articulate - adjective
1. having parts connected by joints, as in "articulated"
2. made up of distinct words joined together in such a way as to convey meaning
3. able to express oneself clearly and distinctly
4. well formulated, clearly presented

Monday, August 15, 2011

Going Frugal - Homemade Laundry Products

 According to Ben Franklin, a penny saved is a penny earned.  Lately, frugality has gained in popularity until it approaches the status of new fad.  TV shows feature coupon-aholics who stockpile more than they can use in three years, and blogs give advice on how to "go green" on everything from gardening to homemade toilet paper.  While I'm never the first to jump on a bandwagon (unless the music is REALLY great!), I figure Ben had a good point, and every penny I can save from one purchase now is a penny I can spend on something different later.

A few weeks ago, our clothes dryer rolled over, coughed a little, and gently died.  My wonderful handyman husband heaved a sigh, took it apart, inspected this area and that, and pronounced it dead at the scene.  Since the washer was also giving signs of imminent expiration, we went shopping for a matched set.  

(A humorous side note:  We couldn't find any gas dryers in town, so we went to a store on the west side of Erie.  The sales associate at that store explained that gas dryers aren't stocked in larger towns/cities around here, because the market demands electric.  More rural markets stock gas appliances.  "As you can see," he gestured widely to prove his point, "we're full of gas here!"  He continued his sales spiel without even a flicker of an eyelash... and I gave in to a sudden need to move away and inspect other models.  Yes, it was cowardly, I know, but I admit to deserting my husband, leaving him to make polite conversation after that remark.)

Not long afterward, Handsome Hubby installed our new machines and we stepped back to watch them work, commenting on the changes in technology in the past several decades since we've purchased these appliances.

Me:  "The washer's much quieter than the old one."

Him:  "The dryer's just as noisy as the old one."

Me:  "You can't watch the washer agitate anymore!  When you open the lid, it stops."

Him:  "Is watching clothes agitate a favorite past-time of yours or something?"

Me, sheepishly:  "Well... yeah... kinda!"

Him, rolling eyes:  "So find a magnet to fake out the lid sensor."

And so on.  One of the things that did concern me, though, was that we've always purchased powdered laundry detergent for our family of six, since it's usually cheaper than the liquid.  And I wasn't sure our powder detergent was dissolving well.

But I've heard quite a bit recently about people making their own liquid detergent.  I come from a long line of Make-It-From-Scratch homemakers, so I did the research and we decided to give it a try.

First to choose a recipe.  Since we're attempting to make detergent, why not make fabric softener and oxyclean, too?  Sure.  We're gluttons for punishment the adventurous sort.  Why not?  More research of recipes and perusal of comments to ensure the process worked for most individuals, and decisions were finally made.

Here are the recipes we chose:

Laundry detergent - adapted from
1/3 bar Fels-Naptha -- Grate into a saucepan
6 cups water -- Add and heat, stirring till soap melts
1/2 cup washing soda (not baking soda) and
1/2 cup Borax -- Add both of these and stir dill dissolved.  Remove from heat
4 cups water -- Pour into a large bucket.  Add soap mixture and stir.
1 gallon plus 6 cups water -- Add and stir. Let sit 24 hours.  Stir again (a paint-stirring attachment on a drill works well to ensure all ingredients are well mixed.

Use 1/2 cup per load

Fabric softener -- adapted from
6 cups water - heat till HOT.  Remove from stovetop.
2 cups hair conditioner - Add & mix well, till conditioner is completely dissolved
3 cups white vinegar - Add and mix well
Optional: several drops essential oil for scent - Add and stir in

Use 2 tablespoons per load

Oxiclean -- adapted from
1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
1/2 cup baking soda
Mix and pour directly into wash water.
(Note:  Since we want the oxidization process to happen in the wash load, we just mix this up immediately before pouring it into each load.  It's certainly not difficult, and it has worked well so far!)

Recipes chosen, the second step is to assemble ingredients.  Many of these we didn't have on hand, but a online quick cost-comparison of nearby stores gave us the best prices for our shopping trip.

Next step:  Follow directions!  This was the fun part.  We grated and melted and stirred and poured, and by the end of a half hour or so we had about 2.5 gallons of detergent and about 3 quarts of fabric softener in less time than it takes to drive to the grocery store.  They both smell great, but how do they work?

Next step:  Try them out!  

Results?  They need to be stirred or shaken before use (either one is okay, despite James Bond's preference), but that's no problem.  So far so good!  Clothes smell clean and fresh, stains come out, dinginess is avoided, and there's no static electricity.

But what about the bottom line?

Here's our cost comparison:
Homemade laundry detergent - about a penny per use
Previous laundry detergent - $.07 per load
Savings = $.06 per washload.
Not significant, but that's still six cents earned!  Ben Franklin would be proud.  I'm feeling kind of proud!  :)

Homemade fabric softener - less than a penny per use
Previous fabric softener - $.28 per load
Savings = $.27 per washload.
This is worth noticing.  Multiply that times 6 loads per week, and we have $1.62 per week.

Homemade oxidizer - about $.03 per use
Previous oxidizer powder - $.46 per use
Savings = $.43 per washload.


This is significant savings.  I sense a homeschool math lesson coming up!  Add them all together:
+   .43
  $ .76 per load

Multiply that times 6 loads per week = $4.56
Multiply that times 52 weeks per year = $237.12 saved/earned per year.

 I can certainly think of other things to spend $237 on than laundry products!

Bottom line:  It's cheaper, it works, and it's fun to make!  We'll definitely be doing this again!


  1. That's awesome! My cousin has a good recipe that I have been planning to try once my detergent runs out. Hers has vinegar right in it as a fabric softener. I also saw a tutorial online for felted wool fabric softener balls which I plan to try as I am nearly out of dryer sheets. Love to save a penny!

  2. A paint mixing paddle on the business end of the 1/2" drill makes quick work of mixing the detergent. It was done in about 15 seconds! Ain't she just a smartie!

  3. Wow..that almost paid for the new machines!! Well..maybe!
    I haven't tried making my own soap, but I found a cheaper, easier way to do laundry. Just started using soap nuts. I haven't taken the homeschool challenge to see how much I'm saving, but clothes come out smelling fresh, no static, no fabric softener. I just add a hydrogen peroxide bleach for towels and whites sometimes. If you want to try soap nuts, check out their details here:​/ I got Green Virgin Products brand from Herbs R-4-U, but the website I linked has good instructions.