Homemade Laundry Soap Revisited

folded-laundry

I thought I would revisit my recent post about making your own laundry soap…because a few people have had some questions about it…and because now that I’ve made it several times..I have made a few tweaks that might be helpful to pass on.  I also took some pictures. Which isn’t easy when you’re trying to stir or pour with one hand! :-)

I started out my D.I.Y. laundry soap journey with this recipe from The Rachel Berry Blog.   Since that time I have read dozens of different “recipes” for the stuff…and they all contain the same basic ingredients. Borax, Washing Soda and Fels Naptha Soap.

The first recipe called for mixing it up in a 5 gallon bucket…which is OK I guess…but not all that convenient. So I looked for a recipe that made a smaller batch that I could make in one big pan on the stove.  That’s when I tried this recipe at Why Not Sew?  I still follow this…but with a few tweaks of my own.

This is the Jillee’s Homemade Laundry Soap tutorial: 

  • Grate 1 bar Fels Naptha soap or whatever soap you like. (For those who are having issues with the detergent becoming TOO THICK…try 1/2 a bar of soap).

homemade laundry detergent

  • Put soap in large pot and add approximately 8 cups of hot water.
  • Bring to a slow boil and “cook” until the soap is dissolved.
  • Then add 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of Washing Soda.

 

homemade laundry detergent

  • Bring to a boil again, then take off heat.
  • At this point I use a measuring cup and a funnel to pour the soap into 2 large containers.  (Mine are 1 gallon Minute Maid O.J. bottles).

homemade laundry detergent

  • Divide the mixture evenly into the two bottles (I just eyeball it like Rachael Ray)

homemade laundry detergent

  • Then add water to just a few inches from the top of the bottle.

homemade laundry detergent

  • Put cap on bottle and shake!

homemade laundry detergent

Overnight the stuff will thicken quite a bit!Don’t be alarmed…that’s just the nature of the stuff.  As I use it…sometimes I will add more water…sometimes not.  I usually use about 1/2 cup per load.

When I do white loads…I almost always add some of my homemade “oxi-kleen”. :-)  Which is just 1/2 a cup of hydrogen peroxide (that stuff in the brown plastic bottle you buy in the pharmacy by the contact solution) and a 1/2 cup of washing soda.  I find it works best if I let the load agitate then leave the lid open on the washer (mine’s a top loader) and let soak for awhile.  I have used it on colored clothes too with success and no fading.  Just not as often as whites.

So, there it is.  My homemade laundry detergent revisited. Hopefully it will encourage some of you to give it a try.  I think you’ll like it! :-)  I am completely sold on the concept.  I’m usually the one who says….”never say never”….but I can say with some certainty…I will never buy laundry soap again. (at least not on a regular basis.  How’s that for leaving myself an out? lol).

 

HAPPY WASHING!!!!

 

Update:  Don’t like grating soap? You might want to considered this post:  Super Fast and Easy Homemade Laundry Soap





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Comments

  1. Sonia says

    I love your posts! And have a stupid question…What is the difference between washing soda and baking soda? If I have a huge (from Sams) think of baking soda, will it work with your recipes?

    • Louise says

      Great for sensitive skin…gels naphtha has a very light smell, this laundry soap has never bothered my kiddos skin, this tripe should cut ally make 10 gallons with 1/2 cup used in top load and 1/4 cup in fron load washers

  2. vpl says

    Sonia, it isn't a stupid question. I read on a website that you can make washing soda from baking soda by baking it in the oven. Don't remember where I saw it but you could google it I'm sure.

    Sheryl, I use a very pure soap for my daughter's sensitive skin. I would use whatever she uses in the bath. Just be aware that it might be more runny than what is described here (or more solid) based on the ingredients in the soap. You could make a small batch and try it. I also use vinegar in the rinse. It seems to "release" the remaining soap and she does not have any problems. Good luck.

  3. Anonymous says

    My friends and I just made this and the "fumes" caused us to all have headaches, throat irritation, coughing, etc. Has anyone ever had this happen? I think we'll "cook" this outside nextime :(

  4. Ms. Owl says

    I am trying this today for the first time. SO far it is easy and I am pretty sure I will do it again because it is not too difficult… but, I have a couple of questions:

    1. I have a top load HE washer. It has a hooper to put liquid detergent and one for dry. So I could use either one. However, the homemade liquid detergent got lumpy when I added the water. Granted, it has not sat over night yet. IF the lumps are not resolved, has anyone used the homemade liquid detergent in a hopper style washer? And does it, over time, clog?

