Experiment, take 1
First I tried a recipe from my Clean Home, Green Home book. It is simply titled "Easy laundry soap," and it doesn't specify if that means liquid or powder detergent, but I should have realized it would be powder.
As the name suggests, it is quite easy.
Here's the breakdown. Mix together the following:
- 1/8 cup castile soap
- 1/2 cup washing soda
- 1/2 cup borax
- Optional: 1/4 cup vinegar added to rinse cycle
The instructions state you can add more castile soap if you aren't satisfied with the cleanliness of your clothing. Frankly, I just couldn't figure out what kind of consistency this soap was supposed to have when everything was mixed together. The castile soap is liquid, so it made everything a little clumpy.
I tested this out on towels we use for the dogs along with the dogs' bed covers. I figured if I failed I would have ruined some easily replaceable, inexpensive items. The laundry came out quiet clean, but there was no fresh-laundry fragrance lingering on the items.
Experiment, take 2
For round 2, I decided to change things up. I prefer liquid detergent, so I searched for a recipe for that. I found this post at a blog I read, More Green for Less Green. It directed me to this site, Tip Nut, and like the author of More Green for Less Green I decided to give the Recipe #1 a shot. I'm glad I did. This recipe is much better, it left my clothes with a nice fragrance, and it was kind of fun to make, too. And I better like it because I just made us enough laundry detergent to make it to next Valentine's Day.
To test this recipe, I had to buy a new ingredient: Fels-Naptha soap. I had no idea what this was, and before heading to the grocery store I figured I wouldn't find it and I'd buy some plain Ivory soap as the site suggests. I was wrong. Fels-Naptha was right there in the cleaning aisle, conveniently next to the washing soda, another new item I'd purchased for the first time last month. This land of DIY cleaners has introduced me to some things I never even knew existed. If you're wondering, Fels-Naptha has an intense smell, but it's an intense good smell, one that smells very...clean. It's kind of retro looking too.
Here's what I did:
Boil one quart of water while grating 2 cups of Fels-Naptha soap. I bought two bars of this soap because I had no idea how much would create 2 cups. Turns out I needed about 1/3 of one bar, so at this rate I could be in my mid-30s by the time I'm done with these two bars. Oh well.
Doesn't the soap look like cheddar cheese? I felt like I was about to make some mac and cheese.
Add the grated soap to the boiling water. Now it really looks like I'm cooking mac and cheese, right? Stir for only about a minute until the soap completely dissolves.
Transfer the water and soap mixture to a large bucket. Add 2 cups borax and 2 cups washing soda. Stir until combined.
Finally, add 2 gallons of HOT water to the bucket and mix well. (I learned that lukewarm water will make the mixture too dry.) This mixture is the laundry soap that will begin to take on a gel-like consistency. I almost needed a bigger bucket!
The instructions say you should use about 1/4 cup of this detergent in each load of laundry.
In the future, I will skip the powder detergent recipe and go straight for this liquid recipe. I am shocked at how inexpensive this homemade detergent is, especially as I walked by an $18 bottle of Tide while I toted around a couple items that cost a couple dollars each. I have leftovers of all products, and I know this will all last a very long time. At first I was also worried that even though I was saving money and being greener I would be wasting time, but it turns out that as long as you have the patience to grate some soap for about 10 minutes, you'll able to make some detergent that will save you several more trips to the store.