Cleaning Up

This blog seems to have become a saving money blog of late. Mostly it is because I feel guilty about staying at home with my son who at 14 is technically able to supervise himself. In reality though, I have noticed a few seriously worrying judgement calls on his behalf lately so I’m sticking around for a bit longer. Perhaps the year he starts High School is not the year to disappear back into the world of work. It’s a funny age for teenage boys, 14. Still interested in lego and trading cards, but also interested in girls.

So to make myself feel better I do what I can to save cash. One of the ways I save serious money is by making laundry detergent. I found this recipe on The Simple Dollar blog and have been using it for the last year. The ingredients are simple and cheap, other than a big bucket with a lid, no special tools are needed and best of all, it is really fun! I love messing around with gloopy buckets of stuff, and this is most certainly gloopy buckets of stuff.

All you need is

  • One bar of soap – I use Fels Naptha laundry soap but I have heard of people who use any bar of soap you might have on hand. Not the beauty bar types, the old fashioned bar of soap is what you need.
  • One cup of washing soda – some supermarkets stock this, mine doesn’t so I buy it at Walmart.
  • One half cup of borax – also found at Walmart. This is optional but I always put it in. People seem to be scared of borax but I use it all the time. It is great for cleaning up dog pee, I know this thanks to my insecure Chihuahua.

You will also need a clean 5 gallon bucket with a lid, (Home Depot, Lowes, your garage etc.) A big saucepan, spoon and grater. You can use old utensils if you have them or do what I do, clean them really thoroughly afterwards and them soak them in baking soda to get rid of the smell of laundry detergent afterwards if it lingers.

To make the detergent simply warm water in the saucepan – fill it up no specific quantity is necessary. While the water is warming, grate the laundry soap and add to the warm to hot water incrementally. When it has dissolved add another handful. Keep going until all the soap is dissolved into the water.

photo 2-1

Ingredients, not shown is the bar of soap.

photo 1

Soap grated ready for dissolving into water.

photo 3

Soap dissolved into water. The whole house smells of laundry soap now.


Add the soapy water to the 5 gal bucket and top it up to almost the top.

Stir in the washing soda and then the borax. You will feel the liquid start to thicken up. Put the lid on and let it all cool down, I leave it overnight. 

photo 4

Mix in washing soda and borax.

You will be left with a lovely solid jello like substance. You can use it like this or give it a big stir and break it up a bit. I give it a stir because it is fun. Sometimes I get my hands in there too, Freud would probably have something to say about that.

photo 5

One final stir and ready to use.

I use about a cup or so of this stuff per load and it works as well as any shop bought detergent. A major bonus is that it is a lot less fragranced. My husband and son are delicate flowers who have to have the un-perfumed shop bought stuff, this is fine for them. I have been using it for about a year in my machine and my machine seems just fine. I don’t know about HE machines, I don’t have one, but I can’t imagine it would be a problem, it dissolves really quickly into the laundry water. 

Just think how much less plastic there would be in the landfills if even 1% of us did this! And think of the electricity saved if we then line dried those those clothes instead of putting them in the dryer! Being English, where we all line dry our clothes as often as possible I am a fan of line drying. Plus everything smells nicer line dried. The only thing I can’t do is line dry my towels. We live in a severely hard water area and line dried towels can practically stand up on their own in the bathroom. They absorb much better though, and if you ever need to exfoliate your luck is in! A quick rub down with a line dried towel in this area is like an expensive microdermabrasion – another way to save money! OK off my soap box now, haha get it?

The Simple Dollar website estimates the cost per load as around $0.03 I haven’t crunched the numbers myself but that seems a little low for me. I use the more expensive laundry soap because I found it cleaned better than hand soap. I can’t imagine it’s much more than say $0.05 per load though, if that. I don’t actually pay anything for it because I confiscate all cash that comes to the laundry in pockets and put them in a jar. When I need something, say soap, I use the cash in there. My family knows the rules. I find that this bucket will last me several months which also means I don’t have to carry big bulky laundry detergent home from the store. Yet another bonus.

Give it a go and tell me how you get on. If you have any questions I am happy to answer them in the comments. Happy glooping!



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