Laundry Detergent: DIY and Save Money

DIY detergent and cleaning suppliesWhether you share a common laundry room or are lucky enough to have laundry facilities in your rental, everyone faces a similar challenge: How to save on the suds. (And no, not just the drinking kind.)

Depending on the amount and the frequency with which you do the laundry, a year's worth of detergent can cost you $75 or more. (This assumes spending less than $7 a month for detergent. You can easily spend more for high-energy formulas or fancier brands.) That's on top of the coins necessary to run the machines and/or the utility expenses you absorb for the luxury of having facilities in your building.

To quickly motivate yourself ask: How long does it take me to make that $75, or what else would I rather buy with it?

The solution? Some slimy, but frugal, DIY laundry detergent.

Here's the how and why, and a secret the laundry detergent cartel doesn't want you to know....
The blogger The Simple Dollar (TSD) discovered that the cost of his homemade goop cost him just 2 cents a load. That cost is nearly ten times less expensive than a Consumer Reports' recommended detergent. He determined the effort involved was still worthwhile, even compared to buying in bulk at a place like Costco or Wal-Mart.

You'll need:
• 4 cups of water.
• a cheese grater.
• 1/3 bar of cheap soap.
• 1/2 cup washing soda (not baking soda).
• 1/2 cup of Borax (20 Mule Team).
• 5-gallon bucket with lid for mixing and storage.
• 3 gallons of water.

Instructions: Heat the four cups of water in a pot on the stove to boiling. While you're waiting for the water to boil, use the cheese grater to shave your cheap bar soap into small pieces. Add the grated soap to the pot, bring the mixture to a boil and let simmer, stirring slowly. (This is the most "cooking-intensive" part of this procedure, for anyone wondering.)

Next, grab your big, 5-gallon bucket and fill it with approximately 3 gallons of water. Pour in your soap mixture. Cover, and let it sit overnight. The next morning you'll have a big bucket of detergent you can use for the next 50-plus loads of laundry. The detergent's consistently will range from globby to jello-esque. The color will depend on the cheap bar soap you've used, but will look something like this:

The Simple Dollar provides a step-by-step visual guide to making the laundry detergent here.

Here's an even bigger secret: Maybe you don't need detergent at all. Laundry detergent is a relatively new product. People have been washing clothes in bodies of water since ... well, the invention of clothing. The true key to clean clothes is the agitation of the water through the soiled clothing. Washboards, wringers, and other human-powered tools have been used for centuries. Some, like blogger Funny About Money, report that skipping the detergent didn't make a bit of difference.

Still, if foregoing detergent entirely leaves you in a cold sweat, consider the thrifty detergent recipe above. It's the best method of laundering money back into your pocket. Once everything is washed you can choose a side in the "Right to Dry" cultural wars.
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