Eco-Saturday: Homemade laundry detergent

I’m not keen on washing my clothes in weird chemicals, but the environmentally friendly laundry detergent you get at the store is terribly expensive, so I was pretty amped when I got online and found some recipes for homemade detergent that works just as well, costs literally a tenth as much, and takes about 15 minutes to make.

My version even gives you an excuse to blow something up in the microwave. Don’t act like you’re not impressed.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 bar of Ivory* soap
1 cup of washing soda (NOT baking soda)
1/2 cup of borax
Big saucepan
Wire whisk
Wooden spoon
Large microwave-safe plate
Small children (optional)

1. Put two cups of water on to boil in a large saucepan.

2. If you have any small children handy, call them into the kitchen.

3. Unwrap the bar of Ivory soap, put it on the plate, and nuke it for about a minute. Tell the kids to keep an eye on it.

Don’t freak out. This looks way messier than it is. It looks like shaving cream, but it’s actually dry.

3. Take it out, let it cool a couple of minutes, and then crumble it up.

It ends up dry and crumbly.
Reduce it to a coarse powder.

4. Whisk the soap into the boiling water, a little at a time, until it dissolves.

5. Pour the soapy water into a five-gallon bucket and whisk in the washing soda. (Be sure you use WASHING soda, not BAKING soda. They are different, and baking soda will not work.)

Whisk in the washing soda.

6. Add the borax and stir.

Looks like whipped cream. Don’t eat it.

7. Add three gallons of hot tap water and stir again.

Almost done.

8. Cover the bucket and let it sit overnight.

The finished product may separate, with a thick gel on top and water on the bottom. If this happens, just whisk it again before you use it. Store in the bucket or pour into smaller containers. Use about a cup of detergent per load of laundry.

* If you don’t like Ivory soap, you can substitute whatever bar soap you like, but you’ll have to grate it instead of nuking it. Just don’t put the grater in the dishwasher afterward unless you like soap scum all over your dishes.