Monday, June 27, 2011

Homemade -vs- Brand Name Detergent?

I found this article on Fox News last week.  It got me to wondering a few things, so I am asking you.
Is homemade laundry detergent cheaper?  Does it work as well as the Brand name?  I am a Tide girl, so I gonna need some convincing.  Also, I have an HE washer, does this homemade soap work well in the HE?  Please tell me!!


How to Make Simple and Cheap Detergents
by Brandon Ballenger
Saturday, June 11, 2011

provided by

Ever wonder why there are so many dish soap commercials? Maybe the companies who make this stuff are trying to hide the fact it's really simple -- and cheap -- to make your own.

According to the latest government data, Americans spend an average of $659 a year on housekeeping supplies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provides that figure, also says the average American earns about $787/week -- which means many people are spending most of (if not more than) a week's pay every year on dish soap, laundry detergent, and other cleaning products.

If that sounds crazy, here's a better idea: Make your own.

Recipes for cleaning products are as numerous as recipes for dinner. Here are just a few to help with dishes, clothes and more.

Dishwasher Detergent

Here's a simple recipe for dishwasher soap:

• 1 cup of borax
• 1 cup of baking soda
• ¼ cup of table salt
• 2 packets (half an ounce) of unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid

You can try to save even more by buying ingredients in bulk, but another idea is to find smaller and much cheaper boxes at your local dollar store: a good idea to since you'll want to try a small amount at first to see if you like the results. The amounts listed above are good for 16 loads -- one tablespoon each -- so even small batches will last a while.

Other recipes online vary: For example, we found one that suggested combining only borax and baking soda, 1 tablespoon each per load. Another suggested adding a little citrus essential oil to make it smell nice: We didn't try that one, however, because we had difficulty finding inexpensive citrus oil online. Then there's this recipe, which goes in a different direction altogether:

• 2 bars of shredded Octagon soap
• 1 cup of baking soda
• ¼ cup of washing soda
• ¼ cup of lemon juice

This one calls for melting the shredded soap in five quarts of water and then mixing in the other ingredients. If that sounds a little like the recipe for laundry detergent we wrote about last year, that's because it is.

Laundry Detergent

Speaking of laundry detergent, that's easy, too. You'll need:

• 4 cups of water
• ⅓ bar of cheap soap, grated
• ½ cup washing soda (not baking soda)
• ½ cup of Borax (20 Mule Team)
• 5-gallon bucket for mixing
• 3 gallons of water

First, mix the grated soap in a saucepan with 4 cups of water, and heat on low until the soap is completely dissolved. Add hot water/soap mixture to 3 gallons of water in the 5-gallon bucket, stir in the washing soda and Borax, and continue stirring until thickened. Let the mix sit for 24 hours, and voila! Homemade laundry detergent.

Other Cleaning Products

If you like the results of your homemade concoctions on clothes and dishes, why stop there? The next time you're at the store, instead of picking up a bottle of some expensive cleanser, grab these six items and make your own cleaning supplies:

• Vinegar. It may smell a little weird, but vinegar can handle everything from dishes to laundry and even weeds. We've written about the wonders of vinegar before.

• Baking soda. Eliminates odors and helps with stains, and also works as a natural method of pest control -- ants hate it.

• Borax. This mineral salt beats bleach as a toilet cleaner and is also useful for scrubbing walls. And as you see in the recipes above, works with laundry, too.

• Fels-Naptha soap. This one's actually made by one of those big cleaning companies: Dial. They recommend it for "pre-treating" stains. In other words, "use this in addition to a bunch of our other expensive products, like Purex!" But you can turn the tables by using it as part of a recipe for your own laundry detergent, and they can keep the Purex.

• Rubbing alcohol. Works as a disinfectant and is also a great glass cleaner. It also gets grime off plastic and metal surfaces like patio furniture or bathroom fixtures.

• Lemon juice. This cuts through dish grease and is an ingredient for homemade furniture polish -- but it's not the easiest thing to preserve long-term.

If making your own cleaning products sounds a little extreme, there are still simple ways to save. The best? Buying generics. And if you insist on using name brands, at least clip those coupons -- but only the ones worth your time.


  1. I've been making laundry detergent for about a year now. It cleans my clothes just as well as store-bought, and I figured it costs me about $0.70 a gallon to make it! I have to make around 1 gallon a month.

    You can use any kind of soap, even a bar of bath soap. I used Fels Naptha for a while, but now use Dove Unscented because of my daughter's eczema.

    I have a top-loading machine, but I understand that it works fine in a front loader. It hardly suds at all, so it should be fine!

    I'll be interested to know if you try it!

  2. I am a Tide girl, too. I don't know if I'll try this or not, especially with the filthy clothes from the barn!

  3. The dishwasher detergent recipe sounds fun to try. I'll let you know if I do and if it works. I have heard of several trying the laundry soap recipes and liking them but haven't tried them myself. Go Tide! Just kidding. I do get tired of paying the price for laundry detergent. Maybe I'll have to give that one a try too. I have front loaders as well so if I do I'll let you know how it works out.

  4. I have considered making my own laundry soap but I don't think the savings are worth the time involved for me. I usually buy one of the cheaper laundry detergents at Sam's Club and I figure it only costs me maybe $5.00 or less a month. Also, I hang out most of my laundry to dry and that definitely saves money.

  5. Ok, I'll try commenting and see if blogger will post it....

    I have made my own laundry soap and used it for about a year. At first I loved it (and of course I loved the price), but by the end of my first batch (which lasted almost a year)I felt like my whites were dingy looking. In talking to someone else who lives near me who was using the same recipe of soap, I decided not to use it any more, she was having the same problem. I really think that it is our water (we have rusted out 2 water heaters in the last ten years). I sell my kids clothes when they ourgrow them, and I felt like it wasn't worth the savings on detergent if I couldn't sell the clothes as looking new still. (Again, I think it was my water because I know others who use it with no problems.)

    I switched back to Tide for a while until I heard about a laundry soap called Charlie's Soap Laundry Powder. You can buy it off of Amazon or, but I found some at Central Market and decided to give it a try after reading about it on the internet. It is a powder detergent and you only use 1 Tbsp per load. It is recommended for people who use cloth diapers for getting them really clean. It cost me about $10 for 2.64 lbs and that is 80 loads. So about 13 cents a load. I have been using it for about 5 months now and really like it. My clothes are white and clean and soft. I am about 2/3 through the bottle. I also have a HE washer and it works great.

    One of the things you need to think about it is Tide and other detergent from the store have a very strong fragrance. When you make your own or if you use Charlie's you don't have that. That took me a little bit to get used to at first, but then when I started using Tide again it was one of the things I didn't like, that strong fragrance.

    So, in closing, :-) I love using Charlie's Soap, and I would have tried a different recipe to make my own if I hadnd't found Charlie's.

  6. We've been using vinegar and rubbing alcohol as our main cleaning supplies for about 8 mos now. I love them! Baking soda paste and a bristle brush helps with the grease, dirt, soil or soap scum that's harder to remove.

    I haven't tried a homemade laundry detergent yet, but may just give it a try. I'm not loyal to any brand so we buy what is on sale and with coupons only. This has significantly reduced the cost of laundry for our family of 6.

  7. I'm so glad I ended up here...we have so many allergies here, and I can't find a detergent that doesn't irritate our skin.

    Going to give these suggestions a try.

    Wish us luck.