Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent Tutorial

Some of you know of my wish to become a farmer's wife in Iowa. On this farm where I would live, with my present husband Ben, who would stop being a pastor and a writer and instead be the aforementioned farmer, we would make all sorts of things for ourselves. We would compost (we already compost, but stay with me), we would can stuff that would be edible later, we would raise chickens (stop making that face, Mom), and we would make our own laundry detergent.

Well, it turns out I don't have to convince my husband to move to Iowa, forsaking his calling and educational training to become a farmer, because I have made my own laundry detergent in our present home in the suburbs of Chicago. It's absurdly easy, but since I've become obsessed with other people's tutorials, I made my own to share with you. Like I said, any idiot can do this.

How do I know that?

Yeah, that's me. Making a moose head. I have no idea why. I can't even blame alcohol, because I do remember I hadn't had any then.

All right, start with these three ingredients:
You'll need 2 cups of grated soap, one cup of washing soda and one cup of Borax. The borax was easy to find and at $3.39 at Target, a steal for so much. I had to buy the washing soda online, but it was still quite affordable. It was about $6 including shipping. I got mine from buy.com. Apparently a website called Alice.com also has it for the same price. The soap I used is from Trader Joe's. It's a natural soap and smells nice but not too strong. I don't like a lot of scent and usually buy fragrance free detergent. But, all soap has a scent, so I chose a mild one to use. 

Grate your soap. I used the shredding function on my food processor which is super fast and has the added bonus of me never shredding off my knuckles, something that has happened more times than was strictly necessary. It should look like this. I asked an old lady to come by and hold some of it up in her old lady hand. 

You might need to stick the wooden handle of your spatula in to keep it grating away. BE CAREFUL.

Pour your shredded soap into a container. I needed 2 bars of soap to get 2 cups. Then add the borax and washing soda (1 cup each) and shake it, shake it like a polaroid picture.

The recipe I have suggest 2 tablespoons of detergent mix for a full load of laundry. From 4 cups of laundry mix I believe I will be able to make 32 loads of laundry (4 cups equals 64 tablespoons). I have enough borax and washing soda to make a ton more, so while the first 32 washes costs about $11, the rest will cost only as much as the soap costs. I'll let you know whether it turns all our clothes pink or I develop a weird rash.

I'd welcome your comments, especially in regards to hilarious DIY projects.


  1. Awesome. I also aspire to someday having backyard chickens. One question: What's in the Super Washing Soda? That's a very positive name, but I'm curious how many ingredients it has and whether it's substantially different from, you know, non-Super Baking Soda.

  2. This is from TLC, where I got the recipe:

    "washing soda -is in the same family as baking soda. It has just been processed differently; it's sodium carbonate-two sodium atoms, a carbon atom, and three hydrogen atoms-whereas baking soda is sodium bicarbonate-the same ingredients, but with a hydrogen atom replacing one of the sodiums. It is much more caustic/alkaline, with a pH of 11, and while it doesn't give off harmful fumes, you do need to wear gloves. It is found in the laundry section of most supermarkets."

    I can't verify it's super-ness, though I do find clean laundry to be super :)


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