Sunday, June 3, 2012

DIY: Laundry Detergent

So as I've gotten older, I've gained a new appreciation for DIY. Aside from the fact that most of the time it's budget friendly, it's also really fun to do many DIY projects! I've been doing DIY things little by little, but I think my biggest accomplishment yet was making my own laundry detergent! Yes, just like most of my friends and family they immediately thought I was crazy, BUT trust me, it's soooooo easy! The more people saw me use it, the more they were intrigued by my newest project. So I just decided to share it with all of you! I searched low and high for many variations of making it and compiled a recipe that suits my needs the most. FYI all the ingredients are fairly consistent from recipe to recipe, but you can simply adjust the amount you add of each ingredient. I live in Las Vegas, NV where are water is really hard so I adjusted the recipe to compensate. I also added these specific measurements because Mahal works for a tire company where his uniform gets filthy and JAM is a typical 5 year old who can't seem to keep his clothes clean so I wanted something strong to get all that nastiness out. Let's get started!


  • Borax
  • Super Washing Soda (not Baking Soda)
  • a Bar of Fels Naptha
  • Cheese Grater
  • 5 Gallon bucket
  • Measuring cups
  • A Pot
  • Spoon with Holes (optional)
  • Funnel (optional)
  • Beverage Dispenser, Old Laundry Container, etc.
1. Grate bar of Fels Naptha and add it to the pot.
2. Add 1 quart (4 cups) of water to the pot, and melt the soap on low/medium heat.

3. Add melted soap mixture to the 5 gallon bucket.

4. Fill 5 gallon bucket with water halfway.

5. Add 2 cups of Borax to the 5 gallon bucket.
6. Add 2 cups of Super Washing Soda to the 5 gallon bucket and stir the mixture thoroughly.
7. Fill the 5 gallon bucket all the way with water leaving enough room for the lid so it doesn't spill over, and stir again.

8. Cover the bucket with the lid or with cling wrap and let it sit overnight (24 hours).

9. In the morning, stir the detergent some more, breaking up the gelatin clumps at the top (the fenestrated spoon helps with that).

10. Put in desired container.

When I'm done I just transfer it to my old 1.17 US GAL container from my last store bought detergent that I had for easier dispensing, but you can use any container readily available (ie. beverage dispenser with a spout, old water or milk jug, juice bottle with a cap, etc.). I bought all the "equipment" from the dollar store, and all the dry ingredients and 5 gallon bucket from Walmart. I had most of the "equipment" already at home, but I wanted to have separate utensils specifically for this. I found the dry ingredients in the same aisle as the cleaning products and baking soda, not the laundry detergent. The ingredients as a total cost me about $8 and the 5 gallon bucket was about $3 with the lid sold separately making it about $4, but you can also use saran wrap as a cover as well. This is fairly cheap considering I made a 5 gallon batch and I still have enough ingredients to probably make 2 more batches! You can tell already by that how much money this will save you if you used to buy the $15- $20 detergents like me. The consistency of the detergent varies, but it's OK if it comes out very fluid. It will still get the job done. Make sure to break up those gelatin clumps every time you refill you dispensing container, especially if you use one with a spout to make sure it goes through the spout and not clog it.

As you can see this recipe is for liquid laundry detergent since this is what I prefer, but you can make the powder detergent as well by throwing all the dry ingredients in a food processor to finely grate it and use it as you normally would when doing your laundry. Regardless, both types are safe for your HE front-loading washers, since this is a typical question I get. Now a little FYI, soap suds DOES NOT equal cleanliness!! You may open your washer during the rinse cycle or if you have those front load washers where you can see inside, you will notice that this detergent isn't very sudsy. Again, this DOES NOT mean your clothes aren't getting cleaned. It just means that it doesn't have all those extra additives and chemicals to make it super sudsy, but I assure you that your clothes are gonna end up clean, if not cleaner than using the store bought, name brand detergents. Also, since it doesn't have all those extra additives, this homemade detergent just contains the necessary cleaning agents for your laundry so you only need to use about 1 CUP of this detergent. I'm notorious for overusing detergent. Before when I would do my laundry, it came with those little cups that said fill to line #1 for small/normal loads and line #2 for larger/soiled loads....blah blah blah, but the second line was only half of the actual cup and I never felt like that was enough. I always filled the detergent to the top of the cup regardless of the type of load and would sometimes add 2 full cups to Mahal's load of work clothes to make sure it was clean and fresh. With this homemade detergent, this isn't necessary! Trust me. It's hard to break old habits but 1 CUP is all you need. I may add 1 1/2 cups to Mahal's work load sometimes (tee hee) but I try my best to use 1 cup of detergent (and 1 actually measuring cup full not the cup that comes with your detergent bottle naturally).

As a few little side notes, everyone knows that distilled vinegar can be used for soooo many things around the house. Another thing it can be used for is as a fabric softener. I personally use a half a cup of vinegar per load. The vinegar would be added during the rinse cycle in your washer NOT as a fabric softer replacement in your dryer. No worries, you clothes will not come out smelling like vinegar (I was worried about that too). Also, if you're like me, you like to have you clothes clean and smelling great out the wash. This homemade detergent has a natural "clean" smell to it (basically what the Fels Naptha smells like), but I wanted something more, something stronger. So, to solve this issue I learned that you can add ESSENTIAL oils to your homemade detergent to accomplish this. Do not add fragrance oils or anything else but ESSENTIAL oils to your detergent or else it will leave an oil residue or stain on you laundry. You can find this online or where I found it, at Whole Foods. My favorite scents are lavender and citrus! Just add about 20 drops to the container you use for dispensing your detergent. You can add more or less depending on how strong you want the scent to be. I've never tried to add it to my 5 gallon batch since it's easier to play around with the scent strength in your dispensing container.
So many of you have asked how long does the detergent last me and clearly it depends on how much laundry you use and how much detergent you add, but I can put it into a little bit of perspective for you. I do about 6-8 loads of laundry a week (yes, I know I said 6-8). I made this current batch of detergent about a month ago, and from the 5 gallons of detergent that this recipe makes I've only used a little less than half of the detergent! In other words, I've filled up my old 1.17 US GAL container I use for dispensing only twice so far, and I still have about a half a bucket of detergent left! However, I stick to only using 1 Cup of detergent per load. It feels so good when I run out of detergent in my container, and instead of running to the store to buy more, I just go to my bucket to refill!

Well, That's about it! If you have any questions feel free to ask! If you have other variations that work for you please share them below! Hope this recipe helps and saves you some moolah! Let me know how it turns out!

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