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March 3, 2013 / missjandme

An Eco Experiment – Homemade Laundry Detergent

Finished detergent.

As I promised on Facebook, I recently decided to try out some homemade laundry detergent.

There are a couple reasons for this experiment. Firstly, small town living means limited access to the “green” products I want. Secondly, small town living means paying a premium for those items as well. I found a good locally handmade eco-friendly liquid detergent, at a cost of $15.99+tax for 30ish loads. Approximately $0.60 per load. That’s expensive! So I did my research, found a super-easy powdered detergent recipe that got rave reviews on multiple websites and blogs, and went shopping.

The recipe is as follows:

1 bar of soap
1 cup of borax
1 cup of baking soda
1 cup of washing soda
A container to hold the mixture

Here’s my cast of characters as I assembled them to begin:

The ingredients.

The ingredients.

I was able to find all the ingredients (washing soda took a bit of searching, but my local supermarket had it – even though the big W didn’t.) I forgot to purchase a plastic bucket at the bulk store, but found this 128 oz pickle jar that actually belonged to the hubby’s grandmother long ago.

The process is simple – shred or grate the soap and mix the ingredients. I chose to make a double batch because I didn’t want to have to do it again any time soon. The bar of soap I purchased was an all-natural laundry/stain bar I found at the bulk store, then I added a smaller bar of handmade Lovely Lavender castile soap for a nice scent.

The soap, cut into sticks to fit in the food processor.

The soap, cut into sticks to fit in the food processor.

Shredded soap.

Shredded soap.

I put everything into the jar

017

and then mixed it all with a wooden spoon. (I tried shaking the jar, but the lid wasn’t a tight fit – I later realized I’d grabbed the wrong one, so I was able to give it a good shake later on.)

Finished detergent.

Finished detergent.

The “dose” is 2 tablespoons per load (1 tablespoon per if HE machine.) I happen to have hoarded some scoops from old oxygen bleach tubs, and they are roughly 2 tablespoons, so I’m using one of those to scoop it. (And recycling the ones I don’t need. I’m learning to let go!) I definitely need a different container, though, because as much as I love the jar, as the level of detergent reduces I’m going to have to jam my hand into the jar to reach it.

I have done about 4 loads of laundry since I made the detergent. It dissolves well and the clothes come out of the washer smelling nice and fresh, despite my use of vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. The scent was basically gone after the dryer, but that’s fine by me. The clothes are nice and clean, and I prefer them not to have a strong scent.  I came across another recipe that mentioned “grinding” the detergent in the food processor, and I may run the detergent through in small batches because the soap shreds are quite large and I feel like I’d be less concerned about it dissolving properly if the pieces were smaller.

I haven’t had to deal with any serious stains yet, but for general laundry use I am quite pleased with the detergent. The ingredients are simple and easy to identify, there is nothing that I feel guilty about using, and it’s cleaning our clothes up to my standards. I know that some green folk have qualms about Borax, but I read up a bit and found this article on Crunchy Betty which rounds up a good deal of research on Borax, and my take-away from the info is that Borax is safe.

And now for the real nitty-gritty. Is it cheaper? I purchased the ingredients at the following cost: $2.09 for the laundry bar (the lavender soap was in my stash,) borax $5.00 for 2kg (and it turned out I had enough in my old box, so I have plenty for the next batch of detergent,) washing soda $6.99 for 3kg, and baking soda $2.25 per kilogram at bulk store. Costs for this batch are:

Soap                   $2.09
Baking soda      $1.12
Washing soda   $1.17
Borax                 $1.25
——-
Total                  $5.63 for the batch
Approximate number of loads = 50
Final cost per load = approximately $0.12 Twelve cents! That’s cheap.

All in all, I’m pleased with this process – especially with the cost! I feel good knowing that my girlie’s delicate skin isn’t coming into contact with weird chemicals I can’t pronounce, and that I’ve wiggled a little more room into the family budget.

Are you making any green changes? I’d love to hear your successes and suggestions.

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