The person who said there are only two sure things in life—death and taxes—must have had a maid. The rest of us know there’s a third: dirty laundry. For tips on how to combat it, HOMEGROWN style, read on.
Homemade laundry detergent is simple to make, requiring only a few minutes of your time and just as few ingredients. And, according to the HOMEGROWN folks who swear by it, homemade detergent works just as well as its commercial counterparts—and for a fraction of the cost. (Tidbitsandstuff.com calculated the cost of each load of laundry using its homemade liquid detergent at $0.007; that’s 110 loads for $1.11.)
LIQUID VERSUS POWDERED
You can make both liquid and powdered detergent at home. Liquid takes a little longer to prepare (see Aleah’s recipe below), but, otherwise, whichever method you choose is really a matter of preference. You can add essential oils or fragrances to either variety for a personalized scent, and both methods are low-suds, meaning they’re safe for high-efficiency washing machines, or those that use less water than top-loading models. Bonus: Making your own fabric softener is as easy as adding a cup of white vinegar. Ready to get started? Check out the recipes and resources below.
FROM HOMEGROWN: ALEAH’S LIQUID LAUNDRY DETERGENT RECIPE
“I cobbled this particular recipe together from various sources across the web,” HOMEGROWN member Aleah writes (read her original post here). “I've been making my own for so long that the process has evolved a bit to suit me.”
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
>> Grater or food processor outfitted with a grating disk
>> Smallish pot
>> Something that can hold a good amount of liquid and has a pouring spout (I use a plastic juice pitcher)
>> Large spoon
>> Something to store your soap in (I reuse a laundry soap dispenser that originally held the store-bought variety. It is 1.36 gallons, so all of the measurements below work well with that size. If your container is a different size, you'll need to adjust your measurements accordingly.)
>> 1/3 bar castile soap, grated (I use Kirk's)
>> 1/2 cup Arm & Hammer washing soda
>> 1/2 cup borax*
>> Essential oil (optional)
* If the Environmental Working Group’s report on borax led you to avoid the stuff, you can substitute baking soda in this recipe, as well as in those below.
WHAT TO DO
"First, you need to grate the bar of soap into a pot," Aleah writes. "I generally sit in front of the TV and watch something ridiculously mind-numbing during this process, but if you're better with time management than I, you might find something more productive to do. Once the soap is grated, add enough water to cover and then a bit more for good measure and put it on the stove to simmer. You'll let it simmer until all of the soap dissolves.
"Meanwhile, fill a teakettle and let it boil. While you're waiting for the kettle to boil and for your soap in the pot to dissolve, you'll add 1/2 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup borax* to your plastic pitcher. Once the soap in the pot has dissolved and the water in the kettle is boiling, add both to the pitcher. Stir with your big spoon until all of the washing soda and the borax* have become one with the liquid.
"Place the funnel in the mouth of your soap-storage container. Pour in the concoction from the pitcher, then add warm water from the tap until full. At this point, you can add a few drops of essential oil, if desired. I use lavender or lemon. The lemon seems to work a bit better, as far as smell staying power. Then put the lid on the storage container and give it a good, solid shake. It works best if you give it a few hours to set up, but I've used it right away plenty of times, and my laundry has never complained.
"And if, like me, you don't use dryer sheets, you can wait until the rinse cycle and add a cup of white vinegar. Works like a charm, promise."
• HOMEGROWN member Lynda recommends using a food processor outfitted with a grating disk instead of grating the bar soap by hand. She also suggests running a cycle using 2 cups of white vinegar once a month to clean any hard-water deposits from the washing machine.
• When Shellie asked for advice on using her food processor to grate Fels-Naptha, an especially hard soap, she got some good answers from fellow HOMEGROWN DIYers. In the same discussion, Juli recommends using softer, homemade cold-process lye soap—or none at all. She also uses baking soda as a softener to combat her area’s hard well water.
FROM HOMEGROWN: MATT’S POWDERED LAUNDRY DETERGENT RECIPE
Matt adapted his recipe from myearthgarden.com. “I, too, go the food processor route,” Matt says. “Obviously, the best part is blowing up a soap bar in the microwave!”
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
2 cups borax*
2 cups washing soda
1 regular-sized bar of soap
WHAT TO DO
Microwave your bar of soap for 90 seconds. (“Now, it can, at times, go a little crazy, but the good news is that it is soap, so cleaning it up will just leave your microwave sparkling inside,” writes Michael Nolan of My Earth Garden.”) Microwaving leaves the soap dry and brittle, which is what you want. Add your nuked soap fluff, along with the borax* and washing soda, to a blender or food processor and process on medium speed until the mixture reaches a powdered consistency and is thoroughly combined. Use 2 Tbsp per load of laundry; yields 32 loads.
THE BEST FROM THE REST OF THE WEB
• Suddenly Frugal shares a recipe for powdered laundry detergent, complete with a love song of sorts to Fels-Naptha soap.
• Tidbits and Stuff provides a thorough cost breakdown, as well as a few tips for high-efficiency washers.
• Want a few more variations on the theme? Tipnut shares ten different recipes for homemade laundry soap.
• And visual learners can see the step-by-step process unfold in the video below, courtesy of livingonadime.com:
Got a question? Some dirty laundry to air? Post it below and keep the conversation rolling! For more household tips from HOMEGROWN folks, you might consider joining the Homemade Cosmetics or Earth Mamas and Papas groups. And check out DIY recipes for dish soap and sunscreen—just two of the oodles of projects you can plant, grow, cook, preserve, make, build, and grate in the HOMEGROWN 101 archive.
News about the hazards of Borax is kind of a bummer. EWG recommends replacing Borax with baking soda for a safer DIY laundry detergent.
I've just got to say...that EWG article is very misleading if you take it at face value. As with all chemicals in any household...they should be kept out of the reach of children. But borax? Well yes, keep it away from children, limit their exposure to any chemical that might be around the house...
I have read the entire EPA health safety report that EWG is referencing (I believe it's the same report) and the results seem to have been blown way out of proportion.
The EPA report which actually conducted clinical trials reports that while borax may be a skin irritant, it does not absorb through the skin...they actually took the pure substance and rubbed very large quantities on peoples skin...and it MAY be an irritant. But who actually rubs borax all over themselves.
With respect to the male-reproductive system issues that were stated...I would have to eat, actually purposely swallow over a tablespoon of borax a day for 3 months for there to be a remote possibility of a problem.
As a guy who needs his junk to work at some future date...I am not worried. I shall continue to use borax making silly putty, slime, gak, toilet cleaner, laundry detergent...but I'll make sure to wash my hands when I am done.