Saving money with the art of laundry

A DIY laundry detergent recipe for less than a dime per load
Saving money with the art of laundry

A few years ago, I began making my family’s laundry detergent for a few different reasons–one of the most lucrative factors being the money saved, of course.

We were a single-income family then with a sensitive-skinned infant in cloth diapers. After a few months of unknowingly washing my diapers incorrectly (a disaster that takes several washing cycles to repair) and in an effort to minimize exposure to chemicals and become more self-sufficient, I began researching homemade laundry detergent recipes.

The first recipe I tried included popular homemade detergent ingredients like borax and Fels Naptha soap. I tried both the liquid and powder versions of these recipes, but I just wasn’t satisfied with how my clothes were coming out. They didn’t seem to be getting clean, and marks that would come out when we used traditional detergent were now turning into stains. With an infant that was starting to eat solids at this point, we had more than our fair share of food on clothing (and floors, walls, etc.)

So I began experimenting with recipes. Contrary to a lot of recipes I came across in my initial search, even some of those boasted by some of my favorite holistic mommy bloggers, I opted for a borax-free recipe. And here’s why:

  1. Borax was a main ingredient in the recipe that I didn’t like.
  2. I use borax to kill ants, so putting it my detergent kind of crept me out.
  3.  I also found this from the Environmental Working Group.

So what recipe do I use now? Well, here it is:

  • 1.5 gallons of hot water (I use an old, big protein powder container with thick plastic for this; a small-ish mop bucket might also work. I’d like to find something that doesn’t contain plastic, but I have yet to do so for a recipe of this size.)
  • Stir in 3 cups Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and .25 cup Arm & Hammer Baking Soda until dissolved.
  • Stir in 1.25 cups Dr. Bronner’s Castile Liquid Baby Mild soap and .25 cup Dr. Bronner’s Castile Liquid Lavender soap (you could use any fragrance you like, or just 1.5 cups of the mild baby soap).
  • Cover and let sit over night. Once cooled, it will have a jelly-like consistency.

I use about ¼-cup for a large load (the standard in my house). I use less for diaper loads and more for soiled loads. If my parade of kids that serve as my shadow every step of nearly every day (all two of them, plus a husband) gives me enough time to think about which load of laundry I’m doing, I’ll add white vinegar as a softener for towels and linens or a stripper for diapers. But usually I get stuck in the ritual of a ¼-cup as my brain is in about 10 other places other than the laundry room as I stand at my washer.

Now, prepare yourself for the sticker shock (the good kind). Each “batch” costs me less than $7 and lasts me about 11 weeks with about 6-8 loads of laundry per week. That means I’m spending about $0.62 on laundry detergent per week, or less than a dime per load, even with some of my higher price (but totally worth it) ingredients.

While the fragrance for this recipe is essentially non-existent (and I like it that way), I did buy some fragranced laundry crystals for my husband to use in his laundry (when he remembers for the load or 2 that he does a week). Or I add a few drops of essential oils to the linens load (again, when I have the time and brain power to make such an effort). And I do, occasionally, use a little bit of OxiClean fragrance-free powder when washing a large load of diapers.

Laundry is an art, as is the recipe to make the detergent. Play around with the ingredients to find out what works best for you. I’ve found that effectiveness varies based on water softness/hardness, type of washing machine, etc.

About author:

Kandice Matteson is the Advertising & Editorial Director and Co-Publisher of From Our Nest magazine, residing in Ozark with her husband, two daughters and two dogs. With a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and a Master’s in rhetoric, Matteson spends almost as much time dissecting the meanings and motives behind language and composition as she does watching Frozen with her two daughters. She's a quasi-crunchy mama who cherishes children and loves to share knowledge and information with all that will let her.

View all posts by Kandice Matteson