Making your own laundry soap is a chore, it takes discipline, and some patience. For me, it is about frugality, getting back to basics and/or preparing for an emergency. But, it’s not for everyone. I can attest to the fact that it definitely saves money, sometimes just costing pennies a load! Before you get started, here are a few basic tips:
- For the soap bars required in the recipes, you could try Fels-Naptha, Ivory, Sunlight, Kirk’s Hardwater Castile, and Zote. Avoid using heavily perfumed soaps.
Washing Soda and Borax can normally be found in the laundry and cleaning aisles of most grocery stores.
Some people with really hard water or well water may have to adjust the ingredients if their clothes look dingy.
- 1 bar Fels Naptha (Yes, the ENTIRE Bar!)
- 1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
- 1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (NOT BAKING SODA!!)
- 4 cups of hot water
- Put 4 cups of water in a large heavy saucepan over high heat. While that is heating, mix the borax and washing soda together in a bowl, mixing well, set aside. If you’re grating the soap,grate the soap over a large bowl. If you’re using a food processor, take your bar of soap and cut it into small pieces. Then,grate/chop it into fine pieces/flakes. (This is another benefit of theFelsNaptha or the 0%superfat bar. They’ll tend to grate/chop up much easier). A note on fragrance: The Fels Naptha soap has a fragrance added to it…which I don’t mind at all. If you’ve made your own laundry base soap, you can add a fragrance or essential oil of your choice. Many folks will use orange or lavender or some other “clean” smelling scent. Or they’ll just leave the scent out completely. The scent doesn’t affect the cleaning effectiveness of the soap.
- Put 4 cups of water in a large heavy saucepan over high heat. Add the freshly grated soap to the water in the saucepan, stirring almost constantly. Reduce the heat to medium, It will takeapproximately 10 – 15 minutes for theFelsNaptha to completely dissolve. If it takes longer, your heat wasn’t up high enough. Heat over medium heat and stir continuously until completely melted. Do NOT let it boil over as it will make a horrible soapy endless mess every where.While that is heating, mix the borax and washing soda together in a bowl, mixing well, set aside.
- Once the Fels Naptha has completely melted, remove the pan from the heat and add in the Borax and the Washing Soda, stirring constantly until the powders are completely dissolved, this will take about 3-5 minutes. Do not under-stir or your soap texture will be very grainy rather than smooth. (You can fee the “graininess” on the bottom of the pan, once you can’t feel it, it’s incorporated fully!)
- Fill a large 5 gallon pail with 2.5 gallons of hot water, add hot mixture. Stir until well mixed.
- Then add the washing soda and borax, again stirring until very well mixed.
- Set aside, cover and let cool over night.
Note For Liquid Versions: This will result in a lumpy, goopy and gel-like, mixture, if you keep it in this state. This is normal. Just give it a good stir or shake before using. Make sure to keep covered with a lid when not in use. You can also pour the mixture in old (and cleaned) detergent bottles and shake well before each use, I poured it into bottles the first two batches I made using a funnel.
Optional: You can add between 10 to 15 drops of essential oil (per 2 gallons) to your homemade detergent. Add once the soap has cooled to room temperature. Stir well and cover. Essential oil ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil
PART II: ADAPTATION & A CHANGE IN THE FINAL PROCESS
Now, here is where I personally adapted the recipe, because I did not like the separation. Sometimes I just would get very, very watery liquid out of the old laundry jugs, sometimes it clogged and I always had to shake the large old laundry jugs vigorously, with inconsistent results.
So I thought there has to be a better way… here is my adaptation once all the ingredients are melted, dissolved and mixed together.
- Pour the liquid equally into quart Mason jars
- Add just enough water to bring the contents up to the “shoulders” or Rounded part of the jar, leaving approximately 1 ½ inches of headspace. Turn upside down.
- Let set for 2-4 hours. Optimally 3-4 for best consistency in the next steps. The bottom layer will become very, very thick. It will be separated liquid and the gel.
