For a little over two years now I have been trying out different kinds of homemade laundry detergents. I began with a liquid laundry detergent recipe and used it quite successfully for about a year until I heard of a homemade dry laundry detergent recipe and decided to give it a try. For a while I really loved the dry laundry detergent recipe until our clothes started to get a sweaty smell that just didn’t seem to go away. As such I spend the next several months try different homemade dry laundry detergent recipes to find something better but to no avail.
I was about to return to commercial laundry detergent when I discovered this post by Courtney Craig in which she compared three different homemade laundry detergent recipes with an unmentioned commercial brand. The result–the recipe does make the difference and believe it or not the homemade liquid laundry detergent did the best. I then found this article by Trent in which he did a similar experiment comparing Tide with Bleach Alternative with the exact same liquid laundry detergent recipe and the results were the same–the homemade liquid laundry detergent recipe won or at the very least did just as well as the Tide.
This got me to thinking, how well does homemade liquid laundry detergent compare with commercial laundry detergents? I decided it was time for an experiment of my own. First I began researching the latest ratings on commercial laundry detergents from Consumer Reports and the like. Knowing that my family does best with perfume and dye free options I chose to use Wisk Deep Clean Free and Pure and Ultra Tide Free and Gentle for the purposes of this experiment thanks to input from ABC and Yahoo.
The Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe
Although slightly more potent than the liquid laundry detergent recipe I have used in the past, for the purposes of this experiment I used the same liquid laundry detergent as Courtney and Trent which is as follow:
Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent Ingredients
- 1/2 c. borax
- 1 bar Fels-Naptha
- 1 c. washing soda
- 3 gallons of water
- Grate the entire Fels-Naptha bar in a medium saucepan. Add 4 cups of water and bring to boil stirring until the soap is dissolved.
- Pour 3 gallons of water into a 5 gallon bucket. Add the soap mixture, borax and washing soda. Mix until combined.
- Let sit for 24 hours.
- Mix to break up the clumps and then pour into your storage containers. (We used an electric paint stirrer for this. Makes the stirring a lot easier).
- Use 1/2 cup per load. Makes 96 loads of laundry detergent.
The only thing I did different from Courtney and Trent was that I used only 1/2 cup of the laundry detergent per load instead of a cup because that was all my liquid laundry dispenser would allow.
For the experiment, I smeared on a large amount of dijon mustard, ketchup, and grape jelly on three white terry clothes and let them sit for 24 hours.
Both I and my husband then chose our three smelliest, sweatiest shirts to accompany each wash (one smelly shirt per load). I set the load on “Normal” for each wash on my high efficiency front end load washing machine.
Once complete, each family member smelled the shirts to see which one smelled the cleanest and the dirtiest. We also compared the stains on the terry cloths.
The Wisk Deep Clean Free and Pure was overall the best stain fighter of the three, although if you look at the original picture, it may have had a slight advantage with a little less intense mustard stain to start with. The Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent won out in the odor fighting category with the best smelling shirt. And the Tide…well this commercial giant didn’t do anything to make it stand out in this experiment at all.
Probably what shocked both my husband and I the most was that the commercial laundry detergents did exactly the opposite of what they claimed. Wisk claimed to be the best at fighting odors but in the end it was the Wisk shirt that came out smelling the worst. And then Tide, who claims amazing stain fighting action, actually did the worst on the terry cloth stains. Even more surprisingly, the homemade version competed very well against these two commercial power houses both in the odor and stain fighting categories.
The Final Test
After this initial experiment I wasn’t quite ready to call a true winner. Knowing that it is hard to rank which shirts are the smelliest to start with, I decided to try one more experiment before calling the homemade liquid laundry detergent the best. For a final wash I took all three terry clothes smeared a little bit of homemade liquid laundry detergent directly on the stains and placed them in the washer along with all three formerly smelly shirts. The result was actually quite astonishing.
As you can tell from the picture, the laundry detergent had a major impact on the mustard stain the second time around. In addition, all three sweaty shirts came out smelling clean. It was the first time those shirts had smelled that clean in months. It was upon smelling the shirts that I was sold.
My conclusion from this laundry detergent comparison–if you can put up with a laundry detergent that occasionally has to be shaken or appears a little clumpy, the homemade version is by far the best way to go cost-wise, smell-wise, and stain-wise. There is something about the chemical reaction from the cooking and combining of the homemade liquid laundry detergent ingredients that gives it its stain and odor fighting action. I can’t explain why it works better than the dry laundry detergent recipes or the commercial versions, but I can tell you it works. So, from now on I will stop second-guessing myself, stick with what works, and enjoy the savings in the process. And, maybe I’ll save you a few months search in the process too.