December 31, 2009

Homemade "detergents" and cleaners: Cheaper and Equal in Quality???

I have been using homemade laundry detergent (actually it is a soap product) this month.  I first used the powdered version of Fels Naptha soap, borax and washing soda. The cost per load was .075 cents.  I was able to purchase these supplies at a local grocery store.  I felt it was a little pricey but I never did double check the price on Borax or Washing Soda at another store.  So the price could be reduced further.  Also I used Fels Naptha as I felt it was a good choice as it is a laundry bar soap but I have read on other blogs that many have had really good results using Ivory bar soap.  I must say that I like the powdered version.

I decided to try the liquid version of the laundry detergent this week.  Same ingredients in different amounts with added water.  The result is that I made 2 gallons of goop that I have been using this week to wash clothes.  These 2 gallons made 64 - 1/2 cup loads of soap.  The cost per load was .01 cents.

The jury is still out on whether I like this version or not.  I do not have small children living in the household so our clothes do not good real dirty, especially in the winter time.  When I do have a greasy stain I have been using Dawn Dish Detergent - the original blue version - with great results.  Now, I need to find a homemade version of pre-treatment.  I think the best would be to take the clothing item and run cold water on the stain and immediately wash it. 

I'm trying to decide which is best.  The liquid version does not dissolve well in cold water.  I compensate for this by dumping a 1/2 cup of the goop into a clean jar and filling it half full with hot water.  Then I put on the lid and shake it to dissolve and dump it in the washing machine. 

The powdered version takes more Fels Naptha which leads me to believe that it may clean better, but I'm not sure.  Some people add too much soap to the washer and this makes the clothes dingy.

Recently a 32 load size of All detergent was on sale for $2.99.  I had a $2.00 off coupon so for .99 cents or .03 cents per load I was able to purchase a good detergent.  However this was a rare occasion to have a coupon for $2.00 off one bottle so I do not expect to have this kind of savings every day.  I may use this detergent in a recipe for a homemade pre-treatment, but I'm not sure.

Now what to do.  I am going to wait and see. I need to price the borax and washing soda at another grocery store as I believe I can get them at a significantly reduced price.  Also I would like to try using Ivory bar soap to see if there is a difference between this and Fels Naptha.  This would lower the price of the powdered version which I prefer. My goal is not to go over 3 cents a load. 

Both of the homemade versions do not leave a fragrance on your clothes which is nice but I am used to having some sort of fragrance.  I compensated for this by using a liquid fabric softener.  I was able to purchase Downey on sale with a coupon a few months back for about $2.00 for a 52 load bottle.  I only use half the amount recommended.  Also I was able to purchase Snuggle Fabric softener sheets - 80 sheet box for only 89 cents as I had a $3.00 off coupon.  I always cut these in half. 

There is something about a good fabric softener that adds a beautiful fragrance and softness to towels.  However I don't expect to continue to be able to get deals like these on a consistant basis.  So I am going to try the following recipe and use it intermittedly to see how I like it.  The recipe is as follows: 2 cups water, 1 cup vinegar and 2/3 cup hair conditioner and you use 1/4 cup per load.  I can always get Suave Hair Conditioner pretty cheap and they have wonderful fragrances.  We will see. 

I am on my last few loads of Cascade dishwasher detergent.  I am not brand loyal and I buy what is on sale and use a coupon.  I am going to try a homemade version.  I have been given the following recipe:
1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup table salt and 4 envelopes of unsweetened lemon kool-aid.  I will use vinegar as the rinse aid.  I think this will work for me as I do rinse off my dishes a little before I load in the dish washer. However I have seen several blogs where people have commented that the glasses come out cloudy and dingy.  Again, I am going to give it a whirl as if it doesn't work I will just go out and purchase a name brand or store brand on sale and use half with the homemade version.

I think the reason that I am attracted to the above recipes is the ease of not having to leave home to go to the store and being more self sufficient.  Also, I feel that most of the ingredients are better for the environment than the commercial cleaners.

Our household is in a major savings mode right now and any dime, nickel or penny I save is one my husband doesn't have to earn.  I am really committed to finding a way to double the amount we put into savings each month. 

Has anyone else had any success with home made versions of the above?  I would be interested in knowing what your experience has been.


Tammy said...

Wow. I hope that you don't take it too far and start wacking your clothes on a rock by the lake!! ;)
I'm not so sold on homemade cleaners. For some reason, I feel that P&G has way more experience in this sort of thing than I do, and besides, I LIKE to feel Snuggly soft! I love the smell of "artificially" scented clean laundry, so I'm going to go ahead a spend that extra .XX cents for the sake of smelling clean!! Also, laundry is already one of my dreaded tasks- why prolong the agony!!!!!

Martha said...

The lake is frozen!!!:) I figure this is worth a try. However I think my family was wondering what on earth I was doing "cooking" soap on the stove.

Moderate Means said...

I love homemade cleaners. The only manufactured cleaners we use are for washing dishes. We did homemade dishwasher detergent but with hard water it didn't work well. We are finally getting a water softener and I'll try again once our store-bought supply is gone. I recently discovered that Zote is for dishes, too, so I'm trying it when I run out of dishwashing soap.

DJ and I priced out our laundry detergent this morning and estimating conservatively on load count, we came up with 1 cent per load. It might, in reality, be less. We have used homemade detergent for years and have 2 kids, so I can vouch for it's ability to clean kid clothes! The are 6 and 7 now but the detergent has lasted for some tough-on-clothes years!

As an added bonus of not having chemicals added to clothes that sit directly on our skin, it has eliminated my kids' skin reactions to laundry and has (IMO only) extended the life of our clothes. People who get our hand-me-downs are amazed at the condition of our stuff.

We aren't big on fabric softener but when we are in the mood, we add a splash of vinegar to the wash and it takes care of it.

As to the powder vs goop - I'm sticking with powder! I don't see any additional benefit to the extra work (in prep and in use) so I'm content :)

Oh, and here are the details on my recipe, if you want to compare prices equally - And, I'm thrilled to report that I have since found washing soda at Ace Hardware!

Martha said...

Honestly I prefer the powder and I am going to go back and look at my calculations from last fall and see if I didn't make a mistake. I am going to finish using the goop as our clothes really don't get that grimey dirty in the winter time and the goop will work fine for now. Do you have a "recipe" for pretreater?

Anonymous said...

I have been using homemade laundry detergent for about three years now, and have settled on the powdered form. I go back and forth between finely grating fels naphtha and simply augmenting a cheap box of commercial detergent with borax and washing soda. I had a couple of boxes of generic laundry detergent that I purchased for $1.99. Adding borax and soda (an entire box of each) was an additional $6. The benefit of the ratio is that I really can get very clean clothes with less than two tablespoons of the powder.

I guess there are as many recipes for laundry soap as they are people willing to experiment!

Anonymous said...

Martha, I have an idea for your fabric softener. I buy a small bottle of liquid and dilute it to half strength. Then I go to the dollar store and get a pack of 6 Handi-Wipes. I cut them in half and then add the dilute fabric softener and Handi-Wipes to a plastic container with a lid. Every time I use the dryer, I squeeze out a Handi-Wipe loosely and toss it in the dryer with the load. Not diluting the liquid can leave spots on your clothes!

When I used liquid, I frequently put a couple of drops of essential oil in the load. Not too frugal, but wow did my clothes smell nice!