This comes from the archives, but it's one of my favorite posts and I actually refer back to it whenever I need to make another batch. When I'm not eco-friendly commercial liquid detergents for our laundry, I use some of my homemade stuff that I created from a recipe that I found in the newspaper in the Everyday Cheapskate column by Mary Hunt. I store mine in a glass jar on a shelf above the washer, that you see below.
I keep vinegar in the bottle on the left and use it in place of fabric softener (who knows what kinds of chemicals are in liquid commercially-made ones). I also keep some flannel cloths in that tin box and sprinkle a little essential oil on them to use as dryer sheets when I'm not hanging clothes out on the line. While they don't soften the clothes, they add a nice fragrance to them.
I've saved some money using the laundry detergent recipe she published. I use the powdered in a front loader and it works well, and I can get all of these things in my local grocery store The Fels-Naptha soap is great for pre-treating dirty cloth diapers too. You can typically buy Fels-Naptha in the laundry aisle of the grocery store, and I've also seen it in the hardware store.
Here's the recipe:
POWDERED LAUNDRY DETERGENT:
1 cup grated Fels-Naptha soap; 1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (not baking soda, please!); 1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax. (You can also add a few drops of essential oil...lavender is a good choice!---Kathleen)
Mix, and store in airtight container or bag. For light loads, use 2 tablespoons. For heavy loads, use 3 tablespoons.
Big batch: To make a large batch, grate 6 bars of Fels-Naptha soap, and then add 3 cups of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and 3 cups of 20 Mule Team Borax. Mix well, and store in covered container.
TIP: Homemade detergent will not make suds in your washer, so don't be alarmed. Fels-Naptha soap is pure and typically makes little or no suds in the water. This makes it perfect for use in the new high-efficiency washers, as well as traditional washers. You also will notice the need to reduce your laundry softener; in most cases, you even can eliminate the use of softener completely. You also can use white vinegar in the last rinse (one cup is plenty) to remove all traces of detergent.
LIQUID LAUNDRY DETERGENT: 3 pints water; 1/3 bar Fels-Naptha soap, grated; 1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (not baking soda, please!); 1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax; 2-gallon bucket for mixing; 1 quart hot water. (You can also add a few drops of essential oil...lavender is a good choice!---Kathleen)
Mix Fels-Naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints hot water, and heat on low until dissolved. Stir in Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and 20 Mule Team Borax. Stir until thickened, and remove from heat. Add 1 quart hot water to 2-gallon bucket. Add soap mixture, and mix well. Fill bucket with additional hot water as needed (you should have about 1.5 gallons of the mixture), and mix well. Set aside for 24 hours or until mixture thickens. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load.