Thursday, June 2, 2016

New Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe

After what I’m now calling “The Great Shave Butter Mishap of 2016”, I got back to making some of the stuff that I love to make and have mastered. (Because I needed a win after all that razor burn.)

First, I was out of lip balm so I melted to fill up about 4 tubes of a lemon-lime scented stick. Made with Shea butter, coconut oil and beeswax. Plus the E.O. of course.

Next, I tried my hand at another body butter. I wanted one of those really whippy type ones that basically melt on your skin when applied.

The good news on that one, I think I got a perfect recipe for winter in Phoenix. The bad news is that our summers require me to use cocoa butter. That isn’t bad because it will help the mix to hold the shape better. I just know it will kill a bit of the key lime smell and replace it with chocolate.

I guess I’ll smell like key lime white chocolate all summer. There could be worse things.

Finally, we were out of laundry detergent. I’d developed one a while back that seemed to work pretty good. I like using liquid because our water in Phoenix is some of the hardest in the country. Melting soap products in cold water is almost impossible. Liquid works so much better for our clothes if I need to use cold.

The last time I made it, I stored it in a 1 gal jug left over from white vinegar, washed a few times. The bottle is translucent so I could see what was going on in there. The detergent looked like grey water except the top layer. That was thick and like the gel I expected.

Only problem – once that layer was gone the soap wasn’t all that soapy anymore. No matter how much I shook it or stirred, that laundry martini just didn’t blend right. It surprised me I hadn’t noticed it before when pouring into the measuring cup.

Instead of using liquid castile soap this time I decided to try the “even more effort” method and grated bar soap. I read a lot of reviews, forums, bloggers and decided to try my hand at grating and melting Fels-Naptha instead of the Dr. Bronner’s I tried last time.

This was for two reasons:

1. Fels-Naptha was available where I was shopping.
2. Dr. Bronner’s bar soap was not.

The Green community is divided on some of the ingredients in Fels-Naptha. I can understand that because a few things aren’t necessarily super, like talc, tallow (for Vegans), titanium dioxide. So the ones I wasn’t sure about I researched on

After reading all kinds of sciency speak, I feel okay about using it in my detergent. Here’s why.

1. I’m not Vegan so the tallow issue isn’t one for me.
2. Talc is something I’m on the fence about. I wouldn’t want to use it on sensitive skin as an absorbent, on my underarms for example, but as something that will wash fully out of fabrics? I have no problem with that.
3. For all of the ingredients I worried about I researched them on and none of them went above a 3. Yes, on their scale, a 3 falls in moderate range but it’s at the lowest of that mid-range category. I’m okay with that too.

So I did some research and liked the basis of this recipe on Mrs. Happy Homemaker. I use washing soda and Castile soap normally and, yes, I also support the use of Borax. Someday I’ll do my big write up on why I say yes to Borax in limited quantity but let’s get back to the recipe.

I divided her recipe (measuring on the scale and dividing by 5 then converting to ounces for easier matching with how the soap was measured). I usually only make a gallon at a time. It’s easier to store it in our very small laundry space that way.

So far, I’m loving it! The consistency was a little thicker than my old stuff. It seemed to dilute perfectly in a load of laundry and everything came out smelling like clothes, not nasty Phoenix-in-the-summer pits.


This gallon should last me for 32 loads of laundry because I tend to do mid-sized loads and use about a half cup per load. I’m not doing the math on cost per load (because I know I’m saving money there) but I’ll give the overview of the total cost.

I used to buy the big spigot style blue stuff at a big box store. It would last through about 64 loads and cost about $20 with tax.

(I do an average of 4 loads of laundry a week including sheets, towels, blankets, guest linens, cleaning cloths/pads, and clothes. Blue stuff would last, on average, 4 months. Annual cost $60.)

In contrast, with my homemade stuff, I do have to invest some time to make it (only about 15 total minutes, far less than driving to the store) and the shopping part is far less frequent. And I don’t dispose of a container every time I purchase. I just mix and store in a lidded glass jar.

I bought the box of washing soda about a year ago when I first started making my own detergent. That was about $5. The Borax 6 months ago for $5. Which should last a year, the box is only half empty now. The Fels-Naptha will make 5 gallons worth of detergent, and with each gallon lasting about 2 months, the bar will make it about 10 months. This bar was just under $1. So with the extra 2 month share the soap registers at $1.20.

Total for a year’s worth of my detergent?


A year.

Sure, it takes time to grate and melt soap. (About 2 minutes to grate, 10 to melt)

Sure, it takes time to mix then wait for the stuff to set. (About 3 minutes, then, 24 hours)

Sure, it seems easier to just buy the stuff with the spigot. But another $48.80 in my pocket doesn’t sound too bad. And frankly, if I can avoid having to go shopping I’m a happy girl.


My New Liquid Laundry Detergent

CONVERSION: 5 Gal --> 1 Gal recipe reduction

I converted cups into ounces for measuring using the Tare feature on my scale.

1 cup Borax = 8 oz.
1 cup washing soda = 8 oz.
1 bar Fels-Naptha labeled at 5 oz.

For 1 gallon I divide each by 5.

Here’s my recipe and instructions:

1.6 oz Borax
1.6 oz. Washing Soda
1 oz. Fels-Naptha (grated)
Lavender essential oil (EO, optional)
Metal pan (for melting soap)
Glass jar/jug (with a lid)
Pot holders

1. Grate the soap and melt in about 1 cup of water, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, heat set at just past medium on the stovetop. (About 9-10 minutes)

2. Put the washing soda and Borax in the glass jar/jug, fill about halfway with very warm water, stir or cap and shake until the powders are dissolved. The water shouldn’t be clear. The glass will get hot, pot holders with silicone will help keep a grip on the glass as you shake, shake, shake.

3. Add your EO to the melted soap and stir in before adding to the water. I used about 25 or 30 drops of lavender but the Fels-Naptha has a smell too, an interesting combination.

4. Pour the soap and oil mixture into the jar/jug and stir lightly to combine. (Mine started to congeal a bit at this stage) Fill the jug the rest of the way with warm water, stir one last time and cap.

5. Let it sit, covered, for a full day to set and cool completely.

Very important: If you make this in an old plastic bottle or other flexible vessel don’t cap tight, leave a little air gap for heat to escape as it cools. If its closed all the way the sides can pull in as the steam gets trapped and it could explode open. That’s why I use glass, no expand or contract issues!

6. I have an immersion hand blender, which I used to get everything blended up smooth. We’ll see if that lasts in the heat of my garage. Things could separate, I’ll keep you posted.

7. Label it so everyone in the house knows this is soap. This should be fine for all top loading machines, that’s what we have and haven’t had any problems. Not sure how it would do in an HE since I don’t have one.


And that’s it. Easy breezy George and Weezy!

What do you like to use to clean your clothes? Does your water make a difference? Your appliances?

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