Friday, June 29, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap

Let me start this post by saying that I am not a naturalist, environmentalist, ecologist, preservationist, or any other "ist" you can name.  Sure, I do my little part in trying to save the Earth.  I recycle some, turn off lights that I'm not using, and try to save gas by not making unnecessary trips to town.  Well, that's mostly because gas is so expensive, but still.  However, I'm not one of those people who needs things to be "all natural."  I am the type of person, though, that doesn't like her washing machine and clothes to stink!  If you have a front loading washer, you probably know that they can get stinky due to mold/mildew buildup if not cleaned (can I get an amen sister on that?).  If you didn't know that they need cleaned, then your family might be walking around in stinky clothes.   I'm not doing a tutorial on how to clean your washer.  There's tons of advice out on the web already like here and here.  Basically, it all has to do with liquid soap build up in the rubber ring that seals the door and not letting the washer dry out between uses.  In my quest to get a nice smelling washing machine (and clothes!), I found that many people recommended using homemade laundry detergent.  I was desperate because after weeks of using every cleaning tip I could find, my washer still left clothes smelling not too fresh.  I scoured the internet for homemade detergent recipes.  There's a bajillion out there.  Ok, maybe not a bajillion, but a million.  You can also find recipes for both liquid and powder detergents.  I opted for powder.  Basically, I combined different recipes until I got something that works for me.  Here's my recipe:

Powdered Laundry Detergent

1 Cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1 Cup Borax
1 Bar Fels Naptha laundry soap
1/2 Cup Purex Crystals (optional)

The first step and the most difficult part of this whole thing is to grate the Fels Naptha soap.  You can generally find this in the grocery store detergent aisle.  I know HyVee in my town has it, not sure about Wal-Mart.  I've seen other recipes that use Zote or Ivory soap bars.  I forgot to take a picture of the soap bar so you can see what it looks like.  It's a dark yellow color.  Here's what it looks like when grated:

I grate it using the smallest holes.  This process can get old quick if you're just standing at a counter grating away.  I just use a large bowl and grate it in the living room while watching TV.  Before you know it, you're done!  BE CAREFUL!  I've had quite a few scraped knuckles while grating soap!  I generally make a double batch so I grate two bars at one sitting.  

After you're done grating the soap, mix in the Borax, washing soda, and Purex (if you're using it).  The Purex Crystals are to add a bit of fresh scent to the laundry.  Honestly, I can't tell a big difference when I use them so I'm probably going to omit them from now on.  That's it!  You now have your very own homemade laundry detergent.

I store mine, for now, in one of those gallon, plastic ice cream tubs with a lid.  Just one batch lasts quite a long time.  Unfortunately, I haven't kept track of how many loads of laundry I get out of one batch.  I'm going to try to do that with this batch.  I made a double batch last time and it lasted for several months.  Here's possibly the best news....this is cheap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You only use 2 Tablespoons per load.  Let me repeat that... 2 Tablespoons per load!!!!!!  Here's my costs:

Borax (76 oz box) $3.39 at Target
Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (55 oz box) $3.34 at HyVee
Fels Naptha (1 bar) $1.33 at HyVee
Purex Crystals $4.79 at Target

Total:  $12.85 (and everything but the Fels Naptha will make multiple batches!)

I've only purchased 1 box of Borax so far and made about 5 batches.  I still have enough to make probably 1 or 2 more.
I got 4 batches out of the washing soda.  I just bought a new box for this double batch.

I tried to break down the cost per batch and here's what I got:
$2.07 per batch (without the Purex) that will last at least a month - depending on your number of loads of course.  If you use the Purex, that might bump it up to $2.75 or so.  How much is Tide HE?  Like $12 or $13 a bottle?  Speaking of HE, yes this is safe for HE washers as well as regular washers.  The reason you have to buy HE detergent for your front loader is because it's a low suds formula.  These ingredients are low suds as well.  

I also don't use liquid fabric softener much anymore.  I add vinegar to the softener dispenser.  It helps soften clothes and takes any lingering smells out of clothes (like sweaty gym or work clothes, or towels that teenagers leave in a heap on the floor).  I then put a Bounce sheet in the dryer. 

So, the bottom line is that I use the homemade detergent because it's cheap, keeps my washer clean and fresh, and my clothes smell clean (not moldy, or perfumey - is that a word?)  Oh, and it cleans as well as Tide.  I won't say it cleans better, but it does the same job.  

Whew!  I didn't know this post was going to be this long.  If you have any questions, post a comment, or shoot me an email.  

~Happy Laundry

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