Thursday, September 22, 2011

Practical Help in Tough Times! Laundry detergent - easy & VERY inexpensive!

This economy has been really tough on many of us and I have been seeking ways to cut expenses everywhere I can.  However, sometimes making something from scratch is so difficult that it is hard to do regularly.  In addition, I have found that many items people use to make at home to save money, such as clothes, are now more expensive...I am shocked at the price of fabric and polyfill lately (not that I'm much of a seamstress..but I have tried)!!!  However, I found a very easy to make laundry detergent that is truly cheaper than the commercial brands.  I would never have guessed you could make a good product that is much less than buying the store brand, but this really is just that.  It doesn't have the strong fragrance of store brands, but this seems to be a good thing as several people in my family have very sensitive skin.  This is truly simple to make...I did this in less than 30 minutes and it was simple.  Here is the recipe: need 3 ingredients, plus water, and a large bucket with a lid to store it in, that will hold at least 2 gallons.

Here are the ingredients you need:

1/3 - 1/2 bar* (about 2 to 2-3/4 ounces) of a 5.5 ounce bar of laundry bar soap (usually Zote or Fels Naptha) I found a 5.5 ounce bar of Fels Naptha & a 14.1 ounce bar of Zote...I only used 1/3 of the bar of Zote (a little over 4 ounces, but not quite 5 ounces) & made a double batch, about 4 gallons of detergent.  (*UPDATE:  11/10/2011 - I have been using 1/2 bar of the 5.5 ounce bar.  It seems to get the clothes a little fresher - and they didn't seem as clean with 1/3 bar.)

1/2 cup washing soda (Arm & Hammer - but not baking soda, this is in laundry detergent aisle, it is called washing soda)

1/2 cup Borax

Here is a picture of these ingredients:

One store carried Zote, so I tried it first, but then another store carried Fels Naptha, so I bought it to try the next time.  The Zote smells very much like Ivory soap.  The Fels Naptha has a little more fragrance to it, both smell nice, but not over-powering.  This is the Fels Naptha:

Here is what you do:

1.) Grate the soap (I grated it in seconds in my food processer).
2.) Put the grated soap in a pot with 6 cups water and heat until it melts.
3.) Add the watshing soda and the Borax and stir until they dissolve.  Remove from heat.
4.) Pour 4 cups of hot water into the bucket.
5.) Add the soap mixture to the water in the bucket and stir.
6.) Add 1 gallon, plus 6 cups of water  (22 cups in all on this last addition) to the bucket and stir.
7.) Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel.  It looks a little funny; like a watery gel, but it works!  It still works even if yours doesn't gel up as well, and I've noticed mine seems to gel better as it sits over time.
8.) After 24 hours it is ready.  You will want to stir it occasionally.  Use about 1/2 cup per load, slightly more for really dirty, smelly clothes.

Now for the savings...this is incredible compared to the price of commercial laundry soaps!  I recently paid $11.97 for 100 ounces.  Here is my cost breakdown:

I figured high...since prices are different everywhere.  I paid $3.76 for Borax, $2.88 for Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, & $0.97 cents for Fels Naptha / Zote.  I rounded these up to $4.00, $3.00 & $1.00.

A 55 ounce box of Borax yields nineteen 1/2 cup portions for about $0.21 cents per 1/2 cup!
A 76 ounce box of A&H washing soda yields a little over thirteen 1/2 cup portions for about $0.23 cents per 1/2 cup!
A 5.5 ounce bar of Fels Naptha cut in 1/3 is about $0.33 cents per portion (the Zote was even cheaper since I paid less than $1.00 for a 14.1 ounce bar!  (**UPDATE:  11/10/11 - I'm changing the calculation to 0.50 cents per portion since I have decided that 1/2 bar of Fels Naptha works better.)

Therefore for the cost of these added together, without calculating the cost of my water, is:
.21 + .23 + .33 = $0.77 cents for 2 gallons of detergent!
**.21 + .23 + .50 = .94 cents for 2 gallons of detergent if you use 1/2 bar of Fels Naptha @ approx $1.00 per bar (UPDATED 11/10/11 due to finding that 1/2 bar works better for our clothes)

That is seriously less than the commercial brand...and it really does work - and it really was easy to make.  I cannot imagine how much money I could have retained if I had been doing this for I choose not to think of that - but I will think of how much money I can save from now on!!!

Enjoy your next laundry day!


  1. I am going to try this! I've never bought borax, washing soda or laundry bar soap so it ought to be a REAL adventure for me! Lol! Thanks for the tip!

  2. I had bought Borax before for science experiments...but never the other ingredients. I love this though! I just love saving money, especially as much as this saves me!