Has anyone else noticed the prices of laundry detergent skyrocketing?***

How about Tide for nearly $12 per bottle (24 loads)??? Or $12 for 40 of those new Tide Pod thingies? I’ve been paying about $7-8 for a bottle of All Free & Clear, which advertised 64 loads of laundry for the size I bought. I only use about 1/2 of the recommended dose (really, it doesn’t take much detergent to cut odors and do cursory cleaning). So lets say I get 100 loads of laundry for $8. So $0.08 per load, right?

I figured I’d try this classic recipe for homemade laundry detergent, using less chemicals and additives than what’s in the popular commercial laundry detergents. I first saw this detergent referenced by the Duggar family several years ago…they had made a documentary years before TLC picked them up for a reality show. In the show, the Duggars covered some of the basics of their household: how they did laundry, how the kids chose their clothes, how they grocery shopped and how they cooked. They made brief mention of their homemade laundry detergent.

The cast of characters. “Washing soda”, Borax, a 3 oz. of soap of your choosing and a 5-gallon bucket. Fels-Naptha is a popular choice for its stain-fighting power. I ended up not using a Firehouse Subs pickle bucket, it smelled too pickle-y, but you get the idea of the size of the container needed.

There are several variations on this recipe, and there are different schools of thought on using a liquid vs. non-liquid version of this recipe. If you want to keep it easy, just run the bar soap through a food processor (get one at a thrift shop expressly for grinding up soap so you don’t have to have soapy food) and combine it with the washing soda and borax. Store it and use about 1 TBSP per load of laundry. The thing to watch for with the non-liquid detergent is that the soap may not dissolve too well in cold water washes. If you use cold-water for laundry, I recommend you proceed with making the liquid version.

Start with 4 cups of water on the stove with enough heat to bring it to a simmer (not a boil). Cut 3 oz. of the bar soap and either run it through the (non-) food processor or grate it with an inexpensive box grater dedicated to crafts or food-prep.  Dump the gratings into the water and heat until the soap completely melts.  It is not necessary to boil the soap solution — the mission here is to dissolve the soap, which can happen well below 212F.

You don’t need a full bar of Fels Naptha for this recipe. Just 3 oz, which is about 3/5 of this bar. Two bars of Fels Naptha will suffice for 3 batches of homemade laundry soap. At $0.97 per bar, not bad!

Why YES, it will look like you’re grating cheddar cheese….

Dissolve the soap into the water. It looks kinda gross, but your patience will be rewarded.

Then you merely dump the hot melted soapy water into the five-gallon bucket, and add the Borax and washing soda. Stir to dissolve completely, and then proceed to fill the bucket with water. I filled it about 80% of the way.

Let sit overnight, the solution will thicken. Mine got pretty thick.

This solidified into a consistency almost like Jello. Like a watery-Jello, actually.

And here is where I’m still not sure what to do next. The Frugal Kiwi recipe said to merely add 1/2 cup of this jelly solution to my wash, but the gel didn’t make it through the dispenser too well.

Other recipes suggest further diluting the gel, so I took an old All Free & Clear bottle and further diluted the gel by 1/2. It’s now more watered down and I could add 1/2 cup of this to my laundry.

Are my clothes getting clean? Yes. Does it fight stains? No better than All did…for tougher stains I had always used Shout or a Stain Stick. I will probably still need to do that. Are my clothes whiter or brighter? Not sure. I’ve only used this for one weekend. The Frugal Kiwi published a testimonial here with a fan who used the recipe on a batch of steam floor cleaner pads.

Enjoy a cost breakdown of what financial savings this will bring you.  Prices are based on an average of my local prices and what I can find online.  I found all three of these products in a row at my local Navarre Walmart on the laundry detergent aisle, but near the fabric softener, not by the laundry detergent itself.

Arm & Hammer Washing Soda = $3.99 per 55 oz. box. Used about 1/7 of the box (8 oz.) = $0.57
Borax = $4.99 per 76 oz. box. Used about 1/10 of the box (8 oz.) = $0.50
Fels-Naptha = $0.97 per 5.5 oz. bar. Used 2/3 of the bar (3.5 oz.) = $0.65

I’ll estimate about 110 loads of laundry from this recipe (based on the Frugal Kiwi’s estimate). Which will bring the cost per load of laundry to $0.0172!

1/4 the cost of using All Free & Clear…which still has a bunch of unnecessary chemicals.

The borax and washing soda I bought will also be used in some experimental homemade automatic dishwasher detergent.  Coming up soon!

***That article I cited above was tongue-in-cheek.  It later was determined that there is NOT a nationwide Tide-theft epidemic.