During law school I learned to make my own laundry detergent. I always made the “liquid” kind. I use the word “liquid” loosely because it was somewhere between a solid and a liquid. If you’ve used the liquid version of Fels-Naptha, Borax, and Washing Soda, you know the gelatinous chunks of which I speak.
I originally opted for the liquid version because it made more detergent than the powder for the amount of the ingredients used. We stored it in a 3- or 5-gallon bucket in our mudroom, then ladled it into an empty commercial laundry detergent bottle. We just made sure to shake it up before using it. It worked fine.
Several months ago I ran out of our liquid detergent and I bought some commercial detergent to tide us over (no pun intended) until I could make some more. That bottle finally ran out. I had laundry waiting and I had all the ingredients on hand. It was time.
After the laundry discussion in the comments of the debt discussion on making sacrifices, I decided to try a powder this time, which seemed much less daunting. I didn’t have a full bar of Fels-Naptha, but I did have some Zote. After a little research I decided on a recipe.
- 1 Bar of Zote, finely shredded (14.1 oz)
- 3 cups Borax (I use 20 Mule Team)
- 3 cups Washing Soda (I use Arm & Hammer, but it’s not baking soda. Note the yellow box)
Thanks to Celeste’s comment (on the post I mentioned above), I decided to make the laundry soap in my food processor. If I would have thought of that, I would have made it months ago. Grating soap (and inevitably knuckles) is not my favorite chore.
A bar of Zote soap is pretty massive, so I cut it in half and did two batches. I cut each half into three rectangles so that it would fit nicely into the chute of my food processor.
I added in 1 1/2 cups of Borax and 1 1/2 cups of Washing Soda and processed again so that it mixed together nicely. I put that into a container and repeated these steps with the other half of the Zote bar.
It made about 9 cups of detergent. I use a tablespoon or two, depending on how dirty the clothes are and how big the load is. Zote has a slightly citrusy smell, which I like better than the smell of Fels-Naptha. So far it is working well and we are very happy with it.
For those who haven’t purchased these ingredients before, they are not that hard to come by. I can pick up all three at Walmart, which is wonderful since I only have to go to one place and Walmart happens to have the best price around on all of the ingredients. I have links below to these products on Amazon, so you can see them, but they would be much cheaper at Walmart or the grocery store. They are all found somewhere in or near the laundry section. Prices below are approximate (but close), since I already had them all on hand and didn’t run out to the store.
The 55 oz washing soda has about 6 cups and the 76 oz borax has about 9.5 cups. So the washing soda will last for 2 batches of my recipe and the borax will last for 3 batches. The cost of one batch (that makes about 9 cups of detergent) would be:
Zote $1 + Washing Soda $1.50 + Borax $1.17 = $3.67
9 cups of detergent x 16 Tablespoons per cup = 144 Tablespoons of detergent
Since it doesn’t have any filler, you only need a tablespoon or two for a load. Nine cups of detergent will last you a while! If you use 1 Tbsp per load it will cost 2.5 cents per load. If you use 2 Tbsp per load it will cost 5 cents per load. You will likely have some of each, so your average will be somewhere between 2.5 and 5 cents per load.
Don’t Want to DIY?
Want to avoid conventional laundry detergent but you don’t want to go to the effort to make your own? I recommend taking a peek at Grove Collaborative. They carry the natural products you’re looking for and they’ll deliver them right to your door. You’ll even get $10 off your first order as well as a free Mrs. Meyers hand soap. Oh, and free shipping. You do need to get your out-of-pocket cost to be at least $20 after all the discounts, but that’s pretty easy once you see all the great things they carry. Their prices are comparable (often cheaper) than Target, but you don’t even have to leave your house! Win-win!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. For more information see my disclosure policy.
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