News and information from our partners

Everyday Cheapskate: Reduced washing costs can help fill the gap

I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that last minute congressional decisions in 2012 resulted in a 2 percent cut in everyone’s take-home pay beginning 2013. That hurts!

I immediately began thinking where ordinary households could cut the cost of goods and services they’re paying for now to make up for the loss of income. You may already know what I’m thinking: laundry detergent. No, really. Laundry detergent!

By reducing your per-load cost for detergent from $.35 or more to just $.03, you’ll have made a good start in recovering the lost income.

I recently wrote about my Homemade Laundry Detergent recipe, including photos and an update at my blog, The ingredients are still the same, but I’ve come up with a concentrated version: 3/4 cup washing soda, 3/4 cup borax, 3/4 cup Blue Dawn and 1 gallon of hot water. This costs less than $1.50 total, and I use just 1/4 cup of the concentrate per load of laundry in my jumbo capacity HE washer.

Experiment until you discover the least you can use in your washer. Use too much detergent, and you’ll have trouble getting it all out in the rinse. Hint: If your laundry comes out of the dryer stiff and scratchy, that’s a sure sign that the detergent did not rinse out properly.

I am discovering that washing soda (sold for years by Arm & Hammer as Super Washing Soda) has become increasingly difficult to find. My supermarket stopped carrying it, and I can no longer get it at my local Target or Wal-Mart. Still available online, Super Washing Soda is no longer cheap. At $18 for 3.5 pounds (with shipping), that’s more than $5 per pound. But not to worry. I’ve got you covered.

Washing soda contains just one all natural ingredient: sodium carbonate (which is not edible and should never be confused with sodium bicarbonate, which is baking soda). Soda ash, used in swimming pools to lower the pH, contains just one all-natural ingredient: sodium carbonate. Bingo!

I stopped into a local pool supply store and picked up 10 pounds of soda ash for $1.89 per pound plus tax. The product is identical in all ways to washing soda because, well, sodium carbonate is just sodium carbonate!

Even at $5 per pound for washing soda, making your own laundry detergent is still incredibly cheap. But why pay more for washing soda when soda ash is so much cheaper? You can order soda ash from Amazon. A 5-pound quantity costs about $13 plus shipping, or save big on a 50-pound bucket for around $35. Or just find a store that sells swimming pool supplies in your area.

I will let you know when I discover cheaper alternatives for borax and Blue Dawn. While both can be found online, for now they remain available in most supermarkets and discount department stores.

Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website. You can email her at mary@everyday, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.

To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment


Information from The Chronicle and our advertisers (Want to add your business to this to this feed?)