Fresh-no pun intended- from the success of my liquid hand soap making I was anxious to try a recipe for homemade laundry detergent. My friend Amy, mother of five, has made her own detergent for years. She has given me the recipe twice. The second time I even got so far as to pick up the ingredients which have been sitting in my laundry room for a couple years now.
Naturally, I couldn’t find Amy’s notes when I wanted to start the project, but I remembered that Kendra at Sonoma Garden had written a post about her homemade laundry detergent. Hers is the recipe I used. It calls for Fels-Naptha soap, Borax and Washing Soda all things included in Amy’s recipe. I had also picked up a bottle of Dr. Bonner’s Liquid Castille Soap when shopping to make Amy’s soap. I was able to find a recipe that included Dr. Bonner’s here. It didn’t use the Fels-Naptha and was touted as a high-efficiency washer alternative.
I found all the ingredients for this detergent at the grocery store. Dr. Bonner’s I found at Whole Foods.
Kendra uses 1/2 cup per load. I have been using just over 1/4 cup and have been happy with the results. I recommend shaking your container vigorously before using as it does tend to separate.
I do have a front loader which calls for high efficiency detergent. Researching whether this soap would be compatible with a front loader what I saw from manufacturers was that they wouldn’t recommend using it as they had conducted no tests with homemade detergent in their washers. They also pointed out the too much sudsing leads to a residue that can damage the washer over time. I don’t find this detergent to be sudsy, however, I also used detergent booster packs for a year or so and did have to have the washer repaired due to a residue they left on an interior filter. I hadn’t noticed that product being excessively sudsy either.
Kendra’s instructions could not be easier to follow. You basically grate, mix, add some water and heat.
You are making a concentrate. Kendra heats another pan of water along side the one that holds your soap mix; I was lazy and zapped mine in the microwave.
I flet a little sick to my stomach as I thought about how much money I have spent on commercial detergents over the years. That feeling grew stronger as I realized how simple this recipe really is and stronger still once I used it and inhaled the fresh scent of the clean clothes.
My trusty funnel worked like a charm transferring the detergent concentrate to the empty detergent bottles. It was an interesting consistency that reminded me of warm candle wax. It is still a little clumpy at this point but that improves over time and with shaking.
The one odd thing that happened was that the finish on the inside of my Calphalon soup pot dissolved during the soap making process. This has happened with extended use in some of my other pots, however, never so rapidly that I actually noticed it happening. This did make me think twice about using the soap on my clothes, but I timidly gave it a try once and liked the smell and cleaning ability enough that I have been using it since.
Below you can see bits of the pan’s finish floating on top of the soap. This was only a problem in the last bit to come out of the pan and was pretty easily skimmed from the surface.
I had purchased my ingredients so long ago I didn’t have the slightest idea how much I had spent though I did remember that the total was less than one average bottle of detergent. An internet search provided a number of sites where people had done the math. It was suggested that the price per load for homemade detergent runs somewhere between a penny and seven cents. Good Housekeeping reported on cost per load of national brands finding a range of eleven cents per load for a couple of store brands up to fifty-three cents per load for the name brand I normally used. As long as my super sensitive front loader isn’t too persnickety to tolerate the cheap stuff over time, I should be socking away the laundry savings.