I’ve been wanting to switch to homemade detergents and cleansers for a long time. Doing so will reduce exposure to harmful, caustic chemicals, reduce my packaging, save a little money, and make me proud. Plus, I am always floored by the high cost of laundry detergent and feel that it shouldn’t be necessary to spend so much money on soap.
I was surprised and pleased that the basic laundry detergent recipe requires only three ingredients – a bar of soap, washing soda and borax. I found all three ingredients at my local major grocery store. I happen to have emptied my last bottle of laundry soap this morning, so I’m just going to reuse the sturdy container.
I found a few recipes online and ended up making this one (with a few alterations):
Homemade Laundry Soap
1/3 bar Fels Naptha, or 1 full bar of Ivory, or 1 full bar Velvet Pure Soap
½ cup washing soda (sodium carbonate/soda ash -NOT the same as baking soda which is sodium bicarbonate)
½ cup borax powder (sodium borate)
1 oz essential oil (optional)
1 large pot, or a sauce pan and a large bucket
I wore gloves when I prepared the solution. Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan or really large pot. Add 10 cups water and heat it until the soap melts. Remove from heat. Add the washing soda, borax, and essential oil (if desired) and stir until dissolved. (If using a bucket, transfer your soap mixture into the bucket). Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel slightly.
Using ½ cup per load, the recipe will yield enough for 60 laundry loads. The price per load is under $.03. Compared to my purchased Eco friendly detergent, which was $8.99 for 104 loads, this formula can yield the same number of loads for $2.83. It took me only 20 minutes to prepare the large batch.
Looking at it now, I can use 1/4 cup per load if I use 1/2 the amount of water that the recipe calls for – I will try this next time. (Addendum, 4/24/08: This DOES NOT work. Using 1/2 the water made the soap into a heavy gel. I had to add the rest of the water and break up the gel with a hand mixer!)