If you found me through a pin, or a google search for “homemade liquid laundry detergent” then you are clearly interested in making your own detergent, and I think I can help with that. However if you are a regular blog reader of mine, you will be wondering what has come over me.
Ha! Wait until I show you the cold-process soap I made by hand. What can I say? I have a garden full of lavender and I’m inspired!
My first attempt to make laundry detergent turned out great.
Well, once I started scooping up all that (rather solid) mousse and shoving it into the two containers I had prepared for the purpose, I found myself with a couple months’ worth of really good, nice-smelling, and not expensive in the scheme of things – detergent!
I like making liquid rather than dry because we have a lot of calcium in our water and I want the added vinegar to my detergent. I suppose I could make dry soap (much easier) and then a separate fabric softener, but I also like how liquid detergent never leaves bits of powder in the wet clothes like I’ve experienced with dry.
And it smells gooood. It smells like white sheets hung to dry under a blue sky. It smells like happiness.
I learned about detergent-making from this French site (I wanted to see what ingredients she used in France, but I didn’t use exactly the same ones. I did get a lot of the technique from her post, though). I also looked at the well-known site here. Her recipe makes 5 gallons, but I can’t get a container that big. It also doesn’t include a softening agent, so my recipe is modified for these needs. It fits about a gallon container. (It’s 1.3 gallons, but once the foam died down, the end result is about a gallon), and has all the ingredients and scents I need.
The first thing I did, was to take the lavender vinegar I made from scratch (in this post) and strain it into its own bottle for other detergent and house-cleaning uses. The sun really sealed the jars tight and, although the smell was strong when I opened them, it was more of a lavender strong than a vinegar strong. That stuff is concentrated!
No worries if you haven’t made lavender vinegar. For my first batch of detergent, I just used 15 drops of lavender essential oil and white vinegar. You can do that too.
But if you’re getting into this whole DIY eco thing and you have a garden, it’s not all that difficult to grow and harvest lavender. I wrote about that here.
So. My second time around was a little better. I had more experience and knew what to avoid. But I’ll still warn you that the process can be a bit messy unless a) you have a much larger pot than I have (I don’t want to buy a pot just for the purpose), and b) you use a large open container for the end result. I wanted mine to fit in a jug-like container so I could pour the detergent. This means that I have to get the foam in by hook or by crook, so to speak.
So. How to Make the Detergent.
Let’s get started. Assemble your ingredients: washing soda, Borax, white vinegar, essential oils (lavender, if needed, and tea tree oil), a bar of soap, like Ivory. Or more natural yet – like Dr Bronner’s. For instance, this one:
You can also order the Borax and Washing Soda together here:
If you’re in France, I used Savon de Marseille for mine, and ordered both the Borax and percarbonate de soude (and some other cleaning products) at Droguerie Jary, link here.
Grate 3/4 cup of soap with a cheese grater.
Put that in the sauce pan with 2 cups of water and heat it until it melts.
It will start to foam just a bit.
Pour 1/4 cup of Borax into the container you’re going to use, and pour a little warm water in to melt the particles. I did use some distilled water, but I don’t think it’s necessary when you’re adding vinegar to the end result. Put the container in the sink so that you’re ready to receive the messy part.
When that’s done, heat up a cup of vinegar in the microwave (about a minute), and set it to the side. Then slowly pour your washing soda into the soap mixture. You can turn off the heat, now that it’s melted.
It will foam.
Pour the vinegar in the mixture, and that will help break up the foam, but it won’t tame it completely. Don’t waste any time before scooping it into the funnel. It gets pretty solid, pretty fast.
You’ll end up scooping a bit and then pouring some warm water into the funnel to get it to go down. You can try using a turkey baster to get more foam in. You might end up scooping it up in handfuls and scraping it into the jug opening. Again, all this can be avoided if you use a large open container – if you can find one, and don’t care that you cannot ‘pour’ your detergent into the machine.
Add 1/8 teaspoon of tea tree oil (or 15 drops – mine doesn’t have a dropper), and then shake the laundry detergent. Every time you walk by that day, give it a little shake.
Let it sit overnight. My second batch was much more homogenous than the first and it stayed white. This was because I completed the mixture with warm water instead of cold, and that helped keep the soap bits melted. But there are still pieces of soap that will come out when you pour. Don’t worry about it – they don’t affect the load.
However, let me advise you right here to rinse all of your utensils before you put them in the dishwasher if you don’t want a film covering all of your clean dishes. I also keep a pot that is used only for making detergent.
I made a pretty sign, using canva.com and I slipped it into a plastic sleeve and taped it to my laundry container.
Why get started at all?
I started making soap, detergent and house cleaning products for several reasons. I wanted to put my lavender to good use. I liked the idea of having natural products in the home. I wanted to save money (perhaps in the long run it will, but I needed to buy a stock of product from a specialised French pharmacy). I liked the challenge.
I find that I’m thrilled with the result – the way it works and the way it smells. I still buy chemical stain-remover, and (only slightly-related) dishwasher soap, because that was a disaster. But I force myself to keep making more by not buying store-brand. I have all the ingredients and I feel so happy when I see something good that I made with my own hands.
So here’s a little recipe that you can print out if you want to try and make your own. If you don’t, I completely get it. Geesh! Who has time for that nonsense? 😉
- 1.5 gallon container
- ¾ cups grated soap - Ivory or Dr Bronner's.
- ¼ cup Sodium Percarbonate or Washing Soda (the former is just Washing Soda with hydrogen peroxide built in)
- ¼ cup Borax
- 1 cup white vinegar, warmed
- 15 drops essential oil of lavender, if you're not using the lavender vinegar
- ⅛ teaspoon tea tree oil
- water to complete the rest of the container
- Grate the soap and melt it in 2 cups of water in a large saucepan.
- Pour the Borax in the container you're using, and add a cup of warm water to dissolve it.
- Heat the vinegar for a minute in the microwave.
- Keep whisking the soap until it starts to foam and it's all melted.
- Slowly pour the Sodium Percarbonate into the mixture, whisking the whole time.
- As soon as it starts to foam up, add the warm vinegar.
- Start spooning the foam into the container, using a funnel and warm water if necessary.
- In desperation (ha ha), use a turkey baster and your hands to get the rest of the foam in.
- Complete the container with warm water.
- Add the tea tree oil, and the lavender drops, if using.
- Shake a few times throughout the day, let sit overnight.
- Use ½ cup to 1 cup, depending on size of load.
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