Thursday, July 16, 2009

How to Make Laundry Detergent

I really hesitated putting up this post. I mean - how bizarre can it get - showing photos of the laundry? But then a few weeks ago Bob - an arty type with whom I've worked in several operettas dropped by looking for Violinist and took note of my laundry flapping in the breeze beneath the deck rafters. "Have you always hung out your laundry or have you gone green?" asked Bob.
"I've always hung out the laundry," I replied.
Bob continued, "My father-in-law used to paint things like laundry - ordinary things - it inspired him. He'd open a closet and ta da! Inspiration!"
So while Bob stood there smiling away at my laundry, I looked at it too, but somewhat less inspired...Am I ever glad I only did the boys underwear today...and then said, "I've never thought to paint the laundry. But I have taken photos of it. But I would only tell you that, Bob" ...Because you are arty and understand and no one else would think to ask me this and I wouldn't be having this conversation about painting laundry.
"Well, it looks like you've got a system," said Bob nodding upwards.
"Yes, yes, I've got a system"... and I am so glad that system includes doing dainty whites separate from boxers.
So here it is - for all the WORLD'S VIEWING PLEASURE!!! never mind Bob - Decadent Housewife's LAUNDRY flapping in the sunshine. Yes, clean and I suppose green too, given it's washed with homemade laundry detergent. I didn't think to tell Bob that.
It all came about one morning when faced with a mountain of dirty laundry, Decadent Housewife realized she had forgotten to buy laundry detergent and didn't feel like driving twenty miles to Town to buy some, which would take longer to do than just making some because she just happened to have all the ingredients on the laundry room shelf because I'm just weird like that.

I wanted to do this years and years ago but never got around to it and now kick myself for not having done so. It's as hard as making brownies - ridiculously simple, quick and cheap, CHEAP, CHEAP. Think of all the hmmm...stuff I could have bought with the savings.

I used a recipe from That British Woman's blog tweaking it a bit. I suspect I used double the amount of bar soap than needed because her recipe calls for one bar of soap while her photo shows a twin pack of Sunlight bars, each bar weighing only 130 grams. I used a 270 gram bar of Linda soap because it is half the price of the Sunlight and I used to live with an Italian girl who knew all about laundry and swore by Linda. I have noticed that the laundry now, except for the towels, is very soft to touch after line drying.

Laundry Detergent
  • 1/2 cup of borax
  • 1/2 cup of washing soda
  • 1 and 1/2 litres (6 cups) of hot water, lst amount
  • 9 litres of hot water, 2nd amount - I just filled the bucket to almost the top.
  • 1 bar of yellow laundry soap, Sunlight or Linda - I used a 270 gram bar of Linda.
Pour the lst amount of water into a stainless steel pot. I used an old granite wear canner, but will use the stainless steel cook pot in future because the bottom of the canner was uneven making stirring a problem. If you use a wooden spoon to stir, I'd recommend to keep it for just making soap. The flavour may permeate the wood and mess up anything else cooked with that spoon.Grate the bar soap and add it to the hot water. If you have to leave the grated soap unattended in the kitchen you may wish to put a note on it explaining that this is soap and not CHEESE. I did and still had wolves sniffing around. Stir over moderate heat until melted. Once the soap and water is mixed, whisk in the borax and washing soda. Stir until it thickens. It will be just gelatinous. Remove from heat. Next I poured the mixture into a bucket and then added the second amount of hot water whisking it in. It began to thicken up and took on a pearly appearance. Of course this was all very scientific looking and peaked GG's curiosity. A few minutes later he showed up with a long plastic tube with which he siphoned the liquid into empty detergent bottles he also had hidden in the Shop From Hell. The mixture thickened up nicely - maybe too much. After it cooled completely down in the bottles, it seemed a bit solid as if it wouldn't pour, but I really shook the bottles and was able to pour out the detergent. I did swish it around in the washer to be sure it was evenly distributed. Next time I will skip using the bottles and just pour it into a lidded bucket for storage.
I've been using 1/4 cup per large load. If the items are particularly soiled - up to 1/2 cup per large load. It will not suds up, so don't go looking for bubbles, however, this is big on savings. My batch filled up four jugs, less what got spilled onto the deck steps - approximately twelve litres. I didn't go and measure exactly. I did take time to do the sock test to see if the detergent truly cleaned. I smelled a just washed sock and it smelled clean.


Glory von Hathor said...

Okay, so I'm a 30 year old woman who should know this, but what is borax and what does it smell like?

Sally's World said...

LOL, i was just going to say what is Borax...someone beat me to it...????

Jeanne said...

Is there anything you don't know how to do?
You amaze me.
Love Jeanne

Leila said...

This is excellent.

