HAPPY HAUSFRAU: Detergent Solutions

Happy Hausfrau that I am, I’m always looking for ways to cut corners with my budget.  One of my pet peeves is spending loads of cash on things that are literally gonna go down the drain – namely soap, detergents, and household cleaners.  One of my go-to solutions for this is using grapefruit and salt to replace my ordinary countertop and bathtub cleaners.  Today we’re gonna take a look at ways to revamp our use of laundry and dishwasher detergents.

Before we get started, though, let’s look at some simple math.  Numbers sometimes have a magical way of motivating us.

According to Soap.com, a bottle of Tide 2X Concentrated Liquid (64 loads) costs just shy of $17.  For our family of five, we average five loads of laundry every two days.  That comes out to about 913 loads of laundry a year.  That means I’m buying 15 (rounded up) bottles of Tide a year at a cost of $243.

Also according to Soap.com, a box of Cascade ActionPacs (60 count) costs about $16.  For our family of five, we average about 9 loads of dishes every week.  That comes out to 468 loads a year.  That means I’m buying about 8 boxes of detergent a year at a cost of $125.

Every year I’m spending around $370 on soap.  A product that is literally going to wash down the drain.  Blarg.  But here’s the thing – it’s so much easier to do better!

I’m talking about making your own.  The time investment is minimal.  The cash investment is minimal.  And the results are great!

I got the recipes for both these detergents from this website.  Here is the direct link to the dishwasher detergent recipe.  Here is the direct link to the laundry detergent recipe.  The writer of this blog does such a great job of laying out how to make the soap, I’m not going to bother with a repeat.  I’m just going to tell you about my experience, and tantalize you with numbers.  If you decide it’s something you want to try, follow those links!

Dishwasher detergent and Lemi-Shine peacefully co-habitating under the sink.

Dishwasher Detergent

This one takes me less than five mintes to make, and costs around $13.  The LemiShine (a rinsing agent that’s added separately) costs around $4.

We use 1 Tablespoon of detergent per load (plus 1 Tablespoon of LemiShine).  One batch of dishwasher detergent will last our family about six months (approximately; it should last longer); one container of LemiShine lasts about three.

That brings my total yearly cost down to $34.  A difference (from the Cascade) of $91.  In Happy Hausfrau terms, that’s three pedicures.  In Hubster terms, that’s four vinyl albums.  In 7 and 9 year old terms, that’s a boat-load of Legos, and in 3 year old SweetZ terms…well, that’s a lot of TinkerBell Lip Gloss.

Ingredients for laundry detergent.

Laundry Detergent

This one takes me about twenty minutes to make (mostly because I’m grating the Fels-Naptha by hand), and costs about $17.

We use 1 Tablespoon of detergent per load (it’s super concentrated!).  One batch will generally last us about six months (again, this approximate – it should last longer, barring any epic bouts of the flu that have us washing bedding fifteen times a week).

That brings my total yearly cost down to $34 – a difference (from Tide) of $209.  Seven pedicures.  Or ten albums.  Or an obscene amount of Legos.  Or enough lip gloss to fill a bathtub.

So, whaddya think?  Gonna give making your own detergents a try?  Or are you shaking your head at my tight-wadded-über-nerdiness?  Well, let me give you a little more to laugh at.

When I first decided to do this, I knew I was going to need to keep a measuring spoon in each container.  While I can eye-ball what a Tablespoon looks like pretty well, my boys (who are thrilled that their chores involve helping with laundry and the dishes.  Ahem.  *sarcasm*) would almost always be guaranteed to go overboard.  But the idea of buying two sets of measuring spoons just to use one Tablespoon of each made me itchy.  Itchy in a surely-I’ve-already-got-something-that-will-work sort of way.

And I did.

Each = One TablespoonLet me introduce you to the juice container lid.  Apple juice, pear juice, orange juice, prune juice, whatever.  It is almost a perfect Tablespoon.  Who knew?

The Happy Hausfrau did.