- There are two ways to do this next step, depending on what you have for equipment. Here’s how I like to do it- unscrew the blade and bottom from your blender and screw them onto your regular mouthed mason jar containing all of your ingredients.
- Place the entire mason jar on the blender and whip until smooth and creamy throughout, about a minute. Flip back over, unscrew the blender blade, attach a cover and seal.
- The detergent is Smooth and creamy with the same look and consistency of mayonnaise.
- Be sure to label and date the jar to prevent accidental ingestion!!
How to USE this Very Concentrated Laundry Soap
To use, add 1 Tablespoon to a load of laundry in any type of machine, conventional, Front Loader, High Capacity & High Efficiency (HE), etc. Do not add the detergent to the “detergent compartment” but instead directly with the dirty clothes.
PART III- MY ADAPTATION TO THE TABLESPOON
I did not like scooping the thick goopy soap with the tablespoon, holding it ever so carefully while trying to bend over and get it into my front loading he machine without spilling any nor getting my hands all soapy. Just seemed it would get all over stuff over time. Messy. Capricorns don’t like messes and clutter. Efficiency is the name of the game here. Hmmm….think shampoo or hair conditioner squirt bottles?
So, I went browsing around Walmart and bought a glass drinking jar with a sippy cup that had a sealed strawhole on the lid. I was excited! I then found an old shampoo/conditioner pumper and fitted the pumper snuggly into the lid hole.
I screwed the lid on the mason jar and viola, it works.
How much do I use? Well I experimented with how many squirts would equal a Tablespoon. I got about 6-7 squirts, for a Tablespoon worth. I simply pick up the jar and pump 7 squirts into the front loading machine. Done.
It has taken a bit of experimentation, and adaptation. But, I am very happy with the results so far. I will experiment with lavender next, as I have some growing on my property.
And, I have to give credit where credit is due. I got this recipe which I adapted from the Mom’s Super Laundry Sauce Post. All in all, I made 13 quarts of very thick, very very concentrated laundry soap. Time will tell how long this batch lasts me. The size of the jar is manageable and the cost is very low. I do this sort of thing in the winter, when I have more time on my hands. Canning season, is not the time to be making it- at least for me, anyway.
- Check the laundry aisle in your local grocery store or Walmart.
- Fels Naptha is made by The Dial Corp. You can check this website to locate the nearest store that carries this soap: Henkel North America – Store Location.
- You can order it online at Amazon.
The following FAQ’s below are for those who might have questions which thankfully have come from TipNut, and I thought they were great answers.
Help! It’s Too Thick, Too Watery, Too Chunky, It Separated, It’s A Solid Mass, It Doesn’t Look Like I Think It Should!
- Making homemade laundry detergent is not an exact science. If it turns out differently than expected, still give it a try since the ingredients are all there. I can’t tell you what you did wrong or why a batch turned out differently than expected. If you followed directions to a “T” (stirred really well, used hot water, measured correctly, etc.), then the likely culprit is the brand of soap used. If the mixture gelled into a solid mass, try mixing in more hot water. If it’s too thin, try adding more soap or Borax or Washing Soda.
Where Do You Buy Washing Soda?
- The brand of washing soda I’m most familiar with is Arm & Hammer.
- Look in the laundry aisle of your grocery store or Walmart, that’s where I find it.
- You can order it online, do a search for “Arm & Hammer Washing Soda”.
- It’s apparently also known as Soda Ash and can be found at art supply stores, JoAnn Fabrics.
- Try asking your local grocer to order it for you if they don’t carry it. The UPC code is 33200-03020 or 033200-030201.
- You can try calling Church & Dwight the suppliers/makers for Arm & Hammer Washing Soda…1-800-524-1328…give them a UPC # 33200-03020 and they can direct you on where to find it locally or purchase it through them over the phone. You can also contact them via their website here: Church & Dwight – Arm & Hammer.
It Doesn’t Look Like Commercial Brands, It Looks Like Goopy Glop!
- Congrats! That’s how it’s supposed to look.
I Have Hard Water & My Clothes Don’t Come Out That Clean, Suggestions?
