Wednesday, December 7, 2011

DIY Laundry Soap

I have a lot of blog catching up to do over this past week.  However, I'll start with a recent project Nick and I worked on: Do-It-Yourself laundry detergent.  (I'm thrifty, but I have to say, this pushed it to a new level for me!).  This post will be pretty similar to the one that gave me the inspiration in the first place, which can be found HERE.  (She also has a link back to the main website where she got the idea from).

I was super thankful that there was a picture posted of the supplies as it made it MUCH easier to locate in the store.  All that you need is:

1.  1/2 cup of Borax;
2.  1/2 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda; and
3.  one Sunlight Bar.

I was doubtful when they said it would all come to around $15, but surprisingly, it was even less, with the Sunlight bars being a package of 2 for $1.99.  (Sunlight bars are what you will run out of the fastest).

It is very easy to make and took only about 30 minutes.  (It is hard to know exactly as we were making dinner at the same time).

STEP 1.  Shred one Sunlight bar with a cheese grater.  Nick informs me that the bars are pretty soft, and it's about as easy as shredding cheese.

STEP 2.  Add 6 cups of water to a large stock pot and put in shredded Sunlight bar.  Stir on a medium heat until the shredded soap dissolves into the water, and looks like the photo below:

STEP 3.  Add 1/2 cup of Borax and 1/2 cup of washing soda to the pot and stir until it also dissolves.  It will start to thicken as well.

STEP 4.  Have four cups of boiling water ready in your kettle (you can put the kettle on during steps 2 and 3 above).  When that boils, pour into a large bucket (2 gallons minimum).  We only had ice-cream buckets, so we just grabbed two of those and treated them like one big pot, pouring everything evenly between them.

STEP 5.  Add all your soap mixture from your big pot on the stove into the large bucket containing the 4 cups of boiling water (or, in our case, into the two smaller buckets where we split everything evenly).

STEP 6.  Water it down even further by pouring an additional gallon (4 litres) of cold water + 6 more cups of cold water and stir.

STEP 7.  Leave for 24 hours and it will turn into a gel which you are ready to use:

24 hours later.  It's hard to describe the texture.  It's "gloopy".  The hole in it is from our first 2 loads of laundry.

In quick summary (in case I confused you), it goes:

6 cups of cold water in pot on stove.  Turn to medium heat.  Add all three ingredients slowly and dissolve.  Grab a big bucket and put 4 cups boiling water in the bottom of it.  Then pour in your soap mixture.  Then top it off with 1 gallon + 6 cups of cold water and stir gently.  Leave sit.

You only need 1/2 cup of the finished gel mixture per laundry load (we pack our washers, too, so it can handle a BIG load).  This works in hot or cold water washes (we tested it).  Just put the gel in the bottom first and let it swish around so that it gets a head start dissolving in the water before you dump a bunch of dirty clothing on top of it. As far as storing it goes, we don't have lids for our ice-cream buckets, so we're just letting it sit out in the open.  Apparently, this is totally fine (we have no young children or pets that will be tempted to eat it, albeit).

Now, I haven't tested this yet, as I JUST made it, but the blog that I got this idea from (see link at top of post), states that this one batch will do about 64 loads of laundry. This sounds about right.

EDITED to say:  I HAVE tested it now, and it will evaporate over time if you don't put a lid on it.  

I "think" I probably have at least 8 more "1/2 cups" of Borax and washing soda in those boxes, which together only cost about $10-$12.  So, if I get 9 batches (rough estimate) of laundry soap out of them, then $12 divided by 9 = $1.33 per batch.  Bump that up to $2.33 as the Sunlight bars are $1.00 each.  So for $2.33 I can do 64 loads of laundry.  Not bad at all!  And my clothes smell great!

EDITED to say:  Now that I have been using this a while, I have two words of caution to add.  1.  If you absolutely PACK your washers like we do, you may find a bit of residue left on pure black clothing items.  I just grab a damp towel and wipe it off before wearing it when this happens.  I'm sure it's probably avoidable if you don't overload your machines ;)   

2.  Because there is no bleach in this, you may find your whites don't come out as white as they used to.  A friend told me that some people put Oxy Clean in it to help with this.  I haven't tried this, but it's worth looking into if you are concerned.  I have a whitening bar of soap that I just scrub on the arm pits and collars of white shirts before throwing them in the wash, and that seems to do the trick.  It's probably better for your clothes overall, but a pain when you have a lot of whites :)

BONUS:  I did a little brief research.  Don't hold me to this as I didn't spend a ton of time on it, but it seems that making your own laundry detergent using these ingredients is a lot better for you/the environment, as they seem to have a lot less of the harsh chemicals found in pre-made, store-bought stuff.


  1. Do you think this would work in an HE machine?

  2. I'm actually really not sure! You can try asking here: as I got the idea from her in the first place. She might be able to answer you. Also, as an additional side note, I have noticed that as it settles down and ages, the volume of soap gets less. Now I have not determined whether this is from evaporation or just the suds condensing. I have since put a lid on the containers to try and determine if it could be evaporation or not, but don't know yet :)