Saturday, February 14

DIY High Efficiency Laundry Detergent Gel

For the last couple of years I have been making my own laundry detergent. The batches are huge (approximately 250 loads per batch), the ingredients are cheap. and the entire project takes less than 20 minutes.

There are a lot of ways to make your own detergent. My recipe is for our High Efficiency washing machine, and there are also recipes out there for Septic systems and for dry powder soap if that is your preference. I like gel/liquid soaps more, so that is what this recipe is for.

The ingredients are pretty easy to find. I'm able to purchase all of the ingredients at my local grocery store for about $20, but if you can't find them in your laundry aisle they are also available at Amazon and I'll list the links in the ingredients list for you. Oddly, the items are more expensive on Amazon than they are at my local store - which is hardly ever true - so be sure to check the laundry detergent aisle before you order online. The Borax and Washing Soda boxes I get are around 60oz each, and are enough to make 2-3 batches of detergent, so pick up a couple extra bars of the Fels Naptha and  you'll be set. 1 batch of detergent lasts our family of four close to 5 months, so three batches will get you maaany months of laundering.

Safety Tips:

  • Make your soap in a well ventilated area. The Borax and Washing Soda will clump in the box, so be careful not to inhale any of the dust when you break up chunks.
  • If you have latex gloves, use them.
  • If you are not using latex gloves, wash your hands frequently (between handling each ingredient) to avoid skin irritation.
  • Safety glasses are always encouraged.
  • Older kids can easily help with this project. Keep small children clear of the ingredients (they sort of look like snacks) and make sure everyone knows to keep their hands out of the ingredients.

For this recipe you will need:
  1. A clean 5 gallon bucket
  2. A large stock pot
  3. A measuring cup
  4. A cheese grater
  5. A stir stick (I use a wooden painter's stick)
  6. 1 bar of Fels-Naptha Soap (around $4 on Amazon, or $1-2 at my local grocer)
  7. Borax Powder (around $12 on Amazon or $10 at my local grocer)
  8. Washing Soda (around $10 on Amazon or $8 at my local grocer)

 Step One
Grate an entire bar of Fels-Naptha soap using a cheese grater. Please note that once grated this soap looks JUST like grated Cheddar Cheese so make sure everyone (especially kids) know that it is not to be eaten.

Step Two
Add the grated Fels-Naptha soap to a pot of water (about 10 cups). Put on low/medium heat, stirring occasionally until the soap melts. It helps to add the soap to a pot of water (instead of the other way around) to minimize bubbling. Also, a stainless pot would probably work best. I don't own one, so I use a nonstick pot.

Step Three
Add 2 cups of Washing Soda to the soap solution. Stir on low heat until fully dissolved.

Step Four
Add 2 cups Borax to the soap solution, Stir on low heat until fully dissolved.

Step Five
Put approximately 1 gallon of HOT water into your clean 5 gallon bucket. Not sure how much 1 gallon is? Just fill it about 1/5th of the way full.

Step Six
Slowly (too fast and you'll make bubbles!) add your soap solution to the 5 gallon bucket and stir.

Step Seven
Slowly add enough hot water that the bucket is approximately 4/5 of the way full and stir. It helps to add some water and stir, add some water and stir... just to make sure that it's mixed really well.

Step Eight
Put on a lid and let your bucket of suds sit overnight. The liquid will solidify a little bit and become a soapy gel. Use 1/8 - 1/4 cup per load. 1/8 cup works great for delicates that are relatively stain free. 1/4 cup works great for our family that includes a messy toddler.

Step Nine
Make sure to label your bucket! Tell everyone in the household what is in the mystery bucket and instruct them on how to use it with your machine.

Hints and Tips

  • This solution can be used as a stain remover. Just dip your stained fabric in the soap, let sit for a couple of minutes and then add to the wash. 
  • If you want to add fragrance, add a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil.
  • If you are a scent sensitive family like ours, don't add any fragrance. The Fels-Naptha does have a smell, but it washes out when you do your laundry.
  • To increase fabric softness & remove foul odors from armpits and feet, add white distilled vinegar to your fabric softener dispenser in your machine (mine takes 1/3 cup). It will help to boost the scent removal and fluff your clothes.
  • If you notice your detergent separating, give it a quick stir. I stir mine about once every other time I do laundry out of habit and keep a stir stick in my laundry room for this purpose.

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