- Try adding baking soda or Oxyclean or vinegar as laundry boosters, suggestions for baking soda are to start with 1/2 cup per load.
Aren’t Washing Soda & Borax Caustic? Poisonous? Are They Safe To Handle?
- As with all cleaners, common sense is needed when handling soaps and detergents. Going against dire, dire warnings about how dangerous Borax and Washing Soda are to the skin, I handled all ingredients with bare hands and experienced no burns and all flesh is still intact. If I had small cuts or scrapes on my skin, my experience may have been different. To be safe you may wish to use rubber gloves. Avoid breathing in any of the powders and ingredients. I imagine breathing in a mouthful of commercial laundry detergent, or getting it in my eyes or up my nose, would be very uncomfortable and unwise, the same goes for homemade detergent ingredients. It goes without saying: Don’t eat it to find out if it’s poisonous or not. And of course: Keep this out of reach of kiddos just like you would for any other cleaner, detergent or soap.
Can It Be Used In Cold Water Instead Of Hot?
- Sure it can. If you notice clothes don’t come out as clean as you’d like, try a laundry booster such as vinegar or oxyclean.
Freshly Washed Clothes Smell Like Nothing! Can You Add Essential Oils For Fragrance? If So, How Much Do I Add?
- You bet! Essential oils are a nice touch to homemade detergents (freshly laundered clothes really don’t have any nice fragrance added with homemade detergent). How much you add depends on how strong the fragrance is that you’ve chosen and what recipe you are using. Experiment for yourself to see what you like best. For starters you can try these two suggestions as guidelines: Recipe #4 (Powdered) I’d start with 5 drops, mixed in very well. Recipe #9 (Powdered) I’d start with 20 to 25 drops, mixed in very well. Also noted in the original post: You can add between 10 to 15 drops of essential oil (per 2 gallons) to your homemade laundry detergent.
Can I Still Use Bleach?
- Bleach has been used by myself successfully with no harmful effects. You will want to watch the ingredients in your soap items though (make sure the bar you use can be mixed with bleach safely), bleach will react negatively with vinegar for example.
Is There A Residue On Clothes After Washing?
- I haven’t noticed it but if you do, here are a couple things you can try: Increase the water amount, decrease the load size or decrease the detergent used per wash. You can also try a vinegar rinse by using a Downy ball or add vinegar during the rinse cycle.
Is Borax or Washing Soda Safe For The Environment? I’m Trying To Find An Eco-Friendly Solution!
- According to this website, washing soda is environmentally friendly: Root-cn.com.
- Borax is an ingredient included in many “Green” recipes.
- I would guess that it’s not the most environmentally friendly option out there, but it would be better than most regular commercial detergents.
How Much Should I Use Per Load Of Wash?
- Read the instructions for the particular recipe you’re using, each of them have suggested amounts to use. Feel free to adjust as needed.
Ugh! This Stuff Didn’t Clean My Clothes At All!
- It could be one of two things: not enough detergent used in the load or the brand of bar soap used in the recipe. Experiment with the amount of detergent you use in the wash, you should discover the needed amount. The suggested amounts to use per load may not be right in your case since the brand of bar soap you used might not be as good a cleaner as others.
Is It Really Worthwhile Making Your Own?
- The powdered laundry detergents are the easiest to manage in my opinion (for both mixing and storing). It doesn’t cost that much to give it a shot and see how you like it. If you do find it works well for you–imagine the money you’ll save over time!
Adding Some Antiseptic Quality
This is a great tip sent in by Susan and I think it should be added to this main section so it doesn’t get missed (thank you Susan!)…
- For readers who were worried about bacteria surviving in the wash using cold water they could try using Dr. Bronner’s tea-tree soap or adding tea-tree oil to their detergent for it’s antiseptic properties. I’ve had some success with this. I used this soap on my son when his winter eczema became irritated and resulted in a bad skin infection. It cleared up in about half the amount of time his pediatrician predicted. Also, adding vinegar to the fabric softener cup on the washer will help to keep things more sanitary by breaking up leftover wash residues.