While researching homemade laundry detergent, I realized that there must be at least a million different recipes out there, and each one of them has a user who swears by it. This led me to the conclusion that it’s probably pretty hard to mess this up, and as long as you include a few key ingredients, you’re going to wind up with clean clothes in the end. Whew. That took some of the pressure off!
I decided to aim for as simple a recipe–with as few ingredients–as possible. I’ve got it down now to three ingredients: baking soda, epsom salt, and a bar of Dr. Bronner’s castille soap. My husband commented recently that he believes our clothes are even cleaner than before and that they smell wonderful. I agree! And with such an inexpensive and easy-to-make recipe, I can’t imagine ever going back to store-bought detergent.
Here is what I have been using for the past six weeks with outstanding results (note: a little bit of this stuff goes a looooong way):
HOMEMADE LAUNDRY DETERGENT (POWDER)
2 cups baking soda (I buy this at Costco in a 13.5 lb bag)
1 1/2 cups washing soda (I make this–using nothing but baking soda!–see below)
1/4 cup epsom salt (you could probably use any type of salt for this; it softens the water)
1 bar of Dr. Bronner’s castille soap, finely grated
1. Make washing soda.
Before I tried this recipe, I searched and called all over town trying to find washing soda. No matter where I went, no store seemed to carry it. So I looked online and discovered that the only “difference between baking soda and washing soda is water and carbon dioxide. Seriously. Baking soda’s chemical makeup is NaHCO3 (1 sodium, 1 hydrogen, one carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). Washing soda’s chemical makeup is Na2CO3 (2 sodium, 1 carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). When baking soda is heated up to high temperatures, it breaks down to become washing soda, water steam, and carbon dioxide.”
How cool is that? Since I had a great big bag of baking soda on hand, I figured I’d give it a try. I followed the directions on the Penniless Parenting blog (thanks, Penny!) and voila, I had washing soda! Here’s what I did:
– Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
– Pour about 2 cups of baking soda onto a clean baking sheet. (I recommend starting with more baking soda than you will need in washing soda. For some reason, when I started with 2 cups of baking soda, I wound up with less than 2 cups of washing soda when it was all said and done. This may be a result of the chemical process…?)
– Bake for 30-60 minutes, stirring once or twice with a spatula. I wound up baking mine for about 45 minutes, and at that point, I could see a difference and knew that it was done. According to Penny, you’ll be able to tell when your baking soda has become washing soda by looking for the following changes: “Washing soda is grainy, baking soda is powdery. Washing soda is dull and opaque, baking soda is crystalized like salt and reflects light, i.e. it is semi shiny. Washing soda is separate grains, baking soda clumps together.”
2. Grate soap.
While your washing soda is in the oven, use a handheld cheese grater (or food processor) to grate your bar of soap into as fine a shred as possible. I did this by hand, and factoring in a few interruptions, it took me about 10 minutes. This is by far the most–OK, it’s the only–labor-intensive part of making laundry detergent, and next time I think I’ll try doing it in the food processor. If the food processor doesn’t work out for me, I’ll just go back to grating by hand. It’s not fun, but it’s totally worth it.
For my first batch, I used rose-scented soap, and it is heavenly! Next, I plan to try peppermint, which is pictured above. You could also use an unscented bar of soap and either leave it plain, or add a few drops of essential oils to create your own customized smell. I imagine you could try other types of soap for this, but I will be sticking with my long-time favorite, Dr. Bronner’s.
3. Combine ingredients.
Once your washing soda has cooled, stir together all of the ingredients (baking soda, washing soda, salt, and grated soap) in a large bowl. Then pour your detergent into a storage container of your choice. I’m using a 64 oz. glass canning jar with a plastic lid and a small (2 Tbsp) plastic scoop that I kept from a store-bought box of powdered detergent. This recipe only filled my jar halfway, so next time, I will probably double the ingredients.
When it’s time to do laundry, I use 1/2 a scoop (about 1 Tbsp) of powder for smaller loads and a full scoop (2 Tbsp) for larger ones. We have a top-loading washing machine. I don’t know if this is necessary, but I have been using hot water at the beginning of each load to “melt” the powder.
I cannot believe that something so simple and inexpensive can smell so divine and work so effectively! Congratulations to all of you who figured this out long before I did (like my wise little sister, Christine), and thank you for paving the way and helping me to finally get on board!
For what it’s worth, below are some before and after pictures of my oh-so-gratifying-baking-soda-to-washing-soda conversion:
BEFORE: baking soda
AFTER: washing soda