Sunday, July 29, 2012

Home-made laundry detergent

So first it was home-made ice cream, then home-made pizza, now home-made laundry detergent???

I am not the type of person that will just making something home-made for the sake of making it home-made.  In order for me to consider making something home-made, it has to either:

a.  Be cheaper to make
b.  Have better/healthier ingredients when home-made
c.  Taste better/work better
d.  Be a fun activity to try with the kids
Or some combination of all of the above.

So the other day on facebook, I saw one of my friends had made home-made laundry detergent.  And I was skeptical.  Surely it couldn't be cheaper or better?  But then she posted the website for the recipe she used, and I was inspired to try it!

So first let me preface this by saying that I was already saving money on laundry detergent.  I usually buy Purex, which is not the most expensive brand (regular price $5-6 for 48 loads).  I always buy it on sale and stock up when it's $3-$4 (so about 30% off).  Pat myself on the back for saving on laundry detergent.

I don't count how many loads of laundry my family does each week, but I'm guessing it's at least 8 loads or more.  (We are a family of 5).  So that bottle of Purex lasts us about 6 weeks.

The recipe my friend posted on Facebook is here.  The website claimed to make a 2-gallon batch of laundry detergent, covering 64 loads, for only 71 cents.  Ok, now I had to try it!

There are only 3 basic ingredients in the home-made detergent:  Fels-Naptha laundry soap bar, washing soda, and borax.  I was able to find all 3 of these in the laundry detergent aisle at Wal-Mart.  I spent a little over $8 for all three ingredients, but the purchase will make many 2-gallon batches of laundry detergent.

Here is the breakdown:

Fels-Naptha bar:  $0.97
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda:  $3.24
Borax:  $3.38
Total without tax:  $7.59
Total with tax:  $8.21

So the first step was to grate the bar of soap.  The website said 1/3 of the bar but also commented later on that some people like to use more.  I grated half of the bar.

Then I added it to a saucepan with 6 cups of water and heated it until the soap melted.

Next, per the website recipe, I added the washing soda and the borax.

Then I followed the rest of the instructions, which was to basically add the mixture to a bucket and add water and stir, then add more water and wait 24 hours for it to gel.

I had a bucket, but no lid, so I improvised with a towel and headband.

And the next day, sure enough, my soap had turned into a gel.

A look into the container (like jello):

So yesterday afternoon, I tried out the new soap with a few loads of laundry.  The gel was like a big glob in the water for a few minutes, but pretty quickly mixed with the water.  As the website warned, it did not become sudsy/bubbly-looking.
But I could not tell any difference in the end result with the clothes.  They were clean.  I had read that this home-made soap doesn't have that "freshly-laundered" smell that store-bought detergents have, but since we already used perfume-free/dye-free detergent I think that difference is negligible to us.  The website does say you can add in some fragrant oils to make the soap more scented.

So how much does this save?

Well, I used the same calculations that the website used to determine the cost of the home-made detergent.  The initial cost of the ingredients were slightly higher than in the example on the website, but I still calculate that my 2-gallon batch cost about 91 cents to make.  64 loads.  Or about 1.4 cents per load.  Compared to about 7-8 cents per load that I was getting when I bought the Purex detergent on sale.  So how much does that save per year?  If I've estimated my # of load of laundry per week, it adds up to be about $25/year in savings.

Some of you may say, why go through all that for only $25 a year in savings?  By itself, it's not much.  But combined with everything else I try to save on, it adds up.  A few hundred dollars a year by switching insurance companies.  A few hundred dollars a month by not eating out.  A few hundred dollars a year by buying basics at Aldi.  None of these things by themselves are huge savings, but just think if you could get all of your expenses reduced by 30% or more a year, it really adds up! Enough of a savings to amass a bigger chunk to go toward something more meaningful than expensive detergent.

Yesterday I saw my husband throw his cycling clothes in the washer and he reached for the Purex instead of our new home-made stuff.  And I asked him why he wasn't using it, and he said "But these are expensive shirts!  I don't want to ruin them!"  Ok, so he's not comfortable switching over yet.  And he's even the one who started making our own home-made house cleaning supplies!  But that's another story.  Hopefully when he sees I'm not ruining everyone's laundry by using this home-made soap, he will come around.

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