I’ve been making my own eco & baby friendly laundry soap on the cheap for quite some time now – you may remember my post back in 2009 (though the pictures are inexplicably broken, sorry). The recipe couldn’t be simpler:
- 1 bar soap: I use Ivory, but you can also use Fels Naptha or a castile soap.
- 1 cup Borax
- 1 cup Washing soda (NOT baking soda!)
So the yield is about 3 cups and you get 24 loads from that, at 1/8 cup (2 tbsp) per load. The cost is maybe about $3-5 depending on the kind of soap you buy and whether you find the powders in bulk. Preeeeeeetty good, I thought!
Thus I’ve never been interested in making liquid detergent. It seemed a lot of extra work for no additional reward – I mean I’ve already grated up the soap in my food processor, why then would I boil it, mix it, leave it over night and then restir it, etc etc etc?
Until I read this blog post on the liquid stuff over at The Thrifty Mama, and she did some of the math for me. I realized that sure, she used 1 full cup while I used 2 tablespoons… but even so, she was getting way, way more mileage out of her soap than I was. Because for the same 1 bar of soap… she was getting 80 loads. Eighty! Time to roll up my sleeves.
The recipe linked above is a good one, but I didn’t want 5 gallons of detergent sitting around (nor did I have a 5 gallon bucket). So I made some changes in order to end up with a 3 gallon concentrate, from which I will use 1/2 cup per load.
TIP: keep an old milk jug on hand for easy, quick measuring of full gallons of water.
Get 1 gallon of water boiling or simmering. Grate your single bar of soap into it and let it melt. Stir it around. Don’t let it boil over! It shouldn’t be that hot.
Next, gently pour in your 1 cup washing soda and stir… then your Borax.
Thrifty Mama says she got a bubbling reaction here, but I did not.
It will start looking kind of gelatinous or a little goopy, in a glycerin-y kind of way.
Then fill your gallon jug with tap water, hot as you’ve got, and pour it into your storage vessel. Pour the contents of your soup pot into that and mix them up.
Wait! Check first to make sure your storage vessel doesn’t have a Big Damn Hole in the bottom, causing you to essentially pour out two gallons of laundry super-concentrate out all over your kitchen floor. Don’t ask how I know this. Just thank me.
No Big Damn Hole? OK good. Time for essential oil, if you’re using it. ThriftyMama said 35 drops, which measured out to about 2 mL. I used twice that, and my detergent smells heavenly but there is NO scent left on the clothes once they’ve been through a full cycle. My advice? Skip the expensive essential oils if you’re tight on cash, as they don’t do much. (There might be more fragrance if the clothes were line dried, but currently it’s 20 degrees outside…). Mix, mix, mix. Don’t splash yourself.
Fill your gallon jug with hot tap water for the third time, mix it up, and set your storage vessel aside to cool overnight and let the magic happen.
In the morning, it will look and feel just like jello! Gross, colorless, fragrant jello. Use an immersion blender or a freaking huge whisk to quickly liquidize it again, and then pour some of it into an old, empty detergent bottle.
(That label – which I think came out very well – has been thoroughly modpodged to make it watertight, so I can wipe down this bottle with ease when it gets crusty).
Now run your first load of laundry with 1/2 cup of this detergent, and see how clean your clothes are. And comment below to let me know if you smelled your essential oils afterwards. Could have been my oils were too old, or something…? Who knows.
Then skip the dryer sheets – use a big wad of aluminum foil instead. And use it over and over and recycle it when it starts to crumble. No static, no plastic, and so much cheaper!
I do believe the detergent could re-solidify over time; so be careful to jiggle and shake your detergent bottle before each load.