**Update 5/31/12** Old recipe. Liquid loses power over time. See THIS post for new tutorial.
To make your own low-bubbling detergent for both high efficiency and traditional machines, you need four ingredients: Borax, Washing Soda, Soap, and Water
Borax and Washing soda can usually be found in the laundry aisle of any good grocery.
Pretty much any soap is suitable for laundry use, however, some soaps are so GOOD or so EXPENSIVE that it would silly to buy them for laundry. If you aren’t making your own lard or Crisco soap, or don’t have a bunch of old soap bits lying around, Ivory (25 cents a bar at Walmart for the 16 pack) is your best bet for versatility and price. Fels-naptha and Zote are also fine options. Zote may be as economical as Ivory or homemade since it comes in such a large bar, but I haven’t found it in my area.
Kirk’s Castille is JUST FINE for laundry, but at 1$ a bar, I would never buy it for that purpose. However, I did buy it to make shampoo, but because of the ADDED EVIL GLYCERIN, it makes my hair GREASY, so for our demonstration this afternoon, Kirks will be the LAUNDRY bar. (Grrrr.)
Powdered Laundry Soap:
2 cups finely grated soap (Ivory, Fels Naptha, Zote, homemade, or a combination)
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
Mix and store in a coffee can or what have you. Use 1-2 T per load.**
**NOTE: There is a great degree of debate about this laundry powder and others like it. Some find that the laundry comes out clean as a whistle using the usual 1-2T per load. Others find that their clothes come out smelly and dingy. Here is the MAGICAL solution. Because of water differences, soil differences, and washer sizes, it will take SOMEWHERE between 1TBSP and 1/2 cup of this detergent. (Mine is 6T for a super-size white load) BUT, once you find your magic amount, it will be the cleanest, whitest laundry you ever had.
Depending on WHY you are choosing to make your own, this may or may not discourage you from continuing to use it. If, for example, you are doing it to be better for the environment, more self-sufficient, reduce chemicals in the home, or because you hate shopping–it won’t affect you. However, if you are doing this solely for the purpose of being frugal, you may find that your perfect amount of powder exceeds the 5 cents a load that you can squeeze out of a wholesale club bulk buy.
Now, onto the liquid.
Liquid Laundry Soap– (*****EDIT 7/2012 This liquid version WILL lose power over time, so make smaller batches.*****)
2 cups finely grated soap
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
water and bucket (> 1 gallon)
1. If you tried the powder version and want to switch that batch to liquid, cook it all in the saucepan together over medium until the soap melts OR if your ingredients are still separate, melt the soap over medium in a few cups of water and add the rest right after you take it off the heat and stir to dissolve.
2. Pour in pail and add enough HOT water to equal one gallon. Stir well.
3. Let set up overnight.
4. Stir. It will be a soupy gel.
5. Use between 1/4c and 2 cups per load. (**See above note)
This stuff also works well as a pre-treater. I’ve found it especially effective with those phantom water drip looking circles that appear on my t-shirts. I’ve also used it to scrub the bathroom and in my dishwasher in a pinch.