    2. Will the lumps resolve themselves overtime as the mixture sits?

    Thanks for any information regarding lumpiness. I am so excited to be able to save money and be more green!! SO I really want this to work!

    • Hollie says

      I made her other recipe which requires dividing it into 3 bottles (more diluted). Also, I used a glycerin soap bar instead of the opaque stuff like everyone else. It turned out VERY watery which is great for us front loaders with the hopper feed. I still want to make a batch with Fels Naptha just to see if there’s any difference. Glycerin soap is great because it literally melts into a liquid and stays that way. The clothes washed just fine and felt quite soft as well. I use white vinegar in the fabric softener hopper (doesn’t clog things up and keeps the machine smelling nice). I recommend keeping the door of the washer open when not in use to keep mold out. Unless your water inlet valve goes bad, there is no harm in leaving the door open. My machine’s valve went out causing the machine to leak about a gallon of water on the floor. It was an easy fix though, did it myself with help from online pictures!

  5. Stephanie Newton says

    Ms. Owl, I don't have a top load HE washer, but I put my homemade laundry detergent in the dispenser in my HE washer. It's lumpy, but it dissolves when the water runs through it. I have used two gallons now and just made my second batch. I haven't had any trouble with it clogging.

    For sensitive skin, I use Dr. Bronner's castile soap for babies. It's very mild and perfume-free. Hope that helps!

  6. Jill Nystul says

    Thank you Stephanie! I appreciate the input on the HE washers since I don't have one.
    Ms. Owl…In the next couple of days I am going to post more pictures I took of that will hopefully give you a little better idea of how mine looks at least. I'm sure everyone's is a little different…and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Whatever works for you! :-) As far as lumps…I just give mine a good shake before I use it each time (sometimes I even add a little more water) and eventually almost all the lumps are gone.

  7. charity says

    My husband just finished our 1st batch! We are putting in mason jars for easy storage. Not sure how it will work out but will let u know. Also thought the jars could make cool little gifts:)

    • Cindy G says

      I use white vinegar for fabric softener. I put about a half a cup right into the fabric softener dispenser. Not only is it better for your skin, it also cleans your washer and dryer, and dissolves any soap residue…..Pull your dryer filter, and try running water through it. I’ll bet it won’t go!! That’s from chemical buildup from your softener! It leaves a film on your clothes; that’s what makes them soft. That’s why fabric softener is not recommended on athletic clothing – it affects the “breathability” of the clothing, making it so it doesn’t wick like it should…..and trust me; the smell goes away when it’s dry….and yes, this works for air drying clothes, too. If you’re still having static issues, add a couple tin foil balls. Good luck,and enjoy the savings!!!

  8. Denise from Ark says

    I bought my ingredients today for homemade laundry soap and am excited to start trying it. I am a little bit concerned about the reports I've seen here and elsewhere that it doesn't get the clothes quite as clean as retail laundry products. Can we all discuss this a little bit more?

  9. Tiffanie says

    A close friend of mine has been making laundry soap like this one for years, until just recently she found an easier one to make and passed it on to us …

    It is:
    3 Tablespoons Borax
    3 Tablespoons Washing Soda
    2 Tablespoons Dawn Dishsoap

    you put these ingredients in a gallon Jug. Put 4 cups Boiling hot water in jug. Swirl jug until ingredients are dissolved in the liquid. Let liquid cool. then fill almost to the top with cold water. the bubbles will over flow out of the bottle.

    I love this because you can pick an awesome scent with the Dawn Dishsoap. this Dishsoap works the best because it gets grease out :o)

    • Emma says

      I tried this and the powder crystalized in the bottom of the jug. tonight I made the “original” But I’m thinking next time I may try cooking the soda & borax till dissolved. I didn’t really think the clothes were as bright. I am thinking that the commercial laundry detergent has something that blocks the action of the Chlorine in our water.
      Any other ideas / comments?

    • Karen D. says

      In answer to crazywoman & Countrygirl, I use a recipe similar to Tiffanie (1/3 cup each ingredient) and yes it is very watery, but I use a cup for large loads & 1/2 cup vinegar for fabric softener. And it works better than commercial detergent in my honest opinion!!!

