The Laundry Detergent Battle: Costco Versus My Homebrew Formula – What’s Really Frugal?

SLIME!In response to my post about making your own liquid laundry detergent at home, several people commented that they buy it in huge quantities at Costco, so they couldn’t see the benefit in making their own.

Hearing that, I decided to look at more options to find the least expensive option for getting my clothes clean and fresh.

I stopped at Costco and found that I could get a giant bucket of Kirkland brand powdered laundry detergent for $11.99, which would do 160 loads. This is a very good deal on some very high quality laundry detergent; Consumer Reports gives a thumbs-up to the detergent. The big Costco box is $0.075 per wash.

For comparison’s sake, I looked up the jumbo size box of Tide powder detergent at Amazon and found that it would do 240 loads for $53.70. The Tide jumbo box is $0.22 per wash

The liquid laundry detergent recipe I posted earlier works quite well. A batch of that stuff comes out to about $0.03 per wash. Here’s that recipe in a nutshell, for those who would like to see it (see the full recipe for more details):

Step One: Put about four cups of water into a pan on your stove and turn the heat up on high until it’s almost boiling. While you’re waiting, whip out a knife and start shaving strips off of a bar of soap into the water, whittling it down. Keep the heat below a boil and keep shaving the soap. Eventually, you’ll shave up the whole bar, then stir the hot water until the soap is dissolved and you have some highly soapy water.

Step Two: Put three gallons of hot water (11 liters or so) into the five gallon bucket – the easiest way is to fill up three gallon milk jugs worth of it. Then mix in the hot soapy water from step one, stir it for a while, then add a cup of washing soda. Keep stirring it for another minute or two, then add a half cup of borax if you are using borax. Stir for another couple of minutes, then let the stuff sit overnight to cool.

The easiest way to compare all of the options is to calculate how many loads you do in an average year. For us, we do eight to ten loads in an average week, which comes out to about 450 loads a year. Then, multiply those loads by the cost per load to see how much money you spend on laundry detergent. In our case, we would spend about $13.50 on our homemade formula, $33.75 on the Costco brand, and $99 on the Tide. In each case, these dollar amounts come from buying the jumbo bulk containers, so if you’re buying smaller ones, it’s going to be more expensive than that.

Now, is the effort in making the homemade detergent worth the $20 we would save per year in laundry detergent? For me, it is, and it will be an even bigger savings when our second baby arrives, but you may arrive at a different conclusion, especially if you are a big fan of the Kirkland/Costco brand detergent

Whichever way you choose, though, you’re actively practicing frugality. You’re sitting down, looking at the total cost of each option, and choosing the one that is the best option for you in the long run.