Homemade Laundry Detergent; Easy, Cheap and Effective!

Ok, so maybe it's my inner Hippie talking, or maybe it's the fact that I have 5 kids and it's annoying as all hell to have to spend so much money on something that essentially gets washed down the drain. Or maybe it's because at least two of the five are allergic to a number of regular detergents so it makes me wonder what on earth goes into them? Or maybe it's a bit of all those reasons. Regardless of the reasons, when Little Miss Penelope was a couple of weeks old we made our first batch of homemade laundry detergent and we haven't looked back!

The ingredients are easy to find and don't cost much. You'll get them at your local supermarket, although we got the Borax at Bunnings (which is a big hardware store). They also have the advantage that one set of ingredients will do for around a year's worth of detergent. You'll need:

Washing Soda -
(apparently this is not something that is readily available everywhere like it is here. You can get it from Amazon, but don't substitute Baking Soda cause that's a completely different thing. Washing Soda is also known as Soda Ash - you can use it to soak clothes before tie-dying them and I use it to wash my printing screens.)

Laundry Soap (we use Velvet)

For the batch we make these are the quantities: 1/2 cup soap flakes, 1/4 cup Borax, 1/4 cup washing soda and 500mls of water.
To make, you simply grate your soap finely (you can use soap flakes but it's way cheaper to buy laundry soap and finely grate it yourself), add that to your Borax and Washing Soda and water in a saucepan and bring it to the boil. Just remember to stir contstantly. By the time it's boiling all of the dry ingredients should be dissolved.

Pour that into a container and top with cold water. We use an additional 5ltrs of cold water and it seems to work well. Just be sure to warm your container first if it's glass like ours or you will end up cracking it from the boiling liquid. (yes....experience talking here....)

To do a load of laundry we put 1/4 cup of it into our machine. For really soiled loads use double, for our cloth nappies we use double with some bleach in the machine as well. Our machine is a new high efficiency front loader and we have no problems with it going through. Our clothes are cleaned better than using standard store bought detergent and I really can't find fault with it. It doesn't have a smell, so if that bothers you, you could add a little essential oil to the mixture to add fragrance but we don't bother.

We spent approximately $25 on raw ingredients, and we're pretty confident we'll get the whole year from those ingredients. We have to make a new batch roughly every 2 -3 months, but that's ok cause it takes all of 20 minutes to do so. Honestly, the most time is actually spent grating the soap. If I was more organised I'd grate a heap up all at once and store it in a zip lock bag and then it would probably take all of 8 minutes or so to make each couple of months. And don't forget that there are seven of us in the house, and Penelope is in cloth nappies so we're always doing washing! If there are less people in your house, you'll use way less and it will last longer! And there's also no allergy issues at all.

As a bit of a side-note: you might have to slightly adjust the cold water quantity if the consistency isn't right for your machine, and it might go gluggy as it settles. That's ok because you stir it before each use. 

It settles somewhat in the jar, so we have a big wooden spoon that we use to give it a quick stir before using and then a 1/4 cup kitchen measure is what we use to scoop out the liquid and put it in the machine. We have a separate grater, wooden spoon, measuring cups and saucepan that we store in the cupboard. All the ingredients get stored straight into the saucepan after making a batch. It's neat, quick, easy and cheap. And it works really really well. I don't think I'll ever buy detergent again! 

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  1. Ask Matthew to help me translate your ingredients to US...what is washing soda?

    1. It's sodium bicarbonate Clark, I'm pretty sure you can order it from Amazon if you can't find it - Arm and Hammer make it. :) It's also known as Soda Ash. It's the same stuff I use to clean my screens when I screen print.


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