Sunday, September 16, 2012

Making My Own Cleaning Supplies: Laundry Detergent, Fabric Softener and Spot Cleaner

I've been a pretty big Pinterest fan lately, mostly because of my "Practical" board, where I pin ideas that will help in day to day life.  Over the past months I'd collected plenty of cleaning solutions, and I impatiently waited to try them out until after the move and until the house was, for the most part, unpacked.  

You see, three of the four people in our family are really quite allergic to any sort of cleaning products with fragrances.  I thought we might be able to get away with lavender essential oils in a fabric softener, but honestly, the fragrance problem seriously limits our shopping possibilities as it is.  At the moment I'm also trying to figure out what to do when we travel... because staying in a hotel inevitably means two little bunnies covered in hives from whatever cleaning products are used on the sheets (I suspect it's fabrics softener since that's what we all seem to be the most allergic too in store bought form).  Do I make them there own little sleeping bags to bring along?  I'm leaning towards that, although I doubt they'd stay inside of them!  But I digress.  Back to the cleaning product adventure:

On Wednesday I made a list using the recipes that I wanted to try and on Friday the whole family made the cross town trek to the store to search out the supplies.  While Paul and Mae Bae cruised the store in one cart (Mae Bae isn't a fan of stopping and staring at cleaning products for long periods of time), and I bribed Sadie with reminders that the little girl who was good in store would get two pennies to ride the Sandy horse twice when we were done (she wasn't fussing, she did very much want to prance and dance and twirl around each aisle, while I kept her from careening into other customers, so the promise that stillness= two horse rides was very, very helpful).  

I wasn't sure what many of the items I was looking for even looked like. I guess over the years I've just gone into the detergent aisle, grabbed the box or bottle that was familiar, put it in my cart and moved on.  Washing soda?  Would the store have that?  Liquid glycerin?  Was that really in every band-aid section as one blogger said.

After half an hour of searching I had a collection of inexpensive basic cleaning products.  Here are a few of them.  There were so many that the larger containers were put straight down in the laundry room (in our deep, dark, scary basement...).

I decided to begin with the laundry detergent recipe that I'd been waiting to try.  I actually didn't end up following it to the letter, because apparently my shopping list had been somewhat incomplete and I'd missed a few details.  

So I took ideas from two recipes (this one and this one) and adjusted a few amounts slightly.  Here's what I came up with:

Zote Soap- 3 bars
Washing Powder- 1 Box
Borax- 1 Box
Oxy Clean- 1 3lb tub
2 Cups Baking Soda

I began by grating the soap before putting it in the blender/food processor... Mostly because I've seen both our blender and food processor struggle with far less in it than a soap bar:

Five minutes in Sadie abandoned playing princess and came in to help.  She loved the lemony smell of the Zote soap that we were using and had to keep smelling everything as I grated it:

She was rather disappointed that she couldn't be the one to do the grating...

The overfilled blender was a mistake.  But truth be told, the blender did no better when it was basically empty... maybe because blenders that cost less than $20 generally aren't that awesome at what they do.  So after finally getting this section of the batch grated I washed it out and moved on the my food processor.

When grating the stuff in the blender and food processor I did add a couple scoops of the oxy clean to make the mix easier on the machine.  The food processor had no trouble grating everything into a powder quickly.  Here's what it looked like going in:

And after it had been grated:

Next I put on my elbow length rubber gloves, mixed in all the other ingredients, and muscled through mixing it.  Mixing it was the hardest work, since my giant stock pot was probably a little two small for the job.  Finally, however, it was done and I sorted the batch into separate containers:

After the detergent was finished I figured I would continue to take advantage of Mae Bae's super long nap by trying a couple other recipes.  I used the lavender fabric softener recipe that I found here (that's what's in the clear jar) and the fabric spot treater recipe I found here (that's what are in the three blue containers, which I used after reading in the comment section that spray bottles had a tendency to get clogged):

I'm pretty excited to try these out and see how they work for our family.

And I'm excited to try the other recipes that I have pinned for various other cleaning products.  I think I should be able to finish up making them in the next few days, so that I'm stocked up by the time the baby arrives...

Then I'll move on to my freezer cooking plans.

Oh yes, the nesting phase has begun...


  1. Yes! I did a simplified one, but I am amazed by how easy it was to mix up. How is it that I have been paying SO MUCH MONEY for laundry detergent when I could just make my own?

    I find this is a revelation! Can't wait to read about how you're stalking up your freezer - I'll take notes!

  2. I have a friend that takes her own bedding with her everywhere, not just hotels, due to the hives issue.

  3. Could you try plain cotton sleeping bags for the girls, like cotton envelopes they could sleep in the hotel bed inside?

  4. I've been using a homemade laundry soap for two months. I love it! And because I can get ingredients at the commissary it means we save even more money.. I think we are down to $.04 a load!

    For fabric softener I'm using just white vinegar with essential oils it seems to do the trick.

  5. Just wondering how this has been working for your family so far? Also, do you know what kind of water you have (soft v. hard)? We have hard water and I am just curious if you know how this would do in hard water.


  6. Hi Natalie-

    So far the recipe is working really well for us (and I love the smell which I think is from the zote soap). No one's showing signs of irritation, which was a big concern of mine since both our girls have really sensitive skin.

    But we don't have any signs of hard water... so I'm not sure if there would be a difference.

    I do know that it doesn't take very much detergent at all (we're trying out one tablespoon per load now) and it really whitens clothes. We had sheets that were looking grimy after years of washing and they look whiter than they have in years!


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