Go ahead.  Giggle at my expense.  I’m too busy picking out a color for my next manicure to hear you.  I think I-Clawed-My-Way-Into-His-Heart-And-He-Has-The-Scars-To-Prove-It-Red will contrast nicely with my alabaster skin.

Dear friendlies, whether you buy your detergents, make your own, or wander around the planet wearing stinky clothes and eating off paper plates, this Hausfrau wishes you the happiest of days!


40 thoughts on “HAPPY HAUSFRAU: Detergent Solutions

  1. gingercalem says:

    100% love this post. Tell me about the laundry detergent in terms of scent. I haven’t looked at the ingredient list closer or instructions but what does it smell like? More importantly, what do your clothes, towels and pinafore aprons smell like? Cuz, I love me some mountain spring. *wink*

  2. Emma Burcart says:

    That is such a cool idea! I don’t actually clean, though, so I buy whatever the cleaning lady requests. I feel like it’s worth the money because it’s saving me time. Plus, I’m supporting a small business woman, which makes me feel good. But, it would be so fun to throw homemade detergent into conversation. People would think I’m a crafty genious! And if I know the recipe I can sound like I’ve actually made and used it. Saving this for the next pot-luck full of environmentalists. Thanks, Myndi!

  3. August McLaughlin says:

    Woah. $370 on soap?! We can all learn and save via your tips, Myndi. Making our own detergent probably also makes carrying groceries a heck of a lot easier.

    Hmm… I’ve covered mindful eating and mindful driving. Sounds like you’ve mastered mindful cleaning!

  4. EllieAnn says:

    I also make my own laundry soap *high five* (though I haven’t made my own dish soap). I love the smell, the fact that it’s natural . . . I don’t like the time I have to spend grating it.
    Great post!

  5. Kristy K. James...Living, Loving, Laughing says:

    I think I could handle grating soap twice a year to save that kind of money, lol. I’ve read about it before…on the site of the family that has a million kids (okay, maybe they have 19 or 20). She also has a ‘recipe’ for fabric softener, if I remember correctly.. I think she uses organic aroma therapy stuff to add a scent to her laundry soap. Personally, I could handle no scent. The detergent aisle is only second to the pet food aisle as far as making me wish I could hold my breath longer.

    Thanks for reminding me about this, Myndi. I already buy Borax and BIG boxes of baking soda to add to every wash load. Looks like a couple more ingredients and I can stop buying the detergent altogether. 🙂

      • Kristy K. James...Living, Loving, Laughing says:

        Had to check to make sure, but I thought I remembered that white vinegar worked as a fabric softener. The Thrifty Fun website says…

        “Making your own fabric softener is so simple, just take a one gallon jug of white vinegar and add your own preference of essential oils. I add 40 drops of the oils to the vinegar and shake back and forth to mix up. During the washer’s rinse cycle, add 1/4 cup and it will leave your wash smelling so nice and fresh. It lasts longer than traditional fabric softeners.”

        You wouldn’t even need to add the oils. But it’s another option. I’m curious about the felted wool dryer balls. 🙂

  6. Coleen Patrick says:

    I’ve made my own window cleaner using vinegar and such and a peppermint spray when the ants come marching in, but never thought about detergent. Very cool!

  7. Gloria Richard Author says:

    Okay, HAPPY HAUSFRAU Myndi, not promising, but I’ll THINK about giving these a try as soon as our family of two runs through the COSTCO gross (in all terms of the word) products.

    Need natural help with another matter. We have a disposal in the center island in our kitchen that doesn’t get much use and sometimes smells “musty”. I read a recipe somewhere for something that bubbles up and refreshes disposals. I know it had Baking Soda. I think it had Hydrogen Peroxide (ew! that doesn’t sound very “green,” does it?) Lemon peels work for a while. Any solutions for me?

    • gingercalem says:

      Butting in in case Happy Hausfrau is eating bonbons with her feet up. I’m pretty sure the liquid for the bubbling thingy is vinegar.

