Here goes the final installment of the series!
After a month or so of use, we've decided that homemade powdered soap is definitely the way to go. Here's why:
1. Powdered is less messy to use. The "liquid" version has the consistency of runny oatmeal, and comes out in clumps when poured. Its hard to control portions. When shaken in the recycled liquid laundry bottle, it oozes out of the top from the lip/pour spout.
2. Powdered seems to work better. The powdered recipe I've used contains the same ingredients as the liquid version, minus the water, with the addition of baking soda. Perhaps this makes the water even softer so that the other ingredients can clean better? I dunno. But although both clean normally soiled loads as well as store-bought versions, the powdered just seems to do a little better on mud stains (which, in this season of my life, are prevalent).
3. In her book, The Tightwad Gazette, Amy Daczyn pointed out that liquid laundry detergents cost more per load of use than powdered. It seems that the same holds true....once you explain to your husband that you only need 1/5th a scoop per load and not a whole, heaping scoop per load. Also, in purchasing liquid soaps, you're purchasing an ingredient that is essentially free: water.
4. My ma asked what the different recipes smell like. Well, you KNOW that is a pointless question to ask me. I have no idea. But it would probably be easier to add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the liquid concoction, although not impossible to the powdered, it would be difficult to ensure it was wholly mixed. Maybe some lavender blossoms would work through the whole batch? I don't think it has any smell without it. But, then, it depends what bar soap is used.
5. Andy made a new batch of powdered detergent using what we had on hand because (see #3, above). .... We used a bar of Ivory soap and 1 1/2 bars of Octagon. Many recipes call for Ivory soap (99 44/100% pure, plus it dissolves well), but I wanted to use Octagon too since its touted as a stain-fighter, and we've lost so many clothes over the years here to stains. The new recipe, using Ivory soap for part of the mix, seemed to work well on the first few loads.
6. Its easier to store powdered soap, too. We put ours in a large cleaned out "Tidy Cats" litter container that has a snapping lid. I'd tried to pour the liquid into milk jugs, but they were hard to fill due to the consistency of the detergent, and using a funnel to get it in there just made the mess worse.
You don't need a recipe to MYO fabric softener. Just add a 1/2 cup white vinegar to the last rinse. Vinegar "kills" the soap and allows for a clean rinse. There's no smell afterwards, either (that is, so I've heard, and Andy has never reported one).
So I think we're going to go this direction for awhile. Making our own powdered soap takes about 15 minutes, start to finish, and costs less than buying a good quality laundry detergent from WM, even with coupons.