Laundry is one of those dreaded chores that no one likes to do. Unfortunately, there's no way to avoid it.
No matter how many pairs of underwear you own or how many new garments you have hanging in your closet, at some point, you'll need to toss them in the washer, pour in some detergent and run a cycle to make them fresh and clean.
And that requires one thing: laundry detergent.
From those gallon jugs of Tide that are impossible to lift when they're full to those toss-in pods that you have to keep away from children, there are all sorts of laundry detergents on the market. Walk down the aisle of any Target or grocery store, and you'll see an endless array of colorful bottles, all claiming that they can make your clothes cleaner and fresher.
But what if you didn't have to buy laundry detergent at all? What if you could make it yourself?
Guess what? You can.
Here are the pros and cons to making laundry detergent, how to make it and the answer to the question, “Does homemade laundry detergent really work?”
Why Do People Make Homemade Laundry Detergent?
Does the thought of making your own homemade laundry detergent leave you scratching your head and thinking, "Why?" Here's a little insight into why some people prefer making detergent rather than buying it off the shelves.
For one, there are the perpetual "DIY'ers" (you know who you are) that prefer to DIY everything rather than buy a readily available commercial version.
Kudos to you! You obviously have more patience than those of us who would rather hire a landscaper than mow our own lawns.
Millions of eco-conscious consumers out there are fed up with the chemicals used in mass-produced cleaning products. And we couldn't agree with them more!
Most of the big cleaning companies use ingredients that can be harmful to the environment. Then they package their detergent in those heavy plastic bottles, creating even more waste. Those bottles then have to be shipped to stores, which further contributes to carbon emissions.
If your main reason for making your own laundry soap is that you're trying to cut down on waste and do less harm to the environment, we applaud you for that.
Some people are always looking for a way to save money. Again, a commendable reason to DIY your own detergent!
But it's worth noting that it takes quite a few ingredients to whip up a batch of homemade laundry soap. Sure, you may be able to save a few cents per load, but you probably won't save much more than that.
Homemade Laundry Detergent: The Pros and Cons
Just because you can make homemade laundry detergent doesn't necessarily mean you should. Here are some of the biggest pros and cons of whipping up your own batch rather than buying a product that already exists.
The Pros of Homemade Laundry Detergent
The most obvious benefit of making your own laundry detergent is that you control exactly what's in it. For people with sensitive skin or specific skin conditions, such as eczema, this is a game-changer.
Many laundry detergents contain bleach, surfactants and brighteners. And while these can be beneficial in getting your clothes as clean as they can be, they can also be harmful to certain people's skin.
Another pro to homemade laundry detergent is that it can be used in most washing machines, including high-efficiency (HE) machines. When made properly, the homemade detergent will produce soapy suds and thoroughly wash your clothes in any modern machine, including HE washers.
But it's not great for front loaders. Front-loading machines that use less water tend to work best with liquid laundry detergent (and homemade laundry detergents are made in powder form, not in liquid versions).
Making your own laundry detergent can also be cost-effective. You will have to spend money on the various ingredients it requires, but it can save you a few cents per load in the long run. And that can be a big help if you're budget conscious or washing multiple loads of cloth diapers every week.
Homemade laundry detergent can also help you minimize waste. If you're looking to make your home 100% green and eco-friendly, ditching those massive plastic detergent jugs is a great place to start!
The Cons of Homemade Laundry Detergent
Unfortunately, the cons of homemade laundry detergent often outweigh the pros.
For starters, there is really no such thing as homemade laundry "detergent." What you're actually making is homemade laundry soap.
Here's why that's a problem:
Soaps contain fats and oils. Over time, those natural fats can leave an oily residue on your clothing, sheets and towels. You can counteract the build-up of those oils by using hot water. However, it's always best to wash lingerie and delicate garments in cold water.
In addition to leaving an oily residue on your clothes, homemade laundry soap can also leave a residue in your washer. Think of how soap scum builds up on your shower walls and tub tiles. Over time, soap scum can accumulate inside your washer as well, especially if you have hard water.
As much as we love the concept of making our own homemade laundry detergent, there is one big drawback that we just can't get around. It doesn't have the cleaning power of store-bought detergents.
Is that because it lacks all sorts of undesirable ingredients? That may be, but the fact remains that those ingredients are scientifically proven to work.
