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.
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:
And here is the method:
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
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
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.