Laundry detergent is one of the biggest expenses for a large family. I’ve threatened to make my own for years. Well, I did it! I have pinned various recipes for homemade laundry detergent for months, now, thinking that soon I would gather the exotic ingredients and muster the courage to make some. I should have paid a lot more attention to those recipes I was pinning. There is nothing exotic about the ingredients, nor is it difficult. I’m actually mourning a little bit, for all the money I have wasted over the years, just not realizing I could do this quickly and simply. Two weeks ago, I sat down to earnestly study all the pins I have for DIY laundry detergent. With a few minor variations, they are all essentially the same. Who knew? I was just pinning pictures with the good intention of “exploring the possibility”, later. Once I actually stopped to look at the details, I was shocked.
The one thing that they all had in common was that they make gigantic batches – 10 to 12 gallons, at a time. I don’t want to be storing all that and so I decided to quarter the recipe I finally settled on. It turns out that it is adapted from the recipe that the Duggar family uses to make their detergent. I decided if it is good enough for the Duggar’s clothes, which they wear on national TV each week, it was probably a safe bet that it would work for us.
Why would I bother to make laundry detergent when I could just conveniently grab a bottle off the shelf at the store? Several reasons, the first of which is cold, hard cash. I have always purchased the large economy bottles of a name brand “he” (high efficiency) laundry detergent. It’s not the cheapest, nor is it the most common $14-a-bottle brand. I pay, on average, $8.00 for a 75-load bottle of my old detergent. I would have been happy to cut that price in half. Instead, I discovered that by making the recipe I am going to share with you, a 75-load bottle of DIY detergent saved me $7.79¾!!! That is a little more than a 97% savings! Hello! Making my own is no longer JUST an option. It’s ridiculous not to. It cost only 20¼¢ for the ingredients to make a 75-load bottle of detergent! Translate that savings over a year’s worth of laundry and that put’s a tidy sum back into our family’s budget.
Still need a list of reasons to try this? Okay. Here it goes:
- 20¼¢!! Hello! (It only takes putting away $19.24 per week to have $1000 in your savings account, by the end of the year. Making laundry detergent at home, won’t earn the whole amount, but it will be a substantial chunk towards reaching that goal.)
- Low suds – The water pumps on “he” washing machines are damaged and wear out faster if you’re using soap that creates too many suds. That’s why manufacturers have “created” the special “he” laundry detergents. Did you know that regular laundry detergent actually has something added to it to make it suds up? Soap isn’t able to do that so profusely on it’s own. People think that more suds = more clean, so those doing the marketing know it boosts the bottom line to add that ingredient. See how public perceptions drive the market and increase costs? Weird, isn’t it! (Yes, I am using this detergent in my “he” washing machine with absolutely no difficulty. Obviously, I can’t make claims for your machine, but mine is alive and well. I’m pretty sure Michelle Duggar’s is, too. )
- Less waste – I’ve read several posts where people have purchased bottles and buckets and extra equipment to begin their detergent making process. If you’re going to do it in monstrously large batches and will be reusing those things over and over, I get it; but you can seriously save the expense and the waste, by just recycling your old detergent bottles for the job. They have built in measuring cups and they don’t cost you an extra penny. Not one more plastic bottle will end up in a landfill or have to be hauled to a recycling center due to my family’s laundry. Cool! I just saved and rinsed out the last two bottles from my old store-bought laundry detergent when they were empty. They work perfectly! When I am feeling more ambitious, I may even soak off the old labels and create some very crafty attractive ones of my own.
- You know what’s in it. – You can add essential oils to your batch to scent it in any way you want, but it’s an added expense, and before you do, I hope you’ll try at least one, just straight. I actually love the light scent of the Fels Naptha and it transfers to our clothes. Remember when you were a kid, that plain, fresh, clean smell that laundry had? Now, I know what it was and I LIKE it! You also aren’t adding any chemical sudsing agents, emulsifiers, gobbledy gook and alphabet soup chemically-type names or dyes. That makes me happy.
