Monday, December 5, 2011

Make your own: Laundry Soap

I snagged this from Rey at The Peasant and the Pea.  So, it's been tried out by someone I personally know and trust.  She got the recipe originally from Tip Nut, I believe.  Anyways, all the  materials cost about $8 (give or take depending on where you shop and what you buy.)  

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

2 quarts of water
4 cups grated bar soap  
4 cups Borax
4 cups Washing Soda *washing NOT baking*
4 gallons of water
A clean 5 gallon bucket with a lid.

That does not say four bars of grated soap.  It says four cups of grated bar soap.  There is a fundamental difference.  It only took me  two and a half bars of Ivory to get my four cups of grated soap.  I grated it with a very fine cheese grater.  

My first question to Rey was:  What the hell is washing soda and where the hell do you find it?  Wal-mart apparently, and possibly the drug store, or you might have to check online.  Wal-mart had it where I live in Central Texas, but they only had Arm & Hammer.  I would've rather had an off label, but such is life.  Borax is also something that you don't always encounter, but at least I knew what that was from my Gramma.  I was also able to find it at Wal-mart.  You usually find both of these ingredients near the Oxy-Clean or other laundry boosters.  

I still have a good portion of each box left, though I am not sure if I have quite enough for a full second batch.  I would say you can get at least one and a half batches out of each box, thus reducing the actual total cost of each batch.  

Heat your 2 quarts of water to a simmer, and slowly --- very slowly --- add in your grated soap.  I was using a rubber spatula to stir, and I used the rubber spatula to scoop up some soap and stir it in.  Once all the first scoop of soap was dissolved, then I got another scoop.  Rey discovered the hard way that if you dump all the soap in at once it melts into a lump, and you have to stir forever to melt it down.  I think the total scoop/stir/melt process only took about 20 minutes.  If that.  

Dump your hot soapy water into your bucket, and add the Borax and Soda.  Stir until it is as dissolved as it is going to get.  The 4 gallons of water I added in 2 quart batches.  The water needs to be hot-ish in order to dissolve everything, so I used my sauce pot and heated it up on the stove while I stirred what was already in the bucket.  Not to boiling, just hotter than tap water.  Stir, stir, stir.  Everything will eventually get mostly dissolved.  Clap the lid on it and put it by your washer.  Use 1/4 c per load.  Stir before each time you use it, because even though we stirred it well, solids will settle.  

I got a stick from the yard for a stirrer after the water got too deep for my spatula, that way I wouldn't have to dedicate a kitchen utensil to the laundry.  

Five gallons of laundry soap for less than $8.  It lasted Rey (who has a family of four) for several months.  She crunched the numbers over on her blog, and the results were about half as much as buying Sun laundry detergent, which is one of the cheapest ones.  You can make it smell prettier by adding essential oils or soap scents (purchasable from most hobby and craft shops) if you like.  

You can use the same recipe, only without the water, for a powdered detergent, but I like liquid for rinsing cleaner.  


  1. I used this for two years. The only problem I ran into was our soft water (really soft!) and so eventually it built up soapy residue in our clothes. I found washing a couple of times with a store brand laundry detergent washed that away and I went back to our homemade. Eventually at John's request we just used it for towels and sheets and such. I still have stuff leftover from my two batches. The recipe I used came from Trent at

  2. P.S. I thought this would be a great way to use up the slivers of soap we end up with....

  3. I use the leftover slivers to make hand soap. I use the slivers of soap, those last little dribbles of shampoo that never want to come out of the bottle, and a little bit of water. I have some hand soap pump bottles from when I got hand soap at 10 for $10, and I let the shampoo bottles sit on them upside down until no more drips out, drop in the slivers of bar soap, add a bit of water, and let it sit. I'll gently swirl it every so often until it's all blended together before I set it out for use.

    The soapy residue is good to know. Our water is pretty hard here (smells really strong of minerals and chlorine), so I may not have that problem. But it's still good to know.

  4. I use a dry version, with two bars of fels naptha soap also grated, the entire box of borax, and the entire box of washing soda..dump into big enough bucket, stir to combine. As for soapy buildup, I use white vinegar as 'bleach' to rinse anything out, including odors and residue. Been using this for over two months, and I am quite happy with it still!

  5. I have always had a bit of trouble with powdered washing soaps. It could just be something I've always done wrong, but I find that anywhere the laundry is creased or folded over the powder likes to stay instead of rinsing away. I've heard that the fels naptha is a better option for high efficiency machines, but I've got a good old lady in the basement. She does her job, so I don't plan to replace her with a HE version any time soon :)

  6. oh, my old washing machine is in no way an HE, we got it about ten years ago when the ones that came with my home went kaput. The reason I use the powder version is that there is no space to store the liquid version that can handle the additional weight of the water. Instead, I start the washer, pour in the detergent, and let it dissolve in the water before adding the clothes. I guess I am ending up in the same place as your liquid, but with a few more steps? I've also heard that Zote is a good soap for washing clothes with, found in the laundry section. Now then, to find a good dish washing detergent. I go through waaay too much of that!

  7. Dish soap for hand washing is easy enough, but for a dishwasher... yeah, that would be nice. I used to wash all my dishes by hand and just use the washer for a drying rack. But for one month we turned the AC down every night to a comfortable sleep temperature, and I used the dishwasher the whole month. The difference in our electricity rebate was only $10, and we were still getting money back. So I've started using the dishwasher regularly. Detergent is more expensive per use than regular old dish soap, that is for sure.


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