One of the homemade recipes I was most curious about when I started trying DIY recipes for this blog was homemade laundry soap. I’ll also admit that it was one of the recipes I was most scared about trying too! I thought it would be great to save money with a homemade alternative, but I worried about how well homemade laundry soap really works, and I didn’t want to ruin my clothes in the process. After all, ruining clothing would just be wasting money, not saving money.
That was five years ago and I’m still using my homemade laundry soap, even though it was scary getting started. There have been no clothing disasters and we’ve saved money in the process too. But it’s also true that my process and recipes have evolved over that time and I’m not doing things exactly the same as when I started. Every so often I read articles by others who have decided not to stick with it, like this article that says Goodbye Homemade Laundry Detergent! or this one that says It Doesn’t Work for Me! Obviously it’s not the method of choice for everyone.
Which got me thinking – why have I been able to stick with it? Am I just not as fussy about my laundry?
Ummm, maybe . . . but I think there’s a few other factors going on too.
Here are a few thoughts on how using homemade laundry soap has evolved at our house and why in most cases, it’s still working for us:
I keep some store bought laundry detergent on hand too.
Ok, I’ll start out with this admission: I always keep some store bought laundry soap around too. I’ll use it if I’m worried about a particularly dirty piece of clothing that needs to get clean, AND more recently, I’ve been routinely using it on my load of whites. Dingy whites from the homemade laundry soap mixture is a common complaint, and I started seeing that happen too. I didn’t really realize my whites were getting that dingy until I bought some new white t-shirts and socks and saw them next to the old ones. The old ones were definitely dingy which I suppose happens over time anyway, but I do think the homemade laundry soap made it a little worse. So now I seldom use the homemade stuff on my whites anymore. Keeping a store bought laundry detergent on hand gives you a little room for flexibility if there are times you don’t want to feel completely tied down to the homemade stuff, which can make you grow disenchanted with it. And if you are only using the store bought version once in a while, it’s not a big expenditure of money either.
I’ve added boosters to my powdered mixture.
A while back I decided to add in OxiClean and Purex Crystals to my homemade powdered laundry soap mixture and I think they have been a good cleaning addition that’s helped me continue to be happy with the mixture’s performance. Even with these additions, I think the homemade mixture is still a money saver.
I stopped using the liquid Ivory mixture.
The recipe that was the most popular when I started this blog was one that used melted Ivory soap with several gallons of water. The consistency could be rather “snotty”. I used that for a couple years but grew weary of that mixture and instead switched to a homemade liquid laundry soap made with Dawn dish soap. It mixes together quickly and easily and seems to clean well for us too. This has also made it easier to stick with a homemade version because it’s very simple. I also wasn’t quite convinced of Ivory bar soap’s laundry abilities. I stopped using Ivory in my powdered mixture too and now only use Fels Naptha soap, as Fels Naptha is made specifically for laundry purposes.
My water must not be too hard or too soft.
Laundry is a science and many of those who have problems with homemade mixtures feel it tracks back to their water being too hard or too soft. Again, maybe I’m just not that fussy, but I have never felt that was a big problem at our house and that the homemade mixtures work well with our water.
No funky smells.
My experience has been that the homemade laundry mixtures do a great job of deodorizing. I think the washing soda and borax are both really helpful in that area. We have had no problems with any lingering laundry odors, such as the “mildew” smell problem mentioned in this article, that can be a reason to give up on the homemade stuff. Our clothing always smells clean and deodorized which is another incentive to keep using the homemade laundry soap.
I love the big size batch I make.
Here’s one of the big reasons I’ve stuck with my homemade powdered mixture. I love the big size batch my recipe makes! It lasts me for months and months and months. Maybe even for a year! So the half hour of effort I put into making it results in not having to think about laundry soap again for a long, long time. I feel like it’s a super productive use of my time. If you’re happy with the cleaning performance of the homemade mixture this can be a great way to have plenty of money-saving laundry soap on hand with just a little bit of work at the beginning.
So those are a few reason I think I’ve been able to stick with homemade laundry soap most of the time at our house. I allow myself some flexibility by keeping a jug of the store bought stuff around too for whites, I’ve supplemented my powdered mixture with the cleaning power of OxiClean, and I’ve made it simple to mix up quick batches and big batches of the mixtures I’m using.
What’s next? I think I’ve noticed some loss of absorbency in my towels because the homemade stuff is a soap, not a detergent (or maybe my water is harder than I think). I may try out a homemade mixture with no soap, that instead just uses washing soda, borax, and OxiClean, and see how that goes.
How about you? Have you tried homemade laundry soap and stuck with it? Or was it just a frustrating experience for you?
Feel free to share your thoughts with a comment below 🙂