Friday 7 January 2011

Saving on the Annual Costs of Laundry

Shop-bought laundry detergent is becoming a luxury item!

It may not seem much at the time, but laundry detergent is becoming somewhat of a luxury for many frugalers. Naturally, we were all very keen to get out of having to pay pounds at the supermarkets for glossy boxes of powder, tablets, capsules and plastic containers filled with chemically enhanced liquid. That was how we all discovered the marvelous 'LAUNDRY GLOOP'. It had been discussed often on the Moneysavingexpert website, so it had to be worth a try, adapting the 'recipe' to suit our water type.

I'm not sure if it's because of our soft water, here in Scotland, but I get almost 50% more out of one bar of soap than was originally recommended. Please keep this in mind if you decide to make your own, homemade laundry detergent. If it sets too thick, just reheat it slightly then dilute it or else dilute a tablespoonful at a time in some hot water as and when needed.

I made my first batch in 2009 after having used *soapnuts for the previous year or so.
I haven't bought any laundry detergent in a long time! It now amounts to a saving of around £1 per week for this household, an extra £50+ into the savings pot for other things - anything except spending it on laundry detergent.

  Frugal Laundry Detergent 

  • 1 Bar of soap, grated (or 8 tblsp soap flakes)
  • 1 cup of washing soda
  • 2 litres water
  • few drops of essential oil

I'm a little bit extravagant with my recipes, as I prefer to use Natural Extracts soap, which is already infused with tea tree and lavender. I keep a small stock of it - it's available from Sainsbury's at around 38p per bar - and it's also great for adding into gift baskets. Sheer luxury for the frugal living!

Boil the water in a big stock pot or similar, dissolve the soda crystals and soap in it, add the essential oil and then dilute to at least 5 litres. (I make mine up to 7 litres.) It takes a bit of time to fully dissolve the soap, but make sure it's all gone before you dilute, cool and decant the liquid. I store mine in 7 litre lidded buckets, after finding out it was too thick to pour from a 5 litre container. I use a ladel to fill a plastic laundry ball and then that goes in the machine.

As with all washing machines, you'll still need to give your machine a boil wash cycle every few months to ensure all the hoses stay clear of soap residue.

This homemade laundry cleaner works equally well as a hand wash for you ultra frugalites who live without the modern convenience of an automatic washing machine or a twin tub. I have used it often in my Ventus 'Twister' foot operated washer.
I make 2 lots of detergent at a time, one has a few drops of blue dye in it to help 'whiten' whites. I also now make it for another friend, who is always happy to return a favour by way of some freshly picked strawberries or the odd bunch of carrots.

Frugal Washing Up Liquid
Heaped tbsp grated soap or soap flakes (Natural, not heavily scented)
Heaped tbsp soda crystals
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 litres water
few drops essential oil (tea tree & lavender)

Exactly the same as for laundry gloop but please note that this will NOT lather up like ordinary washing up liquid. The mass produced liquid is chemically enhanced in the commercial product to make those soapy bubbles. Again, I tried this using 'Natural Soap with lavender & teatree'. One bar grates down to produce 8 heaped tablespoonsful of flakes and it saves on the expense of buying essential oils.

You can use ordinary white vinegar as a fabric softener without it leaving your laundry smelling like the local chippy.

I use the same quantities of the above as I would if using their shop-bought equivalents.

*Another moneysaving option is to use natural soapnuts instead of laundry detergent. These can also be used to make washing up liquid. See for more information and a FREE SAMPLE (just pay postage). I was very pleased with these, especially as £4 bought enough to last a full year for us. But even that's a bit expensive when comparing it to the homemade liquid. You can make a year's supply of that for around £2 if you stick to store's own basic soap, as the washing soda is under £1 per bag and is enough to make gallons of the stuff. I have to admit, though, I do get beguiled into buying washing up liquid when it's on special offer. I think I've been subliminally programmed to expect bubbles in my washing bowl.