- It’s easy. – I didn’t time this process, but I doubt that I invested more than 20 minutes. Other than grating the Fels Naptha (I’ve upgraded my grater, since these pictures were done. I love this one from Amazon.) and stirring while it melted into the water, it was pretty minor labor, on my part. You can totally do this!
- There are only 3 ingredients and I can buy them at Walmart. – Stores are not sticking these products on end counters or even at eye-level for you to find, but they’re there. You’ll have to scope out the detergent aisle to find where they have them. At my Walmart, it’s on the bottom shelf, underneath the fabric softener section. All you need is a bar of Fels-Naptha, a box of Borax and a box of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda). Total cost for these ingredients was about $7.50 and with the exception of Fels Naptha (Mine was 97¢) which I will need to re-buy after every 4th batch, I won’t be buying ingredients, again for at least a year, probably more.
- It works! – I have been using this detergent on all our laundry for two weeks, now. In my house that’s literally a couple dozen loads. I have used it on bedding, towels, undergarments, regular clothes and even my husbands greasy, grubby work clothes. It works exactly the same as my old detergent. I even conducted a stain test, in the beginning, in hopes that I could tell you that DIY detergent is some miraculous stain-fighter that excels beyond my regular detergent. Knowing that my detergent could not get out mustard stains, I took an old t-shirt, stained both sides with equal amounts of mustard and then both sides with equal amounts of barbecue sauce. Then I pre-treated both by rubbing a teaspoon of my old detergent into the stains on one side and a teaspoon of the DIY detergent on the other side. I washed each side in hot water, using it’s coordinating detergent. Alas, DIY does no better on mustard than the store-bought detergent and they both got out the barbecue stain. So, while there was no difference in the way they cleaned and both would require a pre-treater for really stubborn stains, hello! 20¼¢! -lol- DIY still wins. ( Does anybody have a recipe for homemade pre-treater? )
Well, if you’re convinced, now; here’s the recipe that I used to make mine. It’s the scaled-back version and made two 75-load bottles.
If you prefer DIY Powdered Laundry Detergent, check out my recipe, here.
- ¼ bar of Fels Naptha soap
- 2 Tablespoons Borax powder
- ¼ cup (4 Tablespoons) Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda)
- Cut Fels Naptha bar into fourths and store the extra 3 in a ziptop bag, so you have them handy for your next 3 batches. (The link is not quite as cheap as I get Fels Naptha at Walmart, but if you don't have access, locally, this is still a great price.0
- Grate the ¼ Fels Naptha Bar into medium shreds.
- Put grated Fels Naptha and 1 cup of water into a pot and melt over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until all the soap has dissolved. It will be a little sudsy, but no chunks of soap should remain.
- Pour 2½ quarts (10 cups) of water into a large container or bucket and add the cooked soap mixture, Borax and washing soda.
- Add 2½ quarts more (10 cups) water.
- Stir again. You'll notice a few suds on the top of your stirred soap.
- If you have a lid for the container you're mixing this in, just put the lid on it and let it set overnight. I mixed mine in a bucket and ended up transferring it to another container with a lid, before setting it aside for overnight.
- The next morning, your soap will have thickened and gelled considerably. Stir it up and then you're ready to transfer it into two laundry bottles for your use.
- Divide the soap evenly between the two 1.17 gallon laundry bottles you've saved. They'll be about half full. (If you're using empty milk jugs or some other size container, the ratio is one part soap to one part water. Just fill the container you're using half full with your DIY soap and then finish filling with water.)
- Finish filling each bottle with water.
- Shake the bottles vigorously to mix and you're ready to wash laundry.
- It takes ¼ cup per load.
- Give the bottle a shake before each load, to make sure nothing has separated and it's mixed well.
Other Easy Products You Can Make at Home to Save Money or Be More Natural