Sunday, May 05, 2013

So...  let's talk laundry soap.

There are lots of recipes for making your own floating around the web and pinned on Pinterest, and I pinned one myself, intending to try it out.  It was one of the "cooked" ones, where you melt grated bar soap and combine it with the other ingredients and water into a liquid laundry soap.

I've been using commercial liquid laundry detergent for the past 18ish years, because that's what Shaun liked and wanted me to buy. (Which makes no sense, since I was always the one doing the laundry...)  Before that, in college and grad school when I lived alone, I preferred to buy powdered laundry detergent so I wasn't paying for water in the jug or dealing with a drippy measuring cup.  But I digress.

I pinned the recipe, bought the ingredients, and then they sat in the pantry for months because I'm lazy and didn't want to go to all that trouble of cooking up a batch of soap.  It seemed to have a high potential for being messy, and plus where the heck am I going to store five gallons of laundry soap?

I finally realized yesterday that I can go back to powdered laundry soap, because the liquid variety is no longer a requirement in my house!   The ingredients for the DIY powder are the same as for the DIY liquid.  It should work the same, provided it dissolves completely in the washer.

So yesterday, I made a small batch of powdered laundry soap.

DIY laundry soap

Ta Daaaaaa!

Recipes on the web are mostly variations on a theme.  Local water chemistry plays a role in how much of each ingredient you need, but in general it's washing soda, borax, and bar soap, sometimes with baking soda added as well.  All the ingredients were available in my local grocery store.

DIY laundry soap

The recipe I used was:

3 cups washing soda (sodium carbonate)
3 cups borax (sodium borate)
1.5 cups baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1 bar Fels-Naptha laundry soap

I grated the soap with the finest disk of my food processor, but it was still more like long curls than powder, so I took off the grating disk and pulverized it further with the regular blade attachment.  My goal was to get it as powdery as possible so it would dissolve faster in the washer (I have a high efficiency (HE) front-loader).  Then I mixed everything together in a jar.  Done.

This took approximately 10 minutes start to finish.  Easy peasy.  The small batch I made yesterday yielded about 9 cups of laundry soap, with a total cost of $8.84.  Unless the clothes are really dirty each load only requires 1 tablespoon (really!), so that amount will wash 144 loads of laundry, for a cost per load of about $0.06.

For comparison, the All Free and Clear liquid I was buying before cost about $0.19 per load.  Mixing up my own is a third of the cost.  Significant savings.

I've done six loads of wash with it so far, and I'm convinced.  It's cheap, it's quick and easy to make, it's phosphate-free, and it works really well.  The only things I may change are to leave out the baking soda since I'm not sure it's really necessary, and to find a bar soap that doesn't have coloring or fragrance. I know I've seen Kirk's unscented castile soap bars here in town, and people have reported good results with that.  The Fels-Naptha has a pleasant but strong fragrance, and though it nearly completely dissipates during line-drying, I'd rather have unscented laundry.  On the other hand, the Fels-Naptha gets out dirt and grease stains really well.  In any case, I'm not going to buy commercial laundry detergent again.


S.Kate said...

Isn't it great? I've been making the cooked version (sans baking soda)for three years now and store it in one of those large plastic pails cat litter comes in. And vinegar works fine for fabric softener. I'm never buying commercial again either.

Claire said...

I had a try at making laundry powder last year... it worked. But not as well as the commercial stuff, maybe when I don't have messy little kids anymore I'll give it another try.

Also, Borax is a bit difficult to find here for some reason.

Louise said...

My daughter adds 2 small tubs (3.5 lbs total) of Oxy Clean to her Big Batch (2- Gallon)recipe and she has a 3-yr old little boy. So maybe add 1# to this smaller size recipe. I like this smaller size. I can't see me going through the big batch one even in one year! Thanks for posting it.