Making Your Own Laundry Soap

20 Mule Team Borax

20 Mule Team Borax (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Fels-Naptha

English: Fels-Naptha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been reading about people making their own laundry soap for quite some time now and finally tried it in September.  There are a lot of recipes and videos online for this and there are as many variations in the recipes as you can imagine.  I can only tell you about my experience and what I used.  There are a few things I would change about the way I did it, but overall, I’m very happy with the resulting product.  Please note, this recipe is not for someone who is questioning if they’ll use it or not.  This recipe makes a lot of soap and unless you’re serious about making the switch to homemade, I’d recommend using another recipe that makes less.  You may wonder why I made such a large batch and my answer to that would be that after watching all the videos that I did on YouTube, I realized that I didn’t want to go through the process and end up with just a few bottles of detergent – I wanted enough to make it worth my while.  This is what I ended up with:

That’s a lot of soap, huh?  But, this picture doesn’t show what really happened, and that’s where my one-time experience with making it is going to benefit you.  I actually ended up with almost double what you see in the picture above because of a mistake (on my part) in the making of the recipe.  I keep saying that I did something wrong, but I haven’t explained just what it is that I did –  I should have waited another day before filling the jugs, because it gelled up more and I had to water it down again, but we’ll make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to you!  If you decide to use my “recipe”, please be sure to read the entire post, as I will be making some notes at the bottom that are important for a good outcome.

I’ll list the ingredients below, followed by my method in a step-by-step manner.  I’m doing it this way so that when you make it, you can just leave this web page open and follow along, while making your detergent.

Here is what I used:

  • 2 bars of Ivory Soap, cut into tiny pieces
  • 3 bars of Fels Naptha soap, cut into tiny pieces
  • 4 cups Super Washing Soda (not baking soda)
  • 4 cups 20 Mule Team Borax
  • 1/2 a container of Oxi-Clean powder
  • Large pan of Boiling Water (I used my boil-bath canner)
  • Old pan (to melt the soap in)
  • Old measuring cups or containers (to transfer soap to buckets)
  • Long-handled wooden spoon (a wire whisk is helpful, too!)
  • 3 – Five gallon buckets (or containers, a large tote would also work)
  • Many empty bottles! (start asking all your friends before making this)

The total cost for the products listed was around $15 and I still had some product leftover, so to say it’s cheaper to make your own laundry detergent is an understatement.  The Fels Naptha soap, washing soda and borax are all found in the laundry aisle.  I purchased mine at WalMart, but have noticed that my local grocery store carries the same products, at the same price.  If all this seems overwhelming, don’t worry.  It seemed that way to me and it ended up that it wasn’t as much work as I had thought it would be.  It was well worth my time and I’ll do it again without hesitation.

Method:

  1. Place a large pan of water on stove to heat while doing the other things – this is to add to the buckets later.  Once it comes to a boil, you can turn it down to lowest setting to keep it hot.
  2. Place your old pan (for soap) on the stove with about a quart of water in it.  You want the water to be hot before you add the soap. (ask me how I know)
  3. Get out a cutting board and start cutting the soap.  Most recipes will tell you to use a cheese grater, but I don’t have one.  I thought that cutting it would be quicker than a grater, anyway.  I made tiny slices through the soap, stacked it in piles and cut through 4-5 slices at once to get tiny pieces.  A food processor would work, too.
  4. If your “soap pan” water is hot, add the soap a little at a time (as you’re cutting it up), stirring to mix in (make sure it is turned low once it’s hot).  I used a metal whisk and that worked well to help the soap break up.  You can add more hot water if you think it needs it, it’s not exact science and a little bit of water here and there won’t hurt anything.
  5. When you’re done cutting the soap and adding it to the pan of water, allow it to sit there on very low heat, stirring every once in a while.  You don’t have to stand over it, stirring all the time.  It works better if you allow it to sit in the hot water on very low heat.
  6. While the soap is melting in the hot water, lay out some newspapers on the floor and then put two buckets side by side.
  7. Open your washing soda, borax and oxi-clean so that they’re ready when you are.