How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent
Think the pros outweigh the cons? Want to try homemade detergent for yourself so you can really get a sense of how it works and what it's all about? Here are some homemade laundry detergent recipes from around the web that you can follow to make your own batch.
Our suggestion? Make your first batch a small one and see if you like it before you make more!
This laundry soap recipe requires Borax, washing soda and pure bar soap (you can use either castile soap or soap flakes in place of the pure bar soap). You'll also need a container with a tight lid, a grater, a measuring cup and some rubber gloves. If you want more fragrance, opt for a bar of soap that contains essential oils as well.
One of the main components of every homemade detergent recipe is grated soap. Use a cheese grater to grate it into flakes. Then, combine 2 parts Borax with 1 part soap flakes and 2 parts washing soda. Combine your ingredients in a container with an air-tight lid, mix it thoroughly and seal it so your kids and pets can't get into it.
When it's time to do a load of laundry, use about 3 tablespoons per wash load. If you have a high-efficiency machine, one tablespoon is all you need.
For this laundry detergent recipe, you'll need to gather washing soda, Borax, baking soda, Fels-Naptha bar soap, Oxyclean and either Purex crystals or Downy Unstoppables. As for equipment, you'll need a cheese grater or food processor and a large container, such as a 5-gallon bucket.
This recipe makes approximately 18 pounds of detergent, so cut the recipe down accordingly if you want to do a small test batch.
Combine a 3.7 lb. box of washing soda with a 4 lb. 12oz box of Borax, a 4 lb. box of baking soda and 3 bars of soap grated with a cheese grater or food processor. Add a 1.3 lb. container of OxyClean as well as 1.5 lbs. of Purex Crystals or Downy Unstoppables to enhance the scent.
Mix it together in your bucket, then store it in an air-tight container with a sealed lid. No matter how much or how little you make, be sure that your kids and pets can't get to it!
In a high-efficiency washer, use 1 tablespoon per load. If you don't have an HE machine, add 2 tablespoons to each load.
This recipe requires a bit more work than the first two, but it also includes a scent booster that gives it a little extra oomph.
Start by gathering one 14 oz. bar of Zote Laundry Soap, two Fels Naptha bars of soap, one 65 oz. box of Borax detergent booster, one 55 oz. box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and 4 cups of baking soda. For a scent booster, add one 13 oz. bottle of Downy Unstoppables.
As with the recipes detailed above, grate your soap bars, add all ingredients together and mix well in a large container with an air-tight lid for safe storage. One to two tablespoons per load will get your laundry clean!
Recap on Recipes
These recipes are variations of the same idea, and all include the key components — Borax, washing soda and grated soap flakes. No matter which recipe you choose, be sure to mix your ingredients well and seal them in an air-tight container. Moisture can cause your detergent to cake or clump, and that will prevent it from dissolving properly in the wash.
Alternatives to Homemade Laundry Detergent
If your main reason for making homemade laundry detergent is to use natural, eco-friendly and biodegradable products, you may want to skip the DIY process altogether. Here are some safe and effective natural cleaning products that are great alternatives to homemade powdered laundry detergent:
Seventh Generation Free & Clear Laundry Detergent is a natural detergent free of dyes, fragrances and artificial brighteners. It's powerful enough to get out tough stains, and it can be used in all washing machines and on all water temperatures.
Available at Amazon, $14.99
BioKleen Free & Clean Laundry Powder is eco-friendly, plant-based and free of fragrances and preservatives. It comes in dry powder form and is formulated to fit tough stains without leaving any residue behind.
Available at Amazon, $23.99
With a lavender scent, Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Liquid Laundry Detergent is biodegradable and made from plant-derived ingredients. It includes dirt and stain-fighting enzymes for added power, and it's safe to use in all machines, including HE machines.
Available at Amazon, $20.29
Tru Earth Zero Waste Laundry Papers are a unique alternative to traditional detergents and laundry soaps. This eco-friendly detergent comes in paper form — just tear a strip off and toss it in your washer before you add your clothes. These laundry papers are biodegradable, vegan and free of all parabens, dyes and bleaches.
Available at Tru Earth, $19.95
Is It Worth It To Make Your Own Homemade Laundry Detergent?
The products you and your family use to clean your home and clean your clothes are entirely up to you. So if you want to make your own laundry soap, go for it!
Our only recommendation is that you weigh the pros and cons before you do.
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