Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cleaning Up Part 2: Laundry Detergent and Dishwashing Detergent

So…I have made you wait and wait. 

And wait some more.

You’ve may have/possibly/probably even forgotten that you were waiting on me.

But as I’ve said before, I always finish what I start. And today I will finish my “series” (see that’s funny because a “series” typically entails more than two parts. And this will only have two parts. Well, I suppose I should not declare that…it’s always possible there will be more. But I won’t promise any additional ones, lest I leave you hanging.

Anyway, I wanted to tell you a tiny bit about my homemade laundry detergent. Again, I found a recipe from Bargain Briana to begin with, and made some changes to turn it into my own creation (well, kind of…I am certain someone else out there in this whole great big world is using the same recipe. But since I don’t know to whom I should give credit, I won’t. Not flippantly, mind you…just because I don’t have that kind of time to track down such information.)

So I must ask you, before we begin, do you believe it is worth the time, energy and cost to make your own laundry detergent?

Well, that is a question I will allow you to ask for yourself, but I will present to you the facts as I have experienced them.

Everything I read about making your own detergent read that the ingredients should be available at grocery stores, hardware stores or international groceries (which peaked my interest but I didn’t have time to seek one out to take a look).

Everything I needed was at Meijer. Except the Fels-Naptha.

I must confess that after a few stops and a seemingly-thwarted attempt to find the stinkin' soap (ok, it doesn't really stink; I was just frustrated), I thought that perhaps I was on Candid Camera (or some such show).

Or maybe that it wasn’t worth the time/money/effort.

I ended up buying the Fels-Naptha at Dann Miller’s True Value Hardware store (if you are from my neck of the woods, you’ll know exactly where that is; if you don’t, my advice to you is to find the closest hole-in-the-wall type of hardware store and check with them.

When I went in to Dann Miller’s, I was in no mood to waste any more time so I went straight to the counter and asked the cashier if they carried it. And the angels could not have been any clearer in my ears. She said, “Oh yes, it’s right here. And I always make sure it’s in stock because I use it when I make my own laundry detergent.”

OK…point made. I will try it.

And actually, I was so excited about the prospect of talking to someone who made her own detergent that I whipped out the ingredient list (yes, I was carrying it with me…no reason to write down a list of things when I already have a list printed out!) and forced (ok, probably not really FORCED...it's not like I grabbed her by the arm and shoved the paper in her face...why would I say that?) her to look at it. “Is this the recipe you used?”

She took a look and told me that a couple of the items were not on her list…Oxyclean, which was on my original recipe, she didn’t use because the Borax, Fels-Naptha and Washing soda were all designed to remove stains.

As a little aside for you, the Fels-Naptha is made for the bar itself to be rubbed directly on stains. So there you go...did you already know that? I did not before I began this process.  I’m educational if nothing else.

And my original ingredient list also included fabric softener crystals, which I decided to omit because I figured I can buy dryer sheets for less than they would cost, plus they would be so deluded in the laundry detergent concoction that I figured it would be money wasted.

But I am open to opinions…if you find me to be mistaken on that, PLEASE let me know!

So….the moment you’ve all be waiting for…the “recipe” for Homemade Laundry Detergent:

  • 1 box of Borax ($3.38 at Meijer)
  • 3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap ($1.39 each x 3 = $4.46)
  • 1 box washing soda ($3.29 at Meijer)
  • 2 cups baking soda (approx $.75 at Meijer…I used the rest in another cleaning product)
  • Large bucket or bowl (I used a 5 gallon bucket with a lid that I bought at K-Mart for $2.99, but I did not include the cost in my total because it can be reused)

  • Grate the bars of Fels-Naptha soap (a regular cheese grater worked fine for me…I used my old one from the kitchen and then bought a new one for future kitchen use)
  • Combine all the ingredients together
  • Use 1-2 Tablespoons/load.

So…my total cost was $11.88 (we’ll round up to $12) for what is estimated to be “enough detergent for one year”. This, however, does not take into account the number of loads per household. But I figure it would probably be enough for us for about 6 months, with about 8-10 loads of laundry/ week.

Seems like it’s worth it to me (not that you asked but you have been reading the blog this far so you must KIND of want to know what I think.

A couple words of advice: grating the soap does take a little bit of time…not hours and hours or anything, but find yourself an entertaining show and plop down in front of it because it’s probably going to be a good half-hour in which you’re grating soap.

The good news is that it smells pleasant (at least I think it does!) so that’s helpful.

Oh, and make sure you freeze the bars ahead of time…that seems to help a bit too. I don’t exactly know why but I tried grating it both in frozen and unfrozen forms, and the frozen worked faster.

Questions? No?

Well, then let’s move on to Homemade Dishwasher Detergent. This one is simpler; no grating involved. And it's cheaper too. But I don’t know how long it will last…I’ve only been using it for a few weeks so I can’t really tell. But here it is in case you are interested in trying it out for yourself:

  • 2 cups Borax (The box was $3.49 but I only used the 2 cups…so I have plenty to make at least one more batch…so for monetary purposes I’ll use $1.75)
  • 2 cups baking soda ($.75 at Meijer)
  • 4 packets unsweetened lemon Kool-aid or ½ cup citric acid; you can get citric acid with canning supplies. (I opted for Kool-aid because it was cheaper…even paying full price, which is for suckers, BTW...they were still only $.80
  • 1 cup Kosher salt ($1.00…but again I didn’t use the whole container and I have enough for another batch, so I’ll say $.50 for cost estimate)

  • Mix together all ingredients
  • Use 2 Tablespoons per load in your dishwasher compartment.

My dishes are just as clean as with Cascade or Finish. And for a fraction of the cost: $3.80, I can have clean dishes.

One other thing I wanted to mention: I also purchased inexpensive measuring spoons from the Dollar Tree so I could have designated scoops. But again, I did not include those costs in my totals, as they are not consumables.

For those of you who really want to be precise, you could estimate the number of batches of each cleaner you would make and then divide the cost of the scoop up by the number of batches to give an accurate cost value of the scoop. You could do the same for the bucket used in the laundry detergent.

I’m sure it’s clear as mud.

And I’m sure my dad could explain that better than I…because I guarantee that as he read that, this concept already occurred to him.

So…that’s about all I have to share on my bargain-basement cleaning supplies. For now. I may get really into it...on can never tell.

Actually, I have a LONG list of possibilities for hydrogen peroxide and I’m itching to get started on that…so we’ll see if anything comes of it.

With that…have a fabulous day!


  1. There was math in this, and things I've never heard of.

    But the savings sound good.

    And I read to the end anyway :D

  2. I used it for years but I made the liquid. And I am not sure why I quit making my own??? But I did. Anyway I felt it worked wonderful with the smelly basketball and swim team swim suits.
    Why did you choose dry over liquid?
    I was not a fan of the recipe I made for the dishwasher but let me know what you think of yours over time! WHEN {I hope} when we get our dishwasher fixed I'd love to save $$

  3. I DO THIS!! Totally love it! I go a step further and I add those "scent crystals" (Gain & Downy both have 'em). It adds some good smelly to it. I use vinegar & essential oils (namely lavendar) for my fabric softener.
    I recently went to NO chemical household cleaning products. I pretty much only use vinegar & baking soda. I have found you can use it for almost everything. (I still do buy dishwashing soap--I don't have a dishwasher, otherwise I would try your 'recipe') I am currently soaking orange peels in vinegar (have to do it for 2 weeks) and then I will have "nice" smelling vinegar to clean with. I'm rambling... anyway, I was excited because...I totally do this. My batch probably lasts 5 months.