Why fuss about laundry detergent? A powdered version* is so easy to make that a child can do it, although the ingredients can sometimes be hard to find. You simply buy them, mix them together and you’re done. Buying the ingredients will cost you about the same price as a small package of commercial laundry detergent but they will last a lot longer. You can adjust them to suit yourself and you can add essential oil scents make the soap smell however you want it to.
Homemade powdered laundry detergent is easy to store. An old ice cream bucket, a glass container, a plastic bag or whatever you have handy will work.
Use a box grater (or flat cheese grater) to grate the soap. If your soap is very soft–for instance, if you live in a warm climate, and it’s hot in your home, freeze the soap bar for up to 30 minutes to firm it up and make it easier to grate.
Mix the grated soap with the borax and washing soda. It’s easiest to put all the ingredients in a gallon-sized zipper bag, and then shake well. Squish the mixture around with your hands, and break up the grated soap bits so they disperse through the borax and soda mixture. Pour detergent into a lidded container, and keep in a cool dry place. In regular washing machines, use the about half the amount of powdered detergent as you normally would.
For high efficency washers, use no more than 2 tablespoons of homemade detergent. HE washers are high efficiency because they circulate the water through the clothing more effectively and efficiently. That HE detergent you may be buying now is a low-sudsing detergent–just like this homemade powder. It’s safe to use in HE machines.
You will find that you may not need to use liquid softener with this soap–and if you choose to, you will need much less than before! Many folks just use 1/4 cup of white vinegar in the rinse cup in lieu of liquid laundry softener.
Notice that you need washing soda and not baking soda, although baking soda is a laundry help. The bar of grated soap can be any kind. I think Fels Naptha is the best. Fels cuts through grease and body oils, and leaves clothes smelling clean and fresh.
Some people prefer to use their favorite scented bath soap. In lieu of that, you can add a small amount of essential oil of your choice and mix it in well.
Neither borax nor washing soda should cause allergic or other reactions, but if the bar soap you choose irritates a family member’s skin, you shouldn’t use it in the laundry soap. If irritation occurs after clothing has been laundered, you can be fairly sure it’s the soap you chose to grate into the neutral borax and washing soda mixture. Choose a low allergen brand like Fels Naptha or Zote, and make a fresh batch of detergent.
Some people complain of clothes looking dingy after a few weeks or months of using this soap. The problem is usually a soap buildup in the fibers. First, try using less soap in the laundry. Second, use white vinegar as a rinse agent in the same amount as liquid rinse and that will neutralize the alkalines in the soap, rinsing out the residue and leaving your clothes fresh smelling and clean!
*Editor’s Note: Prefer liquid detergent? Don’t miss our entry for Friday, September 14 for all the details on how to make liquid detergent.