Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I Made Laundry Detergent! (Again): Easy Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

Back in 2010, I made laundry detergent for the first time. I felt so self-sufficient and pioneery. I was amazed that it worked!

Then I stopped using it.

This was due to one factor: I was pregnant. I had made a big batch of detergent using Dr. Bronner's lavender soap and it worked fine. However, as my pregnancy progressed, the smell of lavender made my stomach turn like crazy (probably from grating all that lavender soap during my first trimester). Every time I pulled the container of laundry powder off the shelf and took off the lid, I felt like throwing up. But I couldn't put it in the trash and start with a different scent -- no way was I going to waste a bar of that soap!

So, yeah, it didn't get used for the rest of my pregnancy and once the baby was here, I still didn't use it. I was already getting the detergent at the store for the cloth diapers (I'd read mixed things about using homemade detergents on cloth diapers and didn't want to deal with that). Plus, I was so exhausted and overwhelmed that I just took a break from making detergent. I needed less on my list of things to do. Months later, even though I was taking on some of the things I done regularly before Baby #2 (as well as some new projects), I still just kept on buying the stuff at the store. My baby will be two this month and we just finished up the last of the store-bought detergent.

I've decided, though, to go back to the homemade detergent. I had my washing soda and borax ready to go, as well as a newly purchased bar of Fels-Naptha. But before I unwrapped the soap and pulled out my grater, I decided to look at some of the liquid detergent recipes on Pinterest. Most of them included grating and cooking and five-gallon buckets. Just as I was going to pass on the liquid stuff and stick to the good ol' powder recipe, I saw something different and waaaay easier.

It was a recipe from P. Allen Smith (I love that guy!). His version of liquid detergent couldn't be simpler to make. Seriously -- it takes less than five minutes from start to finish! It also costs much less than store-bought liquid detergent. You can find the video I watched here or you can follow these step-by-step instructions (plus, you'll also find some before-and-after pics like those ones on detergent commercials!):

To make this detergent, you'll need:
  • 3 Tbsp. borax
  • 3 Tbsp. washing soda (NOT baking soda. I used to only be able to find washing soda at Ace Hardware but now that homemade detergent has gotten a little more common, I can find it at Walmart in the laundry aisle.)
  • 2 Tbsp. Dawn dish soap (the blue original kind)
  • water
  • an empty gallon-size milk jug

Pour the borax and washing soda into the empty milk jug.

Add the blue dish soap to the milk jug.

{Note:  I'm all for using natural cleansers and eco-friendly soaps; it's something I've mentioned a bunch on this blog. I totally get that Dawn dish soap is made from ingredients that aren't exactly "natural" (though it is biodegradable and there are no phosphates in it. Plus, the original blue kind doesn't have triclosan in it, either). I don't use this soap on my dishes, where traces of it could actually be ingested, for that reason. That said, I don't feel too worried about washing my family's clothes with this detergent -- it's a couple tablespoons of Dawn that's been diluted in almost a gallon of water, which will be diluted even further in when you use it in the washing machine.}

Add four cups of lukewarm water to the milk jug.

Put the lid on the jug and shake, shake, shake!

Next, fill it up with water from the tap, leaving just a few inches at the top unfilled. Don't worry about all the bubbles coming out as you fill it.

Put the cap on and give the mixture a shake again. I also just turned it upside to help the detergent mixture mix with the water.

Ta-da! Liquid laundry detergent! You could store your detergent in a fancy glass canister or in something with a creative label on it like I've seen on Pinterest or you could go my route: keep it in the milk jug and write on it with a Sharpie.

For each load, use anywhere from 1/2 cup to a full cup of detergent (it all depends on load size. I've been using a cup for all my large loads of laundry). A cup of detergent seems like a lot but since it's so thin and watery, you need to use more. Since it's so quick and easy to make, it's not a big deal that you use so much at a time, I think.

You might be asking now, "So does it actually work?"

I'm pretty sure that is chocolate on my six-year-old's shirt (a souvenir from my in-laws from their trip to South America last year) -- at least I think it is. Anyway, here's what it looked like before. I didn't do any sort of stain removal treatment before throwing it into the wash.

It works! The shirt came out of the wash as clean as ever. I also checked on some other clothes that had mud on them (welcome, spring!) and food stains and the detergent worked on them, too. (Sidenote: I haven't used this detergent with cloth diapers yet. Washing cloth diapers is a whole other topic. I've been using a detergent specifically for cloth diapers. I'll let you know what is if it keeps on working as well as it has). All in all, I'm pretty pleased with this new laundry room development.

Hooray for homemade detergent -- especially when you can make it in just a few minutes!

Note: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have disclosed.

{This post is linked up to Homestead Barn Hop.}


Julie said...

I'm looking forward to trying this recipe. I've been using the liquid detergent recipe found on the Duggars' family website but it makes so much and I can somehow never manage to get all of the soap dissolved fully.

