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Homemade Laundry Detergent
So we were walking down the detergent aisle a couple years ago...AGAIN...to drop another $20 on the 'large' container of name-brand laundry detergent. With a family of 5, it seemed like we were blowing through detergent faster than diapers for our 2-year old! When we got home, we placed the new container in the utility room, pushing aside a few old containers that we hadn't thrown away yet. It occured to us...something has to change!
3 Simple Ingredients
After doing a little research online, we were shocked to discover how easy it would be to start making our own detergent. A bar of Fels Naptha soap, a box of Washing Soda, and a box of Borax is all you need to get started.
Keep in mind, after you buy these initial ingredients, you'll still have plenty of Borax and Washing Soda left over. In fact, I've been using this recipe for a couple years now and I'm still on the original boxes!
The process itself couldn't be easier. At the end of this article, I'll have the entire list in a 'recipe' format...so click here if you want to jump straight to it. Otherwise, here's a little more information on each step so you understand how we get to the final results:
- Heat Up Some Water
I've heard some say 4 cups of water, but in my experience, it really doesn't matter since you'll be mixing it with several gallons of water anyway. So for this step, simply take a large pot of water, roughly half full, and heat it to a very gentle boil. In fact, as long as it's hot, it will melt the soap and achieve the desired results. Just make sure you don't get it to a rolling boil...that'll make your soap start to bubble over and you'll have quite a mess on your hands!
Once the water has reached the desired temperature, start unwrapping your bar of soap and begin the next step.
- Carve Up Your Soap
Take your bar of soap and a knife, and start shaving slices off into a small bowl. Now, you could just as easily grate the bar using a cheese grater, but then you're going to have to clean your grater and that's just one more step than is needed! The goal here is to make small pieces of soap that will quickly melt in the hot water, so whether you grate it, shave it, or slice it, you're accomplishing the same goal...it's just a matter of how much clean up you want to do afterwards :)
Within a few minutes, you'll have a small bowl full of soap shavings and you'll be ready for the next step. As you get more comfortable with this process, you might even find yourself shaving or grating your soap directly into your pot of hot water. It's all about making sure your soap melts evenly and you have no 'chunks' left by the time you're ready to mix your ingredients.
- Make Your Soapy Solution
- Mix Your Ingredients
The 'hard work' is almost over! Seriously! All that's left to do now is start filling your 5-gallon bucket with water. I would advise marking off the 3 gallon mark ahead of time, that way it's easy to fill and takes out all the guess-work.
While filling, make sure you use warm water. This helps activate the ingredients and causes the reaction that makes the cleaning gel in the last stage.
Start the water and leave it running. While the bucket fills, pour in the soapy solution you made earlier, followed by the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir it all together and continue to fill until you've reached the 3-gallon mark. I tend to go over slightly, to account for the amount of water used in the first step, but anywhere near that 3-gallon mark is fine. It's not an exact science, so don't try to get too specific with it.
No, seriously...that's all you have to do! Put a lid on your bucket and set it aside. Give the ingredients about 24 hours to react and form the gel needed to make your final detergent. Take some time, go mow the yard, go have a beer, or better yet, go take a nap! Come back the next day and finish this sucker off :)
- Divide and Conquer
While I'm waiting for the gel to settle, I take 4 old detergent bottles, 3 littles ones that I keep over the washer, and another large one that I use for refills and keep it in the cabinet. In addition, I gather up a spatula and a funnel to be used in dividing up the solution.
When the time is ready, take the lid off and make sure your solution has 'gelled' correctly. It should be fairly thick to the touch, but easy to break up with a spatula. Take the spatula and begin mixing the gel layer on top with the water sitting underneath. At first it will look a bit gross, but as you go, it becomes more and more consistent...by the end, you'll have a thick, liquidy detergent that's ready for use!