I research things like this at full tilt on my lunch break at work, and as I have yet to develop a system for getting the most useful results back to myself at home (I know, it's so silly that I haven't just started e-mailing myself the links. What the frig is wrong with me?), I tend to forget where I found things. After a bout of rough-and-tumble cursory Googling, here are some links I remember looking at earlier that were helpful:
- Instructables: Homemade Laundry Detergent
- The Simple Dollar: Making Your Own Laundry Detergent: A Detailed Visual Guide - this article not only has plenty of pictures and detailed instructions, but he even does a cost breakdown comparing the DIY detergent to store-bought in terms of cost-per-load.
- Detox Your Home: In the Laundry Room, Part 1 - this isn't a guide to making your own detergent, but rather details some of the ecological and health-related reasons why you might want to consider doing so.
- Planet Green: Make Your Own Laundry Soap
- diy Natural: Jabs Homemade Laundry Detergent - another cost breakdown, plus some helpful comments from readers.
Another common additive is baking soda as part of the soap recipe and white distilled vinegar as a fabric softener. Apparently the vinegar dissolves any soap residue in the clothes, which is part of what makes them stiff without the use of fabric softener. The smell completely disappears once the clothes are dry, and it helps to keep the drains in the washing machine clear of gunk. As for avoiding static cling, Grinning Planet says you can do this by stopping the dryer before clothes are fully dry and allowing them to air-dry the rest of the way. I imagine this would save a bit on the electric bill as well!
Most people seem to find that using a food processor with a grater blade is more efficient than grating by hand. A few people said they use "Salad Shooters" they found at thrift stores. Still other people say they microwave the soap or let it sit out to dry for a long time before grating it because dried-out soap crumbles into a much finer powder.
Our washing machine is an HE model, which, if I understand correctly, needs to use soaps that don't suds up as much. Since everything I've read indicates that DIY laundry soap doesn't suds up at all, it should be a non-issue. I'll do a bit more research before plugging ahead and see what I can find. Hopefully I'll be able to try it soon!