Librarian & Artist

Homemade Detergent

This recipe has saved me absurd amounts of money. I was first inspired by a blog on the News & Observer about living thriftily (the original post is here and also includes a recipe for foaming hand soap (1 1/2 tablespoons liquid hand soap in the bottom of a foaming soap container that you’ve already used up; add a couple drops of food coloring if you want for funsies and fill up with water).)

But anyway, now I use this scaled-down recipe. It may not look quite as fancy as the store-bought type, but it gets my clothes plenty clean and it smells legit. There are a million recipes online; I am using this one.

Here’s what you need:

  • Laundry bottles. Hoard them for awhile or raid recycling bins. You will need enough bottles to hold about 5 gallons of detergent. If you are a fancy-pants type you could do this too.
  • One five-gallon bucket with a lid. I actually use my giant pot.
  • One bar of soap, or 1/3 bar of Fels-Naptha soap. I use Fels-Naptha which is nice and strong (thus the 1/3 bar!) and smells very laundry-y. The original recipe says you can use any soap without lotion in the bar. I have found Fels-Naptha at Harris-Teeter…if you can’t find it I’m sure you can use another soap.
  • 1 cup Washing Soda. I got Arm & Hammer brand.
  • 1/2 cup Borax. It has the power of 20 MULE TEAMS so you know it’s serious.
  • 4 cups warm water plus 4 gallons warm water, separated. Essentially this means a sink.
  • Optional: 10-40 drops of essential oil of your choice (I haven’t done this, because I always get the fragrance-free soap anyway.)

Grate the bar of soap on a metal cheese grater. The original recipe stresses that metal implements are less likely to get soap odor imbued in them. This may be more important if you are using essential oils…I haven’t had any problem with this and I haven’t always used metal every things (shh, don’t tell on me.)

Heat the grated soap in a stainless steel saucepan on the stove with 4 cups of warm water until melted. (Obviously I am breaking the stainless steel rule, but my marinara sauce tasted OK the next week. Follow my example at your own risk.)

Pour 4 gallons of warm water into the large bucket and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir in well!

When dissolved, add the melted soap and stir around until mixed nicely.

At this point you would add the essential oil if so inclined.

Cover the mix and let sit overnight. The next day it will magically have gelled up. Stir it around with a spoon and marvel at how goopy it is.

Using a handy ladle and funnel, fill up your empty bottles and get washin’! Then, wipe up the soap that spilled on the floor and marvel at how clean your floor is now!

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3 comments on “Homemade Detergent

  1. foodiewithfamily
    August 24, 2012

    Welcome to the thrifty laundry club! I’m glad it works as well for you as it does for us!

  2. taivins
    August 30, 2012

    I use a variant on this recipe, but the first time I made it I hated having to grate the soap. Fortunately, for my second batch I discovered a shortcut: use “old” soap!

    When I made my first batch several months ago, i bought extra bars of Fels-Naptha (because I didn’t want to have to visit walmart again for a while) and so the bar I used for my next batch had been sitting in my cabinet for months. After a couple of months, it dried out and shrunk a little. The good thing is that once it had dried out a little, cutting it with a knife causes it to crumble into tiny pieces, no grating required!

    The resulting pieces are not as small as if I had grated (and so required a longer time boiling), but it was well worth it to me not to have to grate that stoopid bar. :)

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This entry was posted on August 24, 2012 by in DIY.
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