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Can You Really Make Homemade Laundry Detergent?

Updated on November 15, 2016
Washing clothes is an important task, but it doesn't have to be expensive.
Washing clothes is an important task, but it doesn't have to be expensive. | Source

Don’t Laugh! :) How Well Homemade Laundry Detergent Works Will Surprise You!

Accidentally coming across information about making homemade laundry detergent caused me to take some time for research and do some thinking before deciding to give it a go.

One of the most interesting lessons that came from experimenting with making my own laundry soap is that it actually is cost-effective. The small effort it takes to learn to make one's own detergent is surprisingly worth it.

Although the conclusions of my experiments are satisfactory, I'm still planning to refine the recipe. I hope to post new results with optional recipes in a future hub.

On this end of my experimentation as I'm getting ready to post this hub, it’s very funny to me that the article I read was overly critical of making laundry detergent at home!

Main Ingredients for the Recipe

Melting the Zote
Melting the Zote | Source
Ingredients for saving money in the laundry room!
Ingredients for saving money in the laundry room! | Source

Making Homemade Laundry Detergent: There are Projects, then there are Projects!

In the beginning, though, I remembered that projects sometimes claim to be easy when in fact they turn out to be beyond me, particularly if chemistry is involved. This could be dangerous in my hands.

Besides that, I did not want to ruin my clothes by making a dreadful mistake, nor waste any time rewashing clothes that did not come clean the first time. Laundry is not a fun chore, even in my lilly pad green laundry room.

Mind you, I am thankful for the conveniences of my laundry room for I surely am not wanting to plop a basket of dirty clothes on my head and trot down to one of the creeks on either end of our street. Nor would I ever be in the mood to wash them by hand on my knees, inviting moccasins to bite my nose. I am thoroughly thankful, yes’siree ma’am.

Recipes for Homemade Laundry Soap!

But, homemade laundry detergent? I could waste a lot more than my time if what I read was not true so there was only one thing to do--research the topic. Unlike laundry, research is something I relish. Tracking down the truth, testing the waters, getting others’ opinions. Now that’s fun stuff.

I read several different detergent recipes, and several blogs about making and using it. The recipe I decided to try had options on some of the ingredients, one being the bar soap that was to be melted down.

A strange-to-me product called Zote was mentioned, pink Zote to be exact. I had never heard of Zote before, not pink, green, or any other color. I didn’t even do any research on it because I thought it must be from Mars and I would never see it in real life. I simply decided to go with one of the other bars.

You Can Make Laundry Detergent!

Although I knew I could find one of the other bar soaps in a blink, the two other main ingredients, Washing Soda and Borax, proved not so easy to find. An online search showed that I could pick these up at an Ace Hardware, but when would I ever get to one of those stores?

Then one day my husband called to announce that he had found them at a Publix located across town. Go figure, we were using cell phones to talk about making homemade laundry detergent.

Then, there I am shopping in a local Big Lot’s store and I come across Zote. Pink Zote, no less! There were no other colors, only pink. I just stood there looking at it for a few minutes as if it were an alien, only recovering when I realized I was talking out loud to myself. “Well, how about it’s a real product...etc.” I grabbed one bar and fled the scene.

The recipe was not hard to make. It was a little time consuming, but interesting, and now that I’ve done it once I’m looking forward to doing it again. In the end, I wound up with a 5 gallon bucket of laundry soap that was to be dispensed into other containers to their half-way mark, each then to be finished off with water. The total would produce 10 gallons of laundry soap.

In the process of my first experiment I learned something important about storing the detergent. After saving a few large store-bought laundry detergent containers and then filling one with the recipe according to directions, I found that the home made product needs to be well shaken before each use. It did not take long for me to realize that I only wanted to store my detergent in 1 gallon containers that have a tight lid.

So That's What Laundry Detergent Does!

How Would Making Homemade Laundry Detergent Add Up?

Cheap laundry detergent starts at about 60 cents per load and prices quickly go upward from there. This homemade soap is supposed to run about 7 cents per load. No, I have not figured mine up exactly, but I can tell you that it is a huge savings. This detergent is also easier on the environment because containers are being reused and it works as well if not better than the store brands.

