Monday, September 14, 2009

Money Saving Madness-- Laundry and Dishwasher Soap

I ain't gonna lie: the first time I heard of people making their own soap I thought they had jumped off the deep end. Visions of Little House on the Prairie ran rampant through my head. But then I got serious about saving money and thought about all the laundry I wash with a house of 9 people and the 3 dishwasher loads I run a day. I figured it was worth a shot.


Hello everyone! This is Cynthia from Under the Misty Mountain with your guest blog today… ready to get clean for PENNIES??????

Earlier this year I had a change of heart about spending money. I started to resent any and every company getting one thin dime of ours, especially if I felt like it was something we could make at home for next-to-nothing. Baking soda and borax have become my best friends. Somewhere around here I even have an Idiot’s Guide to Cleaning and it was a tremendous help getting me going, but basically if you start with baking soda, you’re off to a good start!! And Costco sells the GIANT BAGS of baking soda for nearly nothing…so get mixing!!


My homemade laundry soap recipe came through a friend of mine on Facebook after I sent out a complaint, I mean, a status update… asking why we couldn’t make our own soaps for regular household cleaning. We were almost out of our regular laundry soap and I wasn’t looking forward to going to Costco and buying yet another giant plastic bottle of whatever detergent they had for sale this week.

This laundry soap is VERY simple, it has four ingredients:
1 box 20-Mule-Team Borax
1 box Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (NOT baking soda!)
6 cups of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (THIS is baking soda!)
6 bars Fels Naptha soap, grated with cheese grater

Use 1/8 of a cup for each load. Our giant bucket of soap, that cost around $15 to make will last (my friend reports) over 300 loads. This recipe works great in front-loading as well as top-loading machines, as the Fels Naptha soap makes little to no suds.

It took a bit of elbow grease to grate all of the Fels-Naptha, but it really wasn’t that bad. The soap isn’t as hard as I thought it would be, just slightly harder that an aged cheddar. And it smells AWESOME. Which means you will smell awesome when you are done grating all of that cheese. I mean, soap.

I used a giant tub to gently stir all of the ingredients together and then we keep it in a giant plastic tub with a tight-fitting lid. Keep in mind Borax is poisonous if you inhale or swallow too much of it, so I don’t advise inviting all the toddlers on the block on a windy day to help you stir your soap. I used a big tub with higher sides and a long whisk and had the kids unglue themselves from my legs for ten minutes while I gently stirred the soap.

After we started using this recipe for our laundry soap, we haven’t used dryer sheets AT ALL, which is REALLY excellent, since we were nearly out of those, too!! And it doesn’t matter if we put the clothes in the dryer or hang them on the line, they smell SO GOOD and are SO CLEAN, my husband was even amazed and we’re never going back to store-bought soap again.

The only things we don’t put out on the line are our bath and hand towels, because of the rough texture they come back in with. BUT – that was the case when we were using the other kind of laundry detergent anyway. Everything else comes back in super soft and smelling wonderful, so we think it has more to do with the fabric of our towels. So they are spoiled and dried in the dryer.

There are a million other combinations for laundry soap out there, and some will tell you how to make a liquid soap, so don’t be afraid to experiment! I like our powder. It’s easier to sweep up if it spills!


Okay… this is REALLY EASY. There is no excuse for anyone to be buying those giant tubs of little blue cakes with the pink pearls ever again.

Mix equal portions of baking soda and borax together (carefully – don’t want to breathe in a bunch of that dust – yuck!) and keep it in a tight-fitting lidded container. I started with 3 cups of each, and I put it right in the container that formerly held all of those little blue cakes with pink pearls. *snap*

Some websites say to use 2 teaspoons and others say 2 tablespoons, but what we do is fill the little spot up and close the little door, and that’s about 2 tablespoons. We put straight white vinegar in the spot where you would normally put your FUNKY BLUE LIQUID to keep your dishes streak-free, and so far, so good.

Oh, do not worry that Borax is poisonous and you are using it to wash your dishes. ANYTHING YOU BUY MADE FOR DISHWASHERS IS POISONOUS… just in case you missed that… ANYTHING YOU BUY MADE FOR DISHWASHERS IS POISONOUS. That’s why they all have those pesky “harmful if swallowed” warnings on them. Don’t worry about it.

Now, this has not been a perfect process for us, but I still prefer using this recipe over relying on the store-bought processed cakes for two reasons – I always have borax and baking soda on hand and therefore will never run out of dishwasher soap, and it makes me pay more attention to what I’m expecting my dishwasher to do.

