Laundry is the bain of my existence. It.never.ends.
My hubby does manual labor, so his clothes aren’t just dirty, they’re…..well….I’ll spare you the details. Just trust me on this one. Plus, I have 2 little girls that adore mud-pies and finger paint + a little boy in diapers. ’nuff said. I know wherefore I speak. So all that to say, I’ve been around the block when it comes to detergents. For awhile until I knew better we were using store brands until one day, after a particularly balmy July day, I washed my hubby’s work clothes, took them out of the washer to toss into the dryer and I could smell the sweat and paint fumes, nauseously mixed with “Mountain Rain” synthetic fragrance. It was enough to trigger my gag reflex. This is because detergents COAT your clothes with surfactants (which means it coats the surface with synthetic anti-microbials), whereas soap is based off of natural fats that penetrate the fabric and truly cleans it. (for more on this, check out this article)
I finally decided that I would be one of those weird hippies that makes their own laundry soap…after all, it couldn’t be much worse. I tried several recipes online and after MUCH research, this was the best version I’d found. I’ve tweaked it just a bit (and explained some extra mixing steps that I learned through trial and error) and I finally found a soap that cleans our exceptionally dirty laundry!
<insert Hallalujah Chorus>
I was SO shocked at the effectiveness of this homemade version, that I vowed never to buy another bottle of commercial detergent! (more on that in a minute…)
So without further adieu, here is my go-to Laundry Detergent Recipe:
1 C. liquid castile soap (my favorite brand) (or learn to make your own liquid castile out of castile bar soap!)
1/2 c. table salt
1.5 c. washing soda (not baking soda; you can find washing soda in the cleaning aisle)
1 gallon bucket with a lid
-mix the salt and washing soda with 2 c. hot water. ( it won’t completely dissolve, but will help break it down.) Then, in a separate container (I use a 4 c. measuring cup) add your liquid castile soap into about 3 c. hot water.
(SIDE NOTE: this is an important extra step – don’t skip it! you’ll thank me later! There is a mild chemical reaction that takes place between the salt, soda and castile soap that causes the castile soap to gel into large clumps. By diluting it first, you are minimizing the initial reaction and it makes it MUCH easier to stir and mix thoroughly.)
Then add the soap/water mixture into the salt/soda mixture. Pour slowly and stir constantly. The castile soap will start to gel instantly, so make sure you stir it really well. Add additional hot water until you’ve reached 1 gallon. After this, you are good to go! However, when I have the time, I let it cool on my kitchen counter and stir it as it sets up. As it cools, it will start to thicken and gel. I use a wire whisk and stir it every so often. This makes it easier to use, because otherwise you will get large soap clumps when you scoop it out to use it.
When you are ready to wash your clothes, I recommend 1/2-3/4 c. of Laundry Soap for a large, lightly soiled load. I’ve read on other blogs that some people can get away with 1/4 cup. my family stinks. we need more than that, and I think 3/4 c. does a great job for an average load. However, if I am washing work clothes, I bump up the amount to one cup of soap per large load.
and there you have it!! it sounds way more complicated than it really is – I make it in less than 5 minutes, and then stir it when I remember to! AND this costs around $0.02-4 p/load!
oh – and remember how I said that I would never use the store brand again. well. I fudged and bought a bottle on sale over the holidays, when things were SO hectic that I gave in to convenience and grabbed a bottle (at least it was unscented….)
our clothes STUNK.
never gonna do that again. I hate doing laundry enough that doing the same load TWICE just about did me in.
UPDATE! I got a great reader question, asking how my breakdown p/load was so low, so here is my mad-math-skills, for your reading pleasure – and also a CORRECTION!
When I buy my liquid castile soap, I can find it at my local grocery store for approximately $13 for 32oz, my washing soda is $3 for 55oz. and my good ole regular table salt is $0.53 for 26oz. So here is my breakdown of my hard costs p/ one gallon batch:
castile soap = $3.25 p/batch
washing soda = $0.35 p/batch
salt = $0.08 p/batch
grand total is $3.86 p/gallon batch of laundry soap. Then, assuming you have a bazillion messy kids and a hubby that does manual labor, so you use the max amount of 1 c. p/load, then you are looking at a grand total of $0.23 p/load. However, you don’t NEED 1 c. for a normal large load, so assuming you use the mid range of 2/3 c., then you are looking at a cost of $0.18 p/load, on the high end, as most people can do a 1/2 c. p/load, which is then $0.12 p/load.
and now for the CORRECTION!!! In my notes, I have the upcoming top secret blog posts that you know nothing about! Soon to debut on the blog will be a recipe/tutorial on how to turn castile BAR soap into liquid castile soap. Funny how they put castile soap in a bottle and charge you through the nose for…you guessed it….adding some water to it! SO, with my tutorial, (which is coming soon!), the breakdown is anywhere from $0.03-.06 p/load!!! This is compared to the last batch of perfumed laundry detergent that I paid $6 for, in order to get 32 loads (sometime only about 25-28 if the clothes were heavily soiled.) That works out to $0.23 p/load, so this is a HUGE savings!!!
