Homemade Laundry Detergent

20 06 2013

I grew tired of spending lots of money on laundry detergent. Since I live on a boat and have to carry my laundry to the laundromat, or other place, I could never buy the large, bulk, money saving size of laundry detergent. It took up too much room, and was too heavy to carry. On top of this, I would have to buy two types of laundry detergent: one for clothes and one for cloth diapers. For those of you who use cloth diapers, you know how expensive the detergent can be. The thought then dawned on me: why not make my own laundry detergent? And make a detergent that I can use for both diapers and clothes.

Then I spent about a week researching different recipes for laundry detergent and thinking about the pros and cons of each. I finally decided on the below recipe. I made this while Capt’n was on his trip from the Dominican Republic to Florida, which was about five weeks ago. All in all I can say that a am pretty satisfied with this recipe. I live with a man and a toddler boy, so their clothes always have lots of stains. I haven’t been able to remove all the stains with this detergent. I still have to use a stain fighter solution. I am open to great stain fighting techniques though!

Here is the recipe for laundry detergent

1 box of Borax (4 lb 12 oz size)
1 box of Washing Soda (3 lb 7 oz size)
1 box of Oxyclean Free (3 lb size)
Baking Soda (8 lbs)
3 bars of Dr. Bronner’s Soap (I used two bars of peppermint and one bar of lavender)


1. Finely grate the three bars of soap.
2. Mix all ingredients in a large five gallon bucket (or whatever large container you want to use).
3. Put detergent in smaller, more manageable containers and enjoy!


I price checked all items at three places: drugstore.com, Target, and Publix (grocery store). I was surprised to find the items were the least expensive at Publix.

I cannot find the receipt, but from memory here are the costs of the items.

Borax $3.99
Washing Soda $3.99
Oxyclean $7.50
Baking soda $0.75 each
Dr. Bronner’s soap $3.50 each

So the total upfront cost was about $40. But it made a LOT of detergent. Not sure exactly how many loads in total though. The other great thing is that you use less detergent per load because there aren’t any fillers in the detergent.

Now I put the laundry detergent in a smaller glass jar (I am now using a pasta sauce jar) to take with me up to the marina laundry room.


Diapering a baby/toddler while living on a boat

14 06 2013

Probably the number one question I get from both sailors and land lubbers about sailing with a baby is, “So how do you diaper your baby?” I thought about this question long before anyone asked me. 

The big question that I had before we started this whole boating adventure was whether I should use cloth diapers or disposable diapers. But in reality, it wasn’t a difficult decision – I was committed to using cloth diapers for my child. Here are a few of the reasons why I chose to cloth diaper my child while living on a boat:

 I was dedicated to using cloth diapers on my child while living on land, so it made sense to carry on using cloth diapers while living on a boat.

  1. Cloth diapers are more cost effective than disposable diapers. Even taking into consideration that I sometimes have to wash diapers at the Laundromat.
  2. Where am I going to store all those disposable diapers on the boat? Storage space is at a premium and I didn’t want to “waste space” by storing disposable diapers.
  3. Many disposable diapers are non biodegradable. I think about the disposable diapers that I was in when I was a baby just sitting in the landfill probably as intact as they were when my mom threw them out.
  4. Cloth diapers are just so cute! I love the colors and prints of cloth diapers and I love how Capt’n in Training looks in his cloth diapers. 

I admit cloth diapers are not cheap to purchase. When money is tight, it can be difficult spending $20 on one cloth diaper when you can use that $20 to buy two packs of disposables. But to minimize the large upfront cost to cloth diapering, I bought many of my diapers off of Craigslist. I lived in an urban setting before venturing off into the great blue sea, so there were many advertisements selling cloth diapers and I did not have a problem finding second hand diapers. I love Craigslist and have gotten so many good deals. One of the best deals was purchasing one dozen organic prefolds, four covers, and snappis for a fraction of the retail cost! The other diapers I bought were either seconds, or on sale. Some websites have promotions that you can purchase diapers and earn point s to go towards free diapers.  

