Cleaning & Organization

Homemade Laundry Soap

Homemade Laundry Soap
With nearly 90,000 pins on Pinterest, this is my most popular post to date. I’ve received a lot of questions and some great feedback, so with the move to the new blog, I thought it was time for an updated post. (See the FAQ at the end.)

I’m sure by now you’ve come across a dozen different “recipes” for homemade laundry soap, both in the blogosphere and on Pinterest. I started experimenting with the different powder and liquid detergents. and in the process, I found THE one.

The one that doesn’t…

  • drip out of the spigot all over my laundry room floor
  • gunk up my washing machine
  • discolor my family’s clothes
  • make our whites look dingy
  • have a funky smell
The one that does…
  • save us a small fortune
  • smell amazing
  • make our whites really white
  • work well in our HE washer
  • look pretty
  • make laundry a little more fun

I am so pleased with this laundry soap. This coming from a laundry detergent snob. I would only buy one brand, and it had to be the original scent, and it was expensive. Not only was it expensive, but I spent more money on top of the pricey detergent to get my Downy UnStopables fix. Those I haven’t given up because they smell so good. I know it’s an added expense and they have nothing to do with cleaning, but they make our clothes smell fabulous. Without further ado…

Here is what you will need to make 2 gallons:
  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (55 oz)
  • Arm And Hammer Baking Soda (the big 4lb box)
  • 20 Mule Team Borax (76 oz)
  • Oxi Clean (2 of the 1.3 lb containers, or 1 3lb container; generic is fine)
  • 3 or 4 bars Fels Naptha Laundry Soap (people have had success with both – I personally use 4)
  • 2 containers Downy UnStopables (I get the 13.2 oz, black and purple containers. The scent is called Lush. Any scent and size is fine, or you can leave it out if you want to.)
  • garbage bag (or a garbage bag-lined 5 gallon bucket)
  • grater (I use a box grater.) Some people use a food processor. I used to, but it stopped working after a couple of years of using it for the soap.
  • container to store your soap (I bought a 2 gallon glass jar for approx. $10.)
  • measuring scoop

*I found the first six supplies in the laundry aisle and the glass jar in the kitchen department. The other items I already had.

The instructions:
  • Empty the boxes of Super Washing Soda, and Baking Soda, Borax into the garbage bag.
  • Empty the containers of OxiClean and UnStopables into the bag.
  • If using a food processor, cut the Fels Naptha into small cubes and put into food processor. Pulse until it starts to move nicely, then puree until the soap looks like this:

laundry 3

  • Empty the Fels Naptha into the bag.
  • Twist the garbage bag and secure so nothing can get out. (I just twisted it and held it with my hand.)
  • Move the garbage bag around until everything is mixed well. (I sat on the floor… you’re not going to want to lift the bag to do this.)
  • Once everything is mixed well, use a large scoop to put it in your storage container. (I use a big glass jar because I like everything to look pretty… Even my laundry soap!)

I use about 2 tablespoons for small loads, and 3 tablespoons for larger loads. Put it right in the wash drum with your laundry. (Just a disclaimer: Like all homemade cleaning recipes, use this at your own risk. Like many others, I make this to save money, and use it because it works for me. I have a high efficiency front load washing machine and haven’t experienced any problems.)

I had an adorable yellow glass measuring cup in my kitchen that was seldom used, so that is my scoop. (Again, I like pretty.)

Homemade Laundry Soap

*I found the cute chalkboard labels at Michael’s in the wedding department.

Between this lovely laundry soap and my grandma’s wicker laundry basket, laundry is a little more fun now.

FAQ

Q: Should I put the soap in the dispenser or the drum?
A: I put it right in the drum.

Q: How long does this last?
A: 6 months for our household of three. A friend of mine who is an empty nester said she estimated that it would last her and her husband 9 months.

Q: How well does it clean in cold water?
A: It works fine for us using cold water. Results may vary in cold, warm, or hot water due to individual water hardness. (We have a water softener.)