    • Myndi Shafer...one stray sock away from insanity. says:

      Here’s the 411 for your drain cleaner: (Ginger totally guessed right, by the way!!)

      Put 1 Cup of Baking Soda down the disposal first
      Follow with 1 Cup of white vinegar
      Let it foam for five minutes
      Pour one gallon (roughly the size of a stockpot) down the drain after the five minutes have passed.

      Voila! Sparkly, non-smelly new drain/disposer.

      I love, love, love a clean, shiny sink!

  8. Marcy Kennedy says:

    This is awesome. I have two questions since I would really, really like to save $200/year right now. First, do you know if the laundry detergent works in a high efficiency machine (you know the kind that says you can ONLY use HE detergent or the world will end)? Second, do any folks in your household have sensitive skin? I have to buy the hypoallergenic version of everything (even more expensive) because my skin hates whatever is in the normal stuff.

    • Myndi Shafer...one stray sock away from insanity. says:

      Marcy – according to the blog I took this recipe from, it’s totally safe to use in HE washers, as long as you add the detergent to the barrel instead of the dispenser. She also says it’s safe for sensitive skin, which makes sense, since most of the ingredients are pretty natural. If you’re worried about it, you can easily eliminate the OxyClean (the most chemically thing in there), and just wash on a warmer setting. Since I’ve got rug-rats who don’t know how to wear clothes without staining them, I kept it in. 🙂

      I will tell you that after grating the Fels-Naptha, my fingers were a little raw (but I kinda figure that’s what an excessive amount of soap will do to anyone; three bars is a lot! Just be sure to wear gloves for that step).

  9. Sheila Seabrook says:

    Thank goodness families grow up and the detergent requirements lessen. We do about 6 loads of laundry a week and run our dishwasher 3 times. But still, that’s an awesome savings, Myndi, and no matter how much a person uses, this is well worth the time and effort.

    Thanks for the great tips!

  10. Kara says:

    As always awesome post! I’ve had several friends tell me that they make thier own detergent and have had sucess, now after reading your post I’m going to have to try it. Plus, it sounds like a good homeschool project- math and science involved- yoo hoo, now that gets me really excited:)

  11. Angela Orlowski-Peart says:

    The numbers make so much sense, Myndi. I need to read the ingredients and see if this would work for us since we use all natural stuff. My son’s skin is very sensitive. I would love to make my own soap and detergent and know what goes into it! Great idea. Okay, I’m off to check on the recipes.

  12. Karen McFarland says:

    Well I applaud you Myndi for writing this post!

    But my appreciation goes way beyond the cost. It has to do with your health.

    You see, millions of people every day are becoming sick due to fragrances, including soaps. Why? Because of chemicals. Because the fragrance industry is not restricted by any government on the face of this earth and are allowed to use dangerous chemicals to form their scents. How do I know? Because I am allergic to fragrances. And soaps are just a fraction of the problem.

    So whether you knew it or not, you are doing your family, yourself and your brand new baby a huge favor by making your own soaps. You’ll be healthier! 🙂

  13. Tameri Etherton says:

    I’m all about the mani/pedis, so I am definitely going to try this out. I already love the grapefruit and salt trick.

    Here’s a little something I do in my laundry – I use vinegar as the softener. It works wonders on the clothes and is waaaaay less expensive than, say Downy. I bottle is about $5 and lasts about a year, but I do a third of the laundry as you. Yikes, what’s with 15 loads a week? That gives me a twitch in my left eye. You poor dear!

    • Myndi Shafer...one stray sock away from insanity. says:

      LOL! A family of five, with 9 and 7 year old boys and a princess tomboy 3 year old…we go through clothes, bedding, and towels like nobody’s business. Don’t even get me started on the dog’s blankets. I was almost ashamed to admit that number, but I figured I couldn’t possibly be the only person who goes through that much laundry in a week, so I figured, what the heck. 🙂 🙂

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