Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saving A Lot Of Money On Laundry Soap- a recipe

If you are trying to find ways to save money (blog author raises hand to add herself to this crowd) then I have one way you may want to investigate. Talking to a few folks and doing some research has led me to an awesome solution for saving money on laundry detergent and I'd like to share it with you. Print this article out and pass it around to all your friends! Everyone likes saving money, right?

The section on the breakdown of how much $$$ you'd save is below the two recipes. The savings are substantial so this is worth your time to really investigate the math on what you're paying now versus what you could be.

To start, let's make sure some terminology is understood. When I speak of "one batch" I mean a full quart-sized ZipLock baggie. This is the amount which is easiest to whip up at one time and is equal to a five-gallon bucket of wet soap. So one quart-sized baggie of dry = a five gallon bucket of wet. You have a choice of using it either wet or dry but the process is different for the wet version. Both recipes are below.

A total of 4 cups dry volume of ingredients equals 64 tablespoons of product. If you regularly use 2 tablespoons of product because you always do large loads of laundry at a time then you're looking at 32 loads of laundry per batch of soap made.

Here's the recipe that I have been happily using for a few weeks. It's quite concentrated and works very well.

1.5 cups Arm and Hammer Washing Soda(NOT baking soda!)($2.19 for 3lbs 7oz)
1.5 cups Mule Team Borax ($2.98 for 4lbs 12oz)
1 bar of Fels Naptha Bar Soap($.99 per bar)

I prefer the dry soap, myself. It really saves space in my tiny apartment. If you'd rather make the wet soap then you can purchase a five gallon bucket+lid set at any hardware store for around $2.50.

Dry recipe:

Use a cheese grater to shred the whole bar of Fels Naptha soap, as shown below.

Next, use a food processor to finely chop the soap as small as possible. In my own food processor I found that I had to take a sharp steak knife to dig around under the blades from time to time. Do it in a few small batches if you have to. It's pretty quick. It will end up looking a bit like cous cous.

Mix the finely processed soap flakes with the Borax and the Washing Soda in a bowl and stir with a spoon. Here is what the finished product looks like:

Voila. Simple. It's done. Then you simply scoop the dry soap mix into a container and make sure you keep a tablespoon handy for use. One tablespoon for a small load 2 for a medium large load and 3 for a super large load. Even on my kids' nastiest stuff I've only had to use 2 tablespoons and everything comes out very clean.

This soap doesn't create a lot of suds but that has no bearing on how effective it is. Commercial laundry soaps are full of synthetic surfactants which make it "prettier" for the customer. Quit paying an arm and a leg for pretty and make something that works just as well with your own two hands!

Wet Version:
  1. You're going to need a larger pot for this. Dump the shredded bar soap(you don't have to run this through the food processor) into the pot and turn on medium heat. Mix in 12 cups of plain tap water.
  2. Stir frequently as soap melts down and keep stirring until soap is completely dissolved.
  3. Add the Borax and Washing Soda to this soap soup.
  4. Dump 8 cups of water into your 5 gallon bucket.
  5. Add your soap soup from the pot to your 5 gallon bucket.
  6. Mix well.
  7. Add 2 gallons + 12 cups(water) to your 5 gallon bucket. Mix well.
  8. Allow mixture to sit 24 hours in bucket. Then mix one last time. It's not going to be a clear liquid. You will see some random slimy soap flakes floating throughout. That's normal.
Some people use a drill with a paint mixing attachment to mix the solution in the bucket. If your wrists and hands hurt then this would be an excellent option. If not, then a nice long paint stirring stick works just as well.

You can fill old laundry soap containers(the pourable kind- not the button mashing kind) and use as needed.

1 cup of liquid soap per large load and 2 cups if you've got rolling-in-the-mud/small child type laundry to contend with.


Where do you find these three ingredients? I was able to purchase the Fels Naptha bar soap and Washing Soda at Publix while the Borax was cheaper at Walmart. Borax and Washing Soda are fairly easy to find in the detergent isle of most grocery stores while Fels Naptha soap can be a bit trickier to find depending on which locations will carry them. In my city there is only ONE store that carries the Fels Naptha bar soap. Go figure. Even when we have 2 Publix stores, 2 Super Walmarts, and several other smaller chains in the city. All three of these recipe ingredients can be found online, however. Just make sure you check out the laundry isle in all of your city's supermarkets before going this route. Nine times out of ten purchasing these items online is way more expensive from what I've seen because of the shipping costs.

