basic ingredients for homemade laundry detergent.

But where to start?!?!  There are countless ways to make your own detergent and a plethora of variations.   Which ones are the best?  Which ones aren't worth the hassle?  Have no fear, your own personal guinea pig is here. I've been testing a few and will continue to test many more and will share my opinion with each one.

Today lets start with a basic and more popular type of laundry detergent. This one requires three basic ingredietns.  All of them can be found in the laundry detergent section of any store.  While there are many variations of how to combine the ingredients and the amount to use, you will basically get the same results. And at this point I have said basic basically 100 times so I should probably use all my money I'm saving on laundry dtergent to buy a basic Thasarouse.

The process I used is below but you can find another similar process here , and here is the recipe the Dugger's from TLC use.

Liquid Laundry Detergent
You will need:
1 bar of soap (any kind you want)
1 cup of Borax
1 cup of washing soda
a big pot ( that holds more than 2 gallons)
a grater
a funnel
a long spoon
2 empty gallon jugs/containers

Grate your bar of soap into your pot. Fill one gallon jug and pour water into pot with grated soap. Cook until the grated soap dissolves. Add the Borax and washing soda. Bring to a boil. It will coagulate.Turn off the heat. Add 1 gallon of cold water. Stir well.Pour 1 gallon of your detergent into each container. Now you have 2 gallons of homemade laundry detergent.  I use 1/2 cup per load.

If you have a food processor or a good blender I highly recommend using that to chop up your soap.  Grating it by hand with a cheese grater is very time consuming and not very fun for your fingers.  Cut your soap into small squares, place it in your food processor and within a couple of minutes you will have grated soap.

For my first batch of laundry detergent I used a Fels-Naptha soap bar.  Within a week my poor husband was sporting a lovely rash on his legs.  I looked on the back of the Fels-Naptha wrapper and had a good laugh

Did you catch that?  A bar of soap with the sole purpose of cleaning your clothes can cause skin irritations with prolonged contact.  I understand that there is a rinse cycle and that the soap should all be rinsed away but it isn't.

Here is a fun fact for you, this comes from my mother-in-law who taught clothing and textiles at a large University for 30 years.  Laundry detergent is never fully rinsed off your clothes.  There will always be a residue, so you don't have to use as much laundry detergent as the container says because there is already some on your clothes.

Anyways, I threw away my batch with the Fels-Neptha and started over using Ivory soap.  I poured it into an old All laundry detergent container because it had a nice easy dispenser. 

The Verdict:  My clothes smelled and felt really clean and they didn't have any sort of residue on them that I could see. The last few loads weren't as clean though.  The detergent kept separating so I had to shake the container before each use, but clearly I didn't shake good enough because I had mostly water for the last few loads. 

I liked the gel consistency, I don't have a particular reason why, I just liked it. How is that for a helpful opinion!?!

After about 5 uses, the spout on my dispenser and the cup started to get a gross build up.  The only way to avoid this was to clean them both really well after each use. 
 Overall it was great at getting the laundry clean but it is a bit high maintanace.  I got annoyed that i had to shake it everytime (i'm really glad I had a container with a handle, it made the shaking easier)  and that it caused such a build up on the dispensers.  Call me lazy, or maybe i'm the high maintance one, but I like thigns that don't cause extra work. 

So one down, a plethora more to go (any Three Amigo fans out there, or is my use of plethora just confusing people?)


  1. I'm glad you're doing this one! I may celebrate with a plethora of pinatas!

    1. I'm so excited you got my use of plethora. Not many people have seen that show.

  2. I'm also super interested to hear how this goes! Do you have hard or soft water? Cause I've heard that can affect how well your soap cleans versus a detergent that has softeners built in.

    1. Very good point, I should have put that in my post. I have a water softener and a front loader HE washing machine.

  3. I have a front loader too, but I am jealous of your soft water. Ours is so, so hard.