Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Adventures in Laundering... Clothes That Is!

In an endevor to save money, my husband and I decided to make our own laundry detergent. Even though I am an avid couponer and sale watcher, I still spend entirely too much money on laundry supplies.

I do about 6 or 7 loads of laundry every 3 days! I stil haven't figured out how a family of 4 manages to go through that many clothes, but add that up and that's about 70 loads of laundry a month. Somtimes it's more if we need uniforms or special attire or someone is sick. Meaning? That's a heck of alot of detergent and fabric softener!

Not to mention, the water bill and the electricity used (next year my husband is making me a clothes line!). So, we have to save somewhere. And, that somewhere has to be with the laundry supplies themselves.

So, at my husband's suggesting, I began researching homemade laundry detergent. Together, we settled on a recipe we felt we could easily manage and afford.

Together we went to WalMart and bought the standard supplies. Then, for a little extra smell good, some essential oils. After smelling many not so smell good oils, we settled on the Linen scent... ya know, because we're cleaning linens and such.

The detergent itself does not have much of a fragrance. We wanted the fresh clean scent. Lesha suggested we buy essential oils because she's been using it in her homemade fabric softener for quite some time, now.

My husband and I measured and mixed ingriedents. Meaning I measured and poured the powedered parts while he grated the soap! :) He did the "hard" part, which turned out not to be so hard at all!

After shaking our bucket, we decided to test it out on a load of towels. We decided on the towels for our test load in case anything bleached or got eaten alive it wasn't our clothes.

Well, not only did the towels come out smelling great, they were extremely clean! It was better than Tide, Gain, Purex, All, or any other detergent my husband and I wasted money on before. And, they smell so much fresher!

When I told some people about our experiment, they thought we were crazy. Especially after I told them it cost us about $25.00 to get it started, $30.00 if you count the essential oils.

But, let's consider this, shall we? If you're paying $20.oo for Tide, $15.00 for All, $20.00 for Gain, or $8-10.00 for Purex for only 60-96 loads, you're paying about 3 times the amount for laundry detergent as I am!

I paid $30.00 for about 3 1/2 gallons of powdered detergent that only takes 1/8 cup per full load of laundry. Which means? I can do more laundry for my $30.00 than you can for your $30.00. And, with those savings? I buy more diapers for my 11 month old. (Diapers are one thing you won't watch me try to get around economically too often. I refuse to use cloth diapers... its just not my thing.)

So, if you'd like to try the tried and true detergent here's your recipe:

  • 12 cups Borax
  • 8 cups washing soda   
  • 8 cups baking soda
  • 8 cups shaved Fels-Naptha Bar or Ivory Bar soap

Mix together in a large bucket. Use 1/8 cup per each load

(My husband and I added approximately 2.5 oz of essential oils to our to give it a fresh scent as the detergent itselt does not have a frangrance.)

 The basic ingredients.

Note: If you're having problems locating the ingredients for the detergent, look down. We found all the supplies on the very bottom shelf, all neatly stocked next to each other. Retailers have found that if you place to more expensive brands at eye level, the consumer spends more money. Look down for better savings!

The essential oil was found in at Walmart in the craft department.

The finished product. 

Lesha's Note:  I didn't have enough baking soda to make this and fabric softener this time but I wanted to try it.  So I found another recipe that's much smaller and quite similar.   1 bar of Fels Naptha soap (grated.), 1 1/4 cup borax and 1 1/4 cup  washing soda.  I grated the soap into an ice cream bucket, added the fragrance to that (about 5 cap fulls), stirred it up and then added the powdered ingredients.

Make sure to mix it up each time you do a load of laundry the fragrance accumulates at the top.    

Just as with the laundry detergent, my husband and I decided to try to make our own liquid fabric softener in our continued effort to save more money.  Lesha swears by it, as she has been making her own for quite some time.

After researching (you'll find that I do quite a bit of that), we discovered we already had everything for the basic recipe at home!  Lesha suggested, as she did with the detergent, to add essential oils for fragrance.  So, we bought Linen scent to give our laundry the fresh, clean smell.

We tested the fabric softener, just as we did the detergent, on the towels. Again, this is to prevent any damage to our clothes while we experiment.  We were hoping for the ourstanding results we recieved with the detergent.  The fabric softener did what the name claims...  it softened the fabric.  It just didn't seem, to me, that it did as great a job as my favorite national brands:  Downy and Gain.