  10. Anonymous says

    I just made my first batch of laundry detergent. It wasn't difficult, but I'm going to try annonymous's way up there because I had trouble trying to fill my containers with water when it was done. Used detergent bottles, you can't see through them!! It was a mess!! My house smells great tho..lol I'm really excited I found your site!! I've also made my first batch of the stain remover and made enough for my two daughters, my mom and my sister!! I did buy the downy scent booster, it was only 5.98 so I couldn't pass it up! I'm doing laundry tomorrow and I'll let you know how it turns out!!..Awesome site Jill, ty!!

  11. Anonymous says

    I have made the recipe in the past and it separated terribly. A friend tipped me off to adding a bottle of Oxydol from the dollar store to the 5 gallon recipe. Mine no longer separates. Also, I save my 32 oz gatorade bottles. After cooking, I only mix about 1 gallon of water with mine. I let it set overnight and use my Blender Stick to remix it. It is nice and creamy. I put this mixture into 6 32oz gatorade bottles and store. Then, as I need some laundry detergent, I take the 32oz and make up 1 gallon at a time. Total makes 6 gallons. Takes up much less room and adding the Oxydol for $1.00 gives it a great scent. No oil necessary. I use about 1/3 cup in my HE washer.

  12. Anonymous says

    WARNING!!! I just made my first batch of laundry detergent following your directions exactly. The only difference was that I used ivory bar soap. When I scooped the last spoonful of detergent out of my pot, I noticed that the inside looked burned. After I rinsed the soap off of the pot I could see that the inside layer of my pan had been completely eaten away! I am just sick because this is my Calphalon One hard anodized pan that was so expensive! I tried saving money by making my own detergent and ended up ruining a pan that costs around $100.00. PLEASE put a warning on the recipe to use an old pot when making this detergent. Maybe a stainless steel pot? I would hate for anyone else to do what I did. I had to throw out the detergent because it turned gray from mixing with the coating of my pot.
    Gayle

      • Joan says

        For anodized pan any dishwasher solution will eat it away and both the Borax and Washing Soda make up part of a dishwasher solution. Washing soda is a no go for aluminum and fiber glass removes wax and possibly paint.

      • Koran says

        Almost all soap is made with Lye. If it burned your skin, the recipe either contained too much lye or did not cure long enough. That’s why it’s best to buy locally made cold process soap that’s been properly cured and prepared. It also potentially could be any of the dangerous chemicals in commercial soap that burned you, such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.

  13. Anonymous says

    I wish I could attach a picture mine looks terrible and I am unsure if it's going to work. It's looks like chunky foam at the top and very liquid at the bottom. It makes me think of grease when it separates. Is this normal? Even when I shake it it doesn't look like detergent. Please help…

  14. TChase says

    Mine thickened quite a bit and was lumpy I stirred it up and I went ahead and used it in my HE machine. That was not a good idea. It has clogged my machine and water is leaking out onto the floor. I added the three gallons of water but did not want to dilute it down too much. (I melted everything with boiling water instead of cooking it because of the fumes). What can I do? Has anyone else had this problem? I really loved the way it cleaned! My husband is not pleased :(.

    • Hollie says

      Try glycerin soap. The detergent will be VERY watery which is great for HE machines. Thanks for posting… I was going to try Fels Naptha next, but I have an HE machine that I do not want to clog.

  15. Charlotte says

    I have made both the liquid and dry versions of laundry detergent. Started by making the liquid version because I heard it rinses out of clothes easier in the wash. However, I found it more of a pain to make and more room to store. Now, I make the dry powdered version. To make sure that it dissolves, I simply fill my washer with about an inch or two of hot water (hot wash cycle) and then add the powdered laundry detergent. After that, you can reset the wash cycle to cold and wash the clothes normally.

    • Carla P says

      Oh, that’s a great tip! I was also planning to use yhe powder rather than the liquid. Storage is an issue herem too, as in WHAT storage space? Thanks for sharing your experience with it.

  16. Lacey says

    Jillee,
    I love your information! I think we as a society are trying to "return to our roots" per say and I am grateful for all the helpful women out in the web world willing to guide me through.
    I was wondering about a laundry soap without the use of borax. I have read up on the health concerns this product poses. I do not plan on eating this laundry soap however, I did not know if you had done any kind of homemade solution or heard of any without borax? Thank you again for all your help. – Lacey

  17. Unhappy says

    I made this and hated it. It did not clean well at all. I even made the powder and it didn't clean well either. I think there are just some things that you can't be cheap on and laundry detergent is one of them. I will stick to my Tide and Downy.

