MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you have kids, you know how much the laundry can pile up.

And how much detergent can cost.

Name brand liquids can cost more than $20 per gallon.

That’s why some people — including my soon-to-be mother-in-law — are turning to homemade detergent.

She showed me how to make it, and when we added up the cost, even she was surprised by how much she’s saving.

Money down the drain

Like most moms, Melissa Dahl knows a lot about laundry.

“You know you miss a day or two, and it’s just crazy,” she said.

With a family of four, it’s basically a full-time job.

“Anywhere you look there’s laundry, and I don’t know where it comes from,” Dahl said. “It just grows.”

She lugs down at least seven loads of laundry a week.

And she uses two Tide detergent pods per load.

“I don’t know if you’re supposed to, but I always feel like it gets it a little extra clean,” Dahl said.

So the price adds up.

At about 25 cents per pod, that’s $3.50 a week – or $14 a month, going down the drain.

But there is another way

Meet Mama Haas, my soon-to-be mother-in-law.

She’s my go-to gal for saving money, and she’s been making her own detergent for more than a year.

Her ingredients are: Borax (a common household commercial chemical), washing soda and a Fels-Naptha laundry bar.

She starts by breaking down the laundry bar, with a cheese grater.

Then she adds the gratings to 6 quarts of water, warmed on the stove at a low heat.

“Don’t boil it,” Haas says. “Just leave it it on low, stir it and make sure it all gets dissolved.”

Next up: Add two cups of Borax and two cups of washing soda to the warm water. Then stir the pot.

Then pour the mixture into a five-gallon bucket that already has a gallon of hot water in it. Stir some more, then fill it to the top with cold water.

Now, you’ve got five gallons of homemade detergent.

But Haas adds one more ingredient.

“I like to put a little bit of my favorite store-bought laundry soap,” she said, “and I put a few cups of that in, to give it a little scent and give it some color.”

She also uses old detergent bottles to store the stuff.

“It probably costs me a dollar a jug,” she said. “A dollar, a jug.”

Actually it’s even cheaper than that

We ran the numbers, and her five-gallon batch actually costs $2.75 to make.

So that’s only 55 cents per gallon.

Below is the recipe for homemade detergent:

Ingredients: Borax, washing soda and Fels-Naptha laundry bar


1) Break down laundry bar with cheese grater
2) Add to 6 quarts of water
3) Warm on stove at low heat
4) Stir until soap melts
5) Add 2 cups of Borax
6) Add 2 cups washing soda
7) Stir
8) Pour 1 gallon of hot water into 5-gallon bucket
9) Add mixture to bucket
10) Stir and fill bucket to top with cold water

Note: Homemade detergent can be used in high-efficiency washers, because it doesn’t have any sudsing agents in the ingredients.

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