Love how doing things the old fashioned way mystifies people :)

While the detergent companies are making ever more complex formulas costing ever so much more, here you are getting down to the basics.

I'm just not sure about the soap -- I don't think we have anything like that. I've never noticed solid laundry soap other than Fells Naptha (which has bleach in it and has left bleached-out marks in my things before :(

Sunlight is a dish detergent as far as I know -- not solid...

Please advise...

AngelMc said...

I have a new front loading washing machine that calls for High Energy detergent. I have been told that you can use regular detergent--just use half. Do you know if this is doable in those types of machines?

Decadent Housewife said...

BORAX is a mineral.
It's made up of sodium, boron, oxygen, water. Any grocery or hardware store should carry it. It's been used forever for laundry purposes. There is tons of info online about it. Don't handle it without gloves, or breathe it. Hence, I didn't smell it.

What I've gathered by scouring online is that this recipe can be used but in a reduced amount 1 T. and be absolutely sure to follow your machines cleaning instructions. There is some conflicting info about it clogging up gaskets while others say just follow the instructions to make sure to keep the machine clean. Some people say the warranty is voided if you use a detergent other than what the mfg. recommend.

Apparently one of the specs of the HE detergent formulated for these machines is non-sudsing which is exactly one of the features of this recipe.

Try any grocery store, department or hardware store. Ask for yellow laundry soap. What you want is a simple basic soap. No naptha which is a petroleum and leaves gunk on the fabric.

Some sites also suggest using ivory bar soap if you can't find the sunlight bar soap. I bought the Linda brand at a discount grocer called Price Chopper. They also had the Sunlight bars.

Scriptor Senex said...

Gosh, I've lots of comments.

Firstly I hang out my washing and always have done.
Second, and I'd only admit it to you, I have not only photographed the washing on the line but photographed its shadows as well!
Thirdly, loved the photo with the sun on it.
Fourthly, bookmarked your blog posting in case I ever get the energy to make my own washing liquid.
Fifthly, thoroughly enjoyed the posting.
Sixthly that's more than enough....

Flip Flop Floozie said...

In all of these years I have NEVER ONCE thought about making my own laundry detergent..You are very clever and I bet it works better than the store bought kind. I have never heard of Linda soap one on me.
Thanks for stopping by. i am so glad that you liked my purse..i am on my second one now..

Lakeland Jo said...

I love the whole process of laundry- it is very satisfying. NOT IRONING THOUGH.
I can't imagine making my own suds though- I admire you.
I love leaving my washing out to dry naturally but it can mean a lot of ducking and diving here in the lake district... especially this week where it has poured and poured............sigh

Patricia said...

I truly am impressed...and wondering with our septic tank if this isn't what I should do, too.

Caution Flag said...

I know what Borax is and own a box. That, in itself, amazes me. Maybe there is still hope for my very weak domestic skills.

Gill - That British Woman said...

I only ever use the one bar of soap, but they come in twin packs that's why there was two in the photo.

Glad you like the recipe, and its supposed to be fine for septic tanks and for front loader machines, as its low suds.


(Thanks for the mention also)

Anonymous said...

If you are open to having a guest blog poster please reply and let me know. I will provide you with unique content for your blog, thanks.

Wimbledon cleaners said...

Great tip and the photos attached to the post are really helpful to know what the detergent is expected to look like. Thanks for the informative post.

Carla The Christian Canadian said...

I use a similar formula recommended by Annie Jean Brewer who used fels naptha or Octagon soap. her blog addy is

Since we're in Canada I substituted the Linda Laundry soap bar and it works fine.
I found the Linda soap at No Frills and paid $1.49 per bar. I found the Borax at Home Hardware and paid $5.07 tax in. The Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda I found at the Real Canadian Wholesale club for $6.05 tax in.I do find that I need to wash with hot water so that there won't be residue on the clothes.... but totally love the process and the savings!
Best Wishes from

Anonymous said...

Borax is what our parents used...its a little hard to find because the soap companies dont want it around...

if u got roaches u can mix borax with flour and sugar and make little balls and the roaches will eat it and i think they cant have babies...

the clothes look really clean

Capsunica said...

Big big thnaks for useful information

Anonymous said...

I have read that ph booster or ph +(for swimming pools) is the same as "washing soda"

Carla O said...

In Canada I have not being able to find "Zote" or "FelsNaptha" hard laundry soap bars.
But I have been happy to find
"Sunlight" hard laundry soap bars as well as Linda Laundry Soap bars.
The dollar stores have even carried Tide laundry soap bars and non-name blank white hard laundry soap bars.
As for effectiveness, I prefer Sunlight laundry soap bars or Linda Laundry Soap Bars. Both are reasonably priced too....all under three dollars per bar.