Thursday, May 17, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Kids are messy. There is no other way to put it. They leave their toys everywhere, they touch everything with greasy fingers, and they spread germs like it's a contest to see who can contaminate the most things the fastest. I am constantly washing clothes, cleaning up spills, wiping fingerprints, wiping noses, disinfecting counters, and washing hands. I don't ever expect to stop doing these things, though I hope I will have to do them less as my children get older.

Recently I have become very interested in making my own cleaning products. My husband says I'm obsessed. But who wouldn't want to make cleaning easier and cheaper,  and at the same time using fewer nasty chemicals?

The first thing I tried was laundry detergent. I've been using it for over a year now, and I am loving it.

My husband is sensitive to colors and scents in the laundry soap, so we have to use the "free and clear" stuff. And, of course, the products with FEWER ingredients always cost MORE. After some research, I found a homemade laundry recipe that seemed like it would work for me (and wouldn't irritate my sensitive hubby). It is REALLY cheap to make and makes my clothes really clean. In fact, it made my washing machine cleaner! (I was having problems with my machine smelling bad and making my clothes smell bad. This detergent stopped the smell!)

I found the recipe here. I only make a half recipe so that I can fit it into my handy gallon sized jar I already had. I just leave the jar next to my washer and scoop out what I need. No heavy bottles to lug around and no mess. And a few dollars in ingredients lasts me more than 3 months! With three kids, I do A LOT of laundry, so that shows you just how long this jar lasts.

Here is the recipe for MY amount of detergent. Feel free to double it if you have a larger container or make a smaller batch if you don't do much laundry. All of these items can be found at most grocery stores. I got mine at Wal-Mart.

32 oz Borax
32 oz Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
32 oz Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1 1/2 bars of Fels-naptha soap
24 oz OxyClean

Using a digital kitchen scale, measure each ingredient and put in a plastic garbage bag (for easy mixing at the end). Use a cheese grater to grate the bars of soap. (I got a cheap one at the Dollar Tree to use for soap, but you can use the one from your kitchen. Since it's just soap, it washes clean easily). Using your hands, crumble the grated soap a little bit more for better mixing. When you have all of the ingredients measured and in your garbage bag, twist up the bag and "smoosh" everything around until it's well mixed. Pour into your storage container (preferably with a tight seal so that moisture won't get in).
***If you don't have a scale or don't want to measure, just double the recipe. The first three ingredients come in 4 lb boxes, which is the right amount for a double batch. Use 3 bars of soap, and two small containers of OxyClean (or 10 scoops of the Costco sized box).***

That's it! You are ready for laundry day!

Here is what it looks like. You want your yellow soap pieces to be evenly disbursed so that you get a little in each scoop. (If you want a step by step tutorial with pictures for each step, go to this website.)

I have an old coffee scoop (2 Tbsp) that I use to measure the detergent. For small loads I use half a scoop (1 Tbsp) and for large loads (or really grimy stuff) I use a full scoop (2 Tbsp). The scoop fits easily in the jar with the detergent so it's always ready to go!

This detergent has a very subtle scent, but it doesn't bother my husband's sensitive skin at all. If you wanted your clothes to smell more, you can just use a scented fabric softener. I use straight vinegar most of the time, and I'm thrilled at how clean and soft my clothes are. And no, they do not smell like salad dressing.

This detergent is safe for High Efficiency washer because it doesn't suds at all. And you use such a small scoop that you don't have to worry about powder buildup in your drain like you might with the store brand powder detergents. The Fels-naptha soap dissolves so well, you can even use it for cold washes. I've never found any left over pieces of soap on my clothes.

And just in case you were curious, here is the approximate cost breakdown for this detergent.

Box of Borax = $4 (I use half a box per batch) = $2
Box of Baking Soda = $4 (I use half a box per batch) = $2
Box of Washing Soda = $4 (I use half a box per batch) = $2
Fels-Naptha Soap = $1 per bar (I use 1 1/2 per batch) = $1.50
Oxyclean = About $7 for a 3lb box (I got a huge one from Costco but can't remember how much it cost) (I use 1 1/2 lb per batch) = $3.50

That comes out to about $11 for a batch of detergent. I do approximately 10 loads a week and use 2 Tbsp per load. This jar lasts about 3 months (12 weeks), which amounts to 120 loads of laundry per batch. That's less than 10 CENTS per load!!!!!! I could probably get away with only 1 Tbsp per load, since this stuff is so powerful, which would make it last twice as long and be less than 5 cents per load!!

***Disclaimer: Use at your own risk***

***Safety Warning*** 
Kids like to help measure out the ingredients, but I highly suggest making them (and you) wear a mask and goggles since the powdery ingredients get into the air and can cause irritation to eyes, nose and throat. The kids don't mind wearing them. My son said it makes him feel like a scientist.

Stay tuned for more cleaning recipes!

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