  18. Sharon says

    Happy to say I made this up yesterday, just did two loads with it and it works like a charm! Prior to that I took a old white rag, cleaned off a table outside, cut the rag in half, put this stuff on one side of sink, put Tide on the other side. I let them both soak equal amount of time, both came out clean! Also, for fragrance I added 1/2 bottle of one of those Glade plug in thingamajigs… In Gain scent. I used a bucket that my pool chlorine tabs came in, 2 1/2 gal size ( I made the small batch). Works perfect!

  19. Mindi says

    I have made this in the past and even diluted it to almost half of what this recipie calls for and I have not had problems with it NOT cleaning. In fact, I am astounded at the job it has done. The whites are very crisp looking and the darks are sharper. I opened the washer during a cycle and the water was dingy with dirt from the clothes. I like the idea of using the Glade plug in for scent as this leaves no scent at all in my laundry. I’ve used homemade fabric softener too and it has worked as well.

  20. Becki says

    Thanks for posting this recipe. I have eczema / atopic dermatitis and I am always trying to find natural ways to get around having to use chemicals. My boyfriend and I started making our own laundry soap with just washing soda, borax, and grated soap. But this liquid one seems intriguing!

  21. Suzanne says

    I live in Fresno, Ca. Am I the only one who can’t find super washing soda here, except through Amazon? And Jillee, you now have me addicted to all of your great ideas! Thank you for all your research and hard work:)

  22. says

    Oh my goodness. I tried this recipe for the first time today and it turned into a huge mess..lol. The soap boiled over and ended up all over my stove and all over the floor. Who knew soap expands when you cook it? What an adventure it was making this for the first time. I don’t have a pot big enough to boil 2 gallons of water so I thought I would just do one gallon and add more water once I transferred it to the jugs, but even with only one gallon of water, my pot boiled over. I think next time I may just heat the soap with maybe a half a gallon of water and then add more after I take it off of the heat. I just love your blog Jillee and I hope I am happier with this soap than I was with the no shred version. I think the no shred version cleaned just fine but I couldn’t get over the very thin consistency. By the way, I didn’t do any shredding today, my food processor did ;)

  23. Lindsey says

    I made this laundry soap this past weekend substituting Sensitive Skin Dove bar soap, and it works so wonderfully! The clothes just smell like clothes no scent which is amazing! Having a family full of people with ultra sensitive skin this stuff is all I am going to use for now on. I think my clothes are even brighter than with the store bought detergent! Thank you for the recipe!

  24. Gina Bell says

    Since I found this website I have spent ALL my spare time here. I am now in the process of making the laundry soap. I am making the dry mix. I just grated a bar of soap and it’s not 2 cups should I grate another one? Also does anyone have a better way to grate the soap. I love this site. Thank you!

    • Michelle says

      I used my food processor’s “shred” plate to grate the soap. The very end of it didn’t go through (the “pusher” couldn’t reach it), but I just chopped it up with a knife and threw it in the pot with the shredded soap!

  25. Jennifer says

    I’ve been making the liquid for almost 2 months now. I’ve noticed that our clothes are kind of “dingy”. I’ve added washing suds as a booster and it doesn’t seem to help with this particular problem. Does anyone else have this problem, and if so, what do you do about it? I love making my own detergent, but I hate dingy clothes. If I can’t find a solution, I’m going to have to go back to using Tide and Cheer. Thank you!!!

    • Meagan says

      I ad 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 1/2 cup water to my fab softener dispenser. Whitens, brightens, and neutralizes odors! My husband works at a farmer’s co-op and comes home with DIRTY clothes. If they’re really bad I’ll add a glug of vinegar to the water also. Hope that helps!

  26. Laura says

    I just finished making my first batch and I can’t wait to do laundry! I would have to say that the whole process was relatively easy. I used my food processor to grate the soap and it was completed in 10 seconds. I did not have any issue with “fumes” while cooking this and I am pretty sensitive to those things. The only warning I have and I am surprised no one else mentioned anything…if you are using plastic containers, be careful when filling them. I was concerned for a bit there that the hot liquid would melt my container. Perhaps for my next batch I will look for glass containers instead.

