Like the OP, I was skeptical of homemade soap. One, is it worth the trouble? And, two, will something I cook up in my kitchen gonna clean as good as or better than the lab-tested, chemically-enhanced, big-corporation variety? You'll learn the answer to the former soon enough. As for the latter, the answer is quite simple: YES!
Here's what you'll need:
5 Gallon Bucket
1 bar Fels Naptha soap
1 box Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda, NOT baking soda, BIG diff.
1 box Borax
Clean milk jugs, juice containers, or other large plastic bottles - enough for 10 gallons
"essential oil" or the new fragrance enhancers that you can add to your washing machine
* I found the soap and two boxes at Wal-Mart in the detergent dept next to the dye. If you aren't fortunate enough to have a Wally World nearby, the OP has links to places you can buy these online.
Now, in my previous entry, I deviated quite a bit from the OP. This time around, however, I followed the instructions step by step, so I won't create double work by retelling them all here. Just simply follow the link in the first paragraph for the step-by-step instructions. :) K, thanks!
The ONLY thing I did differently was that I opted out of the "optional" essential oil. Something about adding oil, however small the amount, kind of scared me a little. Coincidentally, I had just bought Gain's new 'In-wash scent booster' in the 'fireworks' scent, which you just sprinkle desired amount into the machine at the start of the wash. But really, the soap is, well, very clean and soapy smelling and if you use a decent dryer sheet, you shouldn't need additional fragrance.
I also kept my last bottle of store-bought detergent to use as a handy dispenser. You can use a measuring cup to dispense from milk or juice containers if you no longer have one or already recycled it.
Here's the final product! As you can see, it has separated significantly, but a couple of shakes and it's of normal consistency, as shown below.
I tried to capture the pretty little swirls that were created when I poured it into the cap. Hopefully I will be getting a shiny new camera soon that is much more advanced than my poor little point-and-shoot. ;) But as you can see, it doesn't stay in that blobby state, once shaken.
1. After some extensive Googling, I decided that this mixture is safe for HE washers if you use LESS of it, but please feel free to make your own judgement there. I don't want to be responsible for ruining your machine.
2. My parents live out in the sticks and use water from a well. Peg recalled having tried this recipe and thought it didn't work very well, but blamed it on the poor water quality. Again, you can make your own decisions there.
My husband is one of the biggest laundry snobs around, if there is such a thing, and was extremely skeptical, but after using a beach towel washed with this soap, letting it air-dry, and using it again, it still had that clean laundry smell! Thus, he's a believer!
All in all, it wasn't that difficult to make and I'm pretty sure I will have laundry soap readily available for the next year! I have already given a couple away as thank you's.
I can even see how this could be a school or youth group project as a lesson on serving others and the community! Have the kids get involved by bringing containers and preparing the soap, then delivering to friends, neighbors, families in need or churches with outreach programs. It's not something you might think of as a need, but the money families save on detergent could be spent on much-needed food or diapers. Every little bit helps!
Bottom line: Works great and WORTH THE TROUBLE!!!