Homemade laundry detergent
Fellow UsedEverywhere blogger Amber recently shared some of her top tips for cleaning your home without toxic chemicals. The natural cleaning methods she recommends are not only healthier for you and your family because they don’t contain toxic chemicals, but also better for the environment for the same reason.
As it turns out, homemade cleaning products are much cheaper, too. When you buy cleaning products from the store, you’re paying for the dozens of chemicals that go into every bottle, plus the research that went into developing those chemicals. Add in the cost of the fancy packaging, and the marketing campaigns and advertisements that get you to buy the cleaners in the first place. Chemicals are expensive!
True confession time: I don’t do that much housecleaning, so switching to homemade cleaning products isn’t actually going to save me much money. But my husband and I generate a lot of laundry somehow, so using store-bought laundry detergent is one area of our lives where we were literally pouring money down the drain, along with a lot of chemicals. That is why we switched to homemade laundry detergent three years ago and have never gone back.
Homemade laundry detergent is quick and easy to make – it takes only three ingredients compared to the three dozen listed on the back of a box of Tide. It is low-sudsing, so it is perfectly safe to use in both HE front-loaders and standard washing machines. Homemade laundry detergent performs just as well as any store-bought detergent ever did for me: it works in both cold and hot water, it lifts stains, keeps whites white, and takes Rolf’s shirts from funktastic to fresh as a daisy. All without dozens of toxic chemicals, and for pennies a load. With all these points in favour of homemade laundry detergent, I feel like a chump for ever using store-bought detergent!
If you’re ready to shake off the chains of the store-bought laundry detergent industry, here’s how you do it.
Homemade laundry detergent – powder
You can find the ingredients in the laundry or cleaning aisle of most Wal-Marts and large grocery stores such as Loblaws / Real Canadian Superstore.
- 1 cup borax
- 1 cup washing soda (not to be confused with baking soda!)
- 1 bar laundry soap (e.g. Sunlight, Fels Naptha, Zote, or you can even use regular body soap like Ivory)
Finely grate the bar of laundry soap with a cheese grater, blender, or food processor. Mix the grated soap with the borax and the washing soda. Store in an airtight container such as a jar or plastic tub. This detergent is very concentrated, so you only need to use 1 tbsp of powdered detergent per load of laundry (use 2-3 tbsps for heavily soiled or stinky loads).
Homemade laundry detergent – liquid
The liquid version of homemade laundry detergent takes more work, but it still requires only three ingredients and is just as cheap. I made the liquid version for two years because I had always used liquid store-bought detergents, and because my HE front-loading washing machine had a liquid dispenser. Turns out you can just remove the liquid-dispensing cup from the washing machine and use powder instead. The powder works just as well as the liquid for me, so I’ve switched because it’s easier to make. If you just plain prefer liquid detergents, here’s how you make the homemade version.
- 1 cup borax
- 1 cup washing soda
- 1 bar laundry soap
- large bucket with lid
Grate the bar of laundry soap into a large pot. Add 6 cups of water and heat on low or medium, stirring occasionally, until all the soap is melted – avoid boiling as this produces a lot of foam. In a large bucket, mix the borax and the washing soda with 10 Litres (or 40 cups or 2.5 gallons) of very hot water and stir well. Add the hot soapy water from the stove and stir until everything is thoroughly mixed. Let stand overnight. When it cools, it will turn into a solid gelatinous mass – break it up and stir it with a large wooden spoon until it becomes a smooth, thick, liquidy mixture. Use 1 cup per load.
Each of the recipes above makes enough for 50 loads of laundry. The cost breakdown is:
Borax (2kg box / 10 cups): $4.99 ÷ 10 cups = $0.50 per batch
Washing Soda (3kg box / 15 cups): $4.99 ÷ 15 cups = $0.33 per batch
Sunlight Laundry Bar Soap: $1.25 each
At a total cost of $2.08 per batch, which makes enough for 50 loads of laundry, that’s about four cents a load. See you in the borax aisle!