In browsing different recipes for homemade liquid detergent, I came to a few conclusions: 1) Fels-Naptha soap, Borax, and Arm & Hammer Washing Soda are the most common ingredients. 2) This is one of the most ridiculously simple and economical substitutes you can make at home. 3) You can change the concentration if you have limited space/storage containers and decent math skills.
I used the Duggar's recipe and White Silk Purse's concentrated recipe as my reference. I liked the reviews both recipes got but I did not have the room for the Duggar's version. I decided instead of the original 10 gallon yield the Duggar recipe delivered, I aimed for a 1 gallon yield. The Duggar recipe originally said that for top loader washing machines to use 5/8 cup per load. In converting down to the 1 gallon yield, this would equate to only needing 1 tbsp per load and the entire recipe yields 256 loads of laundry! For Front Load Machines, the Duggar recipe called for 1/4 cup per load. The concentrated version comes out to needing only 1.2 tsp or 6 mL per load. I would suggest either using a syringe or marking an existing scoop with a permanent marker to show the correct amount. The entire recipe would yield about 630 loads!
All of the ingredients are found on the laundry aisle of the grocery store. I want to point out that you want to use Washing Soda and not Baking Soda - NOT THE SAME! There is the option of using your essential oil of choice to scent your soap. I wouldn't worry about using separate kitchen appliances for this project because everything you use should be dishwasher safe and you use soap to clean your dishes, right?
I chose to start with 6 cups of hot water to dissolve the ingredients. I wanted to find out how much the ingredients displaced into the volume of water. I measured the dissolved mixture and it yielded right at 7 cups. So I only needed to add 1 more cup of hot water at that point to have my soap in easily divisible quantities to go into my storage containers. Since I did not have an abundance of same size storage containers readily available, I chose two 6 cup plastic containers, a 3 cup mason jar and a 1 cup mason jar to total the 16 cups the recipe will eventually yield (that would equal a gallon). I placed 3 cups of concentrate into the 6 cup containers, 1 & 1/2 cups into the 3 cup container, and 1/2 cup into the 1 cup container. I then added those amounts again of water into the respective containers to total out to their full capacity. (Not complicated at all, right? But a girl's gotta do, what a girl's gotta do to get it done.)
After letting it sit overnight, it separates into 2 layers - the top being much more solid and the bottom being a gel-like consistency. Take a knife to break up the solid layer. Use either a blender or electric hand mixer to cream the layers back together. While it doesn't seem to separate out again, I give mine a quick shake before I use it to make sure it's still well mixed (that's the neurotic pharmacist in me). I tried my first load start to finish today and my towels came out wonderfully! They really did not have a scent to them - just clean!
- 1 gallon of concentrate
- Per Load Use:
- Top Loaders - 1 tbsp
- Front Loaders - 6 mL or 1.2 tsp
- 1 bar Fels-Naptha soap, grated
- 1 cup Arm & Hammer Super WASHING Soda (not baking)
- 1 cup Borax
- 6 cups water for boiling
- 1 cup very hot water to add to concentrate after dissolving
- 8 cups very hot water to top off the containers
- 4 1-quart wide-mouth storage containers (such as mason jars or old Tupperware-like plastic sealable containers)
- Optional essential oil of choice for favorite scent
- Place 6 cups water in a 2 1/2-3 cup saucepan. Turn on medium heat.
- Grate the Fels-Naptha either using a hand-grater or food processor. If you hand-grate, you should have enough time to get the Fels-Naptha into the water before the water starts to boil. You really don't want it to come to a full boil because I read that will not be pretty and you will have a lot of soap to clean up on the stove.
- Slowly stir in the grated Fels-Naptha into the hot water. Keep stirring. It will take about 10-15 minutes for it to dissolve into the water.
- Remove from heat.
- Stir in Washing Soda. Keep stirring. Stir in Borax. Keep stirring until all is completely dissolved.
- Add one more cup of very hot water to the mixture.
- Place equal amounts (2 cups), carefully, in each container. Add 2 more cups of very hot water to each container, where each will have a total of 4 cups per container.
- Place lids on each and let sit for at least 8 hours or overnight. It will separate into 2 layers as it cools.
- Take a knife and slice into the top layer like you would a pie to break it up the solids.
- Depending on your containers, use either an electric mixer or blender to cream the layers together. Start slow, then increase the speed as the solids get smaller. If you have any "chunks" left, they should be no bigger than the size of a BB, if not smaller.
- Use either 1 tbsp of soap for top-loaders or 6 mL (or 1.2 tsp) for front-loaders.
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