Helpful details/Stuff I learned the hard way:

Do not EVER put the clothes in the washer and then dump this laundry soap on top. You'll be sorry. It gets clogged up in the folds of cloth and then you're scraping it out. Instead, turn on your washer and put the laundry soap in the bottom of the machine then put the clothes on top. Sounds terribly stupid to point out this minor detail if you already do this but... hey. I thought I was doing a good thing at the time when I put a little extra soap on top. Wound up making me feel pretty damn dumb in the end as I spent several minutes scraping the soap off with a spoon and then rinsing my jeans out by hand. If you put the soap in the bottom of the washer then you will have no issues like this.

The math and how much you'd save

There are three different weights and densities with these three ingredients. Using the simplest method to see exactly how much of an investment a person would be making I measured how much product was in each box and then worked out how many batches each box would make.
  • One box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda is 3lbs 7oz (55oz total) and costs $2.19 at Publix.
  • One box of 20 Muleteam Borax is 4lbs 12oz (76oz total) and costs $2.98 at Walmart
  • One bar of Fels Naptha Soap 5.5oz and costs $.99 at Publix
Note: I shopped around at Walmart and Publix and there was a whole $1.01 difference between the stores when it came to the Borax. It PAYS to compare! Every little bit helps.

You need one full bar of Fels Naptha Soap for each batch but each box of Washing Soda and Borax holds many more times the quantity for one batch. Each box of Washing Soda holds 6 cups and each box of Borax holds 10.5 cups. (And yes, I actually sat down at my kitchen table with a measuring cup to verify this.)

That means that a $2.19 box of Washing Soda will make 4 batches of laundry soap while the $2.98 box of Borax will make 7 batches!!! Can you see the savings adding up now?

1 1/3 cup grated soap + 1.5 cup Washing Soda + 1.5 cups Borax settled down to equaling
just over 4 cups of product after the soap was run through the food processor for the dry method. Each competed batch of dry laundry soap is 1lb 12 ounces.

So how much does it cost per batch to make?

$2.19 box of Washing Soda divided by 4 equals $.55 per batch
$2.98 box of Borax divided by 7 equals $.43 per batch
+ One full Fels Naptha Bar of soap at $.99 per batch

The grand total is $1.97 for one batch equaling 1 quart bag dry or a 5 gallon bucket wet.

Using this average example of Tide soap ($13.99 for 24 loads) you're looking at paying $.58 per load. Whereas with homemade laundry soap it's $1.97 for 65 loads(using one tablespoon) or 33 loads if you double up and use 2 tablespoons per load. That's $.05 per load of laundry soap if you use two tablespoons and under $.03 if you use one.

Happy Soap Making!


Pink Quartz Minerals said...

Wow! Thanks for doing all the math and pointing out just how much money can be saved by making items like this for yourself!

I'm going to get the ingredients and make my own from now on!

The Ebon Swan said...

Aw dammit! Now you know I'm going to have to go out and try this...I just got handed another recipe today too. LOL

Angel said...

Muwhahahahaha... my evil plan worked. I'll convert you all yet, my pretties -- And your friendly neighbors too!

Ebon, I hope you do make this soap. Maybe you can do a segment on your blog about old washing powder recipes(if you can find them)?

PQM, it was worth the time it took to measure out all the powders and work with my calculator to find out I would be saving so much money for my household.

A few people I've talked to say, "But I use such-and-such washing liquid, not Tide." You can use this math on any commercial soap and the homemade stuff is always going to be cheaper. The cheapest stuff I found was still around $.20 a load. Compared to $.05. Yeah, I'd still take my $.05 soap over the stuff in the stores.

Oh and the Fels Naptha soap smells so gooood!! It's lemony. Very fresh smelling. But it doesn't linger in your clothes. Which is a good thing, actually, since a lot more people are allergic to scents nowadays.

The Dangerous Mezzo said...

Great recipe!

I was recently awarded the Sunshine Award, and it asks me to choose six people I'd give the award to. I chose you!

Thanks for a wonderful blog.

Angel said...

Thanks, DangerousMezzo!

I'll spread the love!

2C33 said...

Just a tip: If you can't find Fels Naptha, try Zote. It's scent is a bit stronger than Fels Naptha when you smell the soap bar, but the clothes come out smelling fresh and not perfumey. I use it and really like it. It works great on stains too.

Anonymous said...

Zote is not a laundry bar I would recoment. I couldn't stand the smell of it!