Homemade Laundry Detergent Challenge

I realize I have an obsession with laundry and laundry detergent. I’ve swung through so many phases of brand name, generic, homemade, eco-friendly… it is shameful. I don’t even want to dig up the archives that reference it. At this time I have a jug of Tide, Gain, Charlie’s Soap, Downy dryer sheets, Gain liquid softener, Ecos… So we will move forward (after one quick digression). The only recipe I could dig up from my archives was this:

Marthat’s Homemade Detergent
Here’s another laundry detergent recipe, sent in by Martha. I haven’t made it yet, but she tells me it’s easier than mine:
1 quart water (4 cups)
1/6 bar fels naptha or other soap grated as fine as possible (now I soak the cube for a week or two in a cup of water).
¼ washing soda
¼ borax
½ quart hot water
cold water
Mix Fels Naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints of water, and heat on low until dissolved. (now I nuke it for 5-6 minutes in the microwave). Stir in Washing Soda and Borax (pop back in the microwave for a minute or two– but watch it as it does bubble up. I really don’t think this part is necessary if it is stirred real well.). Stir until thickened, and remove from heat. Add 1 Quart Hot Water to 1 Gallon Bucket. Add soap mixture, and mix well. Fill bucket with hot water, and mix well. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load.

I don’t know if it was “Marthat” or “Martha” but the recipe is what it is. At that time, I remember using a liquid version of homemade detergent. Since I’m not still using it, I’d have to say that I wasn’t head over heels in love with it. I still have the bucket that I kept that homemade glop in, though.

At any rate, I wanted to do a powder this time. Less hassle, easier to make and store. The internet has a gazillion recipes, and most of them are the same (Fels Naptha, Borax, Washing Soda). Same ingrediants, different ratios. I went with this one:

Homemade Laundry Powder
4c Fels Naptha (almost an entire bar of it, grated, you can use Kirk’s or Zote’s, too)
2c Borax
2c Washing Soda

Mix, store, use.

Simple to remember. I have a hunk of the bar leftover, though, so it isn’t the best ratio for complete usage. But I can store it and grate it for next time. I also didn’t use any scent in mine because, from my experience, the scent doesn’t stay anyway. So what’s the point in wasting it?

I had help in the grating. No, he’s not naked. He’s still in his shower towel, though. He insisted on helping to grate the soap, and stuck with it until the bitter end, something I am entirely grateful (get it – grateful?) for. When it came time to mix the two powders I had two “helpers” who wanted to get their hands in there. Lootie’s always one who likes to feel, and learns by touching. I am still amazed that he hasn’t had his hand completely burned off from Don’t touch the burners (touch). He’s just one of those kids.

grating away mixed and ready to use

I kept it in one of those plastic shoe boxes. You can see my scooper. You may also notice my empty wine glass in the background of these pictures…

The hard part of the whole laundry thing is figuring out how much to put in each load. With this ratio, I’ve read anywhere from 2 Tablespoons to 1/4 cup. I’m still experimenting and will let you know how it works out for me. There’s a great post here from Frugal Upstate that breaks down the costs per load on homemade (using same formulation above) vs. Tide.

So here’s my challenge: I’m going to use my own homemade laundry detergent powder for two weeks (exclusively).

For what it is worth, I have an HE washer, top-loading (NEVER get a top-loader, I really don’t think it cleans that well), soft water.

I know it won’t be easy, at least not for me. I thoroughly enjoy my highly-scented detergents. I’m a scent driven person. If it weren’t laden with chemicals and didn’t skunk up my washer, dryer and clothes, I’d probably be one of those Tide/Downy people that you can smell across the room. In fact I have been, off and on. But the more I read about it, the less I like. And the more build-up I see on my washer and feel on my clothes, the more I steer away. But, I do fall off the wagon. My lust is severe. Hence the line-up of product I have sitting by my washer and dryer.

My routine for the next couple weeks will be my homemade detergent to wash the clothes, and vinegar to soften (I add this to the softener dispenser – this has been my main source of “softener” for quite some time when I’m not gucking it up with commercial softener, though sometimes I mix the two – don’t ask), bleach occasionally. We’ll see how it goes. Today was Day 1. I’ve got 13 more to go.

Day 1 observations: First observation is that it is really Day 2, since I threw a load in last night. But I need to stop. This isn’t all that technical. I’ve done a couple loads of darks, 1 white, 1 blankets/jacket. All have been fine as far as I’m concerned. Not much unlike Charlie’s Soap, really. I dug my nose in a few different items and they all smelled clean. I even plunged it in some pits. Take one for the team, I do. One bra still smelled faintly of Tide. None smelled like the bar of Fels-Naptha. None smelled like vinegar or the essential oils I put in my vinegar hoping they will smell of the oils. This is not new to me, but I’m letting you know about it. Why I keep wasting my EOs? Slow learner. My whites looks as dingy as they always have. I blame my washer for that. My 2nd load of darks that I removed from the dryer today were laden with static. Not sure why. Stay tuned.

6 thoughts on “Homemade Laundry Detergent Challenge

  1. I’m watching with interest. My family has notoriously sensitive skin and I’m allergic to most scented things. Where’d you get the Zote’s and the washing powder?

    1. I think I picked them both up at a place in town here called Woodman’s. It’s a local “chain” supermarket. Although the Zote’s has been sitting around for a good year, waiting for me to make powder with it. I’ll update again when I figure out where I shopped. Our Walmart has the washing powder, too, I do believe. I’m really hoping that this combo is going to work.

  2. I tried this before – last year? Can’t remember. I was underwhelmed.

    It could have been the soap I grated, though, I dunno. Some generic brand I got at the dollar store called “laundry soap”. The only other choices I have up here are Sunlight soap bar. Which, I think I can handle.

    the scented stuff I can’t use at all. I have to wash thrift stores clothes before I wear them (even over the obvious reasons ;P )and I have to go quickly in the cleaner aisle at the grocery store.

    1. Hi Jeff, Nope, not on a regular basis. For softness, and to combat the static cling, I use white vinegar in the rinse cycle (in place of commercial softeners). I’ve been using it for years, and love it.

  3. Just wanted to say that I have been cutting the sheets in half and lately into 3rd and the antistatic thing still works. Just showing how their measure of how much you need is implied by the sheet size.
    cheers

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