When the soap is dissolved, the fun begins!  We’re making what I consider “two batches”, so that is where the two buckets come in (we’ll talk about the 3rd in a moment).

Putting it all together:

  • Pour half the soap into one bucket, the other half in the other bucket.  This is how we’re going to do the whole batch, half of each thing going into each bucket.  I just went left to right, back and forth.
  • Pour two cups boiling water into each bucket and stir into the soap mixture.
  • Start adding your borax, one cup at a time, stirring well in between and adding the boiling water as needed, to be able to stir easily.  The mix will thicken as you’re stirring.
  • Repeat the above step, only this time with the washing soda.
  • Pour about 1/4 of container of oxi-clean in each bucket, then stir.
  • Make sure everything is mixed well together.
  • Finish filling your buckets (almost to the top) with boiling water.  If you run out of boiling water, it’s okay to use hot tap water at this point.
  • Stir one last time and cover your buckets.  If you don’t have lids, just use anything you have to cover them.
  • Let sit for 24 hours.
  • After the 24 hours, stir the detergent (it will look strange) and dump some out of each bucket into that 3rd bucket we talked about.  You want to have approximately the same amount in each of the three buckets.
  • Again, you’re going to fill the buckets to near the top with hot water.  Allow to sit overnight.
  • In the morning, stir one last time.
  • Fill your empty containers, but not to the top.  I would suggest filling them about 2/3’s of the way, then if you want to water down the detergent further, you can do so.

Wah-lah!  You have just made your own laundry detergent!  Don’t you feel good about saving all that money?

Below are the notes I told you about earlier in the post:

  1. Please use boiling water where called for, there is a difference.  Hot tap water will not dissolve the products well and you’ll end up doing a lot more stirring than you need to.
  2. At my local Family Dollar store, I found some Zote soap, which I will add in next time (it smells good, too).  Some of the online videos/recipes called for this, if you didn’t want to use Fels Naptha.  I couldn’t find it where I bought the rest of the ingredients, so I didn’t worry about it.  But now that I’ve found it, I will at least try it.
  3. Fels Naptha soap is a good stain remover.  I may use swap out the Ivory for Zote in my recipe next time, but I will always add that soap because of it’s ability to remove stains.  Some people keep it near their machines to rub on stains before washing the load of laundry.
  4. As to the amount of detergent I use per load, I can’t help you out there.  It will depend on whether you use a front or top loading machine, etc.  I just pour some in, I’d estimate that it’s around 1/3 – 1/2 cup.
  5. How does it clean?  I’ve washed my husbands jeans after he did some roofing – the jeans were black on the front – and it came out as much as it would for store-bought detergent.  I had a mis-hap while canning tomatoes and had red tomato stains all over 3 of my good, new dishtowels.  Washed as usual and it all came out.
  6. It doesn’t produce suds – suds do not equal clean!  I know we’re all used to seeing suds to judge how much something will clean, but it’s not something you’ll see with homemade detergent.  It will still clean your clothes.
  7. SHAKE the soap before each use!

I hope you liked this tutorial (or whatever it was, lol) and that it helps you to make your own homemade laundry soap.  I know that I’ll never buy the commercial stuff again, as I’m very happy with what I made.  I have a shelf in my cellar full of bottles of the stuff and it feels great to have it there, as well as to be saving the money I once spent on all of it.

Since this post ran longer than I expected, I’ll talk about my experience with homemade fabric softener next time.  I’m sorry I didn’t get it all in here at once.  I’ll try to get that post out by tomorrow, but I’ve been sleeping a lot the past few days and not feeling well at all.  I’ll try to keep up with replies as they come in, but if I don’t get right back to you, you’ll know why.  I look forward to your comments/questions and hope I’ve been of some help to you by sharing my experience.


