Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Our homemade laundry detergent

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I had been wanting to make our laundry detergent for some time, but I had a big box when we were still living in the States and trying to make it for a German washing machine I didn't understand didn't really seem like the best idea.  That box of detergent was waiting for me when we returned last year so once I used it up, game was on.

I asked for thoughts on homemade detergent on Facebook and most people preferred a liquid variety.  Most recipes available are liquid varieties.  Personally, I have always preferred powders because I just feel like there is less mess.  I also felt like the recipes for the liquids required way too much water and made excessive quantities for a couple of DINKs in an apartment.  (I don't have 12-gallon buckets available to be stored in my non-existent basement.)

But, I went against my better judgment and made liquid.  I won't say it was a disaster, but it didn't go well.  I felt grating soap was a huge waste of my time--there must be a better way, right?  I was told to try breaking it up with a hammer, but apparently I didn't understand that process and ended up just flattening the bar of Fels-Naptha.  I tried to just cut it up in chunks at that point since grating was not going to work.  Then I tried to just melt it like that.  Not that successful.

I figured there's no way it really needs that many gallons of water.  And that hot.  I was wrong.  Long story short, I ended up with a 5 gallon plastic water dispenser full of clumpy detergent and deformed from the heat of the hot water in addition to a peanut butter jar full and a juice carafe.  Yeah, I know.

But the sort of person who makes her own laundry detergent sure doesn't just throw that mess of crap away.  No, she plunges ahead and uses every bit of that clumpy detergent until it's gone.  (Occasionally reaching into the dispenser with her metal leveling spatula to cut up globs.)  And tries again in 7 months.  (Yes, you definitely save money making your own.)

During the liquid debacle, I also felt like there were a lot of steps being added that probably weren't necessary.  As I said, I've usually used powdered detergents in the past and washing soda and borax are a very similar consistency to powdered detergent.  I felt like I was trying to make 2 out of 3 ingredients do something they didn't need to do--dissolve into soapy water.

So finally, I found that wonderful recipe that I love and adore and will live by the rest of my life.

This is the recipe I like the best:
Thoroughly stir together for 5 minutes and enjoy the results!  That’s it folks…seems too good to be true, but it is true indeed!
Use 1 Tbsp per load (or 2-3 Tbsp for large or heavily soiled loads).

However, here is the caveat: I do NOT vote for using ZOTE soap.  And based on what I know about Ivory, I'm not sure I would try them either.  I don't know Dr. Bronner's well enough to advise.

I was actually kind of excited about using the ZOTE when it was all that was available at my store since my last store only had the Fels-Naphtha.  Here's the thing.  The bar is much larger.  With Fels, you get 2 regular-sized bars.  With ZOTE, you get one huge bar so you'll have to cut it in half and probably increase the borax and washing soda a bit because even half is more than one bar of Fels.  But it's this awesome pink color, right?  And it sounds like something out of a Dr. Seuss book and it feels so soft...

BUT, it does NOT grate like the Fels.  The Fels grates extremely easily on the smallest size grate creating a fine dust that mixes really well with the borax and washing soda.  That is what you want in a powdered laundry soap.  ZOTE, on the other hand, grates best on the largest grate, creating these soft, romantic pink spaghetti curls.  This would be awesome if I was melting the soap to make a liquid detergent.

So here is my advice:  If you want liquid, the softer ZOTE is going to be a better choice (and probably Ivory as well).  The harder Fels-Naptha is perfect for a powder detergent and this one is quick and super easy to make.


  1. Good to know! I want to start making our own once I use up all the Dreft we bought for baby detergent, since I thiiiink he's finally old enough to use normal person detergent. Guess we'll see!

    1. It's definitely a cost savings with the homemade. I hope his skin isn't too sensitive. I seem to still have skin as sensitive as a baby and it's been fine for me :-)

  2. I love Dr. Bronner's soap for making my powdered detergent, I prefer the peppermint scent. I started making my own soap about three years ago, due to my son's allergies and haven't looked back since!


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