Friday, April 27, 2012

DIY Laundry Detergent

It is no secret that laundry is a chore, I personally can't stand doing it, never mind the folding and putting everything back where it belongs. Wait! That was the old me, the one that was all too conveniently passing the suds bucket to my dear husband. It's his fault, he should have never claimed "I love doing the laundry!" 12 years ago -  Now he's stuck with it!

Then My Great Challenge came along and with my chore chart, the laundry started to be handled by me on a daily rather than by Scott, on a weekly basis.
See the secret of laundry, I found, is to keep the loads manageable. Laugh all you want, I know I am late into figuring these "homely" secrets. It turns out that my aversion to laundry was not the chore itself, it was the sheer volume of it, having to deal with everything anyone in our house ever wore that week plus some!

In addition, I also realized we were going through way too much detergent, having to run oversize loads and adding a bit more to "compensate" for some reason I cannot recall (I am sure it made sense at one time). Enter couponing and the price per load was drastically reduced but the problem remained the same: huge loads = wasted detergent and wasted time.

So I decided to attack the problem on all fronts:

1. Smaller manageable loads (at least one per evening - on my chore chart it is referred to as "attend to leftover laundry"),
2. Some items can be worn more than once (jeans and other pants, jackets and the like),
3. Make my own detergent.

I did some online research  through Pinterest, blogs etc. and came across a lot of recipes to make my own detergent. Having lived most of my childhood and early adulthood in Europe, I recall that powder detergent was always the one of choice and liquid varieties were frowned upon once introduced to the market as not economical nor effective. So sure enough I also checked my old French stores online and laundry detergent is still sold in its powder form, though and alas, liquids and gels seem to be found in larger varieties. I am not so sure about the liquid form providing better results as I remember our old Brooklyn days when little packets of powder Tide were used at the Princess Laundromat (actual name). Back then it seemed to work much better but then again these machines looked like Sherman Tanks.

All the recipes I found had at least two ingredients in common: Borax and Super Washing Soda.

Borax is also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate and is a mineral as well as a salt of boric acid. It is usually a white powder consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water. Borax is the main ingredient in most detergents.

Super Washing Soda or Sodium Carbonate is well known for its everyday use as a water softener.

Both can be found on the bottom shelf of your supermarket's laundry aisle (that's where they keep the "secret" cheap stuff).

All recipes used some kind of non sudsy soap which was either grated and left as is, or mixed with water alongside all other ingredients and melted to a liquid form.  Some recipes also asked for additional ingredients such as Oxy Clean. Well, I knew I was not going to cook up some laundry detergent and opted instead for the powder variety.

After all my research, I felt the one recipe I would most likely be able to replicate was the one I found at, but I did switch it around a bit, so here is My Great Challenge's DIY Laundry Detergent:

Ingredients needed for My Great Challenge
DIY Laundry Detergent

2 cups Borax Powder
2 cups Super Washing Soda
1 cup of Baking Soda (I am adding this as a deodorizer and whitening agent)
2 bars of Ivory Soap (Their recipe called for Castille Soap but you can use any suds-less soap)
8 drops of Aromatherapy Essential Oils (I used peppermint instead of the recommended Lavender - thought it would be more masculine  - I am the only gal in the house - plus it was already on hand).

How to:

Mix all the powder ingredients together first and stir well with your kitchen whisk. Do it slowly unless you want white residue powder all over your counter (I found that out the hard way).

Mix all powder ingredients first

Using your regular kitchen grater, grate your Ivory bars directly over the powder and mix everything, again using the whisk.

Once you are certain all ingredients are evenly mixed, add 8 drops of the essential oil (8 seemed to be sufficient to me, you can add more if you want).

This is what it looks like once all mixed together:

Pour the detergent into some type of tight sealed container, I used the leftover plastic jar from Gourmet Biscottis we had purchased at BJ's.

Instructions and dosage:

Let your wash water run a bit and add 1/3 cup per large load size (small=1/4, Medium=1/4 to 1/3 and large=1/3), I wait for the powder (not the grated soap) to dissolve then add the clothes.


This powdered detergent works great! Not only is it cheap, it leaves no residue on dark clothes and the scent is very subtle, therefore ideal for allergy sufferers. We have not noticed any variation in wash quality/effectiveness when compared to the liquid detergents we were using. If anything, I would go as far as saying that by keeping the ingredients pure, this washes even better!

This recipe makes about 9 cups worth of detergent. We use 1/3 cup per large load which comes down to about 27 large loads or 54 small/Medium loads. Pricing? Just under $10 for all the ingredients (minus the Aromatherapy oil), a complete batch using all (remember that we only made a small batch here) would yield at least 4 times the detergent or about 215 small/medium loads at under $10, that's under $0.05 per load!

I am no Math genius, but I can figure this one out:

Tide 26 loads: about $13 (from or $0.50 per load...1 load per day (at least) brings it to $3.50/week or $182/year.

My Great Challenge Detergent - about $0.05 per load or $0.35/week or $18.20/year.

I just saved us $163 per year!



  1. This is fantastic! I'm going to try this. However, I have an HE washing machine. Do you think I should use less detergent than recommended here for standard washers?

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I welcome your feedback and comments. If you have a question or a specific request, do not hesitate, I am here to help! Thanks, S.

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