Laundry soap keeps your clothes clean and smelling good. But that doesn’t mean you have to let companies that make this stuff take you to the cleaners.
Here’s a dirty little secret the suds salesmen don’t want you to know: Some people get decent results with no detergent at all.
Others save 90% of the cost of store-bought detergent by making their own.
Is laundry detergent even necessary?
The blogger behind Funny About Money decided to forgo laundry detergent completely as part of an experiment. The result:
“By and large, all of the freshly washed clothing came out with an odor: It smelled of clean water!”
You might be surprised to learn that while clothing has been around in some form for thousands of years, laundry detergent is relatively new. And yet, people in ancient times were still able to get their clothing clean. How?
As it turns out, the main ingredient for cleaning other than water is agitation. Those early humans used rocks and rivers, but your modern washing machine can clean lightly soiled clothes by just pushing them around in water.
In other words, you can get away without using detergent at all.
But if the idea of using nothing more than water to wash your gym socks sounds a little scuzzy, you can make your own detergent. It’s easy.
There’s no shortage of homemade laundry soap recipes. Here are the ingredients for one we found that seems to work pretty well:
- 4 cups of water
- 1/3 bar of cheap soap, grated
- 1/2 cup washing soda (not baking soda)
- 1/2 cup of borax (20 Mule Team)
- 5-gallon bucket for mixing
- 3 gallons of water
- Mix the grated soap in a saucepan with 4 cups of water, and heat on low until the soap is completely dissolved.
- Add hot water/soap mixture to 3 gallons of water in the 5 gallon bucket, stir in the washing soda and borax, and continue stirring until thickened.
- Let the mix sit for 24 hours, and voila! — homemade laundry detergent.
My experience with homemade laundry detergent
Of course, who would post a recipe without trying it out first?
I made and washed several loads of clothes with homemade detergent. And I — like many before me who’ve traveled this road — couldn’t tell the difference between store-bought and homemade.
Total cost per load? In the neighborhood of 2 cents. Store-bought detergent, depending on what you buy and where you buy it, can cost about 20 cents per load — 10 times more.
3 ways to slash the cost of detergent
So, now you have two alternatives to the headache of paying a bunch of money for laundry detergent: Ditch it altogether and use nothing more than water in your washer, or save 90% by making your own laundry soap.
And here’s a third idea for those who don’t intend to do either of the above options: If you’re going to stick with store-bought, just try using less.
I tried just filling the bottom of the measuring cup that came with my store-bought detergent. Guess what? No difference in smell or cleanliness that I can detect.