Crafty Cleaning with Homemade Detergent — Part 1

It may be a stretch considering homemade laundry detergent a  craft, but I’ll do it anyway.  Besides, saving money on laundry detergent means being better able to justify new crafting supplies.  Everything’s blissfully interconnected.

Thumbnail image for homemade_powder_detergent.JPGApparently making this detergent was all the rage about a year ago; many blogs documented the effort, with comments to boot.  You can always count on awesome frugal tips from Simple Dollar, and they had the recipe I was going to follow first.  However, this recipe involved boiling down the soap (“rebatching,” I hear it’s called) and ending up with a bucket of slime.  Sounds fun, but it also sounds like a weekend project for the family.  I was out of laundry detergent and needed it quickly.  Thus, a little more searching, and I found this powdered recipe at Modern Cottage.  They also have a monetary breakdown.

Ingredients — 1 cup soda, 1 cup borax, 1 bar soap, grated . . . that’s it.  I was already using the borax and/or soda to give my detergent a boost.  I was also already using the vinegar recommended for the rinse cycle; it helps remove extra soap, and I also learned it reduces static.  This is good to know.

As you can tell, it fits into the 32oz. yogurt container.  I sacrificed a measuring spoon to scoop it out since you only use 1 tablespoon, 2 if it’s really dirty, per load.  This affirms what I’ve learned in the past few months.  Too much soap is bad on your machine.  We like suds.  Apparently they make us feel better about cleanliness, but our machines and our clothes don’t need them.  Also, we have hard water (per the lady who really wanted us to buy a water filter).  The hard water makes us use more soap throughout the house in general.

Along with this, I cut out using the dryer sheets.  This is hard for us because we like our Bounce-fresh clothes.  They smell “good.”  However, we all have dry, sensitive, eczema-prone skin, and I’m hearing that fabric softeners in general are just ungodfully bad for you.  (Yes, I think I’m using a non-word!)  As I mentioned, I’ve been using vinegar to rinse (mainly since front-loaders are prone to mildew clothes quickly), but it also helps to soften the clothes a bit.  So, we’re about to find out how this works for us since I’ve almost made it through a full cycle of clothes — remember, a family of six.  My thoughts are that it might take a couple of washes to get to neutral, anyway.

I made this a multi-part post because, like I said above, it may take a few washes in this to truly see how it works.  Here are a few other of my initial thoughts.

  • It feels good to know I’m being resourceful and more ecological.
  • There are no suds in the front of the machine.
  • The clothes don’t have a perfume-smell but still smell clean.
  • Synthetic clothes will just be full of static if dried in the dryer.  (I hear that fleece lasts longer when hung to dry, and less dryer use=smaller carbon footprint.)
  • Most recipes call for washing soda, but all I have is the baking soda.  I may try to order some washing soda and see how that’s different.  Other folks have used baking soda, too, and it works for them.  (*If you can’t find soaps locally and decide to buy soaps on-line, make sure you search to find the best price.  If you find them locally, let me know where!)
  • Most recipes call for Fels Naptha soap.  I couldn’t find that locally, either, so I started  with Ivory.
  • My Ivory soap was soft/moist and wasn’t grating well, so I used half of it and half of a bar of castille soap we had on hand.  Make sure the soap is dry before grating . . . and watch your hand.  I still have scabs on my thumb knuckle.
  • Make sure not to inhale the borax.  Probably a main plus to the slimy version is that there isn’t the risk of inhaling the borax.  If you’re like me and shake it to mix it in the end, be sure to let settle before taking the lid off.
  • I’m curious to see how having a water filter will affect the performance. I’ll let you know after we get one (thank you in advance, US government).

Overall, I like this blend so far.  I’ve used it since Friday and have about a third of it left.  I pretty much keep the machine going, losing count of how many loads per day that I do.  In subsequent posts, I’ll let you know how this continues to work for us, what the slimy mixing experience is like, and how the powder/gel compares/contrasts.

Hope this helps.  Let me know how it works for you.

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  1. This first batch of detergent lasted exactly one week, diaper wash included.
    I like it thus far. Again, it was super easy to make when we ran out. Hardest part is grating the soap. I’m thinking of buying a parmesan grinder with the turning handle like the restaurants have and dedicating it to soap. Before I make that investment, though, I’m going to wait a couple of more weeks.
    I’ve heard this detergent can make whites look grey. Washing with a regular detergent might give them a lift.
    I liked many of the comments on the disdressed blog — . She had a detergent post, too.
    Static is an issue. Alas, I succombed to a dryer sheet yesterday and today. I guess I’m having to be weaned from the Bounce-freshness.

  2. After week two of using this mixture, I’m not sure I’m a fan of it for diaper-washing. My current load is out on the line this sunny day for some sun-bleaching. If I had done a little more research, I would have realized why! (along with many others, I’m sure) has great info on laundering diapers with the explanation of why you should just go ahead and use the detergent.
    This same argument, however, makes me wonder about the whole homemade detergent debate. I’ll side with the lady who said she used the homemade stuff most the time, using purchased detergent to give everything a boost. One month on, one month off, maybe?

  3. Also, today I found the washing soda at our neighborhood grocery store (Harps), in the laundry isle, right next to their borax. I don’t know how I missed it the first time! I’s less than $3 for the soda.
    FYI: borax is cheaper at Target than at Harps but only by less than a dollar.