articles / Frugal living

Home made dishwasher and laundry soap

When I first started trying to find ways to be as frugal as possible with my money, one of the first (and easiest) ways to cut back on expenses was to re-evaluate how much I spend on dishwasher and laundry soap.

There are some people I know that refuse to buy anything but Tide — that’s one thing they won’t settle on. For me, $17 for a 150 oz. container of laundry soap is something I can do without. A 150 oz. container of ALL laundry detergent is $10. There are other kinds that are more generic that I used to buy that are even cheaper than that.20130709-180717.jpg

Somewhere along the way most of us have decided that the more expensive stuff is better quality because it costs more. There are very few things that I will spend more for because I believe it’s better quality and laundry soap is not one of them. I don’t believe that Tide is any better than ALL or most any other soaps. Now there are the cheap cheap stuff that of course I wouldn’t use, but I certainly don’t have to use the expensive stuff. Same for dishwasher soap.

About two years ago I actually decided to start making my own laundry and dishwasher soap and I like it. Not only is there not as many chemicals, but there’s no scents (if you have sensitive skin) and it’s A LOT cheaper. What I love is the “recipe” for laundry and dishwasher soap is pretty close to the same so you can make it all at the same time.

For laundry soap, all I do is mix an equal amount of Borax (this is a chemical to keep AWAY from kids) and Washing Soda (not baking soda). I put this in a mason jar and use one or two tablespoons depending on the size of the load and the amount of dirt. If there are tough stains or extra smelly clothes, I add vinegar and/or baking soda. The vinegar not only acts as a fabric softener, but it also acts as a (color safe) bleach. Don’t worry your clothes will NOT smell like vinegar. Using baking soda is like adding Shout or other heavy duty stain remover. I’ve used this on my clothes on and off for two years (sometimes I buy detergent when I’m lazy) and I’ve not noticed my colors fading or my whites looking dingy. Borax and Washing Soda can be found in the laundry section at Walmart. The Borax and Washing Soda together cost less than $8 and you’ll get at least 3X as much laundry done with it as a 150 oz. container of Tide.

For the dishwasher soap you mix an equal amount of the Borax and Washing Soda (sound familiar?) and you also add a few tablespoons of citric acid (you can use lemonade packets that don’t have sugar). I actually keep lemon and lime juice on hand so I just squirt a little bit of that into the dishwasher compartment when I put the dry mix in. If you have some extra dirty dishes, add vinegar and/or baking soda. I normally add vinegar anyway because it also acts as a sanitizer (didn’t know vinegar had so many good uses huh?) With this dry mixture I only use a few teaspoons. If you use too much you might end up with a dust-like film on your dishes (even though they look clean), but of course if you don’t  use enough they won’t get clean — it all depends on how dirty your dishes get. I have put some really dirty pans in the dishwasher though and this recipe does clean it.

Cost-wise, I can buy a box of Borax and box of Washing Soda ($8) and wash my dishes and clothes for nearly six months. When I use store bought laundry detergent I buy it about once a month so for the $10 detergent that’s $60 for a six month period. Dishwasher soap is what, $4 a bottle for the decent grade stuff and you buy that once or twice a month? That’s at least $24. With this dish and laundry recipe I’m saving about $150 a year (these are all estimations of course depending on family size and how often you wash everything).

Some people still prefer to buy their old and faithful Tide, but just know there is a more frugal and easy option. Frugal doesn’t always have to mean difficult.

— Erica


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