Homemade Laundry Soap


With two small children, a dog, a household to manage, a part time job and ministry to juggle, I don’t have a lot of spare time.  And with a limited budget to work with, I have found myself becoming more creative, even adventurous in order to save a few dollars and valuable time I could be spending with my family.  I have tried (and since given up on) making my own shampoo and hand soap.  I have made the switch from disposable diapers to cloth(and I will never go back!).  I have, for the most part, gotten rid of most cleaning solutions and instead use things like vinegar($3 for 2 gallons at Costco…can’t beat it!). And the list goes on! 

After a few different…uh, adventures(aka: failures), I began to formulate a few simple rules about “alternative” and homemade products:

1)  Ideally, making a product will cost less and take less time than getting the kiddos loaded in the car and driving to the store and back. 

2)  It is worthwhile if I can do 5-10 minutes of work at a time and multi-task the rest(ie, laundry, reading my kids a book, vacuuming).

3)  It MUST work as good or better than what I can buy off the shelf.

4)  If it costs more, but the health benefits for my family outweigh the extra few dollars by a large margin, it is worth it. This comes in the perspective that the long term health benefits will cost us less money in medicine or doctor visits because the product will be that much higher quality.

5)  If my 5 year old couldn’t do it, with a little bit of help, it is too complicated.

6)  If I can’t pick up the ingredients while picking up a loaf of bread and some toilet paper on a usual stop at the store(or at least on the way there), I need to re-evaluate the above rules. 😉

One of the best things I ever did was to start making my own laundry soap.  My friend, LaVonne is one of the “greenest” people I know, so she often is a wonderful resource for eco-friendly and inexpensive alternatives to common household items. She is the one who got me started and I have since taken her recipe and made it work for me.  I love how easy and quick it is to make, and I love how well it works.  And at around $9 for 6 gallons, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the price tag. 🙂 Just know that it takes some trial and error to get it to the right consistency. But once you get it (took me 2 tries) it’s super easy and fast. If  it isn’t quite right just heat it back up and stir it until it melts again. Easy peasy! Yes, it’s lumpy.  Yes, it is also a little runny.  But who says laundry soap has to be pretty?????  

There are a whole lot of recipes out there but they basically use the same ingredients, just in different quantities. Some people find they have to make adjustments because of hard or soft water. Here’s the recipe I use.  
 **Note: Scroll all the way to the end for some commonly asked questions.**

*1/3 bar of Fels Naptha (5.5oz bar). You can use other soap but make sure you aren’t using a beauty bar, which is what most bar “soaps” are that you find in normal grocery stores.

*1 1/2 cup arm and hammer WASHING soda (NOT baking soda, although you can add it and some recipes do)

*1/2 to 1 cup borax 

*1/4-1/2 cup white vinegar

*1T essential oil or glycerin (optional)

*2 1 gal. jugs or other container to store soap. If you have an old detergent container or empty vinegar jugs, that works great. You can also use a bucket, allthough, if you have kids you’ll want to make sure it has a tight fitting lid and is very durable.

Grate the Fels Naptha soap and put it in a large stock pot with 6 cups water over medium heat; stir constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot. Heat until soap melts. (You’ll know it’s melted because it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot as much.)

Add washing soda, borax, vinegar and oil (if desired) all at once, stirring constantly until all has dissolved.

Reduce heat and let it sit for 5 mins. over the heat stirring occasionally.

Slowly add 1 gallon of hot tap water to mixture. If lumps appear, stir over heat a few minutes to incorporate.***

Remove from heat and let it cool for a while. Remove any bubbles and stir, slowly, occasionally(every 20mins or so to keep ingredients from separating) until cool enough to touch. Make sure it’s fairly cool because once you put the cap on the jug, it will expand and blow the top off if it’s too hot. If you are using a bucket, it should be fine to pour in after only 5 or 10 minutes.

Using a funnel put half the mixture in each gallon jug and shake well.

Put aside until cool.

This gels up and looks like egg whites.

Shake well before each use. Use about 1/2 c. per load, depending on size. It won’t suds up like most detergents but the clothes smell wonderful.

***If you don’t have a stockpot large enough, after dissolving all the ingredients in the 6 cups of water, let cool and stir as above, then add half of the mixture to each jug and then fill the rest of the way with hot tap water and shake well.


Q: Where can you buy the ingredients?
A: I have seen them at WinCo, Fred Meyer and Safeway.  Next time you are in your favorite store, take a look in isle with the laundry supplies. 

Q: Can this be used in front loading and HE(high efficiency) washers?
A: Yes and yes.  I have an HE front loader.  Since this soap doesn’t suds up like other detergents it is perfect for HE and front loaders.  You may find that you can use even less.  I actually only use about 1/4 cup per load.

Q: Can it be used to wash cloth diapers?
A: Yes.  We use cloth diapers and have never had any trouble with it.  I actually started adding a little extra vinegar(for the disinfectant quality) to the soap. So I use 1/2 cup to a full 1 cup of vinegar.  You may find that you need less of the Fels Naptha for diapers if your baby has sensitive skin or your washer doesn’t rinse clothes well.

Q: Can I use this if I have sensitive skin?
A: Honestly, I am not sure.  I would assume so.  But admittedly, my family is blessed to not have sensitive skin.  But, that being said, since I use it to wash my daughter’s cloth diapers, I assume it may be ok for most people. Again, don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time.  Try tweeking the recipe to see if reducing or increasing certain ingredients will help.   Please leave a comment if you have sensitive skin and try using this recipe.

Q: Is this soap toxic?
A: Like any soap, it should be kept out of reach of children.  The Borax box says to keep out of reach of children.  (I believe borax can be used to kill ant nests so I would assume that should tell us something!) So please keep this where you youngest and dearest won’t be tempted to play and explore. 😉

Q: Should I use special tools to “cook” it?
A: I use the same stockpot I use to cook spaghetti, and I use the same grater I use for veggies and cheese.  It is soap.  I actually find my stockpot is cleaner after I use it to make this soap!  Just make sure you rinse it well so there isn’t any residue.  …but hopefully you do that with any soap you use to wash dishes! 😉

Q: Can you make it dry instead of liquid?
A: I have seen many recipes for this online but have never tried it as I prefer liquid.  But do a quick internet search and you should easily find something that will work.  I’m not certain, but I think this recipe can be made dry by just finely grating the Fels Naptha and mixing it with the other dry ingredients, adding the vinegar, etc directly to the washer.  Leave a comment and let me know how it works if you give it a try.

3 thoughts on “Homemade Laundry Soap

  1. I picked up my soda today since my Costco stuff is just about gone. I’m looking forward to making this w/in the week!

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