Friday, January 7, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap for Pennies Per Load

by Lois Breneman, © 2008, Revised 2010, Heart to Heart Newsletter

Last week, using only three ingredients, plus water, I made two batches of this recipe for more economical laundry soap than I've been buying in the grocery store on sale and with coupons. 

If you enjoy putting a simple recipe together and saving money, you will enjoy this project.  Let the children help.  They will find it fascinating as well.  Two batches took less than 30 minutes to make and I had fun doing it. 

Commercial laundry detergents cost as much as 30 cents per load, even on sale or with a coupon, but you can get clothes just as clean for pennies per load, using this pure low suds recipe.  Why not put that savings toward other things?  It would be interesting to keep a record of the number of loads you do in a month or year and calculate your savings!  Hang a calendar in your laundry with a pencil on a string to keep track.  If you have children and do an average of ten loads each week, saving a quarter on each load, you would save $140 in one year.

Because this is a pure soap without fillers, dyes and strong perfumes, it is even safe for babies and anyone who is normally allergic to other laundry products.  There's no need to purchase special detergent to prevent rashes or hives.  If no one in your family is allergic, you may even add a small amount (1/4 - 1/2 ounce) of essential oil for fragrance.

This homemade soap works great in High Efficiency Washers, because there are very few suds.

You only need three ingredients which can all be found in most grocery stores (laundry aisle):
        1/3 bar of Fels-Naptha soap (Or 1 whole bar of Ivory or any other bar of soap)   ($1.29 for a bar of Fels-Naptha)
        1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (This is not baking soda)  ($2.89)
        1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Broax  ($3.99)

That's a total of only $8.17 to get started.  You will be able to make three batches from the Fels-Naptha, ten from the washing soda and twenty batches from the Borax!  One batch costs 93 cents for 61 loads of laundry, if you use 1/2 cup per load.  That's just 1.52 cents per load!  Can you believe that?  Even if you double the amount, you would be paying about 3 cents per load!  For High Efficiency Washers, using 1/4 cup, the cost would be a rock bottom .076 cents - 3/4 of a cent!

1.  Score the Fels-Naptha soap to divide it into thirds.  Using a cutting board, shave the bar of soap with a chef's knife.  Fels-Naptha soap is soft so it's easy to do, as you thinly slice the end of the bar.  Store leftover soap shavings in a Ziplock bag and label for future batches.

2.  In a Dutch oven (about 6 quart pot) heat 6 cups of water and shavings from 1/3 bar of Fels-Naptha soap or an entire bar of Ivory or any other bar of soap over medium heat.  I was able to make 2 batches in a 6 quart Dutch oven, before adding additional water.

3.  Dissolve the soap completely; then stir in 1/2 cup Borax and 1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda and stir over the heat until it's all dissolved.  Carefully pour hot solution into a 3 gallon or larger bucket.   For each batch I used a three gallon bucket that dishwashing compound came in at Sam's.

4.  Add 4 additional cups of hot water to the soap mixture bucket and stir well.

5.    If you would like a mild scent, add 1/4 to 1/2 ounce of essential oil.  Another option:  Add a few cups of commercial detergent to the mixture for fragrance and extra cleaning power (if allergies aren't a problem in your family)..

6.  Add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of cold water to this solution.  Stir well and let set without stirring for 24 hours.  It will have the consistency of a liquid gel, with no dye.  Stir after 24 hours.

7.  Keep a tight fitting lid on the liquid laundry solution.  Measure 1/2 cup for each load of laundry (1/4 cup for High Efficiency washers).  You may want to save your old liquid laundry detergent containers for storing and easy pouring.  If you wish, add a few marbles to help mix the gel as you shake the bottle a little before using.


*   For myself, I prefer this recipe with a little fragrance.  Since I had a good bit of liquid laundry detergent on hand from sales, I poured a little into my homemade mixture for a nice scent.

*   You may want to experiment to see if 1/2 cup is enough to make your clothes fresh and clean.  Even if you used a full cup, this recipe would still be much less expensive than most laundry detergents.  I prefer using a full cup for most loads.

*   I still use fabric softener sheets in the dryer.

*  This laundry soap is safe for HE washers, because it is low sudsing.

*   Fels-Naptha bars of soap are also great for stain removal.  After removing a bar from its paper wrapper, I wrapped it with a terry cleaning cloth, and secured it with two rubber bands.  That makes it easier to hold while rubbing on a garment stain that has first been made wet.

*  We all know how dishcloths get smelly after a day of use.  Let Fels-Naptha come to your rescue!  Rub your dishcloth with the bar of soap to help remove the odor and stains.  Zap the wet soapy cloth in the microwave for 1-2 minutes to kill germs and you've got a fresh clean dishcloth again!

Caution about Buckets:
  Some people store their liquid laundry solution in five gallon buckets, but let me caution you to keep a tight-fitting lid on it and out of reach of toddlers.  If they get the lid off, they could fall in and drown!  Please never store uncovered buckets of water or other liquids where tragic accidents could happen.  Using much smaller buckets or old laundry containers would be safer. 

Powdered Homemade Laundry Detergent
1 cup grated Fels-Naptha soap (I chop the bar with a chef's knife, then put in the food processor - sharp blade)
1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (not baking soda)
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

Mix and store in airtight container.  For light loads, use 2 tablespoons.  For heavy loads, use 3 tablespoons.

To Make a Larger Batch ~ Shave 6 bars of Fels-Naptha soap with a chef's knife.  Add 3 cups of Super Washing Soda and 3 cups of 20 Mule Team Borax.  Mix well and store in an airtight container.  I store the powdered soap in cookie tins and it keeps well for a very long time.  Rather than put it directly into the laundry, I put it in a small bucket, run hot water over it, stir, add cold water and pour it into the washer with the clothes.  That way I can be sure it will all dissolve, even when using cold or cool water in the washer, which I usually do. 

White Vinegar - I add about a half cup of white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser of the washer.  This helps remove the soap residue and also acts as a softener, but without the vinegar, I noticed my clothes were softer just by using this homemade soap! 

You can also do an Internet search to learn more about this wonderful homemade laundry soap.  It's a great savings!  Many Heart to Heart subscribers have written to tell me they tried it and really love it!