Thanks Stephanie K. for asking to see the details (and making me give away the topics for future blog posts…!!)!!!
UPDATE #2! I’ve gotten several email questions about the castile soap, so I thought I’d do another update.
do you use scented castile soap or just unscented? You are welcome to use the scented castile and they have some wonderful scents! The only downside is, it does get washed away and does not scent your clothes. They use essential oils to add the fragrance, which is completely natural, but A) not strong enough to withstand such large amounts of water and B) NOT a surfactant, so it’s not supposed to scent your clothes because it DOES wash clean.
do you still use a fabric softener or do you no longer need it? I might be a bad one to ask for this, because I’m not a huge fan of fabric softener anyways, so I don’t usually use it. Even the “natural” stuff is still meant to coat the fibers, trapping in a tad bit of moisture so that they stay soft. If you would still like to havea fabric softener, use about 1-1.5 c. white vinegar in the rinse cycle (you can just fill that Downy Ball with vinegar instead of Downy 😉 (sshhh….. ;)) And don’t worry – the vinegar smell is completely washed away, but it’s a natural fiber relaxer and will help remove built up coating on the clothes, so they don’t stiffen in the dryer as much (side note: realize that the majority of our clothing/laundry is cotton based. cotton is NOT stiff in it’s natural state….hmm….makes you wonder, huh? the stiffness/crunchiness is from anything that might be coating the clothes; ie: years of commercial detergent (which are not going to come right off after one wash in castile soap, unfortunately…), dyes/chemicals/coating/sealants put on the cloth by manufacturers.) If you’d like your clothes to smell good coming out of the dryer, you can make homemade dryer sheets with essential oil – but seriously – I’m spoiling all of my upcoming posts in this one update, so you’ll have to wait on that one!! 😉
when I looked up castile soap it mentions you can use it to make dishwasher detergent, shampoo, face wash, and cleaning products. Have you tried making any of these? YES – some I like, some I’m not too crazy about. I use the castile, mixed in a 1:1 ratio with water, in a foaming hand soap pump. This works great, but remember that its meant to wash clean and has no moisturizers, so your sin does feel kinda….funny. like it’s squeaky clean. not even sure how to describe it. Plus, sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) is what is used as a foaming agent in most soaps and shampoos (and is a KNOWN carcinogen), so if you use it expecting lots of bubbles, you’ll be disappointed. the castile soap is based on coconut oil, which does actually foam (weird, huh?) but not as much as SLS. My middle daughter has really short curly hair, and I use the 1:1 ratio as her shampoo and I love it because it rinses clean, and it doesn’t strip her hair. Most shampoos are made to suppress your natural oil production and then coat your hair with synthetic oil, because naturally oily hair from the roots is gross, right? well, no. as long as you shower regularly! Our hair produces natural oils to naturally moisturize and strengthen our roots, but when regular shampoo stops it, our body over compensates by, you guessed it, making more oil. Most women, using “moisturzing shampoo” are simultaneously coating it with synthetic oils while stripping the roots, so our hair gets greasy and we can’t usually go more than a day before we feel slimy….right ladies? It’s because our body is trying to replace what was lost at a rapid rate. However, know that if you DO use castile soap on your hair, it will feel really dry at first and some people don’t care for how “squeaky clean” it makes your hair. I personally don’t use it, but it makes my daughter (with really short hair) have springy curls! oh – and the same with the face wash. It works great and I use it in a pinch, but it does seem to dry my face out, but I know others who love it. As a base for cleaning products, it’s great! I would start with a dilution of 1:5 (castile:water) and see how you like it. Also, if you add in about 10-15 drops of tea tree oil per 8-10 oz of cleaning solution, you have an instant anti-bacterial spray, just as effective at killing grim and germs as clorox. (no lie – there’s a post coming on that soon! 🙂 Don’t use it on glass or wood because it does streak, but it’s great for countertops, bathrooms, porcelain, etc. oh – and I’ve never used it as a dishwashing detergent, so I will let you know if I do – or post on here if you’ve ever tried it! We have a homemade cleaning post coming soon, so hang tight…this was kind of a spoiler but I was getting so many inquiries, it was a worthwhile update! 🙂