Frugal hint - Always keep a good stock of soap, vinegar, lemon juice, washing soda and baking soda - with that little lot, you probably have enough to keep the whole house spick and span, all the washing kept up to date and the daily dishes done without the need to buy anything else. Away from the rural communities, I'm led to believe you can buy basic soap for less than 5p per bar! We don't get bargains like that in our local stores, that's for sure.


  1. fantastic , thanks for posting, am waiting until my soap powder runs otu then I will be making some of this

  2. Thank you for this..i have been wanting to make my own for sometime now....great tips thank you

  3. Update..we have made some and wow its smells gorgeous...we got 8 litres..its all stored nicely in old tubs...used it this morning on my washing and the clothes came out great and smelling lovely..once again thanks..

  4. It's a huge saving over the year, especially when you don't normally notice the price of such things as laundry detergent. I never gave it a thought until walking past a 'special offer - 2 packs for £10' of a well known brand and almost choked! I'd to backtrack to double check I had read the price correctly.

    I did miss the bubbles when washing up dinner dishes, though, so have still been spending on that, albeit the cheapest available. It was a sad loss the day the supermarkets withdrew the basic, non-branded, cheap varieties from their shelves.

    Perhaps I should persevere and give the homemade washing up liquid another chance.

  5. Me again..have worked out that i'm going to save over £180 a year by making my own laundry gloop...we are definately going to have a go at washing up liquid you say it will be hard not to have bubbles..but if it saves me money then i can live with that lol...

  6. Sara, that is absolutely brilliant! That's a huge saving for your household budget and has the potential to pay for any number of other priorities. Well done!

    Good luck with the washing up liquid. I'm still trying to tweak the recipe to make it acceptable to the Frugaldom household, as we all like to see bubbles.

    1. Hi, I love the recipes. I add normal washing up liquid to the home made so that I still have bubbles. It covers the psychological side of things and still works out a really good price. I usually add between a 1/3 and 1/2 a bottle of ecover to 3 litres of home made washing up liquid. It dependn't on the water so is trial and error.


    2. I am still totally cimmitted to making my own laundry cleaner but am still buying the cheapest washing up liquid. It currently costs 40p a bottle and lasts over a month. I think I will try diluting it down with homemade again, rather than giving up totally on that. Thank you for the reminder. :)

  7. Great stuff! This looks absolutely fab. I bought some non bio today, and was dismayed at how expensive it's getting.

    Do you know if it's safe to use on baby/toddler skin?


  8. I'm no expert on skin care or babies, I'm afraid, but I have made the gloop using store's own, unscented baby soap when grandaughter was staying. To be on the safe side, I gave her clothes an extra rinse, but I can't think of anything in the make-up of the laundry cleaner (probably a better word than detergent) that could be harmful in such small amounts.

    I used to use a mild solution of washing soda in a bucket of water to soak terry nappies, then hand rinse them, if that helps.

    It certainly saves a small fortune and guarantees there are no artificial chemical softeners or perfumes being used. :)

    The soap nuts are also reported to be safe for using.

  9. Thank you so much - I wish I had found this recipe months ago!

    Righto - it's off to work I go tomorrow!

    Thanks for thinking of the skin thing.


  10. This sounds like something I absolutely have to try!

  11. Hi Vanessa :)

    I can't fault this laundry 'gloop' in the least, it's saved me a small fortune over the past few years and never let me down yet.

    Hope you like it and it saves you some dosh.

  12. @rizzo I use this in my 1 year olds clothes he has eczema but is fine with this I'm still using sainsburys basics soap Will get some better stuff when we run out. I would like to know if its safe with real nappies tho? If anyone has any idea?

    1. Only just spotted this question, sorry. As far as I now the mix is fine with nappies as long as rinsed sufficiently. I haven't actually heard of any problems relating to skin conditions, allergies or delicates. The only problem I have ever had with it was after several consecutive cold washes, it failed to dissolve fully in the machine and resulted in a white powdery looking streaks on a black t-shirt. A warm wash sorted that and the occasional hot wash seems to keep everything flowing correctly and I'm assuming a fairly hot wash would be used on towelling nappies. :)


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