Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Column: Amanda's Saving Money the Homemade Way

We are very excited to announce yet another great monthly column addition to the blog: Amanda's Saving Money the Homemade Way. In these monthly posts, Amanda B. (one of our own CMOTC moms) will share with us homemade cleaners, recipes, children's items and more! Saving money, going green, healthier product for your family... it's all good! Thank you Amanda!


As a stay-at-home mom with 4 children, a husband (who I consider a 5th child sometimes! ha!), a dog and two cats, life gets crazy as it does for everyone. We are a one income family so money is always short. I frequently look for ways to save money, be more economical and even a little more earth friendly. I do just about all baking from scratch and most of my basic cooking as well (though I am like anyone else and buy my share of frozen chicken nuggets, pizzas and such!). I find if I keep a few basic ingredients on hand, I always have what I need to whip up some pretty yummy treats! I feel this in itself saves a lot of money off my grocery bill. For example, I no longer buy brownie mixes, cookie mixes, pancake mix, Bisquick, pre-made rolls or pizza dough. I always have what I need on hand to make them! I have also been looking for other things I can make myself to save money and reduce my dependency on expensive store bought items. For this reason, I will occasionally post here on topics involving making homemade items. Today, I want to tell you about my most recent discovery!

I recently attended a women's night at my church. One woman did a demonstration on homemade laundry detergent. I had heard of it before, but was never really interested- I figured it would be too time consuming or difficult, not cost efficient or not work as well as store bought laundry detergent. I was shocked at how easy and incredibly cheap it is! And, it works at least as well as my regular laundry detergent! Here is how to make it:

Ingredients needed:
  • Borax

  • Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (NOT Baking soda- there is a slight chemical difference...)

  • Soap- either Ivory or Fells Naptha
  • and a large bucket with lid.

To make:

Grate 1 bar of Ivory Soap or 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha soap into a small saucepan. Add 6 cups of water and heat until soap is melted. Add 1/2 cup EACH of the Borax and Washing soda to saucepan and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and add 4 cups of HOT water to your bucket. Add soap mixture and stir. (I find one of the large paint stir sticks you get for free at the hardware store works great for stirring it!). Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups water and stir. Put the lid on it and let it sit for 24 hours and it will gel. Before using, stir. It will be sort of semi-gelled and gloppy- this is normal! Use 1/2 cup per load just as you would use your regular detergent! The whole process took about 5-10 minutes to make it!

This will work well for high efficiency as well as normal washers. It is low sudsing- in fact, you will find it doesn't really make any suds. That is okay! It isn't the bubbles that cleans your clothes- it is the components involved!

For step by step instructions with pictures, refer to the post on my personal blog here.

Other than the soap, it is unscented, but if you wanted you could add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to scent it.

Now, I am sure you have two questions: how well does it work in comparison AND is it really cheaper?

I find it works just as well as my regular detergent. I do still pre-treat stains as usual and between pre-treating and washing the stains come out as they did before.

So... Let's talk money. Is it really worth it?? You be the judge.....

With a family of 6, I find I do about 12-13 loads a week. I would usually buy one of those large vats of laundry detergent from Sam's Club for $20 that would last for about a month- sometimes a little longer. I figure I was spending at least $200/year on laundry detergent.

For the above homemade version- here is the cost layout:

The box of Borax costs approximately $4. The Washing Soda was about $2.50. The bar of soap, less than a dollar. Using only a 1/2 cup of the Borax and Soda with the soap, it costs about 75 cents to make the whole recipe which makes about 2 gallons! It will do about 64 loads at 1/2 cup per load. That works out to about 1 cent per load!!! (note- I found both at Kroger, I have also heard Meijer has them. I did not find them at Walmart. One person said she found the borax and Walmart but not the soda. You can find them in the laundry detergent aisles of the store.)

My total investment between the soap, borax, soda and my bucket was about $10. Other than buying more soap, the borax and soda will last about a year! So, for about one cent per load, or about $10-$15 a YEAR, I can do my own laundry detergent! That is a HUGE savings from $200/year! And, as I said, it only takes 5-10 min to make a batch! So, even the busiest among us could pull that off.

Want to add to that savings? Would you like money saving fabric softener alternatives? Did you know that dryer sheets are made from petroleum by-products (as are many things we use)?

Here are a couple options:

  1. Vinegar! Use 1/2 cup vinegar in your rinse cycle and your clothes will be very soft and your towels so much more absorbent! And no, it won't make your clothes smell like vinegar. Combined with the above detergent, your clothes will be unscented. If you would like a scent, I know a friend of mine uses "dryer pillow sheets" that she bought of someone on You just need to be cautious not to use vinegar EVERY time because over time, it can break down elastics. But, the effect of the vinegar should last a while. A large jug of vinegar costs about $2!
  2. You can also get a small bucket. Buy a small jug of downy and pour into bucket. Refill the downy jug with water twice, and dump into bucket. Add a couple cheep sponges. When you put your clothes in the dryer, squeeze out a downy filled sponge and toss into dryer. Your clothes will smell great and be soft! However, the trick with this one is that it doesn't work well with whites- it can dull the whiteness. But, it works great on colors!

Good luck in trying these out! Look for future posts on homemade cooking topics, homemade cleaners and even making your own hair bows for your little girls and more!! You can learn along with me as I am learning that we do NOT have to do as we have been told by the commercials- we do not need all these expensive, prepacked Earth damaging products!

If you have any questions or have some helpful tips yourself on homemade laundry soap, please send me an email or comment below.



  1. Amanda - this is great! I always thought homemade laundry soap would be a powder, which for whatever reason, my husband hates. If I could find a suitable container (a bucket could get messy) with a pour spout, I think this would work for us. Do you think something like this ( would work, or is it super thick and gloppy?

    Hope to see more from you. I'd love to hear about earth-friendly alternatives to store-bought dish soap, liquid dishwasher detergent and spray cleaners.

  2. Great idea!!! I make my own cleaning supplies (window cleaner and what not), but hadn't tried laundry soap. I will definitely being trying this. Thanks for the great info.

  3. Hi Terra! I am thinking the container you linked to may not work because the mixture is kind of thick/gloppy. You would need a thicker spout. When I first did this, my do-it-yourself hubby wanted to go out and get the stuff to make a spout to fit on my bucket, but I wouldn't let him do it. I actually think the bucket itself works well. I just make it in the bucket and use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to measure it. I usually just drop the cup in with the laundry after I pour in the soap so it cleans the cup and I don't have a drippy measuring cup sitting around.

    Also, I didn't mention in the post, but this is one of many recipes- this was recommended to me by a friend. You can google "homemade laundry detergents" and get many many recipes- but most are just like this one or similar- they all have the same base ingredients.

    Good luck Terra and Holly as you try it out! :) Glad you enjoyed the post!

  4. Plastic milk containers and used laundry detergent containers make great storage (and dispensing) for your homemade detergent. The extra bonus is it's recycling! (family and friends probably have some they can give you too)

    Thanks Amanda!

  5. Wonderful post! I recently started making my own laundry detergent, thanks to your blog! Terra asked about alternatives for storage / dispensing the soap. What I did was cut the recipe in half, and pour everything into an empty 1 gallon vinegar jug. I just shake it up before I use it. Works great, and fits easily inside my laundry cupboard! [Also, if you're interested in using organic / fair trade / vegetable based bar soap, I recommend Dr. Bronner's magic soaps (]


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