Saturday, April 6, 2013

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Barbara got everyone all excited about putting up a line for line drying this spring and summer.
So of course you need some homemade laundry detergent to go along with it right?

Guys, if you haven't done this yet you need to. It's SO easy. I like to refer to this as the gateway drug to green living. Most people I've talked to about homemade laundry detergent, whether they're a total crunchy nut job like myself or otherwise normal, have all said they would love to save on laundry detergent by making it themselves if it really was as easy as everyone says it is. Then they try it and just like that they're hooked and want to know what else they can do that's that easy. Now, just like anything things can go wrong but that's why Barbara and I are here to help you. We've both tried (and failed) at laundry detergent and are here to share our experiences with you.

Let's start with the most basic of basics. There are two types of homemade laundry detergent. Liquid and powder. In the days of buying detergent I always, always used liquid. So of course when I first decided to try to make my own I did liquid and so did Barbara. The hard part about liquid is it will never be the consistency of regular detergent, it's more like a snot consistency. (Sorry, just being honest) You will always have to shake it to combine the snot part, clumpy part, and watery part which is both kind of gross and kind of annoying. It also takes a day to "set" so you don't have the instant gratification of immediately doing a load of laundry. Now, after saying all this, if none of those things bother you then by all means make it and use it, because it WORKS. I used my liquid variety for over a year and was overall very pleased with how well it cleaned my clothes, just not overly thrilled with the usage aspect of it. The biggest fear of using powder is that it won't dissolve in cold water. I put my powder in the detergent compartment of my top loading HE machine and have never had a problem with it.

Now down to the ingredients. Honestly, it's hard to mess this stuff up, and there are a TON of formulas out there for you to try. The most basic laundry detergents consist of three basic ingredients.

-Washing Soda (not baking soda, although you can use that too)
-Fels Naptha laundry soap

Borax, washing soda and fels naptha can all be found in your laundry aisle. I have found them at Walmart, Winco, regular grocery stores and Amazon. However the best prices are at Winco.

Other additions include Citric Acid, in the LemiShine version you should find with dish detergent and the straight citric acid will be with your canning supplies. You can also add Oxyclean if you like.

You can do any of these three, or make swaps along the way. You can make swaps or additions in yours depending on what you're using it for. I have made two different laundry detergents for different uses and I and am just as pleased with the results of both. I know someone who uses a cup of baking soda in her wash and during the rinse cycle adds a cup of vinegar. (Obviously you want to wait to add this otherwise you'll get quite a bubbly mess) She's been doing it for year on everything including her cloth diapers and it works for her. So if you don't really care for any of these formulas feel free to Google other recipes or find some on Pinterest and I'm sure you'll find something that will work for your needs.

So let's get down to making it shall we? For any formula, liquid or otherwise, the only real "step" is to grate your bar of soap. I highly, highly recommend using a food processor. It makes it a lot easier and makes the soap bits even smaller. You will want to avoid standing above it thought otherwise you might get engulfed in the cloud of soap dust.

Once you're done it should look like this...

And then all you do is mix everything together. I told you it was easy right? Depending on the size of the formula you're using you may want to use a 5 gallon bucket. Makes things a lot easier to really get it mixed up well. 

Here are some formulas we have used and recommend you try.
Basic Laundry Detergent:
1-box Borax
1-box Washing Soda
2-bars fels naptha soap
Use 1-2 TBS per load, in both standard and HE machines
Barbara's Laundry Detergent:
1-box Borax
1-box Washing Soda
1-container citric acid
1-bar fels naptha soap
1-bar peppermint castile soap
Use 1-2 TBS per load, in both standard and HE machines
Amanda's Cloth Diaper Laundry Detergent:
The main difference in this detergent is not using borax and fels naptha soap. Borax can be a little too harsh for cloth diapers since they get so much use and washing. Fels naptha can cause build up over time and can cause stink issues. The addition of baking soda helps with deep cleaning and citric acid eliminates ammonia.
1-cup washing soda
1-cup baking soda
1/2-cup citric acid
5-drops Tea Tree Oil
Use 1TBS per load
Liquid Laundry Detergent:
This is by far my favorite. By whipping it creates a mayonnaise like consistency and is much better than the snotty consistency of others. But honestly, I just found my dry mix sooooo much easier so I have been sticking to that for now.
2-bars Fels Naptha
2-cups Borax
2-cups Washing Soda
6-cups hot water
Here is a link with full instructions.
You'll find that keeping a 5 gallon bucket of laundry detergent isn't really the easiest thing to use on a daily basis so just transfer some to a smaller container to use on a daily basis.
I just keep mine in an old mason jar and keep a spoon next to it for easy use.
Ok, one more little tip and trick since we're talking about laundry. If you're going to be line drying, chances are you might want to use a little fabric softener in your wash load to help your clothes from getting stiff. The easiest thing to do is use white vinegar in your fabric softener tray. I promise, your clothes will NOT smell like vinegar! Or you can make your own liquid fabric softener. I've been making this liquid fabric softener for a few years now and love it. I generally only use it on my white load and occasionally my blue jean load. I just use vinegar in my towel load to make sure they don't have a problem repelling water.
Liquid Fabric Softener:
6 cups HOT water
3 cups white vinegar
2 cups conditioner (I use Suave Apple in the 16oz container so it's already measured for me. Cheap and smells great!) 
Just mix your conditioner with your water until they are fully incorporated.  I bring my water to a full boil first, just to make sure I've killed anything living in it. Then mix in your white vinegar. Let it cool then pour into a washed and dried empty fabric softener bottle or other jar. I keep mine in an empty white vinegar bottle and a smaller amount in a jar. Just use as you would regularly use fabric softener.
You can also add some of your fabric softener to a spray bottle and do a 1:4 ration of softener to water and give your blue jeans a light misting while their line drying if you don't want to put softener in your entire load. Or you can just mist your clothes down with a 1:4 ratio of white vinegar to water and it will do the same thing.
I know it seems like a lot of information, I just wanted to make sure you had plenty of resources and I may add more in time. If you haven't already tried to make your own homemade laundry detergent I hope this will help you take that leap and try something new! If you have any questions at all please don't hesitate to ask Barbara or myself.
Happy washing!
Coming soon..... homemade dish washer detergent!

(And Barbara too!)

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