shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

August 11, 2014

We have always tried to make what we need rather than immediately exchanging freedom chips for some (often inferior) product that someone else has made. Since moving into a log cabin on a farm, we have extended that philosophy to include our own food. We dry the food that Dave grows in the garden that we can't immediately eat. We eat a variety of sprouts--our current favorite being wheat. Dave makes homemade yogurt once or twice a week and ice cream nearly as often. Our 6 chickens keep us supplied with eggs which I use to bake healthful goodies--no high fructose corn syrup for us. We have a recipe for homemade bread that allows us to have sandwich bread for lunch and baguette for dinner with only an hour's forethought. To the homemade list of boat parts, furniture, and food, I have added toiletries and household cleaners.


Having not paid rent for 14 years, we decided to make up for the added expense of the log cabin by spending less. Since we aren't exactly party animals, our biggest expense is our grocery bill. And we were appalled to realize, after analyzing our spending, just how much we were spending on laundry detergent. Naturally, I was buying "hippie" detergent, but even "normal" detergent is an outrageous expense. So I started investigating homemade options.

Fels Naptha

I tried several recipes, each with their own individual problems. Finally, I combined, adjusted, invented, and ended up with the following recipe.

Dissolve soap

Most homemade laundry detergents use the same ingredients, just in different proportions and prepared slightly differently. For this one, I use 1 bar of Fels Naptha soap, Arm and Hammer Washing Powder (NOT baking powder), and Borax.


I grate the bar soap using a large grater to speed up the process, though smaller bits will dissolve more quickly. I made the soap in the sink out of the van, but any bucket will work. To the grated soap I add 2 quarts boiling water and stir until it is dissolved.

To this I add 2 cups of each of the powders: Borax and Washing Soda. Living in Florida, it is necessary to break up the clumps before putting the powders in the water. Stir until the powders are mostly dissolved, though it's possible that the water is "saturated" at this point.

Stir in powders and add more hot water.

Add 2 1/2 quarts HOT tap water, or nearly boiling stove water if you don't have hot tap water.


Finally, add 2 more cups of hot water. Stir and let sit overnight.

The next day

The next day, stir, breaking up the solids. I use a slotted spoon so that I can smash the solids against the side. Transfer to any storage container. This is a concentrated detergent, so I mix up a usable amount in 1 jug, and put the concentrate in well-labeled jugs. Use 2 parts water for 1 part detergent.

Pour concentrate into used detergent containers.

After it has been diluted, use as much detergent as you would store-bought detergent. In our case, I use 1 capful for a normal load. This batch lasts 6 months and costs less than $1 a month. The next batch only cost $2 for 6 months, since all I had to buy was 1 bar of soap. There is enough in each of the boxes of powders to make many batches, or years worth of laundry detergent.

6-month supply

I think the detergent smells clean and fresh as it is, but you can add a few drops of essential oils if you would like.

My next mission is to find a homemade dish soap that I like. So far, none of the recipes I've found have worked on grease. Suggestions?

With hurricane season announcing its presence, MONDAY we'll share our hurricane story. How to prepare, and what happens if you don't.

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