Thursday, September 24, 2009

How Much Do YOU Spend on Each Load of Laundry?

Perhaps this is a strange seeming question; most people would not track their budget down to this level, but with the current market conditions and a renewed desire to provide in a meaningful way for our families, laundry detergent is one place where uber savings can easily be achieved. We just have to be willing to get our hands a little dirty for cleanliness.

The last few bottles of detergent I have purchased have been to test drive some of the more popular shelf brands which claim to be Green. In essence they have worked well -- my clothing is clean, smells nice and the impact I am washing down the drain has been lowered -- but the cost has definitely hit a little too tight on the old wallet.

A couple of nights ago while at our monthly Bennetts Brook Green Group meeting, one of the meeting organizers, Julie, shared her discovery of a recipe to create homemade laundry detergent from four simple ingredients. When she shared the cost to create it I vowed to pick up some rubber gloves and become a chemist as soon as this bottle of detergent runs out!

Straight from Julie:

We've been using this detergent for about a week and I'm really happy with it. The laundry seems to be getting clean and the cloth diapers don't have any stink issues. For less than $10 we now have two gallon jugs of detergent plus enough ingredients to make at least 9 more batches. That's 20-30 gallons, or 640 to 960 loads of laundry, which works out to about 1 to 2 cents a load. It did take a bit of time to make and it was a little scary heating the baking soda and handling the Borax (use gloves!), but well worth it.

The main reason she started doing research was because her family uses cloth diapers and she was beginning to find that there was build up from other detergents that began causing absorption issues. After looking into this and doing a ton of research Julie discovered the following recipe for homemade detergent.

Laundry Detergent

1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1 bar Ivory soap
Water (as indicated)

(up powdered ingredients to 2/3 cup if you have hard water)

- Shave the soap into a medium sauce pan with 6 cups water. Heat until soap is melted.
- Add powder ingredients, stir.
- Have a large container with a lid (or plastic wrap) waiting with 4 cups cool water. Add soap mixture, stir.
- Add 1 gallon + 6 cups cool water to bucket, stir.
- Cover and let sit for 1-2 days.
- Mixture will have gelled. I use my hands to "squish" the gel into tiny pieces and stir.
- Pour into milk jugs or something similar.- Makes about 2 1/2 gallons. Use 1/2 cup per load.


Bear in mind that borax is the naturally occurring sodium borate which is a mineral (typically mined after seasonal lakes evaporate) so just like any other compound one should take caution when using it.

Additionally, Washing Soda (Sodium Carbonate) is added primarily as a water softener but is a mineral as well. The good news here is that the mineral is naturally occurring and 100% regenerative so it can never be mined out.

Not sure where to find Washing Soda? The product is sometimes referred to as Soda Ash and the top producer of it is Arm & Hammer. Most supermarkets will carry it in their cleaning supply aisle near the laundry detergents (I have been told Stop & Shop carries a generic version but have not yet confirmed this). In addition, because it is sometimes used to regulate pH levels many pool supply companies will carry it as well.

Additionally, it can be created by placing Baking Soda in a 500 degree oven for 30-60 minutes but again, exercise caution while doing this! (As a side note, this is how Julie created her Washing Soda and it does appear to be working for her which is fantastic!)

When our current bottle of eco-detergent runs out this is a science experiment I am ready to tackle. I may even add a few drops of an essential oil like lavender or eucalyptus to give my clothes a nice scent.

Have you made your own detergent? What was your recipe and how did it work for you?

Photo courtesy MarketingShop


Almost Precious said...

Sounds a little messy and time intensive, but maybe once you've done it you get the hang of it and it gets easier...maybe ?

Please do post about it if you get the opportunity to give it a try, I'm eager to hear how this works out for you.

Judi FitzPatrick said...

Wow, this sounds like a great idea. Please let us know if it works as well for you, if so maybe I'll try it too when my brand new bottle (purchased from Trader Joe's) is about to run out.
Peace, Judi