Aug. 19, 2013 at 5:45 PM ET
Laundry detergent is notoriously expensive—and we use a ton of the stuff. Save money and trips to the store (and go easier on the environment to boot!) with these simple tips for how to make homemade laundry detergent. Hint: Most versions really require only three basic, readily available ingredients: bar soap, borax, and washing soda.
To make a homemade powdered laundry detergent, mix one bar of shaved bar soap (like Ivory or Dr. Bronner's), one cup borax, and one cup of washing soda (which is kind of like baking soda, but with a basic pH—use gloves when handling it). Stir all three ingredients together for five minutes—et voila! Use about one tablespoon per load, or more for heavily soiled loads. Check out DIY Natural for this recipe
For homemade liquid laundry detergent, use two cups bar soap, two cups washing soda, and two cups borax, according to the Make: recipe. Boil one quart of water and add the soap until it melts. Pour into a large container and add the borax and washing soda plus two gallons of water. For a customized result, add any essential oil you like to fragrance your batch.
The Family Homestead shares a couple of notes so you know what to expect: Don't expect your finished liquid soap to be a solid gel. Rather, it will be more watery with what it calls an "egg noodle soup" look. Also, don't expect your homemade laundry detergent to produce heavy suds—but know that it's still working!
Not sure whether to start out with powdered or liquid detergent? TLC notes that liquid can be more versatile, because you can fragrance it with oils, but powder is easier to make, since it doesn't require the stove. So we say first-timers might want to try try powder to start.
Have a high-efficiency (or "HE") washer? You're golden. This DIY detergent is a good match for your machine because it's naturally low sudsing, which is just the thing your washer requires. "Because they use less water, they require soap that is less sudsy," according to DIY Natural. "The good news is, this homemade detergent is very low suds. The 'special' HE detergent is just another advertising mechanism to push consumers to buy 'special soap' for unnecessarily high prices. Regardless of your washer type, just make your own in confidence."
Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of home and travel blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.