In addition, I also use cloth wipes. I figure that I am already washing cloth diapers, why not also wash cloth wipes as well – there is no extra work. I purchased my cloth wipes used on Craigslist and also on a website that was selling seconds. I also made my own by cutting and sewing flannel squares. Since I use reusable wipes, I also make wipe solution. There are so many recipes out there on the World Wide Web…. 

My recipe is: 

Add olive oil (not much – but I do not measure it), a few squirts of Capt’n in Training’s soap/shampoo, and water to a water spray bottle. And shake. I simply spray Capt’n in Training’s bottom with the solution and wipe him with dry wipes. It seems to work really well for him.  

So how do I store these diapers when they become soiled? Great question. I purchased two large wet bags for storing soiled diapers. These wet bags have two layers: one inner waterproof layer and an outer cloth layer. The inner layer is supposed to keep any moisture from escaping and the other cloth layer makes the bag look pretty. I have used these bags for about 20 months and they have definitely seen better days, so I am in the market for new ones. To remove soiled diapers the method changes depending on where we are. If we are sailing far enough from shore, I throw the poop into the ocean. Of we are docked or anchored, I throw the poop in the toilet before putting the diaper in the wet bag. To minimize the odor of the diapers once they are in the wet bag, I use a scented powder from Rockin’ Green.  

My washing method also depends on our location. My preferred method to wash diapers is to use a friend’s residential washing machine. This way I can spend time with a friend and save money by washing diapers for free. If I am in a town where we do not know anyone, I either go to the Laundromat, or use a marina’s laundry facilities. When I would go to a Laundromat, I would first rinse out my diapers using a bucket and some cold water. I would then rinse out the diapers and take them to the Laundromat. I would run the diapers through two cycles. The first cycle is a hot wash cycle, using half of recommended laundry detergent, followed by a cold rinse, or wash cycle using white distilled vinegar. I would hang dry the diapers on our life line on the boat. I am currently at a marina where the cost to wash is relatively cheap so I actually run the diapers through three cycles. The first cycle is a cold wash (I cannot select rinse only). I add ½ Tbsp of my laundry detergent to offset the odor. The second cycle is a hot wash cycle using 1.5 Tbsp detergent, and the third cycle is a cold wash cycle using white distilled vinegar. Unfortunately this marina does not allow you to hang dry laundry on your boat, so I have to put the diapers through the dryer. I purchased felted wool dryer balls off of Etsy.com  and throw those in the dryer with the diapers to cut the drying time. On really nice days I will take the diaper covers and lay them to dry in the cockpit. 

But we don’t always have the luxury of washing machines, so we have to find creative ways to wash diapers. Before we moved on our boat, we purchased a hand crank washing tumbler called, “Wonder Wash.” You basically put clothes in the tumbler, add detergent and water, seal the washer and tumble the canister for a few minutes. Then drain the canister, refill with clean water, tumble again and drain. This machine does not spin so you have to manually rinse the clothes and then hang dry. If you purchase this machine, I highly recommend purchasing a devise to wring out the water from your clothes. When I used this devise to wash cloth diapers I would first rinse the soiled diapers in a bucket of cold water before washing them in the wonder wash. This method is very time consuming and uses a lot of muscles and I found it to be difficult as my only washing option. It also uses a lot of fresh water and we do not have a water maker. We would catch rain water and use rain water to wash clothes, or fill collapsible 5 gallon water jugs when we were at shore.

I also make our own laundry detergent that I use for both cloth diapers and our own clothes, and I will post the recipe in a couple of days. 

I hope these explanations were helpful for those of you thinking about living on a boat with children still in diapers. 

In a few months I am sure I will create another post entitled, “Toilet raining a toddler while living on a boat!” 


Hanging diapers on our life line in Newport, Rhode Island.