Between the World Cup, my son’s water polo tournaments, and my husband’s work schedule, I am NOT accomplishing my tasks. No blog, no cooking, no bread baking. As an added insult, a fungus attacked my spaghetti squash plant. And my dog Bella has eaten the first ripe tomatoes of the summer.
Then we ran out of laundry detergent.
These are not crises, merely speedbumps. The sun still rises every day, and the laundry waited for me, patiently, while I scrambled to Walmart to purchase the ingredients for another batch of detergent.
I mix our laundry detergent. This is one of the commercial products that I RESENT having to buy. We go through it too quick, and the good-smelling, remove-all-athletic-odor stuff is almost $20 a jug.
Here is the recipe that I use: (Walmart prices as of June 26, 2014, in Southern California.)
1 Box of Borax (4lb. 12oz.) $3.97
1 Box of Baking Soda, Value Size (4lb.) $2.24
1 Box of WASHING Soda (3lb. 7oz.) $3.24
1 container of Oxi Clean (the small, 1.3lb. container) $3.86
3 bars of Fels-Naptha laundry soap*, shredded then grated into powder $.97 x 3
There are many recipes on the web, even liquid versions. I like the powdered form. Easy to mix, easy to use, and easy to store. It’s also easy to find the cheap ingredients, IF you go to Walmart. Target doesn’t carry them all, and grocery stores are hit and miss, plus they cost too much.
(Walmart has THE BEST prices on cleaning products.)
The most difficult part of mixing your own laundry detergent is transforming the bars of soap into powder. I use the cheese grater on our food processor. Then I put the shreds of soap into the container with the regular blade and process until it’s powdered.
Note: I have a friend that uses soap flakes because she doesn’t want to fuss with grating the bars of soap. Soap flakes are packaged in a small box and you can find them in the same general area as the other laundry ingredients at Walmart. One box was around the same weight as a bar of soap, but it cost three times as much. I put the box back and stuck with the Fels-Naptha. If you don’t want the fuss of shredding and grating the soap, though, maybe spending a few extra bucks on soap flakes will be worth it to you, too.
I tested out my blender to see if that works, and it does, but it gets warm and compacts the soap into the bottom corners of the container. It’s not fatal, but you have to break up the clumps with your fingers – after you empty it, of course! I uses a 5 gallon Home Depot bucket to mix all the ingredients in. Beware the powder dust. If it bothers you, take the box-emptying operation outside. If you put the lid on the bucket, you can roll the bucket on its side to assist the mixing process while cutting down your exposure to the product dust. Having a long metal spoon assists in the stirring process, too.
What about the good-smelling part? Some recipes call for scent crystals, or Downy Unstoppables, or Bounce Scent Bursts. I used to put these products in the mix, too. I’d add the crystals to the detergent, or I’d process the little scent pellets into crumbles before adding to the detergent. This made the detergent smell GREAT, but the scent didn’t last through the wash. That’s because these products aren’t meant to be used in the laundry soap dispenser (if your washing machine has one) or to be broken down in a food processor. You are supposed to add them directly to the wash basin on top of the dirty clothes, for front load and top load washers. So I now add the clean laundry “scent” separate from my detergent, and the clothes smell lovely when removed from the dryer. (If you have a top-load washer and add your detergent directly to the wash basin, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to add scent crystals to your mix.)
This batch of detergent lasts us 6 months, more or less. I use the scoop from the Oxi Clean, and one scoop works fine for most loads. I have a glass container from Ikea that I keep half of the detergent in on the laundry counter, and I store the other half in a shoe-box sized plastic container in the closet. Putting the Bounce Bursts in a glass container makes it easier to add to the washing machine, too. (If you notice some blue bits in the detergent in the picture, it’s because I had some leftover Purex Scent Crystals that I threw in for kicks and giggles. I wasn’t going to use them the way they were intended; I prefer the Bounce or Downy types. I had half a container of some pink Downy scent nuggets, and a new container of orange Bounce ones. That’s why the jar looks like sherbet candy!)
That’s about $16 for six months of laundry soap. (The Bounce Bursts cost an additional $9.74 for the big 19.5oz container.) I would easily spend more than $16 every month buying Tide with Febreze. More importantly, I am not forced to go to the store every month for laundry detergent. The less time I spend at the store, the more money I keep in my bank account. I’d rather be spending the time and money at my local pub, watching the next World Cup game. USA vs. Belgium will start in 30 minutes, so I gotta go!
*If you need laundry soap for sensitive skin, use Ivory soap bars (four or five of them) instead of Fels-Naptha, and skip the scent booster.