First off - what you will need:
- A 5 gallon bucket (I scored a perfect heavy duty one at Lowe's for $2.34)
- Sauce pan
- Hot water
- Washing soda (Arm&Hammer is the only brand I know. You can buy it at Price Chopper for about $2.99 for a 3lb 7 oz box and don't confuse it with BAKING soda they are different animals)
- A bar of soap (I used Ivory but Pure n Natural or something without additives would be fine. FelsNaptha is a laundry bar soap but I find it's too strong to use exclusively)
- Borax (I bought mine at Target for about $2.99 for a 4 lb box)
- Measure 4 cups of water into your saucepan and start heating to just below boiling.
- Grate the bar of soap. I used a regular cheese grater for my first batch. I used the grater attachment for the KitchenAid for my second batch. Hands down winner (pardon the pun) was the machine. You could use a food processor too. I used a full bar of Ivory and about 1/4 cup of FelsNaptha.
- Add the soap shreds to the heated water and stir occasionally until melted. Try to keep the mix from boiling. You'll end up with slightly sudsy, cloudy water.
- Pour your hot soap mix into the 5 gallon bucket and add 3 gallons of hot water. I just used hot tap water.
- Add in 1 cup of washing soda and stir for about 2 minutes or so. I used a big wooden paint stick but you could use a wooden yard stick or a long spoon or whatever you've got.
- Add 1/2 cup of Borax (if using) and stir again for about 2 minutes or so.
- If you want to add some essential oil for a bit of pretty scent, put in about 10-15 drops and stir up one last time. I made a plain batch the first time and added about 15 drops of Body Shoppe Lavender oil my second go around. My soap result was very lightly scented so I think you'd have to add a LOT to make overly scented soap. In other words don't worry about it being stinky.
Third off - what you will have:
- That's it basically! Put the bucket somewhere safe so kids, pets, or other critters can't mess with it. I put mine in the basement laundry area and used a large lobster pot lid to cover it. Let it sit overnight.
- When your new soap is thoroughly cooled it will look like whitish Jell-o. Give it a really good stir to break it up into a more pourable form. I stirred my second batch much better than the first and could easily funnel it into empty plastic milk jugs. I've also used empty laundry soap jugs. It works the same lumpy or smooth.
- When you're ready to use it just dump about 1 cup into the washer as usual and wash away. If you have a high efficiency washer I expect you'd use less but the 'gimmick' of HE laundry detergents is that they are low sudsing. This DIY stuff is already low suds so it should work a-ok in any kind of machine.
I was able to do 35 full size loads with the first batch so at less than $9 for supplies which would make at least 6 batches I calculate about 4 cents per wash. You can do 18 loads of laundry a month for under $10 a year! Tide and other commercial soaps cost between 22 and 25 cents per load so we're talking 80% off or more. This really is simple and doesn't take much time, and who wouldn't make time for a 80% off sale?!
Enjoy! Feel free to comment or email any questions and I'll try to help.