When our family started living frugally, we looked at all aspects of our daily life to find ways we could cut back. One money-saver I never considered was homemade laundry detergent because I didn’t think anything but the store-bought kind worked. Boy, was I wrong.
Three years ago, I came up with a recipe for do-it-yourself, or DIY, laundry detergent that allows me to wash our clothes and get them clean for pennies a load.
I wrote about my recipe on my Suddenly Frugal blog. More than 1,000 days later, that post is still the most visited on Suddenly Frugal. Since Pinterest showed up on the social media scene, lots of frugal fans have pinned my recipe on their boards.
How did I come up with my recipe? I researched various laundry recipes out there on other frugal-living blogs, and cobbled together my own formula. I decided to go with the powdered version because DIY liquid laundry detergent requires heating it on the stove. That’s too much work for me.
What I like best about this DIY laundry detergent recipe is that it has only three ingredients. They are:
- Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
- 20 Mule Team Borax
- Bar of Fels-Naptha Soap
You can find all three of these ingredients in most supermarket laundry aisles, at Target or Walmart. For some reason, my grocery store has stopped stocking Borax. Now I have to go to the local hardware store for it, where I discovered I also can buy Fels-Naptha soap and washing soda.
Not only is buying the ingredients for my DIY laundry soap easy, so is making the recipe. Here are the steps:
Combine all of the following:
- 2 parts washing soda (I do this quite literally and start with two cups of washing soda).
- 2 parts Borax (again, the literal approach with two cups).
- 1 part grated or chopped Fels-Naptha soap (I’ve read that some people put the soap in a food processor to get it into tiny bits; I just get out my cheese grater and put it to work).
Because I store the detergent in a reusable Rubbermaid 10-cup container with a lid, my “mixing” of the ingredients involves putting the top on the container and giving it a few good shakes.
It takes me only five minutes to put this all together. Really, only five minutes. Grating the soap is what takes the longest.
Most recipes recommend using about four tablespoons of detergent for a regular-size load of laundry. I decided to use one-quarter cup and put that size measuring cup in my container so I never have to look far when I need to measure detergent.
Originally, I was using my DIY laundry detergent in a top-loading washing machine, and it worked fine. Now we have a front-loading washing machine that requires HE or high-efficiency laundry detergent. Because my DIY laundry detergent recipe doesn’t make bubbles – it doesn’t bubble at all like traditional soap – I’ve discovered it is safe to use in the front loader as well.
Everything comes out looking clean and smelling good. I’ll admit that when it comes to my children’s athletic gear, I have to add some Tide with Febreze (purchased on sale and with a coupon, natch) to really kill the smell of sweat and dirt. But for everyday loads, this stuff is a real winner.
If you can’t find Fels-Naptha soap in the store or don’t want to spend money on a “special” soap, you can use any bar of soap you have. Have you stockpiled little bars of soaps from past hotel visits? Use them in this recipe, and they will work just as well.
Another frugal tip I’ve discovered: When you need a stain remover, reach for clarifying shampoo. It is much cheaper than liquid laundry detergent or commercial stain removers, and does just as good a job. I often can pick up a bottle of clarifying shampoo on sale at CVS for about 79 cents. You’ll never find a stain stick this cheap in the store.
Photo by Leah Ingram. All rights reserved.