Weekend Project: Making Your Own Laundry Detergent

April 2009
When I delved into using baking soda for shampoo and vinegar for conditioner, a reader wrote in and asked if I had tried to make my own laundry detergent. I hadn't heard of it until I saw the Duggars do it a few weeks ago on 18 Kids and Counting. I checked out recipes for both liquid and dry detergent. Each called for three major ingredients: bar soap, washing soda or OxiClean, and borax. The dry soap was considerably easier to make (no use of stove or need for a five-gallon bucket for the soapy slosh), so I started there. laundryingredientsStep 1: Buy the ingredients. I got all of the products at my neighborhood Safeway. They didn't have washing soda, but I found OxiClean. Also, note that Safeway has a generic version of OxiClean for under half the price. I got Dove soap because it was on sale and for the scent of grapefruit and lemongrass. (You'll note here that I paired detergent-making with a glass of light rose.) shavethesoapStep 2: Shave two cups of soap. It takes just one bar of soap to get two cups. In fact, my Dove bar shaved perfectly into the amount needed. I was worried that the shaving would take a while, but it was extremely easy and fast. It probably took me 10 to 15 minutes, and I used my old garage-sale cheese grater. detergentinlaundryroomStep 3: Mix in one cup of borax and one cup of washing soda or OxiClean. Stir and put in an airtight container. Scoop two tablespoons of detergent for each load. Results: As I pulled the clothes out of the washer, I immediately buried my nose in them to see how the smells compared. Turns out Dove's grapefruit bar makes my clothes smell even better than Tide. After hanging them out on the clothesline to dry, I was also happy to find they were softer than usual. Savings: For all of my bulk ingredients, I spent $20.77. The batch I made, which will wash around 20 loads, cost me $2.31. That's around 12 cents a load. Tide, in comparison, costs $9.99 (on sale) for 54 loads, which works out to around 19 cents a load. The time: From start to finish it took me 20 minutes to make the detergent--that includes cleanup. The bragging rights: People will act impressed and incredulous if you tell them that you make your own laundry detergent, which is pretty fun. Personally, I'm glad to be free of the huge plastic detergent containers and the slimy blue liquid that always manages to spill everywhere. Now I have bulk detergent that fits neatly in a Tupperware and is easy to transport and share.