Wash it up--Make your own laundry detergent, Pt 2

When I posted this article, I promised to follow up when I made my next batch. The first batch (made from Ivory soap, Borax, and Washing Soda) cost less than $3 for the entire batch, and lasted about three weeks (or for 50 loads or so of laundry). While it cleaned my clothes well, anything washed in cold water (which is most of my laundry) was left with tiny flakes of undissolved Ivory soap on it. So for the second batch, I followed my friend Amanda's recipe--2 cups of 'oxygen' cleaner (she used Oxiclean, I used a generic version from the dollar tree), a cup of washing soda, and a cup of borax. I've been using this batch for about a week, and it works very well, dissolves well, and leaves my clothes very clean. I only have two issues with it, one of which is entirely my fault :P.

First--There is a fine dust that is stirred up when I open the container I keep the detergent in. I'm not sure what it is, and it makes me a little nervous. I try not to breathe it in, and I won't even open the container with one of my boys nearby. This 'dust' may be absolutely nothing, but I'm not comfortable with it, and I certainly would recommend a different recipe for asthmatics. As I didn't notice it with the first batch, I suspect it's the oxygen cleaner, but again, I can't be sure.

Second--this is the one that's my fault. After the first couple of loads, I noticed that my clothes didn't smell. At all. They didn't smell BAD, they just didn't have a scent at all. So I added some essential oils to the mix. I intended to add some Jasmine, but for some reason when I reached into the collection of oils, I grabbed a lavendar & chamomile mix my husband once bought me because it was supposed to help with insomnia. I'm not a fan of lavender anyway, and now when I do my laundry my entire house smells like little old lady :P So, you can add 8-10 drops of essential oils of your choice to this mixture. But I don't suggest chamomile & lavender :P

For other tips on saving money in the laundry room, go to this post.

Quick Tip--Non-Skid Socks

Thanks bunches to Tabitha Black for this one.

Non-skid Socks cost $3 and up a pair, but with wood, laminate, and vinyl flooring becoming more popular, they are more and more necessary to keep little feet warm. My twins spend a lot of time in footie pajamas, but the non-skid stuff on the bottoms of those wears off long before they outgrow them. Thanks to Tabitha, I now know that I can make my own non-skid socks or repair worn footie jammies for pennies! All you need is a bottle of dimensional paint ($0.97 in the craft section of my local walmart). Just follow the instructions on the bottle. I think Tabitha said she stamped or drew designs with hers--I just drew lines. Works great. Thanks Tabitha!! Be sure to check out Tabitha's etsy shop--her handmade jewelry is beautiful AND affordable!

Frugal in the Laundry Room

We have five people living in our house. Of those, one is a preschooler, and two are toddlers. In addition, the two adults try to workout daily, and one of those wears heavyweight sweats to work out in. All of this adds up to about 3 loads of laundry a day. Commercial laundry detergent costs $0.15-$0.25 per load, liquid fabric softener another $0.10+ per load. Add the costs of bleach ($0.05-$0.10 per load), dryer sheets ($0.03-$0.07 each), water and electricity, and our family could spend over $500 a year on laundry alone!! While $10 a week doesn't SOUND like a lot, $500 a year could pay for a mini vacation for the entire family.

Laundry detergent is a big expense when doing laundry. The absolute cheapest way to go is to make your own. I recently made my first attempt at powdered detergent, and will be following a different recipe soon. It's REALLY easy, and I love that I know exactly what's in it, and can adjust the ingredients to accomodate my sons' sensitive skin. However, if making your own is not for you, there are other ways to cut costs in the laundry room.

1. Coupons + sales can cut your laundry detergent budget in half or more. When you find a GREAT deal on a detergent you like, STOCK UP. As long as it doesn't freeze or boil, the detergent should be just fine, and it's not like you won't use it eventually. A local grocery store had Purex detergent on sale 2 bottles for $3. At the same time, there was a coupon out for $1 off a bottle, so I utilized a coupon clipper and literally cleared the store shelves TWICE. This was over two years ago, and I'm just now running out of detergent. With inflation, this detergent is now selling for about $4 a bottle in my area, so by storing the detergent in a corner of my garage, I saved well over $500 on laundry detergent over the past two years.

2. Use less detergent. I once read a post on a forum I vist by a mom of six who was complaining about laundry detergent only being available in 'concentrated' forms, because for years she had only been using about a tablespoon of detergent per load. At first, I thought it was insane. Then I tried it. As long as the clothes are 'normal' dirty, rather than heavily soiled, I can use about a tablespoon of commercial detergent PER LOAD without a noticable difference in performance! I kept track for one bottle--a bottle labeled for 32 loads did 67 loads, and my clothes were just as clean as they had been using the recommended amount of detergent. Try using half the recommended amount, and see if there's a difference in your laundry if you're skeptical. Everyone I know who has tried this has said there was NO difference in the cleanliness of their laundry. If you follow just these first two steps, cutting the costs of detergent by 50% and using half as much per load, you will save 75% on your laundry detergent costs.