Just to make certain it worked like the reports promised I tried it out before giving 4 friends bottles of the stuff to use. They were incredulous, but willing to take my word and give it a try. I told them I would be writing about their experience with this recipe and that I would be trying other recipes for them to experiment with. Thanks bunches, A., K., J., and M.!

My friends were all about the questions I’ve tried to answer here and they additionally wanted to know if the homemade detergent was safe for HE machines. Good thing it is safe for those machines because I had not considered that issue! (The concern re HE machines is whether the detergent suds, but manufacturers want us to believe that the issues with HE machines’ need for the special detergents are profound and costly.)

So, the friend that I thought would be the toughest sell called to say she loved using it, loved the smell, and said that she wanted to make her own big batch. I asked her to just help me use this up and let me experiment with my other recipe ideas before we decide on which one we like best.

Then I heard from the first friend I gave it to and she was more than willing to let me refill her bottle. The third friend liked it fine--she has a lot on her mind and did not elaborate, but she was happy to get a refill. The last friend I heard from mentioned that their clothes were softer for having used this home made laundry detergent. They all laughed at first, but are now hooked on this new “product.”

My homemade laundry detergent does not contain the harmful-for-the-environment "stuff and such" and, as mentioned, it is safe for HE machines. It really is easy to make and inexpensive. I am looking forward to trying out adaptations of this recipe and I plan to write hubs about them, but I’m going ahead and offering you this introductory recipe today:

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

You'll need:

• 5 gallon bucket with lid

• 1 bar of Pink Zote

• 1 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda)

• 1/2 cup of Borax

• Several drops of lavender essential oil

• Several smaller containers with tight lids to divide the mixture for ease in storing and using your product

• A medium-large funnel (the top opening on mine is about 8 inches)

Laundry Is Fun?!

What to Do:

First, grate or chop the bar of Zote and melt it down in 4 cups of hot water using a medium-large pot of water set on low heat. The smaller the particles the quicker it will melt down.

Fill the 5 gallon bucket halfway with hot water (not boiling). Stir in the melted Zote, several drops of lavender essential oil (start with 7 to test how much scent you want to use--I will be adding 14 next time), the Borax, and the Washing Soda.

Fill the bucket with more hot tap water and stir well. Let sit overnight to thicken.

DId you know you could make your own laundry detergent before reading this hub?

See results

The next day, stir the thickened detergent again, combining the thickest top layer with the thinner bottom layer. The top layer will be viscous and will likely need to be broken up a bit as you begin to mix it with the bottom layer.

Then fill your smaller containers half full with the detergent using the funnel. Fill the remainder with warm water, cap tightly and shake to mix thoroughly. There will be some sudsing in this process, but I have not seen suds in my washer when using this detergent.

Shake storage containers before each use. Use 1/2 cup of your homemade laundry detergent per average load. This recipe will provide you with 10 gallons of laundry detergent.

Fabulous Fabrics Deserve Fabulous Care!
Fabulous Fabrics Deserve Fabulous Care! | Source

Who's Doing Laundry Today?

More About Using Homemade Laundry Detergent:

• If you try this recipe, let me know how you like it.

• If you write about your experience with it, let me know so I can link it to this hub.

• If you use homemade laundry detergent, share the news with your friends.

• Look for a new homemade laundry detergent recipe coming soon--I have some ideas to develop.

• Enjoy your savings on laundry detergent and check out my hub on making homemade fabric softener for HE machines!

• Try White Brite when whites become dingy or when they have an impossible stain.

AAPCC on Laundry Detergent Packets

What do You Think now that You Know About Homemade Laundry Detergent?

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    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I have been wanting to make my own detergent. You have given me the incentive. Thanks!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      So glad you found this helpful. Would love to hear how you like this recipe.

      Thanks bunches for stopping in! :)

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I’ve never thought of making my own laundry detergent but I’m impressed by your results! I’ve never heard of Zote before. I’ll have to see if I can find it locally. Thanks for the laundry detergent recipe.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks bunches for letting us know what you think. :)

      Hope to hear how you like using the recipe!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

      I have never thought about making my own laundry detergent so this is a very interesting article. Although it takes a little time it sounds like a big savings. Thanks for the instructions.

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