She does what to save money?!

Regardless of what you think of the economy – whether we are still in a recession or are making our way out of it – either way it is still a smart move to save money where you can.

Saving money is important for my family but, and I know I risk sounding like a complete nerd here, I have so much fun finding ways to save money.  It has become a game for me and I get such a thrill when I come home from the store and say “Hey!  Guess how much I saved with coupons on this trip?”

Of all of my money-saving attempts over the years, my favorite has to be the change we’ve made in laundry room.  Yes, I know it may sound crazy, but I make my own laundry detergent. 

It all started a couple of years ago when my husband was laid off and out of work for 3 months.  We did a lot of hoping and praying during that time but we also did just as much scrimping and saving.

I began to evaluate every dollar we were spending.  I knew that laundry detergent was very expensive but what could I do about that?  We had to wash our clothes.  Then I saw a television show where they talked about making your own laundry detergent. 

So, I sat down and took a look at the numbers.  We were spending $375 a year on laundry detergent and this was when buying with coupons and/or from BJ’s.  I thought, what have I got to lose, I’m going to give this a try.  So I found a recipe, whipped up my first batch of laundry detergent (which lasts us approx. 2-3 months for our family of 5) and haven’t looked back since. 

I highly recommend that everyone at least give it a try, so here is my recipe, along with a few tips I have learned along the way by trial and error. 

(All ingredients can be found at the Giant in Shrewsbury, some can be found at Wal-Mart in Shrewsbury or Cockeysville but they don’t always carry the soap.)


  • 1 bar of Fels Naptha soap, grated
  • 1 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda – not baking soda!
  • 1 cup of Borax
  • water
  • essential oil of your choice for scent, my favorite is lavender (optional)


  • sauce pan
  • 5 gallon bucket w/lid (make sure it is well cleaned!)
  • recycled, rinsed laundry containers
  • long-handled spoon
  • funnel


  • Fill your bucket with hot water (tap is fine) until it is 1/2 full and set to the side.
  • Bring 4 cups of water to boil in a sauce pan.
  • Add the grated Fels Naptha soap and stir continuously until the soap has completely dissolved.  This could take about 10 minutes, depending on how finely you grate the soap, but this is an important step.
  • When the soap has completely dissolved, pour the mixture into the bucket and stir.
  • Add Washing Soda and Borax; continue to stir until all ingredients have completely dissolved.
  • Place the lid on the bucket and press closed.  Set the bucket aside to cool and set for 24 hours.
  • After 24 hours, add your essential oil (if you choose) – approx. 30 drops for the entire bucket – you can use more or less depending on how strong you want the scent.
  • The detergent will gel so you will need to use your long-handled spoon to stir the mixture until it has broken up and begins to return to a liquid state (there will still be small clumps of gel).
  • Using the funnel (and a helper) pour the laundry detergent into the used, cleaned detergent containers until they are 3/4 full.
  • Fill the containers with water, close the caps and shake well.
  • You will need to shake before each use, then use as you would any other detergent.

Is homemade laundry detergent perfect?  No, there are definitely a few things I’ve learned along the way which I will share with you here.  But, I will tell you that there was a time when I attempted to return to regular laundry detergent and, after one washing, my husband requested that we go back to the homemade version.  That says a lot in my book!

Here are my tips & tricks for homemade laundry detergent:

  • Add the detergent to the washer and let dissolve for a minute or two before you add clothes.
  • Homemade laundry detergent isn’t great on stains so you will want to be sure to pre-treat those (especially on the kids clothes!).   This might not be a great detergent for anyone who works in an extremely dirty or greasy job (construction, mechanic, etc)
  • If you have things that need odor removal (ex. sheets from the kids bed after an accident), add extra borax to load and wash in hot water.
  • Whites do not get their whitest with this detergent so every couple of weeks I will bleach those.
  • For added savings…hang your laundry out to dry on nice days.  You’ll save money, energy and your clothes will have a nice, fresh scent to them.

Now, for the big news – how much are we actually saving by making our own detergent.  Drum roll please…

$340 a year! 

That’s right, it now only costs us about $35 a year for our laundry products and yes, that includes the extra borax, bleach and pre-treatment for stain removal.  Unbelievable, isn’t it!  I get excited just thinking about it!

So…if you decide to give it a try, let me know what you think. And, if you have any problems or questions along the way, feel free to e-mail me at  I’d be happy to help you!

Jennifer Kline

I have tried a variety of things over the years, some that work and some that I didn’t feel were worth the time and effort.  I hope that you will come back each Friday to learn my tips and tactics for hanging on to your hard-earned dollar.  I also hope that you will share some of your tips with me by sending them to


About The Zone Magazine

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One Response to She does what to save money?!

  1. Pingback: Frugal Friday – link-up and share | The Zone Magazine

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