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Wed, Feb. 26

PRACTICAL SAVER: Homemade laundry soap cleans well, saves big

People are passionate about their laundry. The fragrance, softness, cleanliness and simplicity all drive our choices when it comes to cleaning our clothes.

There are dozens of brands of laundry detergent available in the store. Purchasing Tide-brand detergent and averaging eight loads of laundry per week costs roughly $90 - $100 per year. Purchasing Purex and doing the same amount of laundry costs roughly $50 to $60 per year.

Here is the good news: Making your own laundry detergent costs $5 per year.

There are a couple of recipes for laundry detergent that I have tested that clean as well as name brand options. Our family has used homemade detergent for years, but recently our daughter used a science fair experiment to test how well the detergents clean. Our daughter, Bailey, washed soiled fabric in both name brand detergents and in our homemade detergent. Bailey then tested the levels of cleanliness in the items that she washed. Homemade detergent performed as well (and many times better) than the products that cost twenty times as much.

The ingredients for homemade detergent are actually easy to find and can usually be found in grocery stores, hardware stores, and Walmart. Borax is the easiest to find and can be found in most cleaning aisles. Arm and Hammer Washing Soda is in a yellow box and is also found in the cleaning aisle (although it is an ingredient that some stores do not carry). Fels Naptha is a bar soap and is usually found in the same aisle as Borax. The initial investment of these ingredients will cost roughly $8.

First step is to grate the Fels Naptha soap. A cheese grater works fine, but I find it easier to use a food processor for this job. Grate soap as small as possible - the size of finely grated cheese works well. Here are the rest of the instructions:

Liquid homemade laundry detergent with Fels Naptha (costs $5 per year)

1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated

1/2 cup washing soda

(Arm and Hammer brand, but not baking soda)

1/2 cup Borax

Hot water

Large bucket for mixing

(3 gallons or more)

Empty laundry, juice, or milk jugs for storage

1. Mix grated Fels Naptha soap, washing soda and Borax in saucepan with two cups of water. Stir constantly with a whisk. Heat on low until all ingredients are dissolved and then bring to a foaming boil. Remove from heat.

2. Add soap mixture to bucket. Fill bucket with two gallons hot water, and mix well. Set aside for 24 hours or until mixture thickens. Stir occasionally. Store in milk, juice jugs or empty laundry soap containers. Before using, shake the jug to mix and then pour. Use 1/2 cup of detergent per load, use the same 1/2 cup quantity for high efficiency washers.

Here is another liquid detergent that also does a great job. Conveniently, this liquid detergent uses dish soap, instead of Fels Naptha, and is very fast and easy to make.

Liquid detergent with dish soap (costs $12 per year)

3 tablespoons Borax

3 tablespoons wasiing soda

2 tablespoons dish

washing liquid

1. Pour borax and washing soda in one-gallon container with a tight fitting lid. Add two cups of hot water. Secure lid and shake until the washing soda and Borax dissolve. Fill the container the rest of the way with water. Add dishwashing liquid as the final ingredient.

2. Use 1 to 2 cups to each load of laundry, depending on the amount of soil and size of load. Use the same quantity for high efficiency washers.

I have tested both of the recipes and like each for different reasons. I love the way the detergent with Fels Naptha cleans and smells as well as its low cost, but it is a little inconvenient to have to grate the Fels Naptha and cook it. The dish soap version cleans very well and is easy to make, but one batch doesn't last long, so it is helpful to make a couple of batches at once. Give both of them a try and let me know which one is your favorite.

Read more on how Kara saves at, where she takes saving money to the next level.

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