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Homemade Laundry Products

If your house is anything like mine, the washing machine is almost always in motion. I get the added bonus of having a lot of red clay in our soil, and active boys to grind it into fabrics, so stains are a challenge. Though I often find great deals on commercial laundry products using coupons and other promotions, I still find that making them myself is both far cheaper AND amazingly effective. For literally pennies a load, homemade laundry soap, fabric softener, and dryer sheets are easy to make and easy to use.

Laundry Detergent

You'll need 3 basic ingredients: bar soap of some sort, washing soda and borax

Soap: There are several good kinds of soap to use for laundry. The most used is probably Fels Naptha. It has a pretty strong scent, though, so if you are sensitive to smells or want a more gentle clean, I would go with Ivory, but you do need to use a little more of it than the laundry soaps. Another option is called Zote. The laundry soaps are found with the laundry products. Ivory is with body soaps.

Washing Soda: Washing soda is sodium carbonate or soda ash (not to be confused with baking soda, which is sodium bicarbonate). It is a laundry aid that helps remove dirt and orders. Arm & Hammer is the most visible brand of Washing Soda and is also found with laundry items. I haven't ever had a problem finding it, even in smaller grocery aisles, but, if you do, it's easy to find online.

Borax: Borax is Sodium Borate, which is a naturally occurring mineral. It helps to whiten and deodorize laundry. (VERY helpful with mucky boys!) A popular brand is 20 Mule Team. It also is found with the laundry detergents. Amazing what stuff you've looked past all these years, huh?!

Here's the proportions I use—they can be tweaked a bit to your liking, though:

  • 2 cups FINELY grated soap (Ivory, Fels Naptha or Zote, etc.)
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup borax powder
  • Enough containers for 2 gallons of soap
  • A big stock pot and a long handled spoon

And here is the method:

  1. Grate the soap on the fine side of a standard cheese grater.
  2. Add it to a ½ gallon of water (in the pot, of course!) and heat on medium until it melts. The finer you grate the soap, the quicker this bit will be!
  3. While still on the heat, add the washing soda and borax to the soap mixture, along with another ½ gallon of water and stir until it is dissolved.
  4. When everything is melted and dissolved, remove the pot from the heat.
  5. Add the last gallon of water and keep stirring until it's well mixed and starting to cool. When it's cool enough to handle safely, move to next step.
  6. Using a funnel, you can then transfer the soap to clean 2 liter bottles, or gallon ice cream buckets, or anything you have that has a good, tight lid.
  7. After about 24 hours, it will have gelled, but may still be slightly watery. If it completely separates into hard clumps and water, it probably wasn't fully melted and mixed. Just pop it back in the stock pot and heat/melt again.
  8. Once it's gelled, it's ready to go. I use about ¼ cup per load. If you prefer your soap more liquidy, which works well if you're using 2L soda bottles for storage, double the water at each stage and use ½ cup per load.

Note: If you prefer a dry soap, you can just mix the ingredients (making sure the soap is VERY FINELY GRATED! I would even use a coffee grinder or good food processor to get it as close to powder as possible) and store in a sealed plastic container of some kind or a coffee can. You only need 1-2 tablespoons per load, but, with this method, you will need to use warm or hot water with each wash.

Another note: Because water is so different in different parts of the country, you will need to figure out what your perfect amount is. For me, ¼ cup of the concentrate or 2 tablespoons of the dry is perfect, but if you have harder or softer water, you may have to increase or decrease the amount slightly.


Fabric Softener Recipe 1

Ingredients:

  • 10 Cups Very Hot Water
  • 3 cups Hair Conditioner (any brand you like the smell of—cheap brands like Suave work well)
  • 5 cups White Vinegar
  • Large old fabric softener, cleaned and labeled with new product
  • Large bowl or pot
  • Funnel, ladle or plastic cup

Method:

  1. Mix water and conditioner thoroughly
  2. Add vinegar and mix completely
  3. Transfer to your container using the funnel and ladle or cup
  4. Use about 2T per load, adjusting to your preferences

Note: The vinegar will NOT leave an odor, so don't leave it out! Also, some use essential oils, but there is a risk of oil spots, so I avoid them and just pick a conditioner with a scent I love!


Fabric Softener Recipe 2

Ingredients:

  • White Vinegar!

Method:

  1. Add a quarter to a half a cup to your rinse cycle
  2. That's it! Not only does it soften your clothes, but it helps with status cling AND it helps to clean and deodorize your washing machine, too! BONUS!

Dryer Sheets

1. This is a bit of a controversial subject. Some people swear by just adding a few drops of essential oil onto a cotton cloth (like six in squares of old t-shirts) or old washcloths. They use the cloths a few times, adding a couple more drops of the oil each time and then wash the cloths and start again. I really don't like to do that. The oils could potentially leave spots and the only real benefit is smell, which I already have in when I use my yummy homemade fabric softener in the wash.

2. Another method is to mix five cups of hot water and two cups of fabric softener in a lidded container. When thoroughly mixed, add strips of cotton or flannel cloth (the size isn't important, but I would stay with a square or rectangle or square no bigger than 5 x 5 inches). Soak the strips overnight and they are then ready to use. When you want one, simply pull it out, squeeze the excess liquid and toss in the dryer. When the load is finished, just toss it back in the solution.

To be honest, I don't like this method—too messy when you need to use it and I think the cloth being wet makes spots on your clothes. I can't prove it, and some people SWEAR by this method, so use your own judgment about what works for you.

3. A final method used (and my favorite!) is to saturate old white washcloths or cotton squares in either homemade or store bought fabric softener. Ring out thoroughly and dry completely (and I mean COMPLETELY) before adding one to the dryer. They can be used about 10-15 times before they need to be re-soaked and dried. This version will not only add a lovely scent, but also helps with static cling and softness.

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