Milk Jug Laundry Detergent

I might have mentioned a time or two how the plague has been sweeping through our house lately, which has left me in the mood to sanitize everything, when I’m not plague stricken myself, that is.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned on here before how much I love couponing and I distinctly remember in the past six months being so excited for scoring my laundry detergent for under $2.00 a bottle. I paid $5.19 for it at Target two weeks ago and almost cried.

And yes, those to statements are related.

I’ve been seeing several of my friends lately talk about making homemade laundry detergent and how pleased they’ve been by it and by friends, I mean famous people I follow on Pinterest. Never one to miss a bandwagon or a popular pin item, I finally decided last week to order everything I needed to join the homemade soap wagon.

I read and asked real life friends and followed pins and googled and found out that homemade laundry detergent is made up of three basic ingredients, and depending on who you are talking to at the moment, differing amounts of those three items.

Your three basic ingredients are Fels Naptha soap, Borax, and Washing Soda (not baking soda, washing). Some folks use Ivory soap or even homemade soap (how hippie is that) but most recipes I looked at suggested Fels.

Also, most recipes make a lot of soap. I don’t have room for five gallons of laundry detergent. As it is, my canning pot has been banished to the balcony closet with the Christmas decorations and seldom used cooler.

I wasn’t expecting stellar results, as most bandwagons are a bit of a letdown in the end (see, 75% of the recipes on Pinterest) and I didn’t want to get stuck with a year’s worth of bad soap. So I made my own formula. Also, not wanting to invest any more money in this than absolutely necessary, I made it in a milk jug. (How moonshining of me does that sound?)

Milk Jug Laundry Detergent
1/4 a bar of Fels Naptha soap
1/4 cup of Borax
1/4 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
Empty milk jug or other lidded gallon container

You can grate the soap if you wish, but I just finely chopped mine. Toss the soap and about 3 cups of water into a pot on the stove and heat to boiling. The water amounts I give are really just guidelines, since in the end, you’ll just fill the jug up to the gallon mark.

Boil and stir until the soap dissolves in the water. If your water gets sudsy, stir less vigorously, haha, and maybe turn down the heat a bit. When the soap is pretty well grated, add in the Borax & washing soda. Stir that until dissolved.

Fill your milk jug up about halfway with some pretty warm water (when I was boiling the soap mixture, I had another pot on the stove with water that I boiled) and add in the soap mixture. If you have an actual milk jug, having a funnel at this point helps make it less messy.

Wait for it to cool a bit, then shake to combine. Add in some more water to fill up to about a gallon’s worth. Then set to the side for a few hours, maybe as long as 24 hours.

The liquid is going to get gelatinous somewhat.

You can see the bits of gel floating around in there.

I use a half a cup of detergent per load and so far, I’ve been ridiculously pleased with the results. This is probably the time I should tell you I’ve been using this for just 48 hours, but, bandwagons travel fast. Anyway.

All in all, the soap making process took about ten minutes. From chopping the soap to pouring into the milk jug. All done while Eliza was awake and playing in the kitchen too (important, since most parents know projects like this usually have to wait until nap time.)

I’ve done three test loads of laundry.

I washed our whites with it. And in a house of two toddlers, that’s a true test of a laundry detergent. I am so very pleased with how well it cleaned. It took out some serious stains (the girls wore white shirts strawberry picking last week so it removed strawberry juice and dirt) and probably worked better than our regular detergent. If it didn’t work better, it worked just as well. I now have plans to make my own pre-treater, but that’s another post for another time.

So, does it get your whites clean? In my (albeit brief experience) that’s a resounding yes!

I washed our kitchen towels and washcloths with it. These towels were already pretty dingy when they went in, so I can’t be as sure about the stain removal process in this load. However, Josh is getting new kitchen towels in his Easter basket (suprise honey!) and I feel pretty certain these new towels are going to stay white a lot longer than this last set did.

The reason I washed these though was because I had some towels and washcloths that were pretty icky, mildew smelling even after being washed. I tried my best after this load came out of the dryer to pick out some mildew smell, and nothing.

So, does it remove stinky smells? Big ol’ check mark for that.

The last test is still in progress, so expect an update in about a week. I went out on a limb and washed our cloth diapers with it. They came out of the washer smelling fresh and clean, but I need to put Eliza in them for about a week or so and see if there are any issues when she’s actually using them.

So does it both clean and remove smells? The stain free, smell free diapers say yes.

Now, what started this all in the first place. The cost factor of my regular detergent. My regular 32 load detergent cost me $5.19 (without a coupon) the last time I bought it at Target.

I took the easy way out and bought all my supplies at Amazon. I don’t know if they have the cheapest prices or not but I’m going to try to go by Kroger next week to price compare. Here’s what I spent at Amazon:

Fels Naptha Soap – $4.45
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (55oz box) – $8.95
20 Mule Team Borax (76oz box) – $11.05

Total spent at Amazon (no shipping or tax) $24.45 (the cost of about 4.5 bottles of my regular laundry detergent)

Price per batch –

You use a fourth of a bar, so $4.45 / 4
Fels Naptha Soap – $1.11

A 1/4c of washing soda weighs 2.6 oz. So there are about 21 portions in the 55 oz box. $8.95 / 21
Washing soda – $0.43

A 1/4c of borax weighed 1.7 oz. In a 76 ox box, that’s about 44 portions. $11.05 / 44
Borax – $0.25

Meaning a batch of detergent cost $1.79 to make.

Not too shabby.

But wait, it gets better! (And I won’t even charge you $9.99 for shipping and handling!)

A gallon is 16 cups. And if you use half a cup in each load, that means you’re going to get about 32 loads of detergent from every batch.

Meaning it costs you oh, about $0.06 a load of laundry. Oh yes, you read that right.

My regular detergent costs me $0.16 a load, assuming I get a full 32 loads out of it, which I never do because I always fill it to the second line, not the first.

I know you probably don’t think $0.10 a load is worth saving, but really, that $0.10 translates into about $100 because it saves me a trip to Target. And everyone knows it’s impossible to go to Target and get only one thing and spend less than $100 đŸ™‚

So if you follow this recipe, let me know how it turns out for you! Remember, your water is probably different than mine, which may or may not effect your how it works for you. So don’t be afraid to play around with the proportions a little as well. That’s what is nice about this recipe (I think) is that it doesn’t make a whole lot, so if you get a batch that doesn’t work for you, you’re not stuck with tons of it. Add some essential oils if you like (about ten drops to a gallon I think?). I have some ideas lurking for stain removers as well!

I’ll be sure to post an update in a week or two to let you know if I still love it as much as I do now!

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