Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Works-For-Me-Wednesday: Homemade Laundry Detergent *UPDATED*

I’ll bet you thought I’d give you a sneak peak at the kitchen table I’ve been working on, didn’t you? Not today. Although my nemesis was conquered and sits nicely in the kitchen right now. But more on that later.

I first heard about making your own laundry detergent a few years back, and had a few thoughts about it. 1, it was for those who were more “granola” than me, and 2, it was too much work.

I was wrong on both counts.

I was reintroduced to the idea of making your own laundry detergent by the Duggars. They are not only TV stars, they are a sweet family who live not far from us. I’ve met them on a few occasions and once had the chance to ask Michelle about their laundry detergent in person. I filed that info in the recesses of my mind for when, one day, I was tired of watching TV, taking bubble baths and eating bon-bons all day.

Then my friends started using it. And they loved it. And then the cost of everything started going up. And I hated it. So I decided to look into it again.

I wasn’t too keen on the idea of making a 5-gallon bucket of the stuff, though. Something that big not only poses a problem with where to keep it, but how to get it out of the bucket and into the smaller container for the actual laundry. And the commitment – if I made it, I would use the entire thing before I gave up on it, even if I hated it just because I wouldn’t want to waste all that effort.

And then I found out there’s a powdered version. The angels sang. Because the powdered version uses the exact same ingredients and makes about 3 cups of detergent at a time.

The first time around, I made one batch. I liked it. It gets the clothes clean, doesn’t leave a residue, and doesn’t cause a problem for my sensitive-skinned guys. So the second time around, I made three batches. It sits nicely on the shelf over my washer and takes up less space than the detergent bottle I used to buy.

Here’s the recipe I used, from the Duggar’s website:

1 bar Fels-Naptha soap (I used Ivory instead, as the Duggar’s site says is an ok substitution. My guys have sensitive skin, and I knew Ivory wouldn’t cause irritation.)

1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (not baking soda)

1/2 cup Borax

Grate the soap or break into pieces and put in a food processor until powdered. Add other ingredients and mix together. For a light load, use 1 Tablespoon. For a heavy load or lots of dirt, use 2 Tablespoons. (I use 2 Tbsp almost every load – I have a toddler.)

I’ve enjoyed my laundry soap so far. It’s worked as well, if not better than the detergent I was using before. And knowing it’s super cheap doesn’t hurt either.

I’ve also looked into making my own detergent for the dishwasher and have found that it’s probably just as easy and cheap. I may be trying that soon, too!

For more Works-For-Me-Wednesday, head on over to We Are THAT Family. Or find more money-saving tips at Kelly's Korner.

***UPDATE*** As of January, 2010 I'm still using this detergent. I really like it. I did find a better way to grind up the soap, though.

I found that the moisture content in the bar of Ivory was too high for it to grate well in the tiny little holes of my grater. Others had said that when they used their food processor, the soap wouldn't powder, only turned into little tiny balls. I don't own a food processor and wasn't going to buy one for making laundry soap. (If I'm buying a food processor, I'm getting an expensive one and I'm going to cook with it!) I figured out an easier way.

I grate the soap using the big holes on my grater, which takes just a couple of minutes. Then, I let it sit uncovered, overnight with a little of the washing soda mixed in with it. This dries out the moisture in the soap. Still left with the problem of the large soap flakes, I purchased a $15 coffee grinder and use it to grind the soap in small batches. It works like a charm. It's also fast and super easy to clean up. I estimate that making three batches (I always make three at once) takes about 20 minutes total.

***UPDATE*** April, 2010 - I have discovered that three batches of this detergent lasts me about two months. That's definitely much cheaper than store bought detergent and I still love how well it cleans!

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  1. You ARE a Superchikk! I have been contemplating doing this too. I make my own wipes for cost and for Isabella's condition. It's really easy and cheap. But if I make my own laundry detergent my husband might think I'm an alien. We'll see, we have sensitive skin too. Good to know about the Ivory soap.
    Thanks for posting this!

  2. I am making some with my friend this Sunday. I can't wait to try it. I posted about my homemade dishwasher soap the other day. I felt the same way about making my own but we run out dishwasher everyday or vice a day.

  3. I am so glad you liked yours! I made the liquid version and it didn't do so well for us, even though it has done well for everybody else. Ha! However, it wasn't a total loss because that Fels-Naptha bar will get ANY stain out of clothing! It is awesome. Grease splatters, grass, you name it. Just wet the stain, rub the soap bar on it, and throw it in the wash. While the 5 gallon bucket has been relegated to the garage, the Fels-Naptha sits in the cabinet in the laundry room. :)

  4. OK so I'm glad there is a powdered kind. My mom gave me the recipe the other day for the 5 gallon and there was just no way I was going to get a yard stick and stir a 5 gallon bukcet in my garage. No way. I think I can do this powdered kind though. :)

  5. Glad you found a recipe that works for you! Like you, I wasn't about to try the liquid version, but I mixed up some powdered detergent. I used a slightly different recipe and Octagon soap (cheaper than Fels Naphtha at my store). It's cheap, easy, and effective.

    I've also made a few batches using bar soaps. I tried using the slivers of Dial soap that we couldn't use in the shower; it worked fine but grating those slivers was hard on my hands. I've also tried using some pretty-smelling Yardley soap when it was on sale. I like the result, but probably wouldn't pay full price just to get the pretty smell.

  6. I'm soooo going to try the powdered version next time! I'm on my 2nd 5 gallon bucket and still love it!

  7. Rachel A5:36 PM

    I use this exact recipe for the powder! No way was i doing the whole 5 gallon bucket thing! Some people think i'm crazy for doing this, but it's seriously so easy!

  8. Thanks for the recipe. I have a question...I'm having trouble getting the soap to a powder. I tried the food processor and it just seems to make it into little balls. Will that still work? Any suggestions?

  9. i do this too, and i totally need to make a new batch, um, yesterday:)

  10. oh yeah, i used dr. bronner's. i've read you can use anything EXCEPT beauty bars--which i think is why ivory/dove ball up...