    • Shawntaia says

      Just finished making mine with zote very pleasant making it. Zote shreds easily with a hand grater and melted like butter in the pre boiled water because that’s what I did I didn’t want to end up with lumps. I too need to look into big glass containers if u find out please post info it melted one of my bottles some. I too cant wait to use mine.

      • Raven says

        If you like wine you can get gallon jugs at the grocery store. Now that it is summer, we doctor up sangria with fruit in a punch bowl for BBQ’s. We usually end up with two empty glass jugs that have handles. These would work great if you don’t mind the weight.

  27. Jamie says

    Jill,
    Can I ask why you went from 3 gallons (original recipe) to just 2 gallons (current recipe) once you’re all done? Just curious! Does it clean better since it’s more concentrated? And which recipe do you like better? The cooked version or the no-grate version?

    I made the original version a while back and I love it. Still have 2 gallons left. I added tea tree oil to mine and it smells great. I also had no issue of fumes when I cooked/melted the soap.

    I do love your site. So glad I found it.

    Thanks,
    Jamie

  28. Amy S says

    I just made a batch…I could not for the life of me find washing soda, so i decided to use baking soda…SO with that being said as soon as I put it in with the boiled soap…it expands…and QUICKLY like a volcano eruption…i got it to the sink before it overboiled…once in the sink I let it ecsape the pot some, added the borax and it went down…once the borax is added and mixed i wasnt left with very much solution so i added 4 hot cups of water and stirred… transferred to my jug(s) and let it cool. SO just as a precaution to everyone use a TALL pot and get it to the sink ASAP if your using baking soda.

    but i cant wait to use it along with my homemade fabric softner!

  29. Kathy says

    One tip I discovered. I tried to add the water and shake to mix while mixture was very warm still. PRESSURE! I had a really hard time getting the cap off :) Live and learn! This is my first batch, anxious to see the results. Thanks Jill!

  30. Kathy says

    One more tip… I started out grating the bar soap, but that soon became too boring! So, I just used a large kitchen knife and “shaved” it and chopped it down. That worked fine.

  31. Dana says

    I made this batch according to the original recipe and it works BETTER than any soap I’ve ever used before in the past. My son has moderate-severe eczema and it has not bothered him yet, however I will try to make a batch with cetaphil, with it’s cleansing non anionic properties it should work fine in my he machines :)

  32. Lisa Hatlestad says

    I am still using this, after three months, and I love, love, love it. I love how my clothes aren’t smelly with fake perfumes; I love how clean they look and feel; I love saving $10-14 a gallon, and I LOVE being able to re-use the same containers, over and over again. I’m so glad I’m not brand-addicted; made it so much easier to give up the foolishness of commercial products and replace them with products I make myself.
    PS – I like to spray my laundry, once it’s in the dryer, with white vinegar….it comes out of the dryer so soft and fluffy and scentless!

  33. Vermicmpstr says

    I just have to address some of the issues that some readers are having.
    I’ve been making and using this soap for 4 years. Literally. Haven’t purchased laundry detergent in all that time.

    I make the liquid, using a 5-gallon pail, then pour it into a laundry detergent jug to use it. When you make it and let it sit overnight it does thicken, like gel. Just stir it with a stick or your hands, wearing rubber gloves. Dilute it to use it in the washer, or in your jug.
    Half and half with water.

    You have to use a laundry bar. (Zote, Fels Naptha) Bath bars like Irish Spring, Dove, etc won’t work. They have oils in them, and your clothes will get dingy for sure. I live in Canada and Sunlight Bars and an Italian bar called Linda are what is available here.

    Because this is a homemade detergent vinegar is necessary in the rinse water. Vinegar acts as a softener, and rinses the soap out of the clothes. Don’t worry, you won’t smell like a pickle!

    I also use the gelled detergent as a spot cleaner. We have 3 cats, and 2 of them like gifting us with fur-balls periodically.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] So I gave some home made laundry soap a try.  A friend of mine does the dry laundry soap, and you can see her tutorial here. She swears by the stuff, but I decided to do the liquid variety instead because I had the container to hold the liquid soap and wouldn’t have to make a dollar store trip for a different container with a tired four year old in tow. Seriously. That’s my reason for my choice between liquid and dry.  I used this site for the recipe. [...]

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