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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent (No Grating Necessary!)

Somehow, Picasa deleted all my photos from this blog post onward, and after months of trying, I cannot get them back. I am going to make another batch of detergent and take new photos to update this post, but please be patient with me until then.  I apologize that the images are gone. :-/  -Ashley

I've been making my own laundry detergent for awhile now, but I've always had issues in the past with it becoming chunky and separated.  I prefer the convenience of using a dispenser for the liquid stuff, and so, stubborn as I am, I kept working until I found a good balance of proper ingredients, along with a product that stayed relatively consistent throughout.

This recipe is for 5 gallons of detergent. I used one 2.5 gallon liquid dispenser (found near pitchers and cups at the store), and the rest I poured into whatever I had on hand.  I wasn't planning on 5 gallons, I thought I was making 2.5 gallons at first.  But when my final product turned into a solid gelatinous mass, I had to discover my mistake and mix it with 2.5 more gallons of water to get it to the right consistency.  No worries, however, because my mistake and learning experience is the reason I know this detergent will work.  Trust me, I did a LOT of mixing!

A lot of people prefer to make a powder form of detergent using similar ingredients, but I do laundry with cold water A LOT.  I hate washing in hot water and I think it's a waste of money.  This stuff works in cold water.

1 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1 cup Borax
1 bar Fels Naptha
1 bar Ivory soap
Lavender essential oil (optional)
Tea tree essential oil (as a natural antibacterial/preservative)
5-gallon bucket
5 gallons worth of containers for finished product
Large steel pot
Rubber spatula for stirring and mixing
Large funnel

The first step is going to be to get your solid ingredients into a liquid form. I prefer to do this with as little water as possible, so it is easier to transport from the stove to the bucket.  I also hate grating, so this is my solution:

Take a bar of ivory soap and put it in the middle of a microwave-safe plate. Put it in the microwave for 3 minutes. DON'T WALK AWAY!  You need to watch this very closely, and I recommend using oven mitts and possibly safety goggles, because really, I'd rather be too cautious than lackadaisical. You probably won't need the whole 3 minutes until you see a large cloud of soap starting to form like pictured below.  

Once it gets to this point, stop the microwave and let it sit for 30 seconds or so before you take the plate out.  Give a few more minutes for the soap to harden, then break off the chunks and set them aside on a separate plate to cool completely. You will still have some bar soap left on the plate. Repeat the microwave process until all the soap has turned into a "cloud."

Give about 20 minutes or so for all the "blown-up" soap to cool completely.  Now comes another fun part, the crumbling!  Take your big pot, hold a hunk of soap in your hands over it, and rub your hands together.  The soap will crumble into a very fine powder, and now you will not have to grate a thing.

You will want to do the same thing with the Fels-Naptha soap.  Since it is more dense than ivory soap, I recommend slicing it into a few chunks before heating it up, because you're not going to have the same reaction as the ivory soap had, and it takes a little bit longer for it to expand and cool.

After about a minute and a half of microwaving, My soap wasn't getting any fluffier, so I took it out and let it cool, flaked off the parts I could, and put the remaining solid parts back in the microwave to repeat the process.

I did this twice, and I still ended up with a couple of chunks at the end, but none of the chunks were bigger than the size I'd have gotten from grating the soap anyway, so I was very happy with this method!

Next, I added water.  You may want to use distilled water, but I used good old-fashioned tap water. My tap water is pretty soft, but if you have hard water, you may want to go with distilled or bottled water. Dollar Tree often sells gallon jugs of the stuff for a buck each, so you could get those and use the jugs as storage, too!

I only added enough water to cover the soap and be able to easily mix it.  Probably about a quart or so of water was used, but I'm just guessing here.   Turn the heat to high and stir CONSTANTLY.  Nobody likes the smell of burnt soap, trust me.  Stir until it is combined and you have a hard time finding chunks. 

After the chunks have dissolved, add your borax and washing soda, continue to stir until well-mixed. 

This took awhile, but eventually I ended up with a yellow-ish liquid.  Pour that into your bucket.

Here is how it should look at this stage if you did everything right. Sort of like lotion-consistency.

Next, start adding your water. Remember, you need to have the total end result yield 5 gallons.  My photos below are from my original goof-up when I only made 2.5 gallons, and the mix solidified into a big gel-chunk.  I had to re-stir, dump it out into the bucket again, and add more water.  Instead of getting pictures of that whole mess, just pretend the bucket pictured is 5 gallon-sized and that I added more water, okay?

Keep stirring and make sure that you mix after every bit of water you add. The goal is to make sure your mix is even, so be sure to stir all the way to the bottom of the bucket when mixing. 

About halfway through, add your essential oils. I used about 20-30 drops of tea tree oil, and about 40 drops of lavender oil for the whole batch. I love the smell of lavender, and I am not a fan of tea tree oil personally, but I really wanted to incorporate some sort of ingredient that stops bacterial growth, since I wasn't using distilled water, and if this soap lasts as long as I think it will, that may be a necessary step.  

I usually get my essential oils on Amazon, and I also used Prime Pantry to get the other ingredients at a great price.

After you have finished adding all the water, get out your funnel and pour the detergent into your containers. Be sure to leave the lid off until it has cooled completely. This will thicken quite a bit, but you shouldn't have to stir much during the cooling process, as long as you did enough stirring while you were mixing the soap. 

There you have it!  Liquid laundry detergent that works great, lasts a long time without growing bacteria, and doesn't get all chunky after a few days.  You may get a small amount of chunks, but nothing like other recipes I've tried. The difference seems to be in the Ivory soap.  Don't ask me why.  Please feel free to post your own experiences with homemade laundry soap, and let me know what you think!  I'm always working to improve my homemade stuff. 

Now, let's talk about cost:

I already had the containers, lavender oil, and buckets on hand, but you can get all sorts of things at the dollar store.  I'm not counting my on-hand items into my cost, just fyi.

Tea tree oil was a separate purchase, I paid 6.58 for the whole bottle, and we'll say I used 1/10th of the bottle for a batch, so we'll say 66 cents cost. 

$3.97 for 76 ounces, I used 8 ounces, at a cost of about 42 cents.

1 bar costs 1.09 and I used the whole bar for one batch.

10 bars were $3.97, and I used 1 bar for a batch, we will call that 40 cents.

This cost $9.07 on Amazon for 55 ounces, but I know you can get it at most stores very cheap.  I had to go with Amazon, as I couldn't find it anywhere!  I used 1 cup at about $1.29.

The grand total is $3.86 for 5 GALLONS of quality detergent!  

If I use 1/2 cup of detergent per gallon, that means I get 160 loads of laundry out of this batch.  I'm being generous with my portion here, but most people only use about 1-2 tbsp per load of laundry, so this could last much longer.  

Assuming I will use 1/2 cup of detergent per load of laundry, then the cost per load of laundry is about 2 1/2 cents per load. I can live with that .

I have found that this detergent does get rather thick.  I have had better luck using it in bottles than in my dispenser container, because of the thickness.  It still doesn't really separate like other recipes did in the past, and as long as I stir it before using it, it works great.  I did just want to say that I am still using the original dispenser pictured above, but I keep a wooden spoon with it and if it has been a few days since use, I do stir it up a bit before using, that makes it much easier to dispense.  Nothing is going to be as uniform as the store-bought stuff, unless you add more chemicals.  I am still very happy with how this turned out, but I wanted to update that you may need to stir this occasionally for best results. 

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