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16 Responses to Making Your Own Laundry Soap

  1. runtspickins says:

    That doesn’t seem hard at all! It seems like a lot, but not hard. I am still on the fence about if I want to try it. Again, just because I found something I really like =[ I see that you made a lot of it though, how long does it last in the containers?

  2. It really isn’t hard. The time consuming part is cutting the soap and that wasn’t all that bad, either. The thing with this is there is no scent when you’re done, your clothes just smell clean. As far as sensitivities go, I can’t be sure because I’m not sensitive to detergents (skin soap is another thing) but I know there aren’t any perfumes or dyes in it, like in many commercial brands. Many recipes add essential oils for scenting purposes, but I didn’t.

  3. Whoops, I didn’t answer your question from the end of your comment! I don’t know from experience, but no one has seemed to have any problems with shelf-life. I would imagine it might need to be shaken up more, the longer it sits – but I’m guessing at that, too.

  4. ktandj04730 says:

    Hi Marie!

    I made homemade laundry detergent last week. I made the powder and I absolutely
    love it! Next time I think I will add the Oxy-Clean to it.
    I hope you’re feeling better!!

    • Hi Tammy! Thanks for the visit and comment. I have seen mostly recipes for the liquid, in fact it wasn’t until after I made it that I realized it even could be done! I’m glad you to hear that you made some and that you like how it turned out. As far as the oxi-clean goes, I did put it in my recipe when I made it, since that was what it called for in many of the recipes I had read online. Since that time, I have really been trying to get more “natural” in what I use for everything, so I know I won’t be putting that in there next time, as well as I’ll be leaving out the borax. It all comes down to personal choice, of course.

      I figured I should write out the recipe as I made it, since I didn’t want to get into every thing that I would do differently, or the reasons for that – the post was long-winded enough, LOL! 😀 I’m so glad you stopped by again and hopefully I’ll have you stopping by the house for a visit soon – I hope you know that I’d love to see you (and the family)!

  5. Marie, I hope you are feeling better. That recipe seems easy. Heck for that price I could make up enough to sit in the laundry room and tell all the tenants to help themselves. If they began to use this detergent, it would keep the nasty ones from ending up in the waterways here. Now to find enough empty containers 🙂

    • Thanks Lois, I am starting to feel better – I think it’s from everyone’s good wishes! The recipe is easy, the only part that got monotonous at all was cutting up the soap. Price-wise you can’t beat it, that’s for sure. If you read my above reply to Tammy, you’ll see that I do have some things I would personally change about it, but I did want to write it as I had done it, since I had promised so many people that I know that I would do that. There are some things in there that aren’t great, but I figure I’m still better off than I was with buying what I used to. Thanks so much for stopping in and I wanted to tell you also… your post/story about the depression has stuck with me all day, as well as the bravery that Caroline showed in what she did, taking the consequences that she did. It really touched me and I’m so glad you shared that story with me.
      Oh, and if you do decide to make the detergent, I wish you luck on the bottles, that was a tough one for me! But, if you make it for the tenant’s to use, you could always ask them to save theirs for you.

      • I am so glad you enjoyed the story of sacrifice my great-grandmother made. I wish I could say I am or will ever be that selfless.

        I will wait to make this particular recipe until I have collected enough bottles, but I have your post bookmarked for when I am ready. I figure I can even give a few to my adult kids to save them some real money too.

  6. indiedyer says:

