Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cheaply Green - Homemade Laundry Detergent

Since we've become a one-income family [for now!], it has challenged me to look at how we spend money and the products that we use everyday.

In my quest to live on the cheap, I realized the benefits of making your own laundry detergent.  It's less expensive [under $20 per batch that lasts, oh, FOREVER], more concentrated [uses only 1/8 cup per load], and greener for everyone involved [no lengthy chemicals you can't pronounce].

The first recipe only included three ingredients: Borax, Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, and a bar of Fels-Naptha laundry bar soap.  It worked great in our front-loading HE washing machine [and no complaints from Mr. Homestead!] but I couldn't stop thinking about our hard well water and "tweaking" the recipe to help combat dingy whites and hit those stains a little harder.

My current recipe includes 2 additional ingredients and beefs-up the amounts used so it makes a bigger batch.

[I'll apologize in advance for the long post, but I had a lot of questions when I was wandering around the internet researching my recipes and I hope passing this information along to you will answer a lot of your questions... all in one place!]

Borax is what helps to soften the water... softer water allows the soap to work better.  20 Mule Team Borax is made of 100% Borax, a naturally occurring mineral composed of sodium, boron, oxygen and water.  20 Mule Team Borax is not harmful to washing machines, plumbing or septic tanks and does not contain phosphates or chlorine. 

If you have a lot of iron in your water like we do (well water), don't use bleach on your whites because it reacts with iron and can cause holes in your clothing.  And I was blaming it on the dogs!

Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda works as a laundry detergent booster and as a household cleaner.  It's not only effective, it is all-natural too.

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda acts as a deodorizer, cleaner and softener.

Oxygen Stain Remover... pretty self-explanatory, I think.

Fels-Naptha Heavy Duty Laundry Bar Soap is a time-tested stain remover and pre-treater.

1 - 4lb box Borax [WalMart $3.38 - found in the laundry aisle]
1 - 3lb 7oz box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda [WalMart $2.39 - found in the laundry aisle]
1 - 4lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda [WalMart $2.16 - found in the laundry or baking aisle]
1 - 3.5lb tub oxygen stain remover [WalMart $6.97 - found in the laundry aisle]
3 - Fels-Naptha Heavy Duty Laundry Bar Soap [WalMart $0.97 - found in the laundry aisle]
Total $17.81

5 gallon container with lid (WalMart $3.97 - found in the home goods or storage aisle]
Cheese grater [Dollar Tree $1.00 - used only for utilities and crafts]
Large spoon for mixing [Dollar Tree $1.00 - used only for utilities and crafts]
Small scoop [Dollar Tree $1.00/pair - used only for utilities and crafts]

The hardest part of all this is grating the Fels-Naptha laundry bars... by hand!  But, it builds character and puts hair on your chest!

It should look like real shredded cheese... for the world's largest taco!

With the shredded Fels-Naptha in the 5 gallon container, pour in the entire contents of the remaining ingredients.  Stir.

VoilĂ !

There is plenty of room left in the container.  You could use a smaller container... or make more if you want to.

For convenience, I keep a smaller container on top of the washing machine.  The scoop is a 1/8 cup coffee scoop.  You can also use the FREE 1/8 cup scoop that comes with the oxygen stain remover.  I am still experimenting between 1 scoop or 2 scoops... a scoop in the detergent tray and a scoop in the wash tub... both scoops in the tray... both scoops in the tub.  Mr. Homestead is currently working on a job at a famous chocolate factory here in Pennsylvania and you wouldn't believe how stubborn those cocoa stains can be... although I'm certainly not complaining when he comes home resembling a giant Easter bunny!  You'll need to experiment on your own depending on your soil load and washing machine type.

Store the remaining detergent sealed with a lid.  If you use a smaller container for everyday use, you won't be needing this stash for a long time!

Have you started going green or living on the cheap?  What modern products have you given up?  What "old-fashioned" ways have you incorporated into this "instant satisfaction" era?

Now... to create some cute printables for my containers...

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