I am not super frugal, but I do like reading about all of the interesting things people do to save money. To me it all boils down to prioritizing the things in your life that you truly enjoy. For some the appeal of increasing their savings rate trumps everything else. For me, I still leave room for some things that cost money.
That being said, I have read a few times about people making their own laundry soap. It seems pretty easy, so why not give it a shot right? I found a fairly simple homemade laundry detergent recipe online and decided to go with it. Warning: if you are trying to save money avoid using Amazon for this stuff, it is way overpriced. Even Target was twice as much as Wal-Mart for the baking soda.
I am not sure what prompted me to do it, but with 2 kids and grandma at home, we do a lot more laundry than in the past. Even buying it on sale at Costco seems to cost $12-$15 a month. I think it was really an experiment to see if it would be cheaper and still get good results. Betting $20 for a chance to save $60 or so doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me.
Buying the Ingredients for Homemade Laundry Soap
I ended up buying some of it at Target and then went to Wal-Mart because Target did not have all of the items like washing soda and Fels Naptha soap. Wal-Mart had all of the items right next to each other on the laundry soap aisle! For example, Target only had 2 pound boxes of Baking Soda at a cost of $1.90 each. Wal-Mart had a 4 pound box for $2.24! Needless to say I took back the Target baking soda on my next trip there.
Here was my total spent for each ingredient (I added in 8.25% tax where applicable):
I next went and bought a $5 bucket at Home Depot (on the way home for me). I could have used any container, but I wanted to make sure I could have something sturdy and secure to prevent our two small boys from dumping it all out.
It is worth point out that the bucket was obviously a one-time startup cost and won’t be purchased again. Also, the Oxy Clean drove up the cash price, but I could use it for 4 more batches or other uses, so my first batch looks more expensive when you look at just the receipts. I only allocated the cost of what was actually used for Oxy Clean even though it was a much larger size.
Making the Soap- Not so bad!
Once I had everything together it was just a matter of grating the soap and combing the rest of the ingredients. For the baking soda, washing soda, borax, and scent crystals the entire package would be used, so no measuring was necessary. For the Oxy Clean, I only needed 1.33 lbs, but the box I got on sale was 7 lbs. At least Oxy Clean has other uses around the house.
In reality, the hardest part was using a cheese grater to turn the Fels Naptha soap into what looked like an enormous amount of grated white cheddar! It took me close to 10 minutes per bar, so about 30 minutes total for the grating.
Mixing everything else together and making sure it was sufficiently mixed up took less than 10 minutes. I even had some help from my 18 month old. Too bad he ended up flicking a couple loads worth of soap onto the kitchen floor! That took another 5 minutes to clean up.
For the amount of savings this should generate, I would say the hourly rate was pretty good. If I had just bought the ingredients on a regular grocery run, it would have been even better. In the future these items will just be added to the grocery list.
Results and What I Learned
I think the results have been good so far. The clothes don’t come out with a strong lavender scent, but that fresh smell of laundry doesn’t really last anyway. We still use some softener anyway and that adds scent, too. I think laundry soap is really another example of convenience versus cost. People just assume it is difficult, but it was actually pretty easy. We have been using it for over a month and have not had any issues with our High Efficiency (HE) Washer or the detergent.
I think a bullet point list will better display my thoughts than a bunch of paragraphs:
- Use Wal-Mart to get the lowest prices
- Add a second batch of scent crystals. For another $3 it would not blow the budget
- Or you could not use scent crystals at all and make it even cheaper!
- Yes, you can use this in high efficiency washers. We have a very nice GE front-load that is HE and the soap works fine.
- Make sure to put the soap directly on the drum before loading clothes, that makes it dissolve better
- Finding a substitute for Oxy Clean would be nice. At least I have enough for quite some time now
I think I will count this experiment as a success. Savings $10 or so a month on laundry detergent doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I think it was worth it. It is a simple solution that took very little time and is 1 less thing we have to buy at the store each month. Also, I will be able to make it much more quickly and even cheaper the second time around. This batch should last us a couple of months, so that won’t be for a while!
Does anyone have any other easy ideas for me to try? I think the next one might be a household cleaner to replace the ones we buy.