Thursday, April 18, 2013

DIY Laundry Detergent

On our quest to save money this year and to give me an outlet to be more crafty (and feel like a Martha Stewart DIY-er) I decided I wanted to try making some of our cleaning products. Two of the biggest expenses for us in the cleaning department are laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent. I easily do 3 loads of laundry a day, 5 days a week. I don't usually do laundry on the weekends unless there is something that is specifically needed by someone. I try to save in energy by using only cold or cool water (I tend to use more cool than cold these days, probably because I don't trust cold to get out the stubborn baby messes!) I would love to have a clothes line but I think they are banned by our HOA (pain in the butt I tell ya! Pain in the butt!!!) I might get a retractable one anyway and tell the HOA to shove it! lol I'm sure that would save some money too in the spring and fall (I don't think I could use it in the summer, it's too humid here in the river valley, and in the winter I'm sure our clothes would freeze!)

Laundry detergent is expensive! Even with coupons. I love Tide as much as the next person but when a large bottle costs $28.00 and I can use all of it in a month it's too much! The powder is usually cheaper but I found that using it cold water didn't work for me because it never dissolved all the way and I ended up with chalky residue on our clothes. Not cool!

I saw around that the "in" thing right now was to make your own laundry detergent. I was skeptical at first but as I started to read comments and reviews by others I thought it was worth giving it a try. Some said it worked really well for their kids who suffered from eczema. Since 3 of our 4 have eczema I thought, "Why not?!" The initial investment in all the ingredients seems like a lot but knowing that you will get multiple batches out of the same boxes makes it easier to swallow. There is also some time involved but I promise it's easy!

 I have found a formula that I am in love with and I wanted to share it with you. I shared it with my aunt over Easter. They have 5 kids and she does about as much laundry as I do so I knew this could save her money too. She messaged me on Facebook the other day and said she had been using the detergent and she loved it! She couldn't believe the results, especially because you don't have to use very much. It's my favorite thing so far this year! :-)

What you need: Purex Crystals (any scent-I love the blue one!), Borax, Arm & Hammer WASHING soda (some people will use both washing soda and baking soda. I have found this unnecessary, but the washing soda IS necessary!), Zote Soap (I like the pink!), and OxiClean (you could use a store brand too if you prefer.)

To make the soap you will need a cheese grater, a big mixing bowl and a blender or food processor (not shown). You will also need a 1 Cup measuring cup to measure the ingredients and a spoon to mix (I use a plastic spatula.)
You need a container to put it in. I used to just use old Purex Crystal bottles but I found the detergent clumped up in them. I found this great glass container at Wal-Mart and fell in love with it. I also love the little measuring cup.
Here's a close up although the quality isn't great. This is a little glass measuring cup from Anchor. It looks like a shot glass. It's probably meant as a liquid measuring cup but I use it for my detergent and it's worked out just fine. You can find one here at Amazon for $5.50. I think I paid around $5 for mine.
The first thing you will do is grate the soap. I use the medium shred side. This can take a few minutes and gives your arms quite a work out. But stick to it. My kids love to help with this part so I put them to work! lol
Use a measuring cup to add 1 Cup of Borax to the blender or food processor.
Add half of the soap flakes and then top with 1 Cup of washing soda and 1 Cup of OxiClean. Pulse the mixture until the soap has been blended in with the other dry ingredients.
It should look fine and powdery. Put into large mixing bowl. Do another batch in the blender. Add to mixing bowl.
Add in your Purex Crystals. I use anywhere from 2-3 Cups of these, depending on how strong I want the scent to be on my clothes. Mix it all up.
Pour in your cool container. Voila! Sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy your handiwork!
Isn't it pretty?!?
So, don't worry if you didn't get the recipe by reading that! Here it is in it's entirety!

2 C Borax
2 C Arm & Hammer WASHING soda
2 C OxiClean
1 bar of Zote soap
2-3 C Purex Crystals (depending on your preference)

1. Grate soap.
2. Add dry ingredients (EXCEPT for Purex Crystals) to the blender or food processor in layers and small batches. I like to do two batches and put in a layer of dry ingredients, then soap flakes, then more dry. This keeps the soap flakes from sticking to the blades of the appliance (believe me...this just makes a mess!!) Pulse until everything is combined and powdery.
3. Put in large mixing bowl. Add Crystals in the amount you choose. Mix well.
4. Put detergent in container of your choice. 
5. Use 1 Tablespoon for a regular size load. Use 2 Tablespoons for a large or heavily soiled load.

