Monday, January 05, 2009

Homemade laundry detergent & dryer sheets

Saving money is always important, but I just had to try this out of sheer curiosity. The Duggars do it! I guess they'd have to with all the laundry they do. You can find many sites and a few videos on the subject if you just Google "homemade laundry detergent". I have been doing this for almost three months now and so far I've been quite pleased. I still use my liquid All on the rare occasion because my husband sometimes brings home his work clothes that are so stinky that my homemade detergent just can't cut it. I'm sure there's a homemade remedy for this as well...vinegar or baking soda perhaps?

Making liquid laundry detergent is a bit more labor intensive but the same recipe can yield so much more detergent and is, therefore, more cost effective than the powdered version. I just prefer powdered over liquid for this.

Here is the basic recipe that is repeated all over the 'net but I found it here:

Powdered Laundry Detergent

2 cups finely grated bar soap, i.e. Zote, Fels-Naptha
1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda!)
1 cup borax

1. Mix well and store in an airtight plastic container.

2. Use 2 tablespoons per full load.

I tried grating a bar of soap for this and it felt like more trouble than it was worth since I did it in my small food processor, like I saw in one video, but it took longer to clean my processor than it did to grate the soap! I wasn't about to risk grating my knuckles doing it on a box grater as I saw on another video, so my lazy butt went to the store and bought the cheapest powdered laundry detergent, a 3 lb. box of Sun, which was about $3.00 US. Since I can't find washing soda (sodium carbonate) in my area I have been substituting it with Purex 2, which contains both sodium carbonate and sodium percarbonate, the latter of which is listed on the box as a bleach alternative. I bought a 1 lb. box for less than $3.00 US. You can find sodium carbonate in the swimming pool supply section of Wal-Mart in a product called PH Plus but at $7.00 US, it is not an option since the whole reason I'm doing this is to save money. Also, in my area, the Hispanic stores carry a bar laundry soap at less than $1.00 US. I think the box of Borax that I bought was also about $3.00. I found all of these at Wal-Mart.

Even though I'm not grating a bar of soap, I use basically the same ratios of:
2 parts powdered laundry detergent
1 part Purex 2
1 part Borax

I found a 3 tablespoon scoop in my junk drawer and I have been using that to measure my soap for each load.

After all this time, I have only just finished my first box of Sun, haven't finished a whole box of either Purex 2 or Borax! I haven't taken the time to do a real cost analysis of making my own detergent but it really seems to be working out cheaper thus far. Did I mention that I average 2 full loads of laundry a day, every day? I've already done 4 loads today and I'm not done's bed sheet day!

How do I soften my laundry? I was intrigued when I saw that people have found ways to make their own fabric softener sheets so I figured that since I'm on a roll, I'd try it as well. You can see a few alternatives at TipNut. I wasn't a fan of using either old towels or flannel because of the lint and/or fraying associated with them so I used some scraps of microfleece I had laying around, which doesn't fray once cut. I cut the fleece into roughly 4" x
6" pieces. One formula I found was to dilute 1 part of liquid fabric softener with 6 parts of water. I found this was too watery but dilution really depends upon which fabric softener you start with. Try 3:1 water to softener. Once you do it a few times, you get a feel for what the diluted softener should feel like to the touch to get your laundry as soft as you like. Mix the fabric softener and water in a lidded container and soak the strips. When you need to use them, take one or two and wring them out before tossing into the dryer. Dry as usual. There is no need to wash the strips when the load is dry. Simply put them back into the container to soak. Wanna know a side benefit of this fabric softener solution? Remember those fleece Swiffer-like duster cloths I made a while back? I have found that when I soak those in the softener solution, wring out and let air dry, they attract much more dust. You have to let them air dry after soaking as putting in the dryer defeats the purpose.

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