It took me a while to take the plunge into making my own laundry detergent.

Reason #1 was because I watched a bunch of videos on how to make liquid concentrate. In this style of recipe, you have to boil the soap flakes and other ingredients in a giant pot until everything melts down, separate it out into other 5 gallon containers and then re-hydrate it with even more water. Basically it looked like a pain in the ass to make and from what I saw, took up a huge amount of room, and we are all tight on space.

Reason #2 was if it is going to take up all this room and smell up the house while cooking the soapy mixture, my wife was going to be less than enthusiastic about doing something like this again.

On a rather recent Survival Punk podcast episode, James (one of the hosts) talked about making a dry detergent mixture during a rainy day. I read his article over, checked out some other sources (as you should always do when embarking on a science experiment) and purchased the rather cheap ingredients at the local discount grocery store. All in all, I spent around $15.00 to $20.00 – the same price as a jug of detergent. Not bad.

I have been using the recipe below for around 4 months and I doubt I will go back to the liquid concentrate. It is a huge difference in cost. The recipe below will make 50 mason jars of liquid detergent (100 large loads) in a single mason jar, and I still have most of the boxes of borax, soda and 2 more bars of soap. All in all, I could make 9 more jars of detergent if I just bought more bars of soap for a grand total of 1000 loads of laundry. It is the difference between a jug at the store for 15¢/load down to 5¢/load for this stuff. I haven’t noticed any cleaning difference. Everything smells great and looks fresh.

At first, my wife only let me wash my clothes in homemade detergent. Now we wash everything in it.

The other major benefit of this recipe (and making your own detergent) is that it is convenient. It is easy to make, takes up very little space, and instead of running out and buying more jugs, you just fill up a couple of mason jars and off you go. Never worry about your favourite detergent going on sale again – or storing 10 large jugs when it does.

And finally is the garbage. Everything is low impact. The boxes can be recycled, the mason jars reused, and now I am not filling a dump with plastic laundry bottles – that can be used for little else, even if you wanted to re-use them.

Recipe:

2+ wide mouth quart mason jars
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
1 bar of soap (non-moisturizing)

Combining Recipe: 1 tbsp of detergent to 4 cups of boiling water.

Dry Detergent Ingredients - Arm and Hammer Washing Soda Mule 20 Borax Sunlight Bar Soap

Ingredients:

Bar Soap

Soap itself allows insoluble particles to become soluble. If you look at how oil will separate and float on top of water, soap (a fatty acid) binds with the oil molecules (surrounding it in a water soluble shell) so that the oil will wash away. Soap is the main ingredient in the cleaning action of detergent that breaks down dirt, grime and oils. You could clean all your clothing with just a bar of soap, but the other ingredients increase the cleaning power of the detergent.

Do not use bar soaps that contain any moisture boosts, or creams, etc. Just use basic soaps. Otherwise you are going to get a filmy layer on your clothes / machine. Some bar soap brands include Sunlight Bar Soap, Purex Fels-Naptha and Classic Ivory Soap. 

Borax

Borax is a boric salt that dissolves easily in water. It is anti-fungal and has a high cleaning power.

Washing soda

Washing soda is sodium carbonate.  Due to it’s high alkalinity, is an exceptional stain remover since it binds to minerals. It is also a water softener and is used to remove grease, oils and wine stains. It also helps dyes adhere to fabrics. Originally made from the ash from a fire it is also known as potash or soda ash. Adding water to wood ash is caustic and will burn the skin. Therefore washing soda can cause minor skin irritation so wash your hands after use.

If you can’t find washing soda, you can make it using baking soda, cooked in an oven on a baking sheet at 400 degrees fahrenheit for 30 minutes. It will change consistency from a light, clumping powder to flat and grainy.

Combining washing soda and borax together in water converts some water molecules into hydrogen peroxide which is the main ingredient in OxiClean. It will whiten and brighten loads of clothing, without wearing them out (unlike bleach).

Recipe Steps:

1. Grind up 1 bar of soap either using a box grater or in the food processor / high powered blender. It helps to cut the bar up into squares if you are going to use the blender. I used the grating blade to initially chop up the soap, and then switched to the blade that pulverizes the soap flakes further. Put the now ground soap into a large mixing bowl.

2. To the mixing bowl, add 1 cup of borax and 1 cup of washing soda. Mix all together.

3. Pour mixture into a wide mouth mason jar.

4. Shake well before use.

Dry Detergent Ingredient And Wet Detergent

To Use:

1. Add 1 tablespoon of dry detergent to a separate quart wide mouth mason jar.

2. Boil 4 cups of water. This is basically enough water to fill the quart mason jar. So you don’t necessarily have to measure the water out. Just fill to where the neck starts to narrow. I usually do 2 jars at a time for for conveniance (equal to 4 large loads of laundry). I put the mix ratio (1 tablespoon to 4 cups of water) onto the jar lid with a marker for ease of remembering.

The jars will be really hot when filled. Let stand until cool. If you use canning lids, the jars will seal just like when you water bath can food.

If you let the jars settle for a while, you might notice that the detergent floats in a jelly mass inside the middle of the jar. No big deal, just shake and use. I guess I forgot to add the stabilizers and other junk that the big brands use.

Two Jars Of Mixed Laundry Detergent Homemade

3. To use add 1/2 the mason jar (or 2 cups) to a large load of laundry.

4. If you want to boost the deodorizing of your laundry detergent, a good additive to a particularly stinky load is to use a cup of vinegar (I just squirt it directly from the jug). In the past, when we lived in a house where the bath towels never seemed to get completely dry, we used vinegar in the load to kill off that damp mouldy smell.

Vinegar by itself will also clean your washing machine if you run it alone with hot water. Run the machine on a soak cycle.

Summary

Try it this recipe and tell me what you think. Its cheap and easy. Will you take the plunge?

Have you ever made your own laundry detergent or soap? Was it easy? How did it work?