However, with an overal price tag of about $2.00 a bottle, I decided to try again.  (My husband put the softener in the load of towels, I decided to try with the white load.)  This time, the laundry came out perfect!  The third load I tried it on, the colors, also came out perfect!  I don't know if my husband just didn't use enough with the towels or if it wasn't mixed as well.  After the colored clothes came out perfectly softened and smelling nice, I was completely sold on the homemade softener!

I highly reccommend this to anyone trying to save some money!  It works just as well as the pricey national labels!

Just a fair warning:  if not mixed properly it will explode!  Just ask my husband!  ;)

The recipe is as follows:

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 2.5 oz of your favorite essential oil (optional)

Mix 2 cups vinegar with 2 cups baking soda in an old fabric softener bottle.  Make sure it still has a lid!

Add 4 cups cold water to the vinegar and baking soda gradually as it fizzes.  Swish the mixture around carefully to evenly miss.

Lesha's Note:  In order to prevent explosions. (So sorry I didn't mention to the hubs. lol) I add 1cup of baking soda, 1 cup of vinegar, 2 cups of water, let it fizz.  Add the second cup of soda, second cup of vinegar and the last two cups of water, let it fizz.   cap it (loosely or it will explode), shake gently, open, add the  fragrance, close loosely and shake lightly. )  My softener is in an old snuggle container that has a cap and a spout, I always keep the cap lose until the vinegar & soda are done fizzing. Its also a good pratice to shake the softener prior to each use to ensure a nice mixture of ingredients. 

Pour 1/4 cup into your washing machine at the beginning of the rinse cycle.

*To add a simple touch of frangrance, I suggest 2.5 oz of your favorite essential oils.  Though this step is completely optional.

If you're wanting to "make" your own fabric softener sheets, it's really easy too!  Simply sprinkle some of your liquid fabric softener onto a washcloth and throw into the dryer.  You're clothes come out soft, smelling clean, and static free!  It's that easy!

Lesha's Note:  You can also soak a dish towel in the fabric softener, wring it out,  let it dry overnight and toss it into the dryer with the clothes.  Can be used several times before resoaking and beginning the process again. 

For those of you that have messy children like we do, you'll notice you go through a lot of stain remover.  After all, clothes are expensive and we try to keep our clothes as clean and spot free as possible.

We made our own stain remover with water and baking soda.  This, however, did not work well for us.  However, what I did find that worked was this:

Dampen the stain on the clothing and rub a Fels-Naptha bar onto the stain.  Let it sit 1 minute and throw into the wash.  The directions are on the Fels-Naptha bar as a pre-treater.  I've, honestly, never seen results like I have since using the Fels-Naptha bar!

One bottle of Spray and Wash or Shout, seriously, only lasted  2 laundry days.  That's it!  (Keep in mind, I have an 11 month old and a 7 year old, they make lots of stains!).  And, when I do laundry ever 3 days, that's a lot of pretreater I've wasted my money on.  And the results?  Simply mediocre.  Sometimes that stains came out, sometimes they didn't.  With the Fels-Naptha bar every stain has come out!  And, so far I've used the bar for 4 laundry days.  And, it looks like I have about 100 laundry days left in the bar.  So, for 97cents, I say this is the best dollar I've ever spent!

Just to show you how well it works, my 11 month old daughter had a chocolate cupcake with purple frosting at her first Halloween party.  She was wearing a white shirt. (I know, not smart on my part, right?)  Needless to say, purple frosting ended up all over the place...  very little of which ended up in her mouth. 

Here are the before and after pictures (and the stain sat on the shirt for 4 days):



Using the Fels-Naptha bar requires a little more time, however, I have found that the results are well worth the "elbow grease" used. 

So, I hope you have all learned a few ways to save on your laundry supplies.  With just a few simple ingredients, most of which you probably already have on hand, you can make the best detergents, softeners, and stain removers! 

Not only will you save your money by using these tips, but you'll save your clothes as well!

Happy Laundering!


  1. I am gonna have to bookmark this and try it some time. I keep saying I'm going to but never end up doing it. (i'm quite lazy)


  2. I really want to try this out!!! thanks for the directions girlies!

  3. The Linen oil from Walmart is not an essential oil. I went to check it out, thinking it might be a fragrance oil (ok for personal use). It's actually a refill for the oil diffusers over with the candles. I would call the manufacturer before continuing to use it next to your skin.

  4. hi am from india and really wud want to try your recipe but don't know what could be the alternative for the Fels-Naptha Bar or Ivory Bar soap. can you suggest what ingredient to look for?