Domesticity: Homemade Laundry Detergent

Last time I posted a picture while making my homemade laundry detergent, I had lots of questions.  Therefore, I am blogging the process this time.  Personally, I only need to do this once every few months.  I've lived in this house since September 2011, and this is my third time making laundry soap...so you do the math.  But, I don't have lots of children, and I use towels more than once.  I tend to wash sheets once per week.  Just for a frame of reference.  I'm usually washing clothes for 2 people and 2 dogs, including one that sheds enough for 4 dogs.

For the record, I have nothing against store-bought soap...for the most part.  When I was still buying laundry soap, I only bought organic, earth-friendly products.  Yes, I'm one of those people, concerned with all the chemicals and hazardous materials in commercial products.  But I won't go into that here...much.  I will say that right before I made this the first time, I tried to go back to conventional, store-brand laundry detergent, to try to save money.  It was the most horrid acid green color I've ever seen, and the one load I washed with it had to be washed 2 more times with my organic detergent to get rid of the terrible chemical smell.  It's nothing personal if you like those scents, I just can't tolerate them.  Maybe I'm a brat.  It wouldn't be the first time I've heard that.  I ended up giving it away.

To start, you will need a large pot (large enough to hold a few gallons), a bar of soap, a grater, Borax, washing soda, a measuring cup, a stirring utensil, a funnel, tap water, and some empty containers.  Use whatever soap you would like.  Personally, I only use soap I would feel comfortable using on my skin, which is Mrs. Meyers basil scent, in this case.  I know people that use all sorts of brands...Ivory, Dial, whatever.  Use something you think smells good, because this is what your fragrance will come from.  The Borax and washing soda are both easy to purchase, usually at your local Walmart.  I have not had luck finding them at Target or any grocery stores in my area, but yours may be different.  They will both be located in the laundry aisle.  And yes, washing soda is different from baking soda.  But baking soda is not a bad thing to add to your laundry.  Depending on the price of your bar soap, the ingredients are very inexpensive, and they can be used for several batches, making the detergent very cost-efficient. 

There are many questions as to whether you can use your pot and utensils for other things after making the laundry detergent, and I say yes, as long as you feel good about your ingredients.  Other than my bar soap, my ingredients are the same as the homemade dishwasher detergent I made (that I hated, by the way), so I don't see a problem with it.  You may have another view, and that's fine.

Ok, to start, you will need to grate your soap.  I used half of an 8 oz. bar.  So that's 4 oz.

Then, you will need to gather your pot and empty containers.

Fill the pot with one gallon of water and add the grated soap.

Heat the water and soap until the soap dissolves.  Feel free to stir to help this along.

Once the soap dissolves, you will need to add 1 c. of Borax and 1 c. of washing soda.  Again, you may stir.

Allow this to come to a rolling boil, and let it boil for about 1 minute.

After it boils, remove the pot from the heat, and add about 1.5 gallons of cool water to the pot.  Stirring is, again, fine...even encouraged.
(the original recipe I followed called for just 1 additional gallon of water, but I found that it made a very lumpy, gelatinous detergent.  I prefer a more liquid detergent, much like you would purchase.)

At this point, I strayed from the traditional recipe a bit.  I chose to add a container of store-bought detergent.  I did this because I wanted a bit more scent, and more stain-fighting power.  **Note:  this detergent cleans and deodorizes clothes well, but it does not whiten or remove stains.  You will need to pre-treat stains and/or use whitening products (bleach, oxy-clean) for whites.

If you choose to add additional ingredients, add them to the pot of detergent, right after the cool water.  Stir well to combine everything.  My very large pot is quite full at this point.

Have your containers ready to be filled.  As you can see, my funnel is ready and waiting.  From previous experience, I have prepped the area with one of our microfiber dog towels, because the detergent is easy to spill or overflow, and even when you're being careful, the foam tends to cascade all over the floor.

Since this is a two-person operation (for me), I don't have pictures of the actual filling of the containers.  But as I said, foamy cascades are not uncommon.

And there you have it!

Your very own, homemade laundry detergent, set to cool in your very own little pantry.  Or at least that's where mine goes, because that's where the washer and dryer are.  Using the water and extra detergent I used, I ended up with over 3 gallons of laundry detergent. 

You certainly can use it right away, but it's best to give it 24 hours to congeal a bit.  As far as the containers, I just use the last laundry detergent container I bought and 2 gallon size distilled white vinegar bottles I washed out.  I go through quite a bit of white vinegar.  I use vinegar as fabric softener in my towels, and with my sheets...but I add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the vinegar for the sheets.  With clothes, I use organic fabric softener, because I love the scent and the softness.  I just can't give that up yet.  I've tried.

To use the laundry soap, again, it's really your preference.  In my front-load washer, I use around 1/4 c. for a normal load of laundry.  If it is a really dirty or large load, I might use 1/2 c.  For top-load washers, 1/2 c. should be just fine. 

I have issues with constantly spilling or splashing olive and other viscous oils on myself.  The best solution I have found to combat this problem is to add 1 Tbsp. of dishwashing soap (just my regular Seventh Generation dish soap) per gallon of laundry detergent.  So for myself, I added 3 Tbsp.  If the spill (or set-in stain) is particularly bad, I pre-treat with a drop of dish soap rubbed in to the oil spot, and it has always come out.  If you have a front loader HE machine like I do, this has not caused any sudsing problems, since it's such a small amount of dish soap. 

Any questions, I'll try my best to answer!


Lisa Bryant said...

THANK YOU!!! I'm giving this a shot this weekend!

andrea said...

Good!! It's really easy. A lot of people making it for the first few times get really caught up in the consistency...if it's not perfect the first time, just experiment next time! And use it anyway; it will still clean, no matter what it looks/feels like!

Debi Bolocofsky said...

I love making my own homemade laundry detergent. Your recipe looks great. Thanks so much for sharing at last Wednesday's Adorned From Above Link Party. This weeks party is live. The link to the party is
Can't wait to see you there.
Have a great week.

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