Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent and Other Musings

Those of you who know me really well know how much I love to save money by making something at home, rather than going to the store to buy it.  I also tend to have a problem with dermatitis from time to time, and the cheaper the detergent, the more likely I am to break out in hives.  I also cringe every time I pull a box of detergent off the grocery store shelf and see that I am going to have to pay big bucks to wash my clothes.  I'm all for a company making a profit, but the price of laundry, dishwasher, and dish soap is ridiculous these days.  It's just SOAP, people!  Not gasoline or milk!  Okay, end of rant, let me get down to the nitty gritty.

I did about a week's worth of research and put a few recipes together to get the results that I wanted.  Here is a list of the ingredients you will need for homemade laundry detergent:

1 Box Washing Soda (I found this in Super Walmart in the laundry detergent section)
1 Box Borax (found it right next to the washing soda!)
1 Bar of Soap (my niece and I chose "Dove" Cucumber Melon scent)

Now, here are the tools you'll need:

Cheese grater
Stock pot
Wire whisk
2 5-gallon plastic buckets with lids (I got mine at Lowe's)


Pour four cups of warm water into your stock pot and bring it to a full boil.  Once it's boiling, reduce to simmer.  Take your bar of soap and grate it completely with your cheese grater.  I put my grater and the soap on a paper plate to grate it.

Gettin' my grate on

Once your soap is completely grated up, start sprinkling it into the hot water, stirring with the whisk at the same time.  Stir until all of the soap is dissolved--it took about 5 minutes or so.

Soap on the water...
Don't worry about the suds!  That means it's working. :)

Take one of your 5 gallon buckets and fill it with three gallons of warm water.

I put a Sharpie marker line at 3 gallons so I don't have to measure next time

Add in 1 CUP of washing soda, 1/2 CUP Borax, and your soap mixture from the stock pot.  Use the whisk to stir the entire mixture for a few minutes.  Put the lid on the bucket and let it sit for about 24 hours.

The next day, remove the lid and give it a good stir.  You may have "goopy" soap instead of liquid.  It depends on what kind of soap you use.  Since I used Dove, mine was goopy.  However, I'm still able to scoop it out of the bucket and pour it into the washer.

I tried different amounts to see which amount would work best.  I guess it would also depend on how hard or soft your water is.  Ours is hard so about a cup and a half seemed to get the best results.  For my cleanliness test load, I put in a moldy towel, a doormat, one of Hub's grungy shirts, and some of Jeremy's nasty socks.  All came out nice and clean.  Also, the dried clothes smell awesome--all cucumber-melony!

If you have a baby, you could probably use Ivory or some sort of hypo-allergenic soap instead.  With all the soaps that are out there, the possibilities are endless!  I'm thinking of doing a batch with Irish Spring for Hubs and the boy.  Maybe the boy will lay off the Axe deodorant body spray a little bit if his clothes smell "manly."

The reason I recommend having two buckets is so that you can make another batch right before the current batch runs out.  This way, you're always going to have detergent on hand.

Now, for the cost comparison:

Borax - $4.99
Washing Soda - $2.49
Bar of Soap - $.75 (I had a coupon for save $1 off a two-pack)
5-gallon bucket - $2.78

It all adds up to:  $11.01  It took me about 10 minutes to grate the soap and about 10 minutes to actually mix up the detergent.  The box of Borax holds 76 oz., or  approximately 9 and a half cups, while the box of washing soda holds 55 oz, or approximately 6 and a half cups.  The mixture (not the whole boxes of Borax and washing soda, but rather the recipe above) made about 3.5 gallons of laundry detergent.  There are 32 cups to a gallon so I'll probably get about 100 loads out of my bucket. 

From what I can see, it looks like I'll be able to make about six buckets out of what I bought.  That's 600 loads of laundry for $11.01!!!  I used to pay about $15 for a big box of Gain that gave me 60 loads worth of detergent.  This is literally 10 times cheaper.  I'm definitely a convert now!  For those of you who try this, please leave your results in the comment section.  I'd love to see what kinds of detergent you can come up with.

Other musings from the homestead...

My sunflowers are at least 8' tall now and so pretty

Had to take a picture of my duckies running toward me during their first thunderstorm.  They were so scared!

It's that time of the year when bees tend to get mites.  The cure?  Pouring powdered sugar over them.  Apparently, it smothers the mites and the bees also eat the sugar off of each other, killing the mites as well. 

Sugar, it's what's for dinner.

These Russian bees are little bit more aggressive than our gentle Italian bees were.  Good thing Hubs is wearing his full beekeeper suit!