OK, I've had a bunch of people express interest in how to make laundry detergent...
I stumbled on the recipe online and I've been using it for several years now. It is less expensive than most detergents, and I find that it does a better job than most of them too. While none of us have sensitive skin, it's supposed to be very gentle for those that do. I know that I've used it on the kids' clothes when they were babies (at least the youngest two) and they never had any issues with it. It smells fresh, but it's not heavily perfumed, which is a plus for me.
Anyway, this is what you need:
Fels Naptha bar soap - this is sometimes hard to find. It's a bar of soap that's usually in the laundry aisle - sometimes with the stain removers
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda - not baking soda. Also sold in the laundry aisle
20 Mule Team Borax - you guessed it, in the laundry aisle
I make a big batch at a time - so I get 6 bars of the Fels Naptha and one box each of the other stuff.
Start by chopping up the Fels Naptha into small pieces - it's best if the bars are old and dry (aka "cured") because then they can easily be ground into a fine powder. I put the chunks into the food processer to grind them into a powder. If the bars are not cured, they tend to clump up in the food processor - but what I found today was that if I put a bit of the powdered stuff in with the chunks (I think I used the Washing Soda, only because it was sitting closer to me) it was easier to grind it up. You can also use a cheese grater, but the food processor is much faster. Just be careful that you don't burn it up - note that smoke coming from the food processor is NOT a good sign. Trust me on that one. Really.
Anyway, for each bar of Fels Naptha, use one cup of the Borax and one cup of the Washing Soda. Get a big plastic container with a lid to keep it from getting damp and clumpy - I used a Rubbermaid one that I think is designed to keep pet food in. Dump it all in the container and mix it up, and voila - laundry detergent.
Here's the best part - when doing laundry, you only need to use 2 tablespoons of this mixture (3 for really nasty loads) per load. Really.
Another trick that I've learned - vinegar is a great fabric softener. I have one of those Downy balls and I just put vinegar in that and toss it in the washer. It really helps to remove odors from clothes and no, the clothes do not smell like vinegar when they are done. They smell clean. And considering the um..... odors .... that I deal with on a daily basis (remember, 5 kids?) that is saying a lot.
There are also recipes online to make a liquid version, but that involves boiling stuff, and it just seems like too much effort. The powder is fine with me.
So, if you try it, let me know what you think of it!