One question though: is the Dawn make it or break it in this recipe? Could another dish soap be substituted in lieu of the Dawn?

Thanks for this recipe. Julie.

Heather said...

I'm not sure if Dawn is the make-or-break ingredient in this recipe, to be honest. From what I've read, Dawn (the blue original kind) seems to be the soap of choice for various uses because of its ability to lift oils and grease. I've used Dawn with my laundry before (with great success), as a stain remover and for stripping cloth diapers. So I'd tentatively say, stick with Dawn.

The great thing about this recipe is that if you decide to experiment with other dish soaps, you won't really be wasting that much it bombs -- you won't have spent much time making it or used up a whole box of washing soda/borax. If you do test other soaps out, let me know how it works! :)

Resorta said...

If you dissolve the borax and washing soda before adding Dawn, you have less foam to deal with. Add most of the water to the bottle, then pour in the dish soap. I have been using this same version of homemade laundry detergent for about six months now, and really like it.

Heather said...

I like the way you think, Resorta. Thank you for the tip! :)

Frances -Penilayne- said...

I am SO making this! :) It is the least intimidating of all the laundry detergent recipes I've seen. I can remember the list of ingredients after only reading it once haha

I've already shared it with Mom. Good stuff.

Amy Kampstra said...

Thank you for sharing this recipe. I, too, have been intimidated when it comes to actually getting my hands "dirty" and just trying it. I think this is the simplest recipe I've seen.
On another note, I'm sure Dawn probably works the best due to its oil and grease-lifting properties, but I've -- FINALLY -- found a pretty good clone. Wal-mart (the devil store, I know!) has a Great Value brand of blue dish washing liquid that's been working well for me -- at least for dishes... However, I bet it may work nicely for this detergent recipe.

Tamara said...

I have top load HE machine with the little pull out drawer for liquid soap but it only holds about 1/4c liquid. Would you just use less water when making the detergent?

Heather said...

Tamara -- I did some reading from other people who have made this detergent and I think I found a solution to your HE washer problem. When you make the detergent, stop once you've added the four cups of water -- you'll just have a concentrated version of the detergent. From there, just add 1/4 cup of detergent to your washer. I'm not familiar at all with HE washers, but I think it should be fine -- my only concern is that when you add the extra water after the four cups, it's more diluted and suds less; hopefully, the concentrated detergent won't be too sudsy for your HE washer.

Hope that helps. Let me know if it works out!

Unknown said...

So in culinary school they tell you to wash your white jackets in dish washer detergent I'm wondering if dishwashing detergent instead of dawn will keep the clothes brighter for colors and whiter for whites?? Anyone know?

Debbie Verbie said...

Has anyone tried this with an HE washer?? You want less suds but you also want the cleaning product to be effective. I'm afraid to go ahead and do it with the concentrated mixture and then have a big soapy mess!!!!

Unknown said...

Dabbie Verbe, I have an HE washer too and have been using SA8 concentrated detergent the entire time. But I use a very small amount and would feel good about making this homemade detergent and using it in my machine. I haven't tried it yet but am making it today. The only thing to me is 1/4 C seems like a lot for concentrated detergent. I use maybe 2 Tb. of my current and it's plenty effective. With my HE the issues arise from the lack of water the machine uses in my loads. I end up adding water myself. So there you have it.

Annie said...

Just yesterday I made the liquid detergent with the grated bar of soap. It bombed! It is so thick I will have to slice it out of the jug. Perhaps there was a step left out, such as adding water to fill the gallon jug. Since I have the washing soda, Dawn and borax, this will be a breeze to make. Thanks for sharing.

Anne said...

Ive been making a paste soap for 2 years and I adore it, even on my cloth diapers. I was scrolling here and I admit at first I scoffed at the title. I've seen too many liquid homemade soaps with that massive process you described at first. I'm glad I kept reading because this may indeed help me out!! I've used dawn to strip my diapers before, and I'm betting that an occasional wash with this kind along with my regular soap will be quite a boon. Thanks for the great find!

Frances -Penilayne- said...

After pulling up your foaming hand soap post to reference (since I just got my Dr. Bonner's; yay!), I started perusing the internet. My poor kids :/ They've been patiently waiting to make soap for at least half an hour lol
I stumbled across a post that substituted Dr. Bonner's for the Dawn. I think I'm gonna go for it! It's already recommended for laundry on its own, right? :)

tracymassey said...

I know this was posted quite some time ago. Does anyone have any updates/suggestions on using this for HE front loaders??

Unknown said...

Can anyone tell me about the smell of the laundry when done ?

Cindylou said...

Christa, it doesn't smell like anything to be honest. My mom wont use it because she likes lots of fabric softener lol. I would say if you are like her, adding some homemade softener to your load or if you're not too worried about chemicals, add some crystals to your load. I like this detergent for my husbands military uniforms.

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Aisha said...

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Unknown said...

thank you so much for the trick of adding most of the water first to keep from all that suds going down the drain. The suds is soap after all!

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