Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Make your own (easy, cheap & green) laundry detergent!

This is one of the things that I get asked about the most, so I thought I would write a post about it.

Can you really make your own laundry detergent?!  Yes, you can and it's so easy, so green and so cheap that I'm wondering why in the world I didn't know about this sooner!  Honestly, who wants to spend more money on laundry detergent than you have to?

When I first heard about this amazing concept I got right down to business, doing what I always have to do, and that is...research!  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I like to research pretty much everything.  Why?  Well, in this instance, what if it doesn't work?  What if it's really bad on your washer?  What if it kills fish when it gets into the ground water which then travels to their river home?  And if those all pass the test, I then have to find the absolute best recipe (still kind of weirds me out to use the word "recipe" when we're dealing with soap) which leads me to learn that hard water requires different ingredients than soft water (info about that here if you care to know) and then I had to know the best and cheapest ingredients to use of course...anyway, with out further ado, here is the recipe I currently use and love.

Recipe for Laundry Detergent
Finely grate the bar (or half bar) of soap.  (Kind of a weird thing to do, but it won't hurt your grater at all.)  Mix the grated soap with the borax and washing soda for about five minutes and you're good to go! 

This will make about 32 ounces.  I use 2 Tbs (or 1/8th cup-black scoop in the picture) per load but if you have softer water than I do, you probably only need 1 Tbs per load.  This come out to between only 5 to 10 cents a load! (Commercial detergents are 20 cents or more per load.)

Some additional info & tips:

-This has very low suds so it works great in front loader High Efficiency (HE) washers.
-I add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar in place of the fabric softener and that softens the clothes and breaks up the mineral deposits found in my lovely hard water.
-I've found this detergent works great with warm or cold water washes.
-You can add a few drops of any essential oil to the recipe to scent your laundry (I want to try this after I research essential oils a little more.)
-I found the borax, washing soda, Zote/Fels-Naptha at my local grocery store (Macy's in Utah) for good prices.  They were in the laundry detergent isle, kind of dusty on the top shelf ;)  You can also buy them online.
-From what I understand, this is much better for the environment in several ways: less toxic ingredients, less manufacturing (less fossil fuels), and no huge plastic bottles being made and then thrown away.
-I love that I can easily make a year supply and store it on my laundry room shelf with out taking up a ton of room!
-There are many recipes out there for a homemade liquid/gel/glop laundry soap but it required boiling the ingredients and storing a huge bucket of the stuff which I wasn't all that excited about.
-There are also recipes out there that use other types of bar soap but from what I read, some of those soaps can leave a residue on your clothes, especially any bar soaps with mosturizers, so don't use those!
-The soap grates easier if it's dried out a bit so I unwrap it as soon as I buy it and leave it out for a few days.  Some people also recommend microwaving it for a few minutes, the idea being that you can then just crush it to powder.  I tried that with limited success so I recommend grating unless I find a better way.
-Borax and washing soda have many great household uses, such as making your own dishwasher detergent (I will post about that soon!)

That's it!  Although the research is certainly not that simple, in my opinion, the end result is because it's easy to make, better for the environment, cheap and can look pretty great in a cool upcycled bottle with neat label.  

Please let me know what you have learned about homemade laundry detergent and what your results are if you try this recipe!