Saturday, October 27, 2012

DIY Laundry Detergent and Laundry tips

I have taken to making EVERYTHING I need to wash my family’s laundry.  So, I am typing this up because I would love to share it with everyone.  It has saved us a lot of money, and it is so simple that anybody can do it.  And if you are anything like me, I also feel a great sense of satisfaction knowing that I have made something myself.

There are three things that I make that are vital in my opinion to doing laundry.  The point of laundry is to get things cleaned, all the stains out, and smelling good.  So, I make three things to do this.

First, we need a quick lesson in the ingredients that are used.

  • Sodium Carbonate-  The common name is Washing Soda.  It is found at Walmart in the laundry aisle for around $3 a box by Arm & Hammer, and it is in a yellow box.
  • Sodium Bicarbonate- Also known as Baking Soda!  Now, you can get this in the baking section, but the laundry section of the store also carries it and to be quite honest with you, it is cheaper in the big box.  I get the big box.  Actually, I get several big boxes because I use this for everything almost.  It runs about $2 or so by the Arm & Hammer brand and is in an orange box.
  • Sodium Percarbonate- Now to get this in its pure form you have to buy it through a chemical supply store, but Oxi-clean is essentially the same thing.  Oxi-clean (or any of the non-name brands) is sodium percarbonate.  Really that is all it is.  But this is the bleaching factor in homemade laundry detergents.  I was very tickled to find this out, because I already loved Oxi-clean, but really didn’t know what it was.  I buy the Sun brand from Walmart.  It’s about $5 for a big bucket whereas the name brand Oxi-clean can run up to $12 for the little bucket and they are the same thing.

  • Sodium Tetraborate- This is borax.  It’s made by 20 Mule Team and is found right next to the Washing Soda, Baking Soda, and Oxi-clean in the laundry aisle.  The old box was green, the new one is white.  But as long as it’s 20 Mule Team, you can’t go wrong.  If I remember correctly, this runs about $3, too.

  • Hydrogen Peroxide-  This is the liquid form of sodium percarbonate.  It’s the big brown bottle in the first aid aisle, and costs less than $2 for the biggest size. 
Yes, all these things are considered "green."  If you want to see WHY exactly, I wrote about it once and you can find that blog here

I also use bar soap.  The kind I have is impossible to get in the United States because it was purchased in Mexico.  But really all it is, is Lye Soap.  A lot of places carry pure Lye Soap nowadays…  I have seen it at Target, and actually I have seen some at Cracker Barrel too for about $4 a bar.  It’s not a big bar, but it will last forever.  Other kinds of bar soap will be needed to make liquid laundry detergent and the kind I buy to put in that is Fels Naptha.  You can find that right next to all those other things in the laundry aisle for $.97.  It is really cheap and has a pleasant smell.

On a side note, while I have never tried using things like Ivory in my laundry detergent, I do know other people have and have just not been totally satisfied.  Ivory, and things like it, are not REAL soap.  They are not made with lye.  Real soap is a very good stain treatment because it surrounds dirt particles in material and actually pulls them away or separates them from the material.  

I also keep on hand several types of essential oils to add to the liquid soaps.  I found the cheapest is from NOW Foods, and I order it from  I get lavender, sweet orange, and lemon grass. But you know I love Mountain Rose Herbs  they just have the best selection.

I buy EVERYTHING in bulk when I can, because it cuts back on cost. 

Please notice that I do NOT use ANY bleach.  I used to, but if I use this stuff correctly, bleach really is unnecessary.  That and I have made it a point to try and stay away from corrosive chemicals.  Getting rid of bleach in my house was a big step, but it is not one that I regret.  These other things are just as effective and they do not break down the fibers in the materials like bleach does.

Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe

You will need-
A 5 gallon bucket (Home Depot has bright orange ones for $3, the lid is $2.  Don’t forget the lid!)
1bar of Fels Naptha
1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup Borax
½ cup Oxi-clean
Essential Oils (optional)

Grate the Fels Naptha into little pieces.  Dissolve all ingredients in 12 cups of water on medium to low heat, stirring occasionally with a whisk, in a cooking pot.  Do not let boil!  This won’t take long, so monitor it.  Add 8 cups of hot tap water into the bucket.  Pour in the soap mixture carefully, then stir.  A whisk works best for this.  Add 12 cups + 2 gallons of hot water and stir really well again.  Let sit for 24 hours.  This gives it time to gel and solidify.  After this process is done, take it to the sink.  With your hands, hold back the soap that has solidified and pour out all excess water.  The soap floats to the top, and the water is underneath it.  I use the whisk again, and mix it up making it into small chunks.  This is also when I add the essential oil for scent.  You only need about 1 ounce for this amount of soap.

