Laundry Detergent & Fabric Softener ~ Hippie Style


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Not a food post! More of a helpful household hints kinda thing.

DIY Laundry Detergent

Well over a year ago I was introduced, via my friend Michelle over at Burghbaby, to homemade laundry soap. It was kind of a revelation and I have been making my own ever since. I was a Tide w Bleach user for years. Decades probably. See, Hart has a sensitivity to the perfumes and crap used in a lot of cheaper detergents for one, but it’s not like I could get away with using them anyway. Cheaper detergent is no longer cheap when one has to use 2 or 3 times the amount to get clean clothes. Restaurant laundry. It’s mostly gross. Hart is also a runner. Sweaty, gross running clothes also scoff at cheap detergents.

I am a powder soap user, always have been and it’s what I prefer. Tide is definitely one of the pricier brands, even when you get the super huge gigantor box from Costco. They also put that silly large scoop in there to help you use too much detergent so you have to buy it more often. Cheaters. Defeat them by swapping out their scoop for the right sized measuring cup. You will be SHOCKED how much less detergent you go through whether you make it yourself or buy it.

I tried out the recipe Michelle included in that post up there, made the small batch of it and gave it a whirl. It was ok. The issue wasn’t the soap, though. For normal stuff it was fine, but for work & work out clothes I wasn’t as pleased with the results. I also wasn’t a fan of making the small batches. Having the open boxes kind of makes me twitch, as odd as that may sound, and I would rather make a big batch and use them all up and then make them go away. (No…YOU have an OCD issue.) So I tweaked the recipe & ingredients a bit to boost the detergent while still only using 2 tablespoons of soap powder per load and use up whole boxes of stuff.

The batch size for this is about 7 quarts, I use an 8 quart lidded bucket to store it and use my food processor to do all the not-so-dirty-work. I recommend the processor to make this easy work, takes about 10 minutes to toss it all together with the machine; by hand it will be much more work. Either method costs about 1/4 of what I would pay for the equivalent amount of Tide and is well worth the effort.

The ingredients are simple and as much as it kills me the only place that I have consistently found them all is Wal-Mart. The washing soda apparently is a laundry unicorn so I bite the bullet when I have to and go there to get the goods. For the bar soap it can be any kind you like, I liked the smell of this one and it was on super sale. Plain Ivory is generally what I use.

Edit: my friend Amy over on FB made a pretty awesome discovery via Google that will mean I don’t have to go to that dreaded place to get Washing Soda anymore! She discovered & shared with me this post from Nature’s Nurture and Penniless Parenting on how to make it yourself by baking regular baking soda. Chemistry FTW!

Laundry Soap Ingredients

  • 1 – 3# 7oz box Washing Soda
  • 1 – 4# 12oz box Borax
  • 8 – Bars of Soap
  • 1 – 1.3# Jar OxiClean

Grate the bar soap down with a cheese grater ~ if you are using a food processor the larger grate works perfectly, if you will be mixing by and use the finer grate**. Put the grated soap into a big container with the powdered soaps and mix together. Put back in the food processor with the normal blade and pulse down until it is ground into a powder.Laundry Soap Pre-PulseGround Up Laundry SoapAs it comes out of the processor dump it into the storage bucket. When all of the soap is ground up dump it back into the big container and mix it all up to make sure it’s well combined. Dump back in the bucket and store it covered.

Finished Laundry SoapThat perfectly sized blue scoop? That comes in the container of OxiClean FTW! I have a super capacity washer and use 1 scoop (2 Tbsp) per load.

**If you are mixing by hand you will only need to add the powders to the finely grated soap until it’s all mixed up then store. Same amount of soap per load.

DIY Fabric Softener

This one really doesn’t need any photos and is silly easy. Of course, right after I bought a mondo huge new bottle of Downy twitter pointed me at this recipe for homemade fabric softener so I bookmarked it for later consideration. When the bottle ran low I revisited it. I didn’t like having to use a 1/4 cup of it per load, I had planned to reuse my Downy bottle and since I use the concentrated stuff normally I was only using 2 tablespoons per load and saw no reason to change it so I changed the recipe instead.

The recipe calls for a bottle of conditioner – this is purely for smell so pick a cheap brand, normal sized bottle, that you dig the smell of. I used a Suave Sweet Pea scented one that is DAMN close to the smell of regular Downy. Also do NOT sub any other kind of vinegar, none of them work the same as plain white distilled vinegar. I also feel obligated to mention that vinegar and bleach, when mixed together directly, are a chemical bomb combo, so it is not recommended that you use a vinegar based fabric softener in loads of laundry that you use bleach in. That said I do it and have yet to have any kind of issue – the bleach & fabric softener are not directly mixed at any point in the cycle in my washer because I have a fabric softener dispenser in the machine and they are both diluted in water negating the issue – I like to live dangerously.

  • 1 regular sized bottle of cheap Hair Conditioner (around 16oz)
  • 3 cups Hot Water
  • 3 cups Distilled White Vinegar

Ready for the hard part – mix them all together until completely combined (I did this in the bottle by shaking. It made for lots of bubbles but they settled out and I didn’t have to wash anything. Win!) and store in a pour-friendly container. Like I said, I reused the old Downy bottle with the built-in measuring cup in the lid and use 2 tablespoons per load. This is CHEAP compared to liquid Downy. Like a penny per load. And as a hard-core Downy fan I am more than happy with my clothes, bedding & linen using the DIY version.

Part of my love of these two DIY laundry stuff is the cost savings – it is unreal how much cheaper it is to make it yourself and use the right amounts in your washer – but I also love that I can control what goes into the soaps I use. No fillers, no harsh dyes or perfumes. My inner hippie rejoices!

And here is a gratuitous pic of my adorable beasts because they stayed in this position long enough for me to take one. I asked Buster but he couldn’t tell me WHY he feels the need to lay his 90# of fur on Gizmo’s 40# of adorable for napping.

The Butts