This may be the best, most frugal green thing I have ever done....no kidding. I LOVE saving money with very little effort (is it any wonder our son wants a career that will pay him to sit around playing video games?)
This months pantry replacement item is ...Laundry Soap! And just so you know, we actually started using this about 2 months ago but I wanted to make sure it worked before passing along the info. It takes about an hour of your time and some containers; I bought a 3 gallon water jug to hold the finished product....along with an empty fruit juice bottle for the day-to-day use.
Here are the 3 ingredients...unless you count water. For a more detailed picotrial see what Lacy has going at Razor family farms (which is where I found this little gem).
I bar Fels-Napa soap...........................$1.07/bar
3/4 cup Borax.......................................$3.00/box
3/4cup natural wahing soda................$2.48/box
All three I found at WinCo for a total spent of $6.55, which turns out to be less than 70cents per GALLON of homemade soap (!!!). I also went ahead and picked up 5 more bars of the soap as obviously the boxes of borax and soda will last for a few recipes. We have a front-loader washing machine and have to use HE detergent, but this will substitute for HE detergent. For regular machines, and general info, the Simple dollar blog has a good cost comparison and does a test against Tide for cleaning effectiveness (his recipe has slightly different ratios but the same ingredients). I will say that I fully expected to give up some cleaning ability at this price, but so far that has not been an issue.
Grate soap in food processer or by hand (see previous comment on my attraction to very little effort). Melt in large pan with 2 cups water, gradually adding 4 more cups stirring pretty much constantly. I use a wisk to get it smoother.
Measure and mix together the washing soda and Borax....add to melted soap mixture. Stir until dissolved, remove from heat.
Add one quart hot water to the bottom of large container, I used a five gallon bucket. Pour in soapy mixture and add another gallon tap water. Stir. This is where you can either stop and let cool or thin to get less concentrated. Since the useage at this point is 1/4 cup per load, I usually add more water so that the final product is used at a rate of 1/2 cup per load (my kids just naturally add more to the machine, so this works for us). If you decide to dilute it, just add efuf to double the final product....I stuck a ruler down into the soap and added that much more (something like eight inches) water. Stir and let cool.
After cooling, stir again (it will get thicker as it cools and seperate) and pour into containers. The soap doesn't suds up like regular detergent does and needs to be shaken every time you use it, but well worth the little extra trouble for all the money you'll save :)
For more info on HE machines see the accompanying article here. And check out some other recipes for stain removal etc. on Down to Earth.
EDITED INFO - - - - We live in an area with hard water and have found that adding 1/4cup salt to the recipe helped counteract the minerals in the water. Also, when I refill the smaller containers I add 1/4 baking soda each time.
If I have a load that is particularly dirty, I add 1/4cup hydrogen peroxide in with the detergent (per load).
And lastly (it seemed simple at first, what can I say....it's still cheaper than TIDE :) we use vinegar as a rinsing agent - goes in wherever you put the fabric softener.