Posted on July 28, 2010 - by Ella
Have you ever thought about making your own laundry detergent?
Chances are, this is something your grandmother or great-grandmother did almost as a matter of course, but today, we rely quite heavily on commercial detergents to clean our clothes.
The problem is, those detergents can be expensive, and they can be hard on your clothes and your machine. And while many of these laundry detergents certainly do a good job, they also have a lot of additives and visual brighteners that can be a polluting to the environment and can leave residue on our clothes, too. This can lead to allergic reactions that are very uncomfortable.
Fortunately, there’s a way around that. I’m going to show you how to make your own laundry detergent, and best of all, you can make it for literally pennies a load. No more dashing out to the store at the last minute because you forgot to buy detergent. Simply stock up on a few ingredients that you can keep on hand all the time (and feel free to buy them in bulk, too, since they don’t go bad), and make your own detergent as you go.
The following recipe will get your clothes clean and soft; this recipe makes about 5 gallons of detergent, and you will want to use a half a cup per load on average.
1 cup borax (found at most grocery stores in the laundry detergent aisle)
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup washing soda (again, found at most grocery stores in the laundry detergent aisle)
1 4.5 to 5-ounce bar of bath soap, grated (can use anything that doesn’t have lotion in it, so avoid soaps like Dove; I personally like to use Ivory)
1/2 bar of Fels Naptha soap, grated (again, found in most grocery stores in the laundry detergent aisle)
Tools You’ll Need
Besides the above ingredients (and a grater), you’ll also need the following tools:
- A large saucepan (enough to hold 2 quarts of water and the dry ingredients above)
- Wooden spoon for stirring
- Large bucket, enough to hold 5 gallons of water plus dry ingredients
- 5 gallons of water and containers to store liquid detergent once made. (I use clean empty gallon sized vinegar bottles, because they’re made of sturdy plastic and can be used over and over again.)
In a large saucepan on top of the stove, combine all of the dry ingredients listed above (borax, baking soda, washing soda, and grated bath and Fels Naptha soaps) and add 2 quarts of water. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon over low heat until soaps, sodas and borax are completely dissolved.
Pour the contents of the saucepan into a large bucket and add enough water to make 5 gallons, stirring continuously as you do so. (Using warm water as you add it will make sure nothing separates as you dilute the detergent.)
Once everything is stirred together, you have 5 gallons of gentle, non-sudsing detergent. Portion it into your clean gallon containers, using a funnel if necessary. For a load of detergent, briefly shake the bottle and add half a cup to a load, pre-spotting with the detergent if necessary.
One interesting thing about this detergent is that it does NOT produce suds, so don’t expect to look in your washing machine and see a lot of soapy foam as you might otherwise expect to. Don’t worry about that; your clothes will still get clean and soft, and you probably won’t even need to use fabric softener.
The cost of this detergent is significantly less than commercial detergents, but you’ll notice that your clothes are clean and soft. In fact, you can expect to be spending about two cents a load on these ingredients, as compared to $.10 to $.15 per load for commercial detergents. That’s a significant savings versus commercial detergents, isn’t it?
In addition, the above ingredients are all natural and relatively nonpolluting, which means that you’re helping the environment by making your own detergent, too. And because you can stock up these ingredients in relatively little space, you can buy your detergent in bulk without having to have a lot of space to store it. Simply make a new batch of detergent whenever you need it!
Finally, you may notice that your machine gets a little bit of a soap residue coating on its interior after several months of using this detergent. That’s not something to worry about, and it happens just because this detergent doesn’t have the additives other detergents do. If you do notice that this is happening, simply add a half a cup of white vinegar to your rinse cycle; this will take care of any soapy residue you might see and will keep it from building up; it’s also good for your clothes, for further cleaning and color retention.
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