Saturday, May 10, 2008

How to Make your own Laundry Soap

Last December my friend Celina blogged about making her own laundry soap. I decided that I would try it out once my current supply ran out.

I did a lot of research online to find as much information as I could about making my own laundry soap. What I found was that pretty much all the recipes are essentially the same, some people use more or less of each ingredient, and that bath soap does not clean as well as laundry soap. I also learned that this is great for High Efficiency washers because it makes little to no suds (FYI the suds in store bought laundry detergent are for looks only and don't actually have anything to do with cleaning.)

In the end I went with Celina's recipe because a) she's my friend so I believe her when she says something works and b) because I believe her, her recipe is considered tried and true, c) it seemed pretty easy and d)Celina already did the price breakdown which saved me a lot of mental math work. Basically, homemade laundry soap costs less than 1 cent per load. You can't get much better than that!

Here's what you need:

  • Some kind of bucket to mix all your ingredients in. I used a 2 gallon paint bucket.
  • 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha Laundry Soap (you can also use Zote, Octagon, or Ivory--amounts may vary)
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (everything but the bucket can be found in the laundry aisle of Walmart, Fred Meyer, or WinCo--at least in my neck of the woods)
  • A cheese grater and a small saucepan 
Baking Soda and Washing Soda are different. See?

Step 1: Cut your bar of Fels Naptha Soap into thirds and finely grate one third of it. If you are awesome you have this grater from Ikea. $4.99 for two! If you don't have this grater you are still awesome. You just need to take a trip to Ikea.
This looks like it would be good on spaghetti Don't try it.

Save the other two thirds because next time you make a batch of laundry soap it will feel like you are doing it for FREE!

Step 2: Put your grated soap in a pot with 6 cups of water and heat on low until the soap melts. Don't let the soap boil. Once all the soap is completely melted add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved.  Remove from heat.

Step 3: Pour 4 cups of hot tap water into your bucket. Add the soap mixture and stir it up. At this point you could add a few drops of essential oil like lavender or tea tree oil if you wanted your soap to have a fragrance. Add nothing and your clothes will simply smell clean. (Don't you love how I give you a picture pouring? As if you have no idea what it means to pour? Yes, I am helpful like that. You're welcome.)

Now add one gallon of hot tap water plus 6 more cups. I used my giant 8 cup Pyrex measuring cup but if I had had an old milk carton I would have just used that. As you can see my 2 gallon bucket barely fit it all. You might want to use a 5 gallon bucket to avoid unnecessary sloshing.
Give it another few minutes of stirring and then let it sit overnight.
Step: 4 In the morning your soap might look runny, or like gel, or separated with big clumps of slime on top and water on the bottom. This is all normal depending on the weather, the type of soap you used, and how much of a tree-hugging hippy you are. At this point you can be done and simply keep your laundry soap in the bucket and just scoop out 1/2 cup per load. Or you can give it another good stir and funnel it into your old well rinsed laundry soap bottle. OR you can be a sucker for cute packaging like me and take it one step further.

Step 5: I wanted to use a Beverage Dispenser with a spigot but my soap came out all clumpy and I knew there was no way it would flow through. So I busted out my immersion blender and smoothed all the clumps layer by layer.

I funneled each layer into my container then went back and blended the next part. Blend, funnel, blend, funnel, blend, funnel...etc.

I found this cute plastic cup at a thrift store and it holds exactly 1/2 cup. Perfect!

An adhesive plastic hook gave me a cute litle laundy soap set-up. Oops, I attached it to the wrong side. Easily fixable. But wait! There's more!

If you have a Downy ball, you can put about 1/2 cup of Distilled White Vinegar in there and it makes a fantastic fabric softener. And no, your clothes do not come out smelling like vinegar. If you don't have a Downy ball just add your 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle. I don't like babysitting my washing machine so I have a Downy ball.

Check me out! Cute! Frugal! Tree-hugging! I'm a REAL Oregonian!


After five years I still love this soap. However, I've made a few simplifications in my process.  I no longer use the drink dispenser.  It got a crack in it and started leaking so I transferred all my soap to two 1 gallon orange juice containers.  Plus, the mixture will still separate and will need to be shaken before use so the o.j. containers are more convenient for shaking than the 2 gallon drink dispenser.

The above recipe used to say something about stirring until the mixture thickens.  This happens almost right away and easy to miss.  I took that line out.  Just remove from heat once everything is fully dissolved.  Everything will be okay, I promise.

Since I have to shake anyway, I gave up using the immersion blender.  Unnecessary!

I also mostly stopped measuring the water.  I just put enough water in my pan to cover the soap and other ingredients.  I let everything dissolve.  While it's dissolving I fill my 2 gallon bucket about half way with hot water from the tap.  Then I add the soap mixture and stir it up a couple times.  Then I fill the rest of my bucket up with hot tap water and stir again.  I let it cool for a couple hours and then transfer it to my o.j. containers using a ladle and a funnel.  Anything that spills is used to mop my kitchen floor.  

I'm so glad so many people are having success with this recipe!  Hooray for saving money!