Homemade vs bulk bought household staples

I have a friend who periodically organises co-ops to purchase massive amounts of various things, including household cleaners, laundry detergent, loo paper etc. I have participated in these co-ops before and they are great value. I encourage more people to get involved with bulk buying clubs and co-ops in their area, they really do make a difference to the household budget as well as saving on packaging waste.

Recently my sister asked me to show her how to make laundry detergent which is something I used to do regularly and had gotten out of the habit. I was comparing the cost of making it myself vs purchasing through my handy, friendly co-op and realised that for the cost of the ingredients, I could purchase about four litres of laundry detergent or enough ingredients to make about 40 litres of my own. It struck me as a total no-brainer and was a good reminder to go back to making the detergent, especially as it’s really grey water and septic friendly. We wouldn’t want to kill the worms in our Biolytix system.

For those of you interested in the recipe, here ’tis:

Homemade laundry detergent

1 litre water

1 cup pure soap flakes or grated soap (I use Lux brand. If you purchase or make your own Castile soap, the detergent is also vegan/vegetarian friendly)

1/2 cup of Washing Soda (This is not bicarb soda. It’s usually found on a low shelf in the laundry aisle if your supermarket carries it.)

1/2 cup borax (this can be omitted if you like; it’s used as a stain removal booster but it works fine without)

1 10-litre bucket with air tight lid

OPTIONAL: Essential oils in your favourite flavour to scent the detergent. I usually use lavender or eucalyptus if I’m putting them in.


Heat the water to just below boiling in a saucepan. You should be able to see bubbles forming on the bottom of the pan, but it shouldn’t be simmering. You can also use a microwave to heat the water in a suitable container.

Add the soap flakes and stir to dissolve. Try not to agitate the mixture too much as you don’t want to form froth on the surface if you can avoid it.

When the soap is totally dissolved, add the borax (if using) and dissolve. Then add the washing soda and keep stirring. The mixture is ready when the washing soda is also dissolved and it becomes slightly thickened. You should be able to trace the path of your wooden spoon or whisk in it.

Add 15-30 drops of essential oil if you’re using it.

Pour the soap mixture into the 10-litre bucket. Add hot water to the bucket until it’s almost full, making the liquid up to 10 litres total (one litre of soap mix and nine litres of hot water). Stir gently and continuously until the diluted mixture becomes room temperature, otherwise your detergent will split. If this happens, it’s still usable, just gently stir it with a whisk to break up the solid mass at the top of the bucket.

Use half to one scoop from normal powder detergent container, depending on how soiled the load of washing is. I’ve only tried it in Melbourne or rain water, so if you wash in dam water or bore water, I’m not sure how it would work for you. It is very low suds, so suitable for front loading machines.


Why buy shampoo when real poo is still free?

Or better yet, use the “No ‘Poo” method of washing your hair!

When I discovered this method, I had great difficulty finding instructions on how the bicarb and vinegar were supposed to be applied for maximum cleaning effect. Plenty of people were raving about how soft and clean it made their hair, but nothing about how to mix or what proportions to use. Given that bicarb soda and vinegar will cause a big mess to occur when they are mixed, I was pretty sure that they weren’t supposed to be applied at the same time.

I started using the No ‘Poo method because I’m basically a frugal kind of person and I like to know what’s in the things I’m putting on my body. Most shampoos contain parabens which are used as preservatives. They are also known hormone disruptors because they mimic the shape of hormones in the body (especially oestrogen) and can lock into the receptor sites on our cells and cause all sorts of metabolic issues.

Using bicarb soda and apple cider vinegar allows your scalp to return to it’s normal pH and moisture levels, which can assist with the control of dandruff and other scalp complaints. So here’s how it works:

No ‘Poo hair wash

1 tablespoon of bicarb soda

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (I used pasteurised vinegar as it’s cheaper than the real stuff but if you make your own, feel free to use unpasteurised, it will work just fine. You can also substitute white vinegar if you like, but I think ACV smells better.)

500ml boiling water

500ml tap water (or cooled, boiled water)

2 (or 3) jugs or other pouring containers

OPTIONAL: To make a gorgeous herbal rinse so that your hair smells divine, you will also need an extra cup of boiling water and an extra cup of cool water. For blonde through mid-brown natural shades or those who would like to lighten their natural shade, you’ll need the juice of one lemon. For those whose natural hair shade is mid-brown through black, add the crushed leaves of a sprig of rosemary or a tablespoon of dried, crushed leaves. Do not use the lemon rinse on dyed hair! I’m not sure what would happen but I expect the acidity would have dire consequences on your colour . . .


Add the bicarb soda to one jug and pour one cup (250ml) of boiling water over it to dissolve.

Do the same for the ACV in the second jug.

Add one cup of cool water to each jug and stir.

If using the lemon rinse, add the lemon juice to the third jug and pour one cup of boiling water over it, then add the cup of cooled water and stir.

If using the rosemary rinse, add the leave to a mug and pour one cup of boiling water over them to make a rosemary “tea” by steeping the crushed leaves in the boiling water for about 3-4 minutes. Strain into the third jug, then add the cooled water and stir.


To wash your hair, get it wet in the shower or over a sink. Pour the bicarb soda mixture onto your hair and massage your scalp with the pads of your fingers until it feels sufficiently clean. Be gentle as there’s no suds to lubricate the massage. Rinse out the bicarb soda mixture with plain water.

Rinse your hair with the vinegar mixture. Gently massage your scalp again to ensure that the vinegar is all through your hair. Rinse with plain water.

If you want your hair scented, rinse your hair with the lemon or rosemary mixture and then towel dry. Style as usual.

How to make Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

Having found a functional, reasonably priced, glass vessel which allows for the easy dispensing of liquid that will look nice on my benchtop, I thought I’d try my hand at making apple cider vinegar.

Fortunately, organic, unpasteurised ACV is fairly common in Australia, you can buy it in the big chain supermarkets or just about any health food store. But I’m a cheapskate, and I’m experimenting, so I thought I’d make my own to use for salad dressings, drinking (diluted in water), making herbal tonics and washing my hair.

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