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Homemade Laundry Detergent

Image shows a large glass jar on a washing machine with homemade laundry detergent in it, next to a jug of vinegar and a small pumpkin.

Homemade laundry detergent sounds like a really big deal, but you’d be surprised by both how easy, and how effective it is.

Granted, it’s not Tide, but it’s still good stuff. Certainly as good as cheaper detergent brands.

I’ve been very happy with how my clothes and diapers are coming out. The stains come right out of the diapers, and while Garrett’s socks will never look the same after his trek through the compost pile, they don’t look half bad, either.

The kicker is that it’s so cheap. The Fels naphtha soap is the biggest expense at $0.97/bar. The other ingredients include borax, baking soda, and washing soda, all of which are usually available at large grocery stores.

Of course, if you’re like me and want to make it on the spur of the moment but don’t have washing soda around, you’ll be interested to know that you can very easily make washing soda from baking soda by baking it for 20-30 minutes. Check out this recipe for full details.

One thing I am disappointed about is that I still have to buy soap ( the fels naphtha) to put in it. I’d really like to make it completely from scratch to avoid it.

I’d been told, though I don’t remember where, that ivory soap could be substituted for the fels naphtha, so I tried that first, and it didn’t work at all. After two loads of laundry, I was pretty discouraged with my home laundry detergent and was ready to give up. Fortunately, my sister remembered that I’d been looking for fels naphtha and picked up a bar for me in case I hadn’t found it yet, so I added it. Ah, the manic ingredient.

So, want the recipe? Here ya go!

Homemade liquid laundry detergent

    1 bar of Fels Naptha soap, shaved
    4 cups of hot water to melt the soap
    3 gallons of hot water
    1 cup of borax
    2 cups of washing soda
    1 cup of baking soda
    1 large Rubbermaid container about 4-5 gallons in size

Grate the soap into a saucepan. You can use either a box grater or a food processor for this. I recommend you do not use whatever tool you use for grating soap with food. I was able to buy an extra food processor very inexpensively at a thrift store.

Add 4 cups of hot water to the pan.  Simmer on low until the soap melts completely into the water.

Add borax, washing soda, and baking soda to the hot water. Simmer on low until the mixture dissolves with the soap. If the mixture is not melting, add more water if needed.

Add 3 gallons of hot water to the large container. Add the mixture to the hot water. Mix with a large spoon until it completely dissolves.

Let it cool overnight. It will turn into a thick gel. Use one cup of this homemade laundry detergent per load of laundry.

I actually used half the amount of water called for and used 1/2 cup per load. It takes up less room that way.

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