Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Laundry Detergent Experiment

Yesterday I decided to play chemist for the day and create our own laundry detergent from scratch.  Since we need to cut back on the amount of money going out of our house, this seemed like a logical way to save some cash (since we do a lot of laundry with five people!).  I have seen and heard about people doing this, but had just never taken the time to figure it out for myself.  I suppose it seemed complicated, but guess's not.  Now that I have 7 hours a day without my two five year olds around, I used part of  my afternoon channeling my inner mad scientist.  Here's how it all went down:
First, I gathered all my supplies.  You will need a large bucket (with a lid), borax, washing soda, a bar of soap (we've used Dial since, well forever and to me its scent is the epitome of "squeaky clean" but you can use whatever kind you like!), a pot to cook the soap in, a cheese grater, and some measuring cups. That's it!
By the way, I found the borax and soap at Target, but had to go to three more grocery stores before I located the washing soda.  For you local folk, I got it at Crest, but I also hear that Homeland carries it as well.  Once you've gathered everything together, put four cups of water on the stove and bring it to a boil.

While waiting for the water to boil, use your cheese grater to grate the bar of soap into little bits.  I used Dial Gold soap, so it actually looks like cheese.  But again, you can use whatever kind of soap you want. 

Next drop your "soap cheese" bits into the pot of boiling water.  I did mine in little batches because I had read that was helpful.  I suppose you could just throw them all in at once though if you're in a hurry.  Once they are in, stir them occasionally until they are all melted.  This took about five minutes and I kept the water at a rolling boil.

It's all melted now.  Mmmmm....soap soup.

Next fill your bucket with three gallons of water.  Helpful hint:  16 cups = 1 gallon!

To the water add your "soap soup", 1 cup of washing soda, and 1/2 cup of borax.  Give it a good stir, put the lid on, and let it sit for 24 hours.

Here it is 24 hours later.  You can't tell from the photo, but it has a jelly-like consistency which is kind of gross.  Mike says it looks like a tub of lard and to be honest it really does.  But, that is ok!  It still washes your clothes just fine.  I did my first load this morning. 

The recipe I used for liquid laundry soap says to use 1 cup per load for top loading washing machines and 1/4 cup per load for High Efficiency front loading washers.  My washing machine and dryer are 10 years old and still alive and kicking.  I'm old school like that. Here I just used the lid to an old laundry detergent bottle to measure, but I think I'm just going to leave a 1 cup measuring scoop in the bucket. 

Here are some pajama pants fresh out of the wash.  They smell and look clean, but the scent is very subtle.  If you are looking for a strong Tide or Gain scent, it probably won't happen.  So that's it!  It was a fun adventure and one that I had been wanting to try. 

The Cost Breakdown
Bucket from Home Depot: $3.50
Washing Soda:  $2.79
Borax:  $2.99
3 Pack of Dial:  $1.77
Total:  $10.96

Each 3 gallon bucket should yield about 48 loads of laundry or more.  I hope this really saves us a little money in the long run.  If you are interested in making your own soap, feel free to follow my directions or just google "homemade laundry soap" and you'll get tons of different recipes.  You can also make a powder detergent as well.  If you try it, let me know how it goes! 
Lucas loves to "play" the bucket like a drum.  So it doubles as a child's toy as well. Score!


Karen said...

I am super excited that you did this! Like I said on FB, I've been toying with the idea but just not jumped in yet. I know why I thought 48 loads seemed low to me now too...I have an HE machine so I would get 192 loads out of that bucket. You might still trying using like a 1/2 cup for your loads and see how clean the clothes come out. One of the biggest unknowns about laundry is that you don't need as much soap as the bottle recommends. Go you for being frugal and old-fashioned-home-maker-y!!!

affectioknit said...

We make our own laundry detergent too - and we love it!

Kristen said...

This is great! I've always wanted to try this but haven't gotten around to it yet. This is a great step-by-step!