3. Substitute another product. While it takes a bit of trial and error to get the amounts right, you can substitute dish soap, hand soap, shampoo, or bodywash for laundry detergent. In general, you only need about a tablespoon per load. As these products produce more suds than your average laundry detergent, you should NOT use this option in a HE machine. Also, don't use products with added conditioners, lotions, etc, as these can build up on your clothes (though a cup of vinegar in the rinse should take care of that problem, in a pinch). Dawn dishwashing detergent is the absolute best product to use when washing greasy clothing or kitchen towels, so if someone in your household is a chef, short order cook, or mechanic, you should definitely add Dawn to your laundry room.

4. Fabric Softener. If you use both liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets, then your fabric softener costs could easily outpace your detergent costs. Of course, you could only use one or the other. You can also use alternative products--for example, green² Laundry Dryer Balls are $8 for a 2-pack on Alice.com. These go into your dryer instead of dryer sheets, each one lasts up to six months, and they not only prevent static, but also cut drying time by up to 25%. (A couple of tennis balls tossed into your dryer along with your clothing will also decrease drying time, and allow you to dry bulky items like comforters or ski clothes). White vinegar is an AWESOME fabric softener and rinse agent (you know how your towels tend to get kind of stiff and scratchy after a while? That's from soap and detergent build up--a cup or so of vinegar in the rinse cycle and they'll be soft and fluffy again!), and is also a disinfectant that is safe to use on dark clothes--VERY important if you have little ones in the house! I use two downy balls for my laundry--one holds about a half-cup of vinegar, the other about a half capful of my favorite liquid fabric softener (Snuggle Exhilarations Lavender and Sandalwood Twist smells DIVINE, and is about $4 for a 50-load bottle at my local walmart). I also add vinegar to the wash cycle for any clothing that needs disinfecting. And the vinegar rinses clean, so your clothes do NOT smell like vinegar.

You can make your own dryer sheets. I have already said I LOVE that designer scent fabric softener, but I don't like to pay for the 'matching' dryer sheets. So, I keep one capful of fabric softener mixed with a quart of water in a lidded container in my laundry room, dip a sponge or old washcloth into the mixture, squeeze out most of the liquid, then toss it into the dryer with my clothes. This mixture lasts for 20 loads or more, at a cost of about $0.08 per batch, or less than 1/20 of the cost of those designer dryer sheets. Plus my hands smell awesome afterwards :P

5. Wash your clothes less often. Bulky sweaters and jeans take up a lot of room in the laundry, so airing a pair of jeans and a sweater and wearing them one more time before washing is a great way to cut down on laundry costs. Towels may also be hung to dry and used again (I tend to dry my babies on a towel at night, then hang it to use myself the next morning. Be careful doing this with family members with sensitive skin, though--your soap or shampoo could cause a rash or eczema flare up, and taking care of THAT will cost a lot more than doing an extra load of laundry.

Wash it up--homemade laundry detergent

I recently made my first foray into homemade laundry detergent. I wanted to attempt the version that was easiest to store and required the least amount of work to make, so I grated two bars of Ivory soap, and mixed it with one cup of Borax and one cup of washing soda (also known as soda ash). I was less than ecstatic with the results--while it works fine in hot water, clothing washed in cold water tends to come out of the machine with little flakes of ivory soap all over it. I have taken to using it only for whites, linens, and dark towels, and pajamas, and using purchased detergent for our clothing. Considering that I do an average of 18 loads of laundry a week, using this homemade detergent on 2/3 of them still saves us a significant amount of money (It works out to about a nickel a load, versus about $0.15 a load for Purex or about $0.22 per load for Tide). However, I will be trying a new recipe next week, substituting oxygen laundry booster for the ivory soap. In the mean time, I put two tablespoons of detergent directly into the machine before the laundry for my whites, and I put two tablespoons into a mason jar with a cup of hot water to use with dark towels/pajamas. Since homemade laundry detergent does not have added rinse agents, I also add vinegar to the rinse cycle to help rinse the soap out. I put my vinegar into a downy ball and drop it in at the beginning of the wash.

Here are a few sites with laundry detergent recipes if you'd like to try it yourself:

Ten Homemade Laundry Soap Recipes
Make Your Own Laundry Soap
The Simple Dollar: How to make your own laundry detergent and The detailed visual guide
Suite 101: Making your own laundry detergent

If making your own laundry detergent isn't for you, you can still save money in the laundry room. Check out Frugal in the Laundry Room for more.