October 28, 2009

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

I get such weird looks when I talk about making my own laundry detergent. I guess most people just don't understand, but it's easy, cheap, always on hand, and cleans well. It really doesn't take much work either. Just a few ingredients, a pot and a bucket. The best part is that it's practically impossible to screw up. It's not like baking, you don't have to be perfect.

It helps to have a few empty detergent bottles to fill with your new homemade detergent. Other plastic containers can work too, but I've found that the old detergent bottles hold up best to repeated use. If you don't have some, check with family or your local freecycle (that's where I got mine). You will need 3-4 bottles.

Laundry Detergent

1/2 of a bar of Fels Naptha Soap, grated
1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

That's it and it will make about 3 gallons.

The Borax is pretty easy to find. Wal-mart, Meijer or just about any place that sells laundry items usually has it. At my local Wal-mart it sells for $2.98. The washing soda can be harder to find. I buy mine at my local Meijer. I found it on the very top shelf as far away from the commercial detergents as you could get in the laundry aisle. It was next to the Bluing if that helps. I think I paid $2.99.
The Fels Naptha can be the hardest to find. I have found it in most local grocery stores, but not with the laundry products. Most times it is with the bath bar soaps. It's normally priced around $1.40. If you are still having a tough time finding it, here is a site I have bought from. Quick shipping and reasonably priced, Soaps Gone Buy.

Now the instructions....

Start by grating your bar of soap. I will warn you, not the easiest job. This stuff is hard. I have an old food processor I use. Works great. You can use a cheese grater, but be prepared to use some elbow grease. Grate the entire bar at once and then divide it in half. I put one half in a ziploc baggy and save it for next time.

Now, get a large pot (8-quart is good) and a wooden spoon. This will need to be a pot and spoon you can use exclusively for soap. You are NOT going to want to use them to cook with after this. I found an old enameled pot at goodwill for less than a dollar and the spoon I got from my grandma.

Place the pot on the stove and add 4 quarts of water. Heat over medium heat until water starts to simmer. Add the Fels Naptha, Borax and washing soda. Continue heating over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the soap has dissolved.

There is no need for perfection here. If you have a few stray pieces of soap floating around don't worry about it. Take the pot off the heat and set aside to cool; about 1 hour.

Now, you'll need a 5 gallon pail or other similar container. I have a HUGE pot (I think it was for water bath canning originally) that I got from my father-in-law. Too big for anything I do, so it's my soap pot now.

Fill the bucket with 2 to 2 1/2 gallons of HOT water. It has to be hot. If you have a big pot like me, you can heat it on the stove and save yourself transporting it to the bucket. Add the cooled soap mixture to the hot water. Stir well to mix it all together. You now have your detergent!

You'll want to let it cool a bit before filling your bottles.

I found a large funnel in the automotive section (for transmission fluid?). It works great for transferring the soap to the bottle. It's the perfect size for fitting into the top. You will want to do this either outside or in your bathtub. It's messy.

Carefully pour your soap into each bottle. Dry them off with a towel and set aside to finish cooling. When cool replace lid. You are now ready to use your laundry detergent. I use about 1/2 cup per load.

I'm not sure what the price per load is, but I do know that I spent about $10 on my initial ingredients. 1 box Borax, 1 box washing soda, and 3 bars fels naptha. They lasted me almost exactly a year to the day. No matter how you do the math, that is a significant savings. Each batch lasts about 2 months with our family of 5.

Micaela's excema had also nearly disappeared. I don't know if that is a coincidence or not, but I'll keep using my homemade laundry detergent.

Oh, and this can be used in HE washers.

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