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Homemade Laundry Detergent

April 13, 2010

Lately I’ve heard of several people  making their own laundry detergent and wanted to give it a try. My main reason for the switch was primarily cost. I spend about $9.00 for a large container of laundry detergent that lasts about 2-3 months. For about $12 I bought all the supplies to make detergent for well over a year.

I made my first batch of detergent about two months ago. It was very simple to do. I was skeptical that something so inexpensive would be able to clean my clothes as well as the store-bought detergent. After two months of using this detergent it was able to get out poop, vomit, mud, general food stains, and red Hawaiian Punch. (The punch was pretreated with the same detergent.)

Here is what you need to get started:

1).Water: You will use different amounts of hot and cold water throughout the process

2).Ivory: 1 bar of Ivory soap, grated

3).Borax: 2/3 cup of Mule Team Borax. You can find this in the laundry aisle of just about all major grocery stores. I got mine at Walmart.

*NERD NOTE: 20 Mule Team Borax is Sodium Tetraborate. The common name, Borax (or Boric acid) is Sodium Borate decahydrate. Confusing, I know. This is why you were supposed to pay attention in Chemistry!

4).Washing Soda: 2/3 cup of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda. Again, this one is found in the laundry aisle. My local Walmart didn’t carry this, nor did the big grocery store. I finally found mine at our little grocery store – Kuhn’s, for you locals who are interested. I’ve also been told you can get it at Ace Hardeware. If your Ace doesn’t carry it, you can order it online and have it shipped to your Ace store for free.

*NERD NOTE: This is NOT the same thing as Baking Soda. Baking Soda is Sodium Bicarbonate, Washing Soda is Sodium Carbonate. Oh, just wait, I’m not done with the Chemistry terms yet!

5). Fragrance: 1/2 – 1 oz. fragrance oil. I found mine in the candle section of Walmart. This ingredient is optional, but I love good smelling clothes, so it’s a must have for me. =)

6). Medium sized bucket: This recipe yields a little more than 2 gallons of detergent. I bought a 5 gallon bucket and that is perfect for a double batch. Make sure your bucket has a lid! You will end up with a nice layer of dust on top of your soap if you don’t put a lid on it!

Alright, on to the steps. Here’s what you’ve gotta do to turn these ingredients into laundry detergent. (Note: in the following pictures I made a double batch, so if it seems like more that what you have, it is.)

1-Grate 1 bar of Ivory soap.

2-Add 6 cups of water to a large pot.

3-Add grated soap to water in the pot.

4-Heat and stir until the soap dissolves.

5-Add 2/3 cup Washing Soda and 2/3 cup Borax to the soap solution.

6-Stir until completely dissolved. Solution will become foamy and start to rise in the pot.

7-Pour 4 cups of hot water into the storage bucket.

8-Add soap solution to storage bucket and stir.

9-Add 1 gallon plus 6 cups cold water to bucket and stir.

10-Add 1/2 – 1 oz (depending on your preference of strength) of fragrance. *Optional*

11-Your nearly finished product will appear quite liquidy. Fear not. There is one more step.

12-Cover and let sit overnight. The solution will gel in a chunky fruit-jello-mold sort of way. I’m sure there is a technical term for this, but I’m not really sure what to call the consistency. I looked up several terms that I thought would match, but none fit quite right. See, this science teacher still has much to learn! Anyhow, here’s what was leftover from my first batch to give you an idea of the final product.

13-Stir well before using, especially the first time. Some parts will be gelled and some parts will be quite liquidy. Once you mix it all together, it should look like the picture above.

So that’s it. Now you’re ready to use your new soap. Use 1/2 cup for each large load. This is a low sudsing detergent, so don’t be alarmed when there aren’t all kinds of bubbles forming. I have a regular top-loading washer, but I’ve been told that this detergent also works well with the HE front-loading machines.

There are many other variations of this recipe out there. If you decide to give mine a try, drop me a line and let me know how it works for you.

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