To fill you in, Hubby was unemployed for most of 2010. Before his job loss, I thought we were doing laundry fairly cheaply by buying a huge bottle of generic detergent at a warehouse club or Target, washing only on the cold setting, doing only full sized loads, and hanging everything to dry (with the exception of sheets and towels.) While we had begun preparing for the possible loss of his job by boosting our savings and cutting back on 'wants' in the 6 months or so beforehand, we were still unprepared financially for the cut to his income. He was the breadwinner and I am self-employed (i.e. salary can be unpredictable from year to year, or even season to season.) We didn't make a bundle of money to begin with, so our spending and budgets were pretty bare bones to begin with and there was little leftover for savings, or at least, I consider it little (about $300-400/month).
Thankfully, we were lucky to have sufficient unemployment compensation to cover our expenses, with just a little leftover. We never had to dip into savings or use credit cards. However, the longer his unemployment continued, the more nervous we became of the unknown, and I got more creative with our budget. One of those solutions was to try making our own liquid laundry detergent. I'll admit that both of us were skeptical--we had tried making our own powdered dish detergent a while back with less than satisfactory results. There are many recipes and methods online, but I settled on one by Trent at The Simple Dollar which I had been reading. I looked at his cost breakdown, his reviews of the detergent, and he even had step by step instructions. In May 2010, I gathered the few ingredients, used up our remaining store-bought detergent, and spent one Saturday afternoon concocting our first batch.
I'm so glad I decided to give it a shot, and you will have a hard time convincing me to buy detergent from a store again. I was so impressed by the performance, cost, and convenience, that I continue to make and use it. It's cheap and it gets the stains and odors out. I buy the ingredients one time and they last me for multiple batches. I never have to run to the store because I'm running low. I never have to lug a heavy bottle of detergent from the shelf into the cart, from the cart into the car, or from the car into the house. All of these factors make it a winner in my book. I would much rather have the extra money ($10-15 a pop) go towards savings, or food, or fuel. I actually set up a separate savings account that I deposit my 'savings' into every time I make a batch (or give the boys haircuts, or Hubby changes the oil in our cars, but that's another post.)
There are a couple differences between homemade and store bought detergent that should be noted, should you decide to try it for yourself. Homemade soap doesn't have any additional chemicals to make suds, or any scent added other than what is in your bar soap. So, you may find yourself missing the suds and the scent. However, remember the water is still soapy, and it's the soap that cleans the clothes, not the suds. Suds are just something the manufacturers add to detergents, shampoos, etc. to make us feel like things are getting more clean. And if you want more scent, I'm pretty sure you could add a few drops of essential oil into your bucket of finished detergent. Or buy a bottle of those new scent boosting granules (using coupons if you can!), which are much cheaper than detergent, and add those to your laundry.
I encourage you to check out Trent's post and give it a try. All you have to lose is the cost of the materials (roughly $6-8 for the initial purchase-remember, each box of Borax and washing soda is enough for about 6 loads) and a half hour of your time. If you aren't happy with the results, you still have $10-15 to spare for the store-bought detergent!