Use half a cup for laundry! A quarter cup for HE machines.

Dry Laundry Detergent Recipe

You will need-
2 parts Borax
2 parts Washing Soda
1 part Oxi-clean
1 part Baking Soda

Mix all ingredients together.  I put mine in tuber ware with a 1/8 cup scoop. The extra scoop that comes in the Oxi-clean buckets works perfectly!  Use 2 tablespoons per load.  Less is best.  And I will tell you why in a minute.

Cloth Diaper Detergent Recipe

You will need-
2 parts Borax
2 parts Washing Soda
1 part Baking Soda

This is made exactly like the regular detergent recipe, but without the Oxi-clean.  Mix all ingredients together.  The extra scoop that comes in the Oxi-clean buckets works perfectly!  Use 2 tablespoons per load.  Less is best still applies her, but is especially true for cloth diapers.  Detergent build up in cloth diapers makes them LESS absorbent, and you want all the absorbency you can get with diapers.  Occasionally, you may need to strip your diapers.  If you start to notice a funk smell, then stripping them is a good idea.

To strip cloth diapers, put them into the wash with as hot of water as you can get it.  I usually boil a big pot of water before I start the wash and add this to the water that is already on the hot setting.  Do NOT add detergent.  Instead, add a cup of vinegar and/or a small scoop of Oxi-clean.  Do this two or three times, depending on how bad the build up is.  This will also help get rid of any build up of detergent and make the diaper inserts whiter.  You should only have to do this every few months at the most.  I didn't strip our cloth diapers for the first time until we had been using them for over a year.  I just didn't see the need.  I have done this on occasion to my family's socks...  because...  they are rough on their socks.  And this will help generally get all whites whiter. 

Stain Treatment Spray

You will need-
8 ounces Hydrogen Peroxide
2 tbsp Washing Soda
16 ounce spray bottle

In a spray bottle (also found in the laundry aisle at Walmart for $.97, or just reuse one you already have) add the 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide.  Then fill the rest of it with water.  Add the washing soda, cap, and shake till it is dissolved.  TAKE OFF THE CAP.  It will produce heat and heat produces pressure, but once the ingredients are totally dissolved, the heat will go back down and it will quit making pressure.  This is the same thing that the Oxi-clean laundry treatment is made from.  It works the same.  And I have it on good authority that it works.  So, don't take my word for it.
For extra stain help, use Lye Soap and an old tooth brush.  I do this to the kids' clothes when they come in a little dirtier than normal.  I have a two year old.  That's all I am saying.  I spray the stain treatment onto the bar, then with the toothbrush I scrub some of the lye soap into the stain.  Let it sit for a while, then wash it normally.

For extra grungy white laundry, I add a scoop full (about the 1/8 cup or the small scoop that comes with the bucket…  they are the same measurement) of Oxi-clean in addition to the detergent.  My family is VERY rough on their socks.

I use the liquid detergent for all clothing, towels, and sheets.  The only time I use the powder detergent is when I have kitchen washcloths that have spoiled or for cloth diapers.  It gets the smell out completely!!!  For diapers, I pre-wash with hot water only, then wash again with the detergent and let it soak first for about half an hour to an hour before continuing the rest of the cycle.  I do not have a problem with the smell, even in our diapers.

If you have hard water, add a cup of vinegar to the wash each time you do whites.  This helps soften the water naturally and eliminates the need for fabric softener.

Less is best, because if detergent starts building up in the material, things like towels, wash clothes, diapers, etc will become less absorbent.  It takes very little soap to get something really clean.  Anything beyond that is just excessive and a waste.  Use the least amount and remember that scrubbing is more important than soap.  Soap goes a long way.  

That is it!  If you want a recipe to make your own lye soap, a recipe for castile soaps can be found here and here.  These make a good alternative if you do not want to buy lye soap. 

And for a natural way to bleach your whites even whiter, build a clothesline and dry them out in the sun.  The sun works great bleaching out colors or fading them.  Using a clothesline will also lengthen the life of your clothes since they won't be continually beat up in the dryer.

Or use wool dryer balls in the dryer instead of using dryer sheets.

I do sell DIY kits to make your own liquid detergent if you are unsure where to get the ingredients still or would like to try it out before you get a bunch of stuff.  They are $10 each, $5 for shipping if you are not local.  Email me at for more information or to order a kit.  

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