The FP Makes Laundry Detergent

Now, if there is an easy way to do something and a hard way, I always try the easy way first even if some people say that the hard way is “better.” How will I know if it’s better if I haven’t tried the other way first?

With homemade laundry detergent, that definitely paid off. Lots of people make liquid laundry detergent in five-gallon quantities, and some make whipped laundry detergent (more concentrated, but sounds like more work) in smaller quantities. I make powder and find it quite adequate. I don’t have any trouble with the powder not dissolving, even in cold water.

Borax, washing soda, and an example of the little rice sachet that keeps them from clumping.

Borax, washing soda, and an example of the little rice sachet that keeps them from clumping.

There are only three ingredients: bar soap, borax, and washing soda. The first thing people often ask when I tell them about my detergent is what washing soda is and where to buy it. Washing soda is different than baking soda, but the brand I’ve seen is Arm and Hammer, so it looks similar.  It is sold in the grocery store laundry aisle as a detergent booster, as is borax.

Also in the laundry aisle, you can buy special laundry soap like Fels Naptha. It probably has more cleaning power, but I don’t like the way it smells (many people do) and for me, half the point of making my own detergent is to avoid artificial fragrances! So I use Kirk’s Coco castile soap, which I can buy at Walmart for about a dollar a bar.

Don’t make the same mistake I made. The VERY FIRST day you open your borax and washing soda, put in a sachet to keep them from clumping up. The easiest way is to take a coffee filter, put a spoonful of uncooked rice in the center (brown rice works fine and in a pinch I’ve also used quinoa), then twist it up and put on a rubber band. The rice will absorb moisture which otherwise causes the powder to form into one hard lump. You can still use it then, it just requires a lot more banging on the counter and so on.

Here’s my technique:

Grate soap with a hand grater. Just cutting it in chunks causes my food processor to make bad noises. Some people grate it with their food processor’s grating disc, but I haven’t tried it.

Put soap into food processor with one cup of borax and one cup of washing soda.

Turn on food processor.

If I feel like it, maybe stir in some OxyClean.

Pour into empty, dried and washed 32-ounce yogurt container.

That’s it! For my front loading washer, I use one heaping tablespoon per load. With homemade detergent, it’s very important to use vinegar in the rinse cycle. That’s easier with a front loader, but I have heard of people successfully putting vinegar in a Downy ball as well. Vinegar prevents the soap from building up on your clothes and, over time, turning your whites yellow.

The total start-up costs are about nine dollars (one dollar for soap, about four each for borax and washing soda), but the borax and washing soda will each make many batches. The good news is that even if you HATE your homemade detergent and decide to go back to commercial, you can still use up the washing soda and borax as detergent boosters (with a little less detergent).

Have you tried making your own laundry detergent? What were the results?


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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

8 responses to “The FP Makes Laundry Detergent”

  1. Rachael says :

    I use homemade laundry soap, same recipe as yours. I do put in the Oxy Clean or equivalent, though, as i understand that whites stay that way if you put it in. I find it great. I love the way the clothes smell (not fake perfumey) and it cleans well.

  2. plantingourpennies says :

    I basically do the liquid version of this combo and have had good results so far – have been using it since the beginning of the year. I’ll have to try the vinegar in the downy ball, though.

  3. WilliamB says :

    (Coming here from your recent comment on The Frugal Girl.) I make the liquid version of the same homemade laundry detergent. Recently I ran the numbers and discovered that, 90% cheaper or not, it only saves me about $10-15/year. I still plan to do it because I have a strong distaste for figuring out the best deal (coupons, load size, no perfume, sales, and so on) and I don’t like the wasted bottles. But I honestly thought the savings would be more.

    • frugalparagon says :

      Sounds like you don’t do that much laundry! I’ve never calculated the savings, but obviously, the more you wash, the more you save. Thanks for popping over here from the FG :-)!

  4. JoyBlogette says :

    How many loads of laundry would one batch of this wash?

    • frugalparagon says :

      That’s a good question and I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not sure. I’ve never counted it! Probably around 40+ loads for a front load washer or 20 for a top loader, but that’s a very rough guess.

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