Homemade Powder Laundry Detergent

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Note: I updated this recipe on 12/26/12.  I found that the Fels-Naptha really bothered me as I grated it up (so much so that I had to wear a mask).  It wasn't as bad once it was in the detergent, but it was still enough for me to notice.  All changes are in italics.

I have been researching laundry detergents for a while now, and I even purchased almost everything I needed to make a liquid version a few years ago (I'll tackle that after I use up all this batch of powder detergent).  Like most things I make instead of buy, I wanted to make sure I did my research before I just jumped in.  I wanted to make sure that all the ingredients were safe and effective and that it was indeed cheaper to make my own.  Even though I stayed away from borax for several years, I feel very good about this detergent, and it works very well (see below for why I chose each ingredient)!  

What you'll need:

1 bar (3 oz.) laundry soap like Fels-Naptha (I now use my homemade laundry soap)
1/2 cup borax
1/2 cup oxygen cleanser (I use Crunchy Clean Pure Oxygen)

What you'll do:

1. Grate your bar of laundry soap into a large bowl.  I use the very fine side of my grater.  Stacy at StacyMakesCents uses the large side of the grater then puts it in the food processor.  Either way is fine, but I don't have a food processor, and I like all the ingredients to have the same consistency (I don't like that cheese look), so I use the fine side of the grater. This part takes some muscles!

2. Pour in 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup borax, and 1/2 cup oxygen cleanser.  You can actually just use 1 cup of either the borax or the oxygen cleanser, but I  had both on hand and I wanted the benefits of both.  Mix well until it is all combined.  You want to make sure that all the ingredients are very evenly distributed.
3.  Pour mixture into any container with a lid.  I keep my detergent in an old yogurt container.  Glass would be nice if I didn't think I'd drop it. 

4.  I use 1-2 tablespoons in each load (depending on the load size).  If you are using an HE washer, you can probably use even less.  This detergent will not suds as much as a normal one, but it cleans just as well (if not better).

Take a look at why I chose each ingredient:

Laundry Soap Bar: Fels-Naptha in particular is a stain remover and pre-treater.  You can actually just get the bar wet and rub it on stains before you wash.  According to the package, it works especially well on oil-based stains.  I now use an unscented castile bar soap.  I've found that it works just as well.  If I have tough stains I add about 1 Tbsp of pure oxygen to the entire wash. UPDATE: I found that Fels Naphtha bothered my senses when I grated it, and it wasn't as natural as I thought it was.  I now make and sell my own laundry bar.  This bar works great as a pre-wash stain treatment and when grated and used in the detergent.  You can purchase it here.

Washing Soda (sodium carbonate): Washing soda is a pH balancer.  It also softens water and removes all kinds of stains.  

Borax: According to the box it is a natural alternative to color safe bleach, softens water, helps remove tough stains, freshens and deodorizes, and is an all natural laundry booster.  Now, it is NOT safe to ingest in large quantities (what really is though?).  In fact, it can even be fatal; however, we keep our laundry detergent out of reach of the children (as you should do too) so there isn't a chance of our children consuming the whole batch.  I struggled with this for literally years, but I honestly feel safer using this than anything you can buy at the store.

Oxygen Cleanser (I use Crunchy Clean's Pure Oxygen but you can use Oxiclean): Crunchy Clean's version has no additives, and I love that.  It whitens, leaves dark clothes brighter, kills germs, and removes stains.

Do you make your own detergent?  What's your favorite recipe?

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