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Homemade Laundry Detergent

I started making my own laundry detergent last year when I came across a recipe online. It seemed simple enough and was very inexpensive so I thought I’d give it a try! Well, I’m hooked. After making a few tiny tweaks, I’ve come up with a process that works for me. When I tell people that I make my own detergent they always ask me how. So here we are! A little laundry detergent tutorial!

Here’s what you’ll need:

One 55 oz box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

One 4 lb box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

One 76 oz box of Borax

Two 400g bars of Zote Soap

2.5 – 3 lbs of OxiClean (or any generic oxygen cleaner)
{I’ve used two 1.3 lb containers of OxiClean here but I think they make a 3 lb container as well and you can use that if you wish}

You’ll also need a container to put the detergent in! This recipe makes 2 gallons of powder detergent so I would recommend a nice 2 gallon glass jar. I got this one from Walmart for only $9.97!

And don’t forget a little scoop for your detergent!

Both of these scoops were found at Walmart. The one on the left is the smallest scoop of a set of three. I can’t remember the exact price of the set but it wasn’t more than a few bucks (I use the other scoops from the set for my flours). That scoop holds a little over 2 Tbsp (non-heaping). The scoop on the right is sold as a “Coffee Scoop” and holds exactly 2 Tbsp. The Coffee Scoop was only $1.67. You only need to use 1-2 Tbsp of this detergent per load so either of these scoops would be perfect! {also, the OxiClean comes with a small plastic scoop that can certainly be used as well!}

For mixing up the detergent I recommend picking up a 5 gallon bucket at your local home improvement store along with a screw top lid for it.

I got this bucket at Home Depot for $2.60. The screw top lid was slightly more expensive at $6.97 but it creates a leakproof seal and the screw top lid is much easier to get on and off than the snap-on ones. Designate this your “Detergent Making Bucket” and keep it clean! Don’t go mixing any grout or paint in it!

You’ll also need a food processor (or box grater) and a large bowl to hold some of the ingredients.

Directions

1. Set aside the Zote Soap and the baking soda

2. Pour the remaining ingredients (Super Washing Soda, Borax, and OxiClean) into the bucket

3. Cut the Zote Soap in half lengthwise so that it will fit through the feed tube of your food processor. {If you are using a box grater you may skip this step}

4. Using the shredding disc on your food processor, grate the Zote Soap and transfer the grated soap to a large bowl. {If you are using a box grater, use the smallest possible grate. You’ll want to get the Zote Soap as small as you can since you won’t be using a food processor to take it to a powder consistency.}

5. Change out the shredding blade in your food processor and put in the regular blade. Working in batches, place about two handfuls of the shredded soap into the processor along with about 1.5 cups of the baking soda (just eyeball it).

6. Pulse the soap and baking soda until it forms a powder. The purpose of incorporating the baking soda in this step is to help prevent the Zote Soap from clumping. The baking soda should coat the soap so that it doesn’t stick to itself. If the mixture still looks a bit clumpy just add more baking soda until it looks like a powder. {If you are using a box grater, I would just add the baking soda to the soap in the large mixing bowl and stir it up so that the shredded soap gets coated with the baking soda. I would start with about 3 cups and add more as you need it}

7. As you process the Zote Soap and baking soda just add each batch to the bucket with the rest of the ingredients. And don’t forget to add any baking soda left in the box!

8. Screw the lid on tight and shake, rattle and roll until everything is mixed well! This is a bit of a workout so you can skip the gym on detergent making days. Also, husbands are good detergent shakers.

9. Once the ingredients are all mixed, you are ready to transfer it to your pretty container! To avoid making a big mess, I recommend scooping it out with a large cup until there isn’t much left in the bucket. Then you can safely dump the rest of it into your container.

10. Enjoy!

You just need 1-2 Tbsp of detergent per load. Many people say to add it directly to the washing drum but I put mine in the dry detergent dispenser. If you used a box grater for the Zote Soap, you may want to add the detergent directly to the drum so that the larger pieces don’t get caught in your dispenser. I wash most of my loads with cold water and have no problems with this detergent dissolving. I also have an HE washer and have no problems using this detergent.

Notes

  • You should be able to find Zote Soap at Home Depot (Update: I’ve seen it at Walmart now, too! For cheaper!). If you can’t find Zote Soap, you may use Fels Naptha instead (use 3 bars instead of 2!). Fels Naptha can be found at Walmart and many other stores. I’ve used both and both work great. I prefer the Zote Soap because it’s got a softer consistency for easier grating. I also prefer the smell of it to the Fels Naptha. Oh, and it’s PINK! But, seriously, the Fels Naptha is good stuff, too (it’s yellow, in case that matters to you).
  • My last batch of detergent lasted 10 months! Now I know that we don’t have kids so we probably aren’t doing as many loads as the average family but I do wash our running clothes after every run (that’s four loads a week right there) and with our regular loads added I would say we probably do 6-7 loads per week. And I use 2 Tbsp for most loads.
  • For my running friends: This detergent works wonders on our stinky running clothes (maybe it’s all the baking soda?). Any of you who exercise regularly and wear workout clothing made of special moisture-wicking material know how smelly those items can get! And they would still smell awful even after washing them! I’ve discovered a system that keeps our running clothes smelling fresh all the time and this detergent really helps! First of all, I wash all of our running clothes right after our runs (ok, maybe I shower first). I wash all of the items in COLD water with 2 Tbsp of my homemade detergent. I have an LG steam washer that gives me the option of choosing the soil level of the clothing so I set the soil level on high (I think that lengthens the wash cycle). When the cycle is finished I remove the clothes immediately and hang them to dry. I think this makes the most difference. The longer they sit in the washer, the more stink they develop. I’d read that you should wash your running clothes in cold water because heat can set in the stinky smells. This is also one of the reasons to hang dry your running clothes. That material dries so quickly that even if I need something for a run again the next morning, they’ll be dry and good to go.

Let’s talk cost…

One-time purchases:

  • Glass container: $9.97 at Walmart
  • 5 gallon bucket: $2.60 at Home Depot
  • Screw top lid for bucket: $6.97 at Home Depot
  • Coffee Scoop: $1.67 at Walmart

Total cost for one-time purchases: $21.21

Detergent ingredients:

  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda: $3.24 at Walmart
  • Arm & Hammer Baking Soda: $2.12 at Walmart
  • Borax: $3.38 at Walmart
  • OxiClean: $3.86 each at Walmart
  • Zote Soap: $1.67 each at Home Depot (you may find it cheaper at Walmart!)

Total cost for the ingredients: $19.80 (not bad for almost a year’s worth of detergent!)

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