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Homemade Laundry Detergent

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My soul sister Heather over at Another Ten Miles recently shared her adventures making laundry soap and dishwashing detergent.   It’s been a wee-bit of a money stretching week and I am ALWAYS looking to save a dollar here or there!

I’ve heard about homemade laundry detergent before, but I have to share with you a few of my fears/prejudices/pre-conceived notions about homemade soap:

1. It wouldn’t smell good.
2. It wouldn’t clean as well.
3. I’d stink. (I know, it’s the same as 1 & 2, but it was a legitimate concern.)
4. Making soap would be hard.

So, when Heather made the laundry soap tutorial from THIS website and she said that her clothes were clean and smelled good, and the soap was easy to make, I was sold.  If you want a more comprehensive tutorial, please check out the websites above, and definitely check out Heather’s blog for the dishwashing detergent “recipe”!

I didn’t make the dish soap because I don’t have a dishwasher. :)

Laundry Detergent
supplies needed:
Super Washing Soda – 1 cup
Borax – 1 cup
1 laundry bar soap (Fels-Naptha is common)
Baking Soda – 1/4 cup

First, grate the bar of Fels-Naptha.  I don’t have a food processor, so I used my microplane zester/grater.

*Note: keep in mind that graters are sharp and this is… well… soap.
My hand might have slipped and I might have broke my nail during this process.  Oops.

The finished project was initially very fluffy.

At this point, I just stuck my hands in the soap and played with it a bit to break it down a little smaller.  It was easy– and a little fun. :)

See? Easy.

You’ve already done the hardest part!

Now, add in the 1 cup washing soda, the 1 cup Borax, and the 1/4 cup baking soda.

Mix well!

Put the finished product in a container of your choice. I just happened to have an empty jar of Ovaltine mix — It was perfect!

That’s it! All done!

Now all I need is a cute label!

So, does it work?

I have a Whirlpool Cabrio washer – a top loading HE washer – and it takes both liquid and powder HE detergents.
* This soap is low-sudsing so it makes a perfect HE soap.
* The Fels-Naptha soap is the only fragrance and it is a very clean smelling soap.  If you wanted fragrance, I would suggest an essential oil or something, but I didn’t think it needed it. (And I’m a scent freak.)
*I used my fabric softener (I like those fabric softener beads) in the body of the wash and a little vinegar. Vinegar is a natural fabric softener, odor remover, and residue remover.

To be honest with you, I think this works better than “name-brand” detergents. There. I said it.

My clothes smelled, felt, and looked cleaner.  My washer smelled cleaner too. I think that the other soap was leaving a residue!

All you use is 2 tablespoons per wash!  

I was a MAJOR skeptic, but I’m sold.

It made my towels smell cleaner than they have in months! It removed toddler vomit from clothes!

The washing soda was about 3.50, the Borax was about 3.50, the Fels-Naptha was 1.00, and the baking soda was on hand.
For $8.00, I have enough soap to last a really long time, and it hardly made a dent in the Borax and washing soda. So, my next batch will only cost a dollar. ONE DOLLAR!  WOOP!

There are also a TON of uses for Borax.  It is commonly a pest deterrent, you can make “gak,” etc.  Google it! :)
One last note- while Borax is all-natural, it can be toxic for pets and children, so don’t let them eat the Borax or anything.  Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want with it. So, just like anything else, don’t leave it out for the pets/kids to discover.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jazzmen.kalkbrenner Jazzmen Kalkbrenner-schulte

    i have the same washer. do you put your home made stuff in the barrell of the washer before you add clothes?

    • http://red-dirt-mama.com/ April McGrew

      Hey Jazzmen! Sorry — I tried to respond on my phone and it wouldn’t sign me in! I put the soap right in the dispenser. Our dispensers actually allow powder as well as liquid (that’s what my manual told me) and I would double check your manual, but it should be no problem! Otherwise, I would add it to the barrel if you are concerned. I’ve had no issues!

  • http://www.facebook.com/krischris123004 Christina McDonald

    I have the exact same washer as you and I was wondering when you put the vinegar & softener in and is it necessary to use vinegar? Do you put it in at the start of the cycle and where? Did you put it in the tub or in the dispenser? Sorry for all of the questions, I am new to the HM laundry soap and want to make sure that I don’t “damage” my expensive washer! :)

    • http://red-dirt-mama.com/ April McGrew

      Not at all! I don’t find it necessary to use vinegar all the time, but I often will use the vinegar in place of the fabric softener. I just put in the dispenser the same way I would regular fabric softener. I do prefer to add a cup of vinegar to the barrel when I wash towels… simply because I have let them spoil before. ;) It won’t damage your washer at all — in fact, I’ve noticed that my washer is cleaner now that I’m not using store bought soaps!

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  • Melissa B.

    April, first let me tell you how much I miss you in Melissa. Now then, is this stuff only in Oklahoma or what? I have never seen or heard of any of this stuff but the baking soda. Where do you get these ingredients? Help.

    • http://red-dirt-mama.com/ April McGrew

      I’ve found them at Walmart and Target in Texas! It’s in the laundry detergent aisle — over by the stain removers like Oxy Clean!