After my repost of “Frugal Laundry Care” I received the following comment:
I have seen this before, and while it has its merits, I have always wondered why when comparing laundry detergent prices, bloggers choose one of the most expensive places to buy detergent. Everyone compares prices from Drugstore.com. (Plus it appears to be old information as they no longer carry a 22 load pkg. of Tide for $9.47) Even so, I would never pay that much for detergent so using that for a comparison is like saying I saved $4,000 by buying a Timex instead of a watch at Gumps.
I can get a 32 oz./ use bottle of All at Safeway on sale for $3.99. Using coupons I regularly can get a bottle for 2.99. My clothing gets clean using 1/2 to 1/4 of the recommended amt. so I spend 4 cents or less a load.
Well, Lisa’s points are good ones.
To start with, I wrote this article in 2006, and I repost verbatim. So I knew that the prices could be outdated.
Also I admit to some laziness in choosing Drugstore.com for my price comparison point-it was just easy to look up the price there-I don’t go to the store very often and at the time I wrote the original post I wanted to get it published right away. My bad!
Lastly, as to the cost effectiveness. The short answer is this-as with any area of frugality, it all depends on the materials and costs available in your area. Prices vary wildy-so there are no absolutes. Each person has to look at the cost of the ingredients in their area to make a decision. For me, homemade laundry soap is cheaper than buying detergent on sale. But I don’t coupon. I have no source for them, an the cost of purchasing newspapers just to get the coupons is not cost effective for me. If you are in an area that runs wonderful sales and doubles coupons etc, you may do much better.
I wrote another article in July of 07 that specifically deals with the cost effectiveness of homemade laundry soap! So here it is, complete with mathematical formulas to figure it out in your area.
Dear Frugal Upstate
I read your little blog posting in Parents Magazine (July 2007 issue) on making your own laundry soap. I was wondering if this is truly more cost efficient and where to find the ingredients. I have never heard of grated soap before and didn’t know where to buy it. I would appreciate your help.
Thank you for your time and helpful tips.
Ahh, two common questions; where to find ingredients and the good old cost efficiency issue!
The ingredients for homemade laundry soap are simple-grated soap, Borax and Washing Soda (not baking soda-they are different things chemically).
The grated soap is not something that you buy, but rather something you make. You take a regular bar of soap and grate or grind it. “Laundry Soap” such as Fels Naptha, Octagon etc are the preference, but you can use any soap. I’ve read stories (although I haven’t tried it myself) of folks using Ivory, or even grinding up all those little hotel soaps that they have collected.
Note that sometimes “Laundry Soap” can be found in international grocery stores. I haven’t particularly seen it in Asian stores before, but have had good luck finding it in stores that cater to the Hispanic population.
Now that we’ve covered the ingredients, it’s time to address the second part of Katrina’s question, the cost effectiveness. This is actually harder to discuss than one might think, since it is dependent on the costs in your area.
Back in January of 2006 I did a post with the recipe for homemade laundry detergent, as well a cost comparison for the ingredients in my area at that time. At that time I worked out the cost of a load of laundry using the homemade detergent came to $.12 and using TIDE came to $43.
To make your own comparison you can use the following formulas:
Cost Per Load-Store Bought Detergent:
[cost of store bought detergent] / [number of loads in entire box] = price per load for store bought detergent
Note-many people find they only have to use half of the recommended amount for store bought laundry detergent. If this is true for you, make sure you double the number of loads the box says that it makes.
Cost Per 1/2 Cup of Borax and Washing Soda:
[cost of ingredient]/[number of oz in box] = cost per oz for ingredient
[cost per oz for ingredient] X 8oz = cost for one half cup portion of ingredient
Do this formula twice, once for the Borax, and once for the Washing Soda.
[cost per one half cup portion of Borax] + [cost per one half cup portion of Washing Soda] + [cost of bar of soap] = total recipe cost; approx 2 cups or 32 TBS of detergent.
[total recipe cost] / 32 TBS = cost per TBS, also known as cost per load.
When talking about the cost of any frugal endeavor, you also must take into consideration the amount of time and effort that it takes to make. For me, the effort involved has actually decreased since January of 2006. My aunt gave me a large industrial size food processor which works like a dream (It had been living, neglected, in her basement for years!).
I can now grind up a bar of soap into a fine powder in just a minute or two. I not longer must resort to a two step grinding process-I used to do an initial grinding which gave me large grains (No matter how long I ran my little processor it wouldn’t get any smaller, there was just too much moisture in the bar of soap and not enough power in the processor). Then I would let it dry in my two biggest roasting pans for a few days (hidden atop the entertainment center) and then grind again. Finally that would result in a fine, easily dissolved powder. Although there were only a few minutes more of hands on time, spreading the process out over several days made it seem like more of a chore to me. With the new to me food processor it literally takes me only about 10 minutes for everything.
I want to mention an additional side benefit of homemade detergents that is not specifically frugal: there are no additional fragrances or dyes in homemade detergent (along the lines of All Free Clear). This makes it great for folks with allergies or for washing the clothes of newborns.
So Katrina, is it cost effective to make your own detergent? For me it is-but for you? Well, that just depends!