Friday, February 11, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent Makes ¢

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I am always looking for ways to save money and to avoid going to the store any more than I have to.  A few months ago, I came across a recipe for homemade laundry detergent and decided to give it a try.  I would have done this sooner, but I had trouble finding one of the ingredients (washing soda), but I'll be giving you some tips on that as well.

There are several recipes for laundry detergent out there, mostly similar, but I will cover two versions today:  homemade liquid laundry detergent and homemade powdered laundry detergent.  Neither one is all that difficult to make.  You will find directions in the respective links above.

For the past month I have been using the powdered version and I love how it gets my clothes truly clean.  My only complaint is that it can be a bit dusty when you are scooping it out.  I have sinus trouble anyway, so I plan to make the liquid version next time.  The ingredients for both are pretty much the same.

  • A bar of soap (Fels Naphtha, Ivory, etc.)
  • Washing soda (this is sodium carbonate or soda ash, not baking soda)
  • Borax
  • Essential oil for fragrance (optional for liquid version)

Fels Naphtha is wonderful stuff.  I've used it to wash raw deer hides and was amazed at how it can make even those smell fresh and clean.  It is also good to keep a bar on hand just to rub into stains before laundering.  Fels Naptha no longer contains napthalene (a petroleum byproduct).  I have heard that some people may be allergic to it, but I don't know if that was the old formulation or the current one.  Fels Naphtha works to break down oily residues.  I think it smells great.

Borax is easily found in the laundry aisle.

Now the washing soda, I had a lot of trouble finding that.  Every store clerk I talked to would point me toward baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), which is not the same thing.  I've been told that it is commonly found wherever you buy pool supplies, but I made up my batch of laundry detergent in the winter--no pool supplies to be had.  However, you can convert baking soda into washing soda using simple chemistry.

I bought the 4 lb. box of baking soda that is found in the laundry aisle.  You just dump it out on a cookie sheet and spread it around.  Then bake it in the oven for one hour at 250 degrees.  Simple enough.  The heat acts as a catalyst to break down the sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate and gives off carbon dioxide and water vapor. 

Here's the equation, if that sort of thing interests you, as it does me: 
(2) NaHCO3(s) ----> Na2CO3(s) + CO2(g) + H2O(g)

Had I realized this sooner, I could have been saving money on laundry detergent for months now.  I had the Fels Naphtha and the Borax, but couldn't find the washing soda anywhere.

Ok, there are hundreds of websites out there to tell you how to make homemade laundry detergent, but I want to tell you why you should make your own laundry detergent.  1) It does a better job of cleaning than most anything out there; and 2) you will save a lot of money! 

I like those reasons.  A lot.

Here is a price comparison between the powdered version which I made and some of the more popular detergents that you can purchase in the store.  I will try to keep it apples to apples, since there is an endless variety of brand specialties and additives.  I will tell you this though--you won't be needing Oxy Clean, color-safe bleach, heavy fragrances or anything else added to the homemade detergent in order to get the job done.  It just smells purely CLEAN and it gets stains and grease out better than anything else I've used before.

So, by switching from Tide to the homemade liquid detergent, you would save about $67.60 annually.  This is based on an average of 10 loads per week, or 520 loads per year.  (I know, I know...TRY NOT TO THINK ABOUT IT, LADIES!  That's a lot of laundry to fold!)

Funny to note how the Gain Original comes out to the same cost per load as the El Cheapo big-box store brand, even though it is far superior.  The homemade powder version comes out less than half the cost per load of the cheaper detergent and cleans every bit as well as the Tide.

Since I switched to the homemade detergent, I've noticed that even my washing machine smells fresh and clean.  There is no goopy residue left behind.  This is also a low-suds detergent and is ideal for front-loading washing machines.

Initially I wondered if the homemade detergent would be too harsh, but after using it for a month I have not noticed any fading in my cottons or any other problems with my laundry.  The homemade detergent is so effective that you only need 2 tablespoons per load.  Washing soda is alkaline, but it is such a small amount that it does not affect the water's pH much.

It's hard enough for a young couple just starting out, but with inflation going through the roof and the cost of grocery and household items constantly on the rise, this is one more frugal initiative I can take to make our paycheck go a little further.

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