A few notes:

1.When I first started making my own detergent I used Fels Naptha soap (made by Purex) because that's what I found first. Those bars are smaller so if you can only find Fels Naptha you will need 2 bars of soap instead of 1. I like the smell of the Zote better, but some prefer the smell of the Fels Naptha, it's just a fresh, clean smell.

2. Purex Crystals are NOT fabric softeners. I always thought they were but they are scent enhancers, just like the Downy Unstoppables or the Gain Fireworks. You can choose to use Unstoppables or Fireworks if you would like. I used the Unstoppables in the second batch that I made but they started to discolor and turn brown after a while. I don't know if this was from extra exposure to oxygen (maybe from the OxiClean) but it didn't look very pretty and it bothered me. The Purex Crystals haven't done this. And I like the pretty look better :-)

3. Because the crystals are not a fabric softener I still use distilled white vinegar as a softener. I just add it directly to the softener distributor in my washer. I know others who put it in a dispenser in the machine like the Downy Ball. 

4. If you want to try this out without making so much start with half a bar of Zote soap (or 1 bar of Fels Naptha), 1 C of each of the dry ingredients, and 1 C of the crystals. A formulation like this lasted me about 6 weeks. That was enough time for me to determine if I wanted to make changes or not. For example, when I first started I didn't use OxiClean or scent enhancers. The 2nd batch I added those things but used the Unstoppables, which I mentioned I wasn't thrilled with. The third batch I switched to Zote soap (because that's what I could find, I wasn't intending to do this!) and I switched to the Purex Crystals. This is my favorite formula so far!! 

5. How long will this last me?? Well, that depends on how much laundry you do. Like I said I do at least 3 loads a day most of the time, 5 days a week. If you only do a 3 or 4 loads for the whole week, halving the recipe could last you 3-4 months. I expect this doubled recipe will last me 3-4 months, but it could last you 6-7 months. It's all relative to how much laundry you do. I do all super sized loads, so I almost always use 2 Tablespoons at a time. I made this last batch the week before Easter...I've barely put a dent in it so far! 

6. How much will this cost? That's a hard one too because it depends on where you get all of your ingredients at. According to Amazon all of the ingredients right now would run you about $42.87. But again, except for the soap you will get at least 3-4 batches of soap out of each box of the Borax, Washing Soda, about 2- 2 1/2 batches out of the OxiClean, and about 1 1/2 batches out of the Crystals. I figured I am probably making this and spending about $0.20- $0.25 a load. With Tide I'd be spending about $0.38 a load so that is a definite savings. And it lasts me a whole lot longer than a bottle of Tide would. So that's awesome. Plus, I'm LOVING the way it smells!

7. Can I use this in my front loader? Yes, yes you can! The Zote Soap and Fels Naptha are low sudsing soaps, which is exactly what you need to use in a front loader. I have read some people saying this gums up their detergent dispenser so they just started adding it directly to the drum and then added their clothes and it works fine. I still have a top loader so I can't give you much more information about that but I've read people have used it in front loaders with no problems. 

8) I use the blender, cheese grater, etc. that I use to cook with. Some people might freak out about that but I figure I use a lot of the same ingredients in my dishwasher detergent recipe so they come in contact with our utensils anyway. All the ingredients rinse off really clean and I see no residue after I clean them that concerns me. If it concerns you you can invest in appliances just to make cleaning products but I find that very expensive and not necessary! 

So there it is! My laundry detergent recipe. We love it! It gets everything out (even stubborn baby explosions!!) when I am diligent about pretreating stains like I should and it smells wonderful. I don't know that I will ever go back to commercial laundry detergent ever again!!

I'm still tweaking my dishwasher detergent. I loved it at first, but I'm not loving it as much right now. Once I get that perfected I will share it with you too! Happy cleaning!!

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