One of the things that has saved me a ton of money over the last year or two is making my own laundry detergant. Now we live in a small town and had a difficult time finding the ingredients in the first place (I just don't have the patience to order this stuff online) so after some research, we were able to find some good substitutes for the ingredients we couldn't find. I used the Duggar Family recipe, which can be found here. I wanted a liquid detergent and one that worked in a front loading machine. I have used this in both a top loading and front loading machine. The ingredients needed for this are:
5-gallon bucket with lid
1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda*
1 Bar of Fels-Naptha Soap**
1/2 cup Borax
*Washing soda is Sodium Carbonate and we found a 97% Sodium Carbonate in the pool aisle of Wal-mart. The product is by hth Spa and is called pH increaser. I've even seen this go on clearance, so it seems readily available (more so than the A&H Washing Soda.)
**Ok - this bar, I haven't been able to find on the shelves, but had read in other recipes that you can use Ivory bars instead, so that's what I tried the first time. I can't stand the smell of the Ivory, so tried the Dove bar and love the smell. In this recipe today, I used the Cucumber scented & really loved it!
First I sliced up the bar of soap. The recipe calls for grating, but slicing chunks it up into small pieces just fine. I have found that because I am just cutting up a mild hand soap, and wash all the utensils in the dish washer, that it is fine for my food prep items. You may want to use these kitchen tools only for soap making if it bothers you. The kettle, I reserve only for laundry soap, because I wasn't sure about the rest of the ingredients being cooked on it.
Then you add all the ingredients, plus 4 cups of water to the kettle and cook it on medium heat until all the particles are melted and the liquid is smooth. This gets poured into the 5-gallon bucket. Then, the fun part - you fill the rest of the bucket with warm tap water and mix it! Leaving this overnight will solidify the liquid, so it has the same consistancy as store purchased detergent!
To use the detergent, you take old laundry containers and fill them half way with the homemade detergent and half water. Mix it well before each use.
I have figured out that because this batch actually makes 10 gallons of detergent, it costs me about $3 to make all of it! I haven't counted how many loads it makes for me, but I only make this two times a year. We have six in our family and do around 10-12 loads a week! I suppose that if you multiply 10 load X 4 weeks a month X 6 months you would get about 240 loads! I find this to be such a great value and only takes about an hour of my time to make!