As I was whipping up a batch of homemade laundry detergent, I realized that it has been a really long time since I’ve talked about making your own detergent and caring for you laundry. When I went back into my archives I saw that this post was originally written in the spring of 2006! Definitely time for a “best of”. Enjoy!
There are a few things you can do to cut costs in the laundry/clothing care department.
First of all you can evaluate whether you are washing things too frequently. The less laundry you do the less water, energy, detergent, softener and time you use. Do you wash your clothing everytime you wear it? Personally, other than socks and underclothes, I take a look at each piece of clothing when I take it off at night (or sometimes the next morning) to see if it actually got dirty during the day. Most of the time all that sweaters, slacks/jeans etc need is to be aired out before being put back in the closet or dresser. I keep hangers on the knobs of our high dresser and anything that is going to be used again for another day I hang up overnight to “air out”. The additional benefit to this is that it prevents garments from becoming a wrinkled mess from sitting in a pile on the floor (which was my prefered method of clothing storage back in my highschool and college days).
Are you taking prompt care of the clothes that you have? A habit I developed when the kids were just babies was to keep a stain stick right in the laundry basket (something that has fallen by the wayside since they got mobile-toddlers + stain stick=mess) then I could treat stains as soon as I took the clothes off of the kids-most everything washed right out as long as it was treated promptly. (a side note-I am a mean mommy who does not allow my kids to drink anything dyed purple or red-those colors NEVER come out)
Also a few years back I started keeping a small sewing kit on top of my fridge. It is a kids zippered pencil case I picked up for pennies at the thrift store. Inside are 3 spools of thread (white, black and white button thread) a seam ripper, a small pair of scissors, a few safety pins, a thimble and a piece of cardboard with three threaded needles pushed through it. Now when I fold laundry (in my den) and I notice a loose button or a seam that is starting to rip, I just set the garmet aside and that night watching TV I make the repairs. It is amazing how much more likely I am to fix things when I have all the equipment right on hand instead of having to dig it out of my craft/sewing area.
Do you use a clothes line? Not using the dryer in the summer can be a big saver in electricity. This house is the first we’ve had with a clothes line, and I hung out most of the clothes all summer. Two extra benefits are that it smells wonderful, and the sun naturally bleaches out a lot of stains. If you feel that towels and jeans are too stiff when dried outside, you can always throw them in the dryer for just a few minutes to “fluff” them. I have read of folks who hang all their stuff inside on drying racks during the winter, but haven’t gone that far myself.
Speaking of the dryer-you don’t have to buy dryer sheets. I bought a huge bottle of the cheapest fabric softener I could find about 2 years ago (less than $2 for the bottle) I bought some sponges from the dollar store (4 per pkg) and cut two of them up into 8 pieces each. I soak the pieces of sponge in a mixture of about 1 part softener to 8 parts water. When I throw my laundry in the dryer I squeeze out a sponge until it is just damp and throw it in with the laundry. When I fold the laundry I take the dry sponge and throw it back in the mixture. I’ve read that some folks like to put their mix in a spray bottle and either spray it on a washcloth and throw it in, or else just spray it onto the laundry.
Are you using too much detergent? Have you actually read the box to see how much you are supposed to use for each load? A lot of times the scoops they give you are larger than what you need for a load of laundry. The manufacturer wants you to use up the detergent faster and come back to buy more. You can experiment with using less detergent until you find the smallest amount you need to still make a load clean. Then take a permenant marker and mark your scoop. Personally I don’t use this tip, because for the last 2 years I have been making my own detergent.
Now I know making your own detergent sounds extreme and difficult, but it really isn’t. I make the powdered type. There are only 3 ingredients.
1 Cup Grated Soap *
1/2 Cup Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
1/2 Cup Borax
Mix together and use 1 Tablespoon per load, 2 Tablespoons if it is a really soilded load.
*I chop mine up into chunks w/ a knife and throw it in the food processor. Then I put it in a roasting pan on the top of the entertainment center for a day or two to dry out again, then into the food processor again to make a very fine powder. Actually the powder is so fine that I put a damp kitchen towel over the food processor while blending, and let it settle for a minute or so before opening so I don’t breathe in soap powder. This extra is just personal preference, and not necessary-many folks just use it grated up and mix the powder well before measuring out each load.
This laundry soap really works well, and YES-you only need a tablespoon. I use it right in cold water and have never had a problem with it dissolving. An added benefit-you avoid a lot of the dyes/perfumes etc that cause people with allergies problems. Isn’t it nice to know exactly what is going into the product you are using?
I usually use “Zote” (a mexican laundry soap) for the soap-available for less than a dollar a bar at the Dollar General stores. I have also used Ivory, and have heard of people using all sorts of soap, to include those little bars you get for free from hotels 🙂 Many recipes specify Fels Naptha, but I haven’t ever found it for sale locally. Borax is available in most grocery stores for about $5 a box. (maybe cheaper!) Washing Soda is made by Arm & Hammer and sometimes difficult to find. I will let you all know where to find it in the Binghamton/Norwich area. I moved here in March, have made every batch of laundry soap I have used since, and only just finished up the box of washing soda that I purchased 6 months before my move for about $2.50.
A pkg of Tide is $9.47 for 22 loads on Drugstore.com. That is about $.43 a load.
So for the math for a load of laundry with homemade detergent (rounding down):
Borax is $5 for 76 oz, at 16 oz a cup, for 1/2 C:
$5 / (76/(16*2))= $.55 per one half cup portion
Washing Soda is $2.50 for 55 oz, at 16 oz a cup, for 1/2 C:
$2.50 (55/(16*2))= $.36 per one half cup portion
Zote Soap is $1 a bar
So that is $1.91 for a batch of laundry soap that is approx 2 cups (or 32 TBS). Lets assume that all of your loads are very soiled and require 2TBS each (or 16 loads from that batch). That ends up at about $.12 a load compared to the $.43 for the Tide.
There are also versions of this recipe available to make liquid laundry soap-which apparently comes out more like a gel. Personally I think powdered is less messy and takes up less room, but if you are interested in the liquid you can find a recipe HERE.
That’s it for Laundry/Clothing Care. Hope this has given you some good ideas.