I thoroughly researched how to do this. Was it better for liquid or dry? What soap base should I use? Was it really safe for HE machines?
I read blog after blog. I read hundreds of comments, which mostly contained peoples' problems with the finished product. I learned a lot from all of this. And I am going to share it here. Hopefully this will be helpful, and if you are researching this yourself, find that this will be your final stop!
The following was adapted by this blog post, which I found to be the most straight forward of them all.
-At least a 1 gallon plastic or glass jug with a wide top/cover. My container was a 1.5 gallon plastic Rubbermaid food storage container (made for cereal). It made it super easy to pour with a top that came off completely, and if you wanted to keep the top on, the flip lid was wide enough to sit a funnel and pour that way.
-1 bar of soap. I preferred, after all the research, a traditional laundry bar soap (Fels-Naptha). Plus the smell was perfect for a laundry soap. The reason I went with the Fels-Naptha was because it is real soap (the "soap" you buy for the shower is actually a detergent. Take a look at the packaging...they often label them as "beauty bars" because they are not chemically real soap, and FDA labeling prohibits them to be labeled as such.). When people were using brands like Dove or Lever they were having a sudsing problem. Others didn't, but I stuck with real laundry soap.
-Arm & Hammer's Washing Soda. Not baking soda. There is a difference. This can be found in most large supermarkets, but I've also seen it in Walmart and Home Depot.
-Borax. You know, the 20 Mule Team stuff. I also have an awesome ant bait recipe using Borax. It's my new favorite household item!!
-A pot to piss in. No, just kidding. A pot to heat this on the stove, and mixing spoon. Some of the blogs said to use separate pots and utensils than what you eat with, but when you think about it, it is just soap. So clean it twice. I did, however, get a large stock pot at Goodwill for this, but in hindsight, I could use a plain old cooking pot I already owned.
-Cheese grater. To grate your bar of soap.
-About 20 minutes of time.
Here is what I did:
-Grate the soap into the pot.
But be careful. I obviously have no grating skills, because I also grated a bit of my thumb.
Add 6 cups of water into pot with grated soap, and heat. Stir it every so often, and once the soap is melted add 1/2 cup of the Borax and 1/2 cup of the washing soda. MIX WELL. Take off heat.
This mixture will form a liquidy goop. Pour it carefully into your container. Add a gallon of hot water. Mix it super well.
And that's it.
Yup, pretty anti-climactic, wasn't it?
I was not surprised when I checked on my soap the next morning that it was a Jello like consistency. This is totally normal. The more water you add, the less gelatin like it will get, but you end up using more per load. I prefer a concentrated version as it's easier to store, and I only use about a 1/4 cup per large load.
And here is the obligatory final pic...all ready to be stored and used.
Now you are wondering, so how did it clean? Did you like it? Was it really safe for your HE machine?
Yes, yes, and yes!
I did a medium size load of towels and a bath mat that was VERY dirty, and it came out perfect. I still need to test it out on my husband's work clothes (he's a tradesman, crawling around in all sorts of dirty situations) but I suspect that it will be just fine.
As far as the HE machine "issue", just toss the soap into the drum of the machine, just the same as you would with one of those laundry detergent packs/pods. ALSO, keep in mind that there are no suds with this mixture. Even my commercial HE detergents suds a little, but it seriously is in there to satisfy our need to see suds to feel like the stuff is cleaning. Just say it to yourself if you find that you are doubting it's cleaning ability: "Suds do no equate clean". Say it 61 times if you need to.
I estimated that each 1.5 gallons made costs around $2.00. I am keeping track how many loads of laundry I get out of this batch to calculate cost per load. But I can tell you right now, it's much better than what the commercial cost is. Currently, at $20 per commercial detergent container with an advertised "96 loads", that is about 20cents per load. And I would imagine that I do not get 96 loads out of it.
So what is your experiences with this stuff? Like it? Do you do something different?