Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WFMW: Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have been making my own laundry detergent for a while now...wanna see?

Here's what you'll need:
  • Hot water
  • 1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda)
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 1 bar of soap (I used Fels-Naptha, which is a laundry soap and stronger soap than what you would bathe with)
These items can be found on the laundry aisle of most grocery stores, and usually they are on the top shelf.

Why, yes, I had already crumpled the empty wrapper before I thought to take the picture.

Grate the bar of soap.

I have asthma and grate the soap outside to minimize problems with the scent. I have far fewer problems with homemade laundry detergent than I do with store bought. However, I still have to make the laundry detergent on a day when I can have the windows open.

Add the soap shavings to a large saucepan with hot water (about 4 cups or more). Stir over medium-low heat until it dissolves and is melted completely.

Carefully pour the soap mixture into a 5 gallon bucket and add the 1 cup of washing soda and the 1/2 cup of Borax.  Add a few gallons of hot water, too, until the bucket is about half full.

Stir well until all powder is dissolved.

Fill the 5 gallon bucket with more hot water and mix well. 

Cover the bucket and let it sit overnight to gel.

I do not have a lid for our 5 gallon bucket, so I made one with plastic wrap and shoestrings. If I had a younger child or animals who might be in danger of falling into the soap, I would use an actual lid and/or move the bucket out of reach (for instance, on top of our freezer in the garage).

After the laundry detergent has cooled, it will have a strange, watery gel-like consistency--some have described it as looking like egg drop soup. Stir this well, and then you can leave the detergent in the 5 gallon bucket (be sure to stir before use) or transfer it to empty store bought laundry detergent bottles.

Use a handy-dandy scoop to transfer the detergent into smaller containers...a milk jug, of course.

Be sure to pull out the removable spout in the laundry detergent bottles to make filling the bottles much easier! The milk jug funnel will fit nicely and the spout is easy to replace on the laundry detergent bottle.

I do this step outside but forgot to take a picture at the time. Between the funnel and the scoop, filling your empty containers is a breeze even if you have no one to help you!

Here's where the recipes you find online differ dramatically--how much to use? I have seen everything from 1/4-cup to 1 cup per load. What works for me is to use 1/2-cup of this laundry detergent per load, mixing well before each use. However, I have had better results (and have seen other recipes that do this extra step) diluting it with half water and half detergent before using it and then using 1 cup of the diluted laundry detergent.

I don't have the space (or, obviously, a proper lid for the 5 gallon bucket) to keep the diluted detergent on hand, so I dilute it as I need to. I fill my storage detergent bottles with the undiluted detergent,

Storage containers

and dilute the detergent into another bottle that is ready to use. To make this step less problematic, I have my laundry detergent bottle marked at the halfway point to show how much detergent to pour into the bottle, and then a line marked at the top to show how much water to add. Measuring for this step ensures you don't have to measure every time you need to dilute the detergent. 

Pay no attention to the level of the detergent.  This is just to show the lines I've marked on the bottle.  :)

Shake well before using.  I use 1 cup of the diluted detergent per large load.  I measured and found that 1/2 cup of water mostly fills the cap of the laundry detergent bottle I use, so I use two capfuls.  For stains, I pour some of the laundry detergent directly onto the clothing and rub the detergent in a bit before adding the clothing to a load in the washing machine.  Fels Naptha is the original "stain stick," and I've found this to be very effective.

The washing soda and Borax last for a few batches of this laundry detergent, so a $1 bar of Fels Naptha is my only expense for the next few batches.  Inexpensive laundry detergent (and a scent that does not cause asthma symptoms for me)?  That works for me!

P.S.  To brighten your whites, since store bought laundry detergents have ingredients that do this step for you, add Oxi-Clean (follow the directions) or vinegar (during the rinse cycle) to the load.

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