DIY Laundry Detergent

We have been making our own laundry detergent for almost two years now.  I have an LG front loading washer and dryer set that’s about 6 years old.  I have always liked the way it washed clothes, but a few years ago, it seemed to have developed a permanent wet-dog smell (and we don’t have a dog).  So after some searching around on Pinterest, I found a really great tutorial for how to clean out all the gunk and get your machine smelling fresh again.  You can find it here:  http://askannamoseley.com/2012/07/remove-high-efficiency-washing-machine-odor/

HE machines like mine don’t need as much detergent as a top load machine and excess detergent and suds can build up inside, creating a funky smell.  And I have also learned that “suds” are sort of an illusion…suds aren’t actually necessary for cleaning, but they do make people feel like their clothes are getting clean.  So today, I’d like to share my recipe for a low-suds powder that works for top load and front load washing machines.  I find it to be much easier on my machine and it hasn’t led to a weird smelling build up either.  It’s very gentle on clothes and great for kids–I didn’t have any reservations about using it for baby laundry when Isla arrived.

The recipe only takes 4 simple, inexpensive ingredients (5 if you’d like to add an essential oil for fragrance).  The most labor intensive part is grating the soap.  I have used Fels Naptha soap before and liked it very much.  It can usually be found in the laundry aisle of any grocery store or Walmart.  (Pro tip–when I use the Fels Naptha, I save a little hunk of it to use as a stain stick–it works great to get stains out.  Just rinse the stain out, then rub the bar on the fabric while wet and wash)

For this batch, I wanted to try Tom’s lavender scented Natural Beauty Bar.  It smells heavenly and lavender is by far my favorite scent.  Traditional recipes call for either Fels Naptha or Castille soap, but I’ve also seen people use goat’s milk soap or other gentle bars or soaps, free of dyes.  (I did use a bar of Ivory soap once that I “puffed” in the microwave.  It was NOT good for laundry detergent…I kept getting little pieces that wouldn’t fully dissolve during the washing cycle.  No good at all.  I’m sure Ivory would be alright if you grated it…just don’t puff and crumble it!)

Update:  I now make a triple batch and use 2 bars Tom’s of Maine Relaxing Lavender Soap and 1 bar Tom’s of Maine Sensitive Chamomile Soap.  I love the way it smells!

I use my dedicated soap grater for this project, because I think graters are the most difficult tool to clean.  This way, I don’t have to worry about my cheese tasting like soap next week. ? You want to use the finest holes available on your grater.  The smaller the pieces are, the more easily they will dissolve.  I wash most of our laundry on cold, and have never had an issue with the soap dissolving fully (outside of the Ivory incident described above).

This is what the soap looks like after grating…I love the way the little curls look!

After the soap is grated, all that’s left is to measure the remaining ingredients and combine.  For one bar of soap, you will add 1 cup of Borax (easy to find in the laundry aisle), 1 cup of Super Washing Soda (I can’t find this locally, and order it from Amazon.  I haven’t even made it through our first box, nearly a year in) and 1/4 cup of OxyClean powder (optional, but excellent for keeping kid’s clothes looking nice).  The final, optional ingredient is 8-10 drops of an essential oil if you’re using an unscented bar.  I tend to like the way the soap smells so I omit this step, but it’s totally up to you.  Just add the drops, wait til dry, then stir again to make sure it’s mixed throughout.

When it’s time to do laundry, I just take 1 tablespoon of the dry mixture and put it in the detergent slot in my machine.

This is super easy to do, and one batch usually lasts our family of 4 for a couple of months.  It’s also much more cost effective than store bought detergents and much more environmentally friendly.

Here’s the short version:
-1 bar of soap (Fels Naptha, Castille, it’s ok to experiment!), grated finely
-1 cup Borax
-1 cup Washing Soda
-1/4 cup OxyClean (option)
-8-10 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)

Use 1 Tablespoon per load.  Enjoy your fresh, clean smelling clothes and a few extra dollars in your wallet!

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