One of the first “meals” I learned to make as a kid was Annie’s mac ‘n cheese. It was one of my favorite things to eat and being able to make it myself felt like a huge accomplishment. If you can read the back of a box, you can make mac ‘n cheese. The same thing is true for making your own laundry detergent. If you can read this blog post, then you can save lots of money and DIY this household staple.
Seriously, the cost savings are what got me into doing this. It’s probably healthier or greener too. Great. All I really cared about was saving my hard earned pennies. Of course, prices vary by location, but previously I was buying the cheapest, fragrance-free detergent that Wal-Mart had to offer. This cost me about .13 per load or $20 per year (for reference, I usually do 2-3 loads of laundry per week). My homemade laundry detergent costs me less than a penny per load! I almost feel like I’m getting paid to do laundry. Almost.
Here is everything you need to buy to get started! A box of Borax, a box of Super Washing Soda, a bar of Fels-Naptha, and a five-gallon bucket. I found all of the soaps at the end of the laundry detergent aisle and the bucket in the painting/home improvement department. Note: make sure you get a five-gallon bucket with a lid. Made that mistake once and tin foil just doesn’t quite pack the punch that a genuine plastic lid does. Especially when you try to move your very full bucket to another room of the house. Consider that floor sloshed.
Am I the only one that thinks Fels-Naptha soap smells amazing? My favorite part of the detergent making process is grating the soap. It is firmer and easier to grate than cheese and doesn’t melt in your hand like butter. If you were wondering what the mac ‘n cheese analogy had to do with anything, you’re about to find out.
Trust me, it isn’t as tasty as it looks. Once you’ve grated the bar of soap, add it to a large stockpot with four cups of hot water (doesn’t have to be boiling – just hot from the tap) and stir it together on low heat until the soap is completely dissolved.
See? Just like mac ‘n cheese! Hot water, noodles, and one pot.
Once the soap is melted, fill the five-gallon bucket halfway with hot water. No need to be precise here – just eyeball it. Now pour in the melted soap, a cup of Super Washing Soda, and a 1/2 cup of Borax. Stir it all around until everything is combined.
Finally, fill the bucket the rest of the way full with hot tap water, give it a quick stir, cover it with the lid, and let it sit overnight. Tada! Five gallons of laundry detergent concentrate! Yes, this recipe will actually make 10 GALLONS of laundry detergent. The fact that I don’t have to make it very often is one of the reasons I love this recipe so much. As quick and easy as it is, I have other things I’d rather be doing with my time.
To dilute for use, just stir the concentrate (especially the first time! It will gel and rise to the top and that is normal.) and fill a handy pouring-friendly container of your choice half full. Fill the other half with water and shake well. If you want to give your detergent an extra zing of cleansing power and olfactory delight, you can add a few drops of essential oils! I used lemon essential oil on this last batch and it smelled heavenly. Other oils that would be great to try are lavender or melaleuca. Although the essential oils will make your detergent smell amazing, I haven’t noticed a scent on my clean clothes (which is how I prefer it).
To measure out my detergent, I just saved the measuring lid from an old store-bought detergent and fill it up almost all the way (about a 1/2 cup). This homemade detergent works just as well as any store-bought product I’d ever used, for way less money. Your first batch will incur the most up-front cost (probably about the same as buying one regular store-bought detergent) because you have to get the bucket and big boxes of soap. After that, though, the only thing you’ll have to buy for each recipe is the bar of Fels-Naptha! Cost: $1. Just make sure you store your Super Washing Soda and Borax in sealed containers till the next batch so they don’t dry out and clump together. Obviously it completely depends on how many loads of laundry you do a week, but my first batch of homemade detergent lasted me TWO YEARS! That’s over 700 days of not thinking about buying or making or spending money on laundry detergent.
Give it a try! If you can measure and stir, you can make this detergent. And I’m assuming if you figured out how to get onto the interwebs and read this blog, then you can do those two things with ease.
Have you ever made your own laundry detergent? What are some ways you DIY around the house to save money?
*This simple recipe is not of my own creation – my original inspiration was a handwritten recipe card from a friend which she copied from here.
- 1 bar Fels-Naptha soap
- 1 cup Super Washing Soda
- 1/2 cup Borax
- lots of hot tap water
- five-gallon bucket with lid
- optional: a few drops of essential oils
- Grate bar of Fels-Naptha soap with cheese grater and add to stockpot with four cups of hot tap water.
- On low heat, stir until soap is dissolved.
- Fill five-gallon bucket halfway with hot tap water, add melted soap and remaining ingredients, and stir until combined.
- Fill bucket the rest of the way full with hot tap water and stir to combine.
- Let sit overnight and stir before using.
- To dilute, fill empty container half full with laundry detergent concentrate and half full with water. Add essential oils, if desired. Shake well to combine and use about 1/2 cup detergent per load.