Homemade laundry detergent and more

Doing laundry is one of those tasks: everyone has to do it, when it’s done you feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction, when it becomes Mt. Washmore, you feel a tremendous sense of dread and pressure.  As FLYlady (my good friend and email mentor) likes to say: Nothing says I love you like a drawer full of clean underwear!

Laundry is also one of those tasks that takes a lot of energy; mental physical and electrical (or gas, depending on how your dryer is powered). Is there any way to make laundry less of a chore and to use less energy in the process? Here are a few ideas:

1. Use homemade detergent.  Here is a very nice recipe:

A Simple Homemade Detergent Mix  ( Inexpensive and EASY to make + free of harmful chemicals)

*16 cups baking soda

*12 cups washing soda

*8 cups grated castile (or Fels Naptha) soap

*Oxygen Bleach (optional)

*3 tablespoons lavender, lemon or grapefruit essential oil (optional)

Combine baking soda, washing soda and soap flakes. If using, add essential oil and mix with a wire whisk. Mix in large bowl and then a blender to finely mix. Use 1/8 cup per load. If you have hard water you might need more product than if you have soft water. Through trial and error you will find the right amount that offers you the cleanest clothes.


  • Fels Naptha Soap – 97¢ at Walmart
  • 76 oz. box of Borax  – $3.38 at Walmart
  • 55 oz box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda – $3.24 at Walmart
  • 16 oz. container of oxygen bleach  – $1.00 at Dollar Tree
Yield: This recipe makes enough powder to last a typical family of four for one year. (This recipe comes from MissusSmartyPants.com; a great service! She sends out a weekly newsletter with fashion tips and advice, including this as part of her series on how to take care of your clothing. It’s pretty much awesome!)
Note: I have several bottles of 7th Generation detergent I am using up, then I plan to cut this recipe in half and make it for my family. If you can’t/don’t want to make your own detergent, then consider upgrading to a better more natural formula (without phosphates, dyes or fragrances). Charlie’s soap is a good alternative.  Skip the fabric softener!
2. Use cold water and the smallest load possible. Hot water and lots of water are two big energy drains. Using cold for as much as possible is better for your clothes and better for the environment.

An umbrella clothes dryer.

3. Consider not using your dryer.   This of course is highly dependent on space and the weather, but a little goes a long way if you are willing to experiment.  You can string a clothesline in your backyard or across your porch, you can set up drying racks on your deck, or hang clothes directly on a fence/deck railing.  You can hang clothes in your wash room, in your bathroom or set up the drying racks in any room of your house. You can even lay linens directly on the grass!  I live in the northeast where cold weather and snow make up much of the year for us, so I try and take advantage of the warm months as much as possible.  Every little bit helps.

4. Upgrade to high efficiency models of washer & dryer, when/if  you are able. These models use less energy and less water. Or better yet, figure out a way to share your laundry facilities. I’d love to hear your creative ideas about how to do this; it’s easier for those living in community or those who live in a duplex or triple decker. How can a single family in a single family home be careful and creative in it’s laundry usage?

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