Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tightwad tuesday: cheap suds for your duds

It's been a long time since I wrote a Tightwad Tuesday post, but I finally have a worthy topic!

Recently I was chatting with my friend Vicki, a fellow frugal mom, and she mentioned she makes her own laundry detergent. I was intrigued, so Vicki sent me a link to The Family Homestead, a homemaking blog, where she had found the recipe. She swears by it; her husband is a fishing boat captain, and she says it gets all his dirty, greasy work clothes sparkling and smelling fresh.

Last Thursday, on my usual grocery day, I purchased the necessary ingredients from the laundry aisle of my local grocery store for a whopping $8.04 (remember, though, that these quantities make multiple batches, so that works out to a lot less per load, as you'll see).

Right after lunch today I decided to whip up a test batch of the homemade detergent. I halved the original recipe and modified it as follows:

1/4 of a 5.5 oz. bar Fels Naptha laundry soap
1/4 cup Arm and Hammer laundry soda
1/4 cup Mule Team Borax
(I also added 1/2 teaspoon of lemon essential oil for fragrance, although the scent of the Fels Naptha overpowered it)

This makes 1 gallon of liquid laundry detergent, so I had a clean container that held at least one gallon--and that had an airtight lid--ready before I began. I grated the soap on the smaller holes of a cheese grater, then dissolved it in 3 cups of water on medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the soap was dissolved, I added the Borax and washing soda and stirred until it had dissolved. Then I turned off the heat and set the soap mixture aside. I poured two cups of hot water in a large bowl or pan (one that held more than a gallon), then stirred in the soap mixture. I added another 10 cups of water and stirred. The last step is to let the soap sit over night to set up into a sort of chunky gel consistency. (I skipped that so I could test it out right away.) Use 1/2 cup per load.

Lately I've been using Costco's Kirkland Signature Clear and Free detergent for the kids' laundry (they both have eczema), which rings up at about $16.50 a bottle, and washes approximately 110 loads (probably less for us because we have hard water and my kids get pretty grungy). That comes out to about 15 cents a load.

The homemade soap works out to about 53 cents for the half-batch I made, because here in the 'burg, a 5.5-oz. bar of Fels Naptha is $1.28, a 76-oz. box of Mule Team Borax is $4.38, and a 55-oz. box of Arm and Hammer washing soda is $2.38. Divide 53 cents by the thirty-two 1/2 cup uses yielded, and the cost per load is an amazing 1.6 cents per load (in case you missed it, that's one-tenth the cost of the Kirkland soap per load).

My first test load came out pretty darn clean--though I admit, it wasn't the kids' laundry, so the true test will come on Friday when I wash all their perma-stained pants, shirts, socks and underwear. I'll keep you posted!

Update (2/7/11): I used this all last week for every load of laundry, and I must say it gets the job done. Gotta love the winning combination of cheap and effective. Oh, and did I mention fast? This takes ten minutes to make. If you double or triple the recipe, you only have to make it every couple months. Wash your clothes on the cheap, and use the savings to buy yourself a new dress or pair of shoes.

1 comment:

John and Chantalle said...

I have always loved your Tightwad Tuesday posts and this one is awesome. I am going to try it!!