We often hear about homemade laundry detergent and how much money it can save you, but this is a really interesting perspective on how it might not actually save you money like you think!
Psst! Interested in other homemade cleaners? Check out this list of homemade cleaners that might save you money!
Guest post from Ali:
I used to love homemade detergent. I thought it was amazing! It was easy, quick, and cheap to make. It worked well on stains.
But it was a waste. Homemade laundry detergent cost me much more than I saved.
About 6 months after I started making my homemade laundry detergent, all of our clothes started to stink and fall apart. And I ended up having to completely replace our wardrobe.
What I didn’t know at that point was that the bars of soap you grate to be the main cleaning agent, do not easily wash out in a washing machine.
Why Homemade Laundry Soap Doesn’t Work
The following is a very simple explanation.
Soap and detergent are similar molecules, but key differences make soap appropriate for nonporous surfaces (like counters) and detergent appropriate for porous surfaces (like clothes).
This is because detergent needs much less water than soap to wash out. And washing machines just don’t use enough water to properly wash soap out of clothes.
When soap (that builds up in your clothes) binds to magnesium or calcium, it makes soap scum.
Soap scum is insoluble and builds up, causing the clothes that you want to be absorbent (like towels and cloth diapers) lose their absorbency.
It will also cause your clothes to stink and deteriorate. Just like what happened to me!
So Why Not Use Extra Rinses?
Soap degrades fats like oil and lubricants — the same oil and lubricants your washer needs to operate properly.
With each wash, you are slowly ruining your washer. Using homemade laundry detergents will void your warranty, too.
Eventually, you will have to replace your washer.
You may have to replace your entire wardrobe like me.
What about Washing Soda and Borax?
I highly recommend keeping these around for laundry. They don’t harm the laundry or your machine.
These are NOT cleaning agents, though. These are chemicals that soften your water.
Most waters have dissolved minerals like calcium and iron present in them. Store-bought detergents will bind to these minerals, making them less effective at cleaning our clothes.
So if you have hard water, use a store-bought detergent and add ½ to 1 cup of a water softener.
How do you know if you have hard water?
Red stains in the bathtub mean that you have iron. Calcium will block small pipes over long periods.
Wellwater or untreated water tends to be hard while treated water tends to be softer.
The only way to know for sure is to get it tested.
Take a small sample from INSIDE your washer, if possible, and use a hardness test kit found in the aquarium aisle of most pet stores. It is easy and takes only a few minutes.
Some pet stores will do it for free if you bring it in. You may also be able to find the kits at hardware and pool stores.
How to Save Money on Laundry Detergent
- Use coupons to get best the deal on detergent. Coupons are always a good way to save money if you have the time! Collect some detergent coupons, stack it on a sale, and you can get a great deal. Buy several bottles and stock up!
- Buying in bulk is always a great idea! Consider Amazon Subscribe & Save or Target Subscribe to Save. Beware of buying from places like Craigslist or Facebook Market Place. Counterfeit detergent is a thing.
- Water softeners like mentioned above can make your detergent more powerful if you have dissolved minerals in your water.
- Buy cheaper detergents and use more than recommended (depending on the soil level of the load) with an extra rinse.
- Let the load soak. The additional time for the chemical to bind will allow more reactions to take place.
Ditch Your Dryer
If you can, line dry your clothes. This will reduce your energy significantly and save you money on your electric bill.
Bonus Tip: Strip Your Clothes
If you have been using homemade laundry detergent or want to check the efficacy of your laundry routine, strip your clothes.
This is a simple process that will pull all the grime out of the fabric.
How to Strip Clothes
- Fill your bathtub ⅔ full of HOT water.
- Add 2 cups strong detergent
- 1 cup of water softener
- Add clothes. They should be able to move around freely so don’t overload it.
- Let sit 4-5 hours. If your clothes have build-up, the water will turn dark.
- Wash your clothes in the washing machine with NO extra detergent.
Stripping will remove any build-up and make your clothes feel like new!
Have you ever tried making your own homemade laundry detergent? Did you like it?
Ali is a homeschool mom of 5. She is passionate about building wealth, teaching others to build wealth, revolutionizing education, and teaching the next generation of leaders.