Laundry can take up a lot of time, money and energy. I’m always on the lookout for ways to save money on washing and drying clothing. I do things like re-wear clothes before washing them, cutting dryer sheets in half, and line drying my clothes when the weather is nice outside. I thought I was doing well.

Then I wrote a post about homemade cleaning products a few weeks ago. Jessica, one of my readers, left the following comment:

I make my own laundry soap! Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 bar bath soap
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

Grind together in your food processor. Use 2 Tablespoons for a full load. I also use it for general housekeeping. It costs 2 or 3 cents per use.

I also use Dawn to fight laundry stains, and white vinegar as a fabric softener. (The smell disappears when the clothes dry.)

White vinegar is so versatile! I love using it as a rinse aid in my dishwasher, as well as for keeping ants off my counters. (Bugs can’t stand the taste of acid.)

Your blog is awesome, Lynnae–keep up the good work!

Thanks for the compliment on my blog, Jessica. Now it’s time for me to thank you. I thought I’d do a comparison between my usual laundry detergent and Jessica’s recipe. I was skeptical, because I’ve made my own liquid laundry detergent before, and I was less than impressed. It took a long time to make, too. Still, I had to try.

Making the Detergent

I made one small adjustment to the recipe. Instead of using bath soap, I used 1 bar of Fels Naptha. It’s a soap especially made for laundry, and it really cleans things.

I used the food processor to grind everything up, just like Jessica recommended, and this laundry detergent literally took me 5 minutes to make. It was so easy!

Still, I didn’t know how it would work. So far I’ve used it on 4 loads of laundry, and it’s worked really well! I don’t think I’ll be going back to the commercial stuff anytime soon.

The Cost Break Down

Let’s break down the cost. I didn’t have any of the ingredients on hand, so I bought everything last Wednesday.

  • I bought one bar of Fels Naptha and used the whole bar. Cost: $1.19.
  • A 3.5 box of Washing Soda is 7 1/3 cups and cost me $2.39. I used 1 cup, which comes to 33 cents.
  • I bought 1 4-lb box of baking soda, which contains 8 1/3 cups. I paid $2.12 for the box. The recipe uses one cup, so that comes to roughly 25 cents for the baking soda.
  • Finally, I bought a 4 lb 12 oz. box of Borax for $2.67. The box contains 9.9 cups, and I used one. Cost of one cup: 27 cents.

The total cost for one batch of homemade laundry detergent was $2.04 for 24 loads of laundry.

So far, very good! The recipe made 3 cups of laundry detergent. There are 16 tablespoons in a cup, so there were 48 tablespoons in the recipe. At 2 tablespoons per load, that’s 24 loads of laundry.

Total cost per load: 8 and 1/2 cents. That’s roughly the same as the Arm & Hammer laundry detergent I normally buy. The Arm & Hammer came to 8 and 2/3 cents a load for a $6.99 box that washes 80 loads.

However, I think the homemade stuff has been cleaning better. It’s also not heavily scented, and I’m not trashing the environment by continuing to buy boxes of detergent. Plus, I can use the baking soda and borax for other cleaning tasks, so I’m not buying lots of different products. That saves much needed space in my cupboard.

The Verdict

Though the actual cost of the two detergents is about the same, the homemade detergent saves on both packaging and space in my home. It’s more natural, too. And if you were to use regular bath soap instead of Fels Naptha, the cost would definitely be less than store bought detergent, since the Fels Naptha was by far the most expensive ingredient. I’ve heard Zote works well for laundry, too, but I’ve never seen it around here.

The Winner: Jessica’s homemade laundry detergent! Thanks for the tip, Jessica!

Now I need to dry Dawn as a stain remover and vinegar as a fabric softener!

Update: Since this post, I’ve cut the amount of Fels Napthala to 1/2 bar per batch, and it works just fine. That brings the cost per load down to just 6 cents per load!

For other versions of homemade laundry detergent, see the following sites:

How do you save money on laundry? Share your tips in the comments!