Thursday, February 8, 2007

Science In Action

This past weekend the children and I made our own laundry detergent. It was easy, fun and very cheap!!

The idea of it wasn't even in my head. I was doing some looking on-line for goat info for DS2 (dear son #2) who is very interested in goats, having goats, milking goats, making things from the goats milk, etc. so I was just being a good mom. Well, I came across a site called The Family Homestead and since our own little dream is to be out in the middle of nowhere doing it all ourselves, it didn't take much prodding to explore the site further and see how someone else did it. Long story shorter, I found some great information about making your own laundry detergent. I printed it out on the spot! (Finding this lead me down a few other rabbit-trails which I will share at a later date ;-)

Armed with a new thought in my head - Watch Out! - I was at the grocery store the next day and just wondered, "Hmmm . . . do they have everything I need to make the laundry detergent?" They DID!!

20 Mule Team Borax, Washing Soda and a bar of old-fashioned Fels-Naptha soap all purchased for about $5.00

So, that afternoon I ask the children "Guess what we are going to do this afternoon?" When my plan was out, there a "Huh?" and a "Why?" but when the bucket was brought out, everyone was interested!

Exactly how DO you go about making your own laundry detergent? It is very simple really. You just need to make sure to gather everything beforehand so it is all ready to go. With a bit of measuring, heating, stirring and patience we had our own detergent! They all loved that we made it ourselves!

I'll share how we did it and if you like you can also check out how Mrs. Miller does it there on the Homestead along with other information on what each ingredient does and more.

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe : Makes 2 gallons

* 1/2 c. Borax
* 3/4 c. Washing Soda
* 1/2 bar of Fels-Naptha soap, grated
* 1 gallon water, heated to boiling
* 1 gallon water, room temp.

You'll also need a bucket -we used an old powder detergent bucket, and a large spoon to stir with - we used a large stainless steel spoon like the cafeterias use :-). Have everything together and ready to go before you start. Into the bucket pour in your grated soap and your hot water. Stir until the soap is melted completely. Then add Borax and soda, stirring until dissolved. Next add remaining gallon of water and stir to mix. That's it! Leave it set for the day or overnight and it will soon be ready for you to use.

How will you know when it's ready? Well, it should look about like this -

Finished_product_1 It is gel-ly, gloppy, a bit water-y, and in all honesty looks like you left the noodles on to boil for too long! I stirred it up a bit to break up the big glops and to make it easier to scoop out and use. Now, I did read of some people having trouble with this getting gel-ly, and you could add more Borax which might help that. But even if it doesn't 'gel' it is still fine to use. All of the necessary ingredients are in there, they just didn't react with the water in a certain way. I think ours 'gelled' so fast and so well because we have soft water - but I could be wrong.

You only need to use 1/2 cup of the detergent per load, of course adjusting as needed for larger or smaller loads or for loads that are a bit dirtier. I have washed 16 loads so far and think it is working wonderfully! The clothes are clean and clean-smelling without all of the perfumy stuff and poly-syllabic chemicals in the purchased detergents.

Now, for the math which DS2 so diligently provided me with:

Information is listed as follows: Item, Original Cost, Number of Batches we can make with this supply, Cost per batch.

* Borax, $2.91, 35 batches, 8 cents
* Washing Soda, $1.96, 16 batches, 12 cents
* Fels-Naptha soap, $1.05, 2 batches, 53 cents

This recipe, using the amounts stated above, costs us 73 cents to make. At 2 gallons, or 64 in 1/2 cup measurements, this will cost about .0114 cents per load of laundry. You just can't beat that!

If you make this, please share how it worked for you and your laundry!

-This is the way we wash our clothes, wash our clothes, wash our clothes, this is the way we wash our clothes so early Monday morning -

UPDATED 2/1/1008 to add: We have been using this for over a year now and are still very pleased with how it works for us. And every time we make it we still love to watch it thicken and have fun stirring it to break it up! :-)

(Originally published @

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