    Hi Marie, hope you’re feeling better! It’s so refreshing to see all your efforts in making laundry detergent – that reminds me of my endeavours years ago when I tried half a dozen different recipes. Most of them left my clothes sticky after a while and white sheets got grey over time. But I guess in the end it depends on the reason why you want to do all this. These were mine: I have super sensitive skin, I like saving money, I’m very aware every drop of water and everything in the water that goes down my sink ends up in the ocean (sooner or later), I love making things from scratch, I can’t stand exess packaging (especially plastic), I don’t like to be dependent on large companies (okay, okay, I know we all are, but I still don’t like it). I really don’t want to rain on your parade, but your recipe has a few ingredients I didn’t – and wouldn’t – use, like Oxi Clean, which is quite toxic, especially to aquatic life, but also to sensitive skin. Its only active ingredient that might be useful (if at all) is the whitening properties of hydrogen peroxide, which you could buy separately and dilute to a usable strength. Oxi Clean also contains ethoxylated alcohol, which is also toxic… Even sodium carbonate (soda ash) is not without its drawbacks: It’s a strong base and because you have a double dose from Oxi Clean and Washing soda it’s quite caustic.
    Having said all this – your recipe is probably way better than Persil and the likes, and you still have all the advantages I mentioned above (cheaper, less packaging, etc). So I’m ending my babbling by saying well done! Hopefully you don’t mind me commenting so long windedly.
    Get well soon!
    Sabine
    PS. Nowadays I’m using an eco friendly (but expensive) fragrance free bought washing powder and use only half of the recommended dose. Every three or four washes I use soap nuts. Overall, I wash far less than I used to. It’s just not necessary.

    • Hi Sabine! It’s good to “see” you! Yes, I am starting to feel better, as I told Lois I think it’s from everyone’s good wishes! So that I don’t have to type it all out again, I’d refer you to my above replies to Tammy, as well as to LivingSimplyFree. There are changes I would make the next time, since when I did this, I hadn’t thought about the “natural” or “caustic” reasons why I shouldn’t be using some of the ingredients. I will be leaving out the borax and oxi-clean next time, but I’ve said that above, so I won’t go through all that again, lol. As I wrote in an earlier post, this “going green” and “natural” is a learning process and it’s taking me some time to get there and the changes are coming about, just not all at once. I have to live on a budget of less than $700 a month for two adults and 3 pets, so I’ve cut back on everything I can, make what I am able to, etc. I’ll definitely be making this again, just varying what I use in it. I think we all tailor to what we have need for anyway. It does clean well, so I’m happy with that. I always double-rinse all my laundry, using white vinegar in the final rinse, so I’m not worried about anything bothering my skin. There are environmental things to consider and like I said, I’ve learned more since I made it.

      Wow, I just looked back at all I typed and you thought you were long-winded, lol! I have to get over to your blog and see what you’re up to – no more burnt orange yarn, I hope? ;-)LOL

      • indiedyer says:

        Hi Marie, glad you’re better. Thanks for your not-at-all longwinded answer. I’ve just done some calculations and seen that we have just about the same low income, so I congratulate you for your positiveness. It’s very hard to live on so little money, there’s no doubt about that. On the other hand, it’s quite surprising how little one actually needs for a healthy, and even happy life. I’m curious about all the things you’ll discover. And of course I’m happy to share $-saving tips I’ve picked up over the years.
        At the moment there’s nothing to see over at my blog, not even a smidgen of burnt orange ;-). I’m in the last few days before exams and feel like some creature living under a rock. Can’t wait until it’s over so I can go outside and see the sun, and maybe, hopefully find a job again. Keeping fingers crossed. Two weeks to go. After that, expect lots of lively posts…maybe even some disasters.

  7. You have such great information to get out there, I have nominated you for the Liebster Award.

    • Thank you so much, that makes my day! You’re so sweet to think of me and I’m glad that you like the things that I’m posting. I know when I first started the blog, I was filling out information and one of the questions they asked what I would be blogging about. I knew I couldn’t limit myself to one topic, like cooking or gardening. They say to “write what you know” and I know about my life and how I feel about things. I knew that I was making changes in my life and figured it would be a perfect time to start blogging, since maybe others would find that journey interesting. Even if I had no one following my blog, I thought that at the very least, I’d have a written journal of how and what I changed, as well as when those changes occurred.

  8. Pingback: Review of “Homemade Fabric Softener” | MaineGreenGirl

  9. Thanks for the link! I prefer the powder myself, but I feel like I am drowning in laundry most of the time, so it works because it seems to stretch further. Great blog!

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