Clean up the aftermath.Clean up the aftermath.
Lots of liquid laundry detergent, ready to goLots of liquid laundry detergent, ready to go
Pour the mixture into containersPour the mixture into containers
Add more water and stirAdd more water and stir
Pour into a 5-gallon bucketPour into a 5-gallon bucket
Enjoy your favourite beverage while you babysit the foaming. I was sick at the time and was enjoying some tea.Enjoy your favourite beverage while you babysit the foaming. I was sick at the time and was enjoying some tea.
Watch for... oh, nevermind.Watch for... oh, nevermind.
WATCH FOR FOAMING!WATCH FOR FOAMING!
Mix in some washing soda and BoraxMix in some washing soda and Borax
Melt Fels-NapthaMelt Fels-Naptha
Add Fels-Naptha to boiling waterAdd Fels-Naptha to boiling water
Grate some Fels-NapthaGrate some Fels-Naptha
Cast of characters for liquid laundry soapCast of characters for liquid laundry soap
And you're done.And you're done.
MixMix
Add some washing soda and BoraxAdd some washing soda and Borax
Grate a bar of Fels-NapthaGrate a bar of Fels-Naptha
Powdered laundry soapPowdered laundry soap
  • Clean up the aftermath.
  • Lots of liquid laundry detergent, ready to go
  • Pour the mixture into containers
  • Add more water and stir
  • Pour into a 5-gallon bucket
  • Enjoy your favourite beverage while you babysit the foaming. I was sick at the time and was enjoying some tea.
  • Watch for... oh, nevermind.
  • WATCH FOR FOAMING!
  • Mix in some washing soda and Borax
  • Melt Fels-Naptha
  • Add Fels-Naptha to boiling water
  • Grate some Fels-Naptha
  • Cast of characters for liquid laundry soap
  • And you're done.
  • Mix
  • Add some washing soda and Borax
  • Grate a bar of Fels-Naptha
  • Powdered laundry soap

I started making my own laundry soap a few months ago, and now I’m not sure I would ever go back.

I’ve made both a liquid detergent and a powdered detergent with basic ingredients that I was able to find all at Hy-Vee in the laundry aisle. I found the powdered detergent to be a lot faster and easier to prepare and use, but I suppose using liquid vs. powdered is a personal preference. Both rock in terms of getting things clean, even when dealing with my stinky running clothes.

The liquid soap recipe comes from my friend Tracy, who created a step-by-step tutorial on Facebook. The powdered recipe comes from my friend Desirée, who makes a whole variety of homemade cleaners.

These are the basic ingredients, and what I paid for them at Hy-Vee back in October:

  • Fels-Naptha bar soap: $0.93 for 5 1/2 oz
  • Borax: $3.79 for 4 lb 12 oz
  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda: $2.68 for 3 lb 7 oz

Powdered Laundry Soap Recipe

  • 1 bar Fels-Naptha
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
  1. Grate Fels-Naptha.
  2. Add Borax and Washing Soda. Mix to combine.
  3. Use 1T for regular loads and 2T for heavy loads.

Easy cheesy.

Liquid Laundry Soap Recipe

Tracy’s instructions:

  • 1/2 Bar of Fels-Naptha Heavy Duty Laundry Soap
  • 1 Cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • 1/2 Cup 20 Mule Team Borax
  • Big pot to combine and cook ingredients
  • Long spoon
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • 2 large empty containers, like old Tide bottles
  • Large measuring cups
  • Cheese grater
  • Cup of your favorite coffee
  • And about 1/2 hour

Step 1:
Heat 6 Cups of water in large pot on stove.

Step 2:
Grate 1/2 bar of Fels Naptha Soap.

Step 3:
Add grated soap to hot water and stir until melted. (At this point the scent of the Fels-Naptha started to overpower me and I had to open all the windows and doors. Just so you know.)

Step 4:
Stir in 1 Cup of Washing Soda and 1/2 Cup of Borax. Stir to dissolve.

Step 5:
Cook for 10-15 minutes at a hard boil. WATCH FOR FOAMING!
Warning: Do not, I repeat, do not leave boiling pot to check Facebook. ;)

Step 6:
Drink coffee while waiting. (Do not skip this step.) Once time is up, remove pot from heat.

Step 7:
In a 5 gallon bucket, put 1 quart of hot water, and add soap mixture. Stir until thoroughly mixed.

Step 8:
Add 1 gallon, plus 1 1/2 quarts (or 5 1/2 quarts) of cold water to make approximately 2 gallons. Stir until well blended.

Step 9:
Pour mixture into 2 big empty bottles to store.

Step 10:
Use 1/2 to 1 Cup per load of laundry. And SAVE TONS OF MONEY!

Why would you want to make your own laundry soap instead of just buying it from the store?

1. Cost. I calculated out the cost of the liquid version of this recipe, and it came out to $0.04/load at 1 cup/load. Using 1/2 cup would bring it down to $0.02/load. This was even with buying the basic ingredients at Hy-Vee, which tends to not be the cheapest place in town.

For comparison, liquid Tide at Walmart on Rollback sells for $17.97 for 78 medium loads. This comes out to $0.23/load, which is 5.75 times more expensive than the DIY liquid laundry detergent. Even cheapo Sun laundry detergent comes out around $0.05/load.

2. These laundry detergents are made from basic cleaning products, so you can make any quantity you like. And the raw cleaning products have multiple other uses, so you can maximize what you’re able to clean with just a few products.

3. Making your own allows you full control of what ingredients you use. Standard cleaning products tend to be questionable in terms of health and environmental impacts.

That said, the next step in my DIY laundry plans is to research the ingredients of the cleaning products used in these recipes. I haven’t done so so far, so I can’t vouch for their safety, although it’s hard to imagine that they would be any worse than the ingredients in purchased laundry detergent. I have seen some rumblings from folks who don’t like the ingredients of Fels-Naphtha and have suggested a few alternatives. Researching a more natural (and maybe even greywater-friendly) version of this recipe will be my plan of attack for the next go-round.

7 Responses to “How to make homemade laundry soap”

  1. Desiree
    22 February 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    I pay 99 cents for a bar of Fels Naptha! I’m being robbed of 6 whole cents! :)

    But really, isn’t it so easy? If we had a food processor, grating the soap bar would be even simpler, and I could make the whole batch in just a couple of minutes. Still, ten minutes to make laundry detergent isn’t a bad deal.

    Glad you enjoy the recipe :).

  2. CoMo Homestead
    22 February 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    It’s so easy! I was just thinking that I should use the food processor next time. I could probably also mix the whole batch in there. Super easy and totally worth it!

  3. Bethany
    22 February 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    Does this work as well as Charlie’s Laundry Soup or Rockin Green Detergent? Just wondering.

  4. CoMo Homestead
    23 February 2011 at 10:01 am #

    You know, I haven’t tried either of those, so I’m not sure.

    I do think, though, that compared to standard laundry detergent, these homemade recipes work just as well or better, especially for my running clothes.

  5. Holly
    28 June 2011 at 10:24 pm #

    I’m not sure what recipe says to boil the soap for 10 15 minutes. I’ve been making this for 2 yrs and just have it on the stove long enough to melt or dissolve then add it to the bucket with more water. Stir after it’s sat and divide into bottles.

  6. CoMo Homestead
    29 June 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Interesting! Good to know. Thanks, Holly!

  7. Mary Lou
    30 June 2012 at 5:51 am #

    Hi, I am also using a very similar mix (=soda+borax) and only heat until it’s dissolved then I add some essential oil (lavender) for scent if needed. I recently tried it with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap and it smells nice!