Our dishwasher is 11 years old…that being said, it’s obvious it’s not a top-of-the-line machine like the Bosch we stuck in our last kitchen (the one we remodeled from the floor joists up and recovered none of the costs when we sold the house? Yeah…THAT kitchen has the GOOD dishwasher…), so I make sure I give the dishes a swipe before putting them in the dishwasher. I check for dried-on cheese and other things that may still be there when the cycle is finished. I also am careful and I don’t overload the dishwasher, because if things are too tight, then *stuff* could be left behind. But it’s still better.


Another thing I got tired of buying every time I turned around (or so it felt like it) was hand dishwashing soap. I was already buying the happy-happy-green alternative from Bio-Kleen at $6 a pop, but I felt I was going through it too fast.

Now…I love knowing I am Saving the Earth by buying green, but Saving the Earth loses when I am choosing between buying chicken at 79 cents a pound and happy-happy-green soap alternatives. I have to feed my family first.

So I looked to Costco again and they happened to have that week a GIANT bottle of something that sort of looked environmentally friendly, and it was less than $10. Sold. I smelled it in the store, because I hate soap that smells like chemicals, and it passed the sniff test, so we brought it home. It is a concentrated formula, so I add maybe ¼ of a cup to an old dishwashing soap bottle and fill it up with water. Now when I do dishes by hand, I am using a fraction of the amount of soap I used to use and still have bubbles and still have clean dishes. What more could I ask for?? (Maybe some rubber gloves that last longer than a week?)


My final “homemade” soap solution is Mrs. Meyer’s lavender soap. I tried to find a picture, since I am out and actually need to pick some up, but the website is below for you to check out. The lavender soap is an all-purpose soap, and I dilute a small amount in a spray bottle with water. I use this to clean the countertops, the table, the stove, and the floor for spot cleaning. I am a stay-at-home mom with three kids, which means I am cleaning the counters and the table 2-3 times a day, and the floor about once a day in certain areas and for spills. This soap solution leaves behind a FABULOUS lavender scent that makes me WANT to clean (CAN YOU IMAGINE???).

Just keep in mind that this is just soap…it was not made with Killing Germs in mind. When I have a situation such as raw meat juices or raw egg on the counters or in the sink, I reach for my 409. I like to know some things are dead and in the trash. That is also the only time I use paper towels for spills. Otherwise, I have an army of dishcloths and I use about two or three of those a day chasing around our messes.


I keep a small tub of baking soda by the sink because a little of that in the sink and some scrubbing gets it sparkling clean. I used an old cinnamon shaker bottle (one of the big ones from Costco) and filled it with baking soda and we use that in the bathroom to add a shake to the cat pans every day. I also shake baking soda all over the carpets once every two weeks, let it sit for about 15 or 20 minutes and then let the kids vacuum. They can tell where they still need to vacuum and they keep going until all the white powder is gone! *SWEET*



20 Mule Team Borax USES FOR: (has a picture)

They have all the answers for what baking soda can do:
Here is a link to their washing soda (not on A&H website??):

Now…. Get crackin’ and have fun!!

Cynthia Moyer


Denise: Where do you get Borax and Fels Naptha? Oh and Washing soda too?

Cynthia: You can find anything online, but I actually found all of these products RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER at our Fred Meyer store. The borax you can usually find at Safeway or WalMart or whatever, but the Fels Naptha is a little trickier.
I am not sure why our WalMart didn't have it, but Fred Meyer did??? People will just have to look, and they can always ask the store to stock it if their big box store doesn't have it.

Denise: You say that you use this in your front loading washer, but the detergent is a powder. Do you put the detergent in the tray or do you add it directly to your wash?

Cynthia: I use it in the tray and it hasn't caused any problems yet, and I've been using it for months!!

Thank you Cynthia for these great ideas! Now I'm off to make some detergent.


Kristin said...

That's great information! Let us know how yours turns out, Denise!!

heathernkids said...

Great ideas, Denise! My friend has identical triplets and she swears by that same laundry recipe, saves money too! :)

Kat said...

Veddy veddy interesting. We have a front loader, I am expecting to see a follow up :-)

And I wonder if we can use the dishwasher stuff...we are on septic...and were told to only use liquid...

Sandy Toes said...


I am doing good if I get the detergent in the are killing me!

sandy toe

Lorie said...

I have a question, how is it for fading? Does it color fade your clothes?? I use Cheer, only because of the color enhancing.

Heather said...

So you found the Fels Naptha at the LS HyVee? I wonder if Natures Pantry would have it?

C.L. Moyer said...

I have not noticed any fading at all, and we hung our clothes on the line all summer.

We have a front-loader and have been using this recipe for months (and still have a TON LEFT!)