One of the cost-cutting measures I employ is making my own laundry detergent. It is not terribly difficult to do and I can customize the scent to our liking. The cost is predictable and when I cannot get nearly-free detergent with coupons, it is what I do.
There are three basic ingredients required; Fels Naptha, Washing Soda and Borax.
I took a picture of the products so you would know what to look for in the store. The ingredients can sometimes be hard to find. This time of year(spring) Fels-Naptha is in my local Harris Teeter grocery Store, as is the Borax and Washing Soda, but since Fels Naptha is only made seasonally, once the store is out, its gone till the next year. Your other option is to purchase it online. I have seen it on Amazon and there are some small business sites that carry it as well. Your other option is to use ivory soap. While the cleaning power isn't quite the same it is an alternative if you cannot find Fels Naptha.
I have heard people ask about using it in their HE machines. If you are using Fels Naptha, which I use, you shouldn't see any problems. While I am not an HE expert, my understanding is that the problem with these machines is they do not handle the sudsing action of typical laundry detergents and HE detergents don't get sudsy. Well this recipe doesn't either. I have used it for over a year on my HE machine with no problems. While this is not a professional opinion, its all I have to offer.
Now back to the recipe;
You will need
1 bar of Fels Naptha soap
1 Cup of Borax
1 Cup of Washing Soda
16 quarts of water
A large cooking pot
a slotted spoon or metal whisk
a 5 gallon bucket
Start by grating about 2/3 of the bar of Fels Naptha into a large cooking pot. I use a stainless steel pot. I grate the soap right into it. Add 3 quarts of water and begin heating the mixture on a medium high heat. Stir the mixture with a metal slotted spoon or whisk occasionally until the soap dissolves. Add another quart of water and stir. Next, pour in 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of Washing Soda. Stir this in and continue to heat until the mixture has completely dissolved in the water.
It will look something like this:
Put about 2 quarts of hot water in your bucket. Pour the contents of the pot into the bucket and mix well. Add 2 quarts of cold water. Stir again. At this point you can add essential oils for fragrance if desired. I like Aura Cacia Essential Oils Their lavender is very pleasant and lemon is nice too. I have experimented with the amount and it really depends on the fragrance you use and the strength you want. This is optional and probably not a good idea if you have sensitive skin.
Put the lid on your bucket and allow to set overnight. The mixture will gel up and be light yellow in color. Take your whisk and mix it really well, breaking up all the clumps so that overall you have a nice consistency. I find that I usually have to stir it several times over the next week or so as it continues to thicken. As long as you stir it before using it, the soap will work fine.
You only need 1/2 cup for a large load in your HE machine. You may need a little more in a large regular washer, but experiment based on how dirty the clothes are. The remaining part of the Fels Naptha can be kept in a baggie (so it doesn't dry out)and used as stain stick when you need it, or save it till you make soap again.
In my rinse cycle, I use a 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar. This helps to remove the soap residue and also brightens the whites. I have used this method for cleaning clothes for years and have always been on a septic system with no ill effects.
I mentioned at the beginning that I did this because it was inexpensive to make. This recipe makes roughly 4 gallons of detergent. Cost to make 6 recipes is about $12.
I find it well worth my time to have 4 gallons of soap for a mere $2. I will still purchase detergent if I can get it for pennies a bottle and sometimes I can with couponing, but that's for another post on another day!