Q: Can this be used on delicates?
A: I use it on mine with no problems. I would not use it on cloth diapers, though.

Q: How many wash loads can I get out of one batch of soap?
A: This recipe makes approx. 512 tablespoons, so that equals 170 large loads or 256 small to medium loads. It really depends on how much you use per load. For a smaller load, use just 2 tablespoons, and 3 tablespoons for larger loads. If I have a very small load of washcloths or rags, I only use 1 tablespoon.

Q: “I’ve been worried about using my own laundry detergent in my new front loading HE washer…. do you find it’s okay? I’m just worried that it will clog or do something to my new washer so I’ve been hesitant to try it.”
A: I have a front loading HE (Whirlpool Duet) and have had zero problems. I have had better luck with this powder than a previous homemade liquid detergent. I also put this laundry soap right in the tub, not the dispenser. I’ve never had a problem with it clogging or not dissolving. From what I’ve learned, Fels Naptha is a much better soap to use than some of the other soaps people use, so that is what I always use. Of course, this is just my experience, but I know of others who have used this with success as well. Perhaps do a google search and see what others have to say about using homemade detergents so you’re comfortable using it, if you decide to do so.

Q: “I am wondering how it does with children clothing and umpteen food stains? and factory grease and coolant stains on jeans.”
A: I haven’t had any problems with being able to remove stains. My husband gets some grease stains from work as well. If there is anything that is proving to be difficult, I always pretreat the stain with Fels Naptha and then do a cold soak cycle before washing. I’ve been able to get food, grease, and blood stains out that way.

Q: “I was wondering how this detergent might be for children with eczema/sensitive skin?”
A: I can’t say how it with be for little ones with sensitive skin, as I don’t have that problem in our house, but I tend to have sensitive skin and haven’t had a problem with it. I also used to run a daycare and washed the kiddos’ things with this with zero problem. If your little one does have a known skin condition, use extra care in what you put on their skin. If you already have something that works for them, by all means, continue with what works.

Q: How much does it cost?
A: My total cost (not including the $10 reusable glass jar) is usually around $28-$30. Of course, prices will vary store to store, and also depending on where you live.

Q: “I saw on another blog about homemade detergent that oxi-clean is only for whites, there has not been any sort of damage to your colors/darks, etc?”
A: I haven’t had any problems using it on our colors, with one exception: my daughter’s navy school uniform skirt. I wash other navy clothes with no problem, but that skirt doesn’t like the laundry soap. Do note that if something is not colorfast, I would not recommend it. Another thing to keep in mind is not to wash darks in hot water. Of course, always expect some fading from washing on a regular basis, but I have not found this recipe to speed up the process in most cases. *A reader also commented that she now keeps the OxiClean separate from the soap because of some fading with her navy scrubs. She just uses the OxiClean with her lights, and leaves it out with her darks.

Q: Do you use fabric softener?
A: Yes. I switched to wool dryer balls, and my husband made me go back to the dryer sheets because 1) the dryer balls were doing a number to our dryer, and 2) he likes the smell of our dryer sheets.

Q: Does it clump (in the container)? Do the UnStopables settle to the bottom?
A: I’ve never had a problem with it clumping, even if I leave the cover off for long periods of time, and I haven’t noticed the UnStopables settling.

Q: “I was thinking about leaving the baking soda out. Can you tell me the benefits of it?”
A: I personally wouldn’t leave it out. This recipe works well, and baking soda is a large reason why. My motto in this case is, “Why fix it if it ain’t broke?” I’m no expert, so there may be a more scientific answer, but I know that baking soda acts as a softener and is great at removing stains and smells.

Q: Can I use this in my top load washing machine?
A: I have heard good things from people who use both HE and top-loading washers.

Q: “How’s the grime level on your machine? After using this recipe for a few months, I had a greasy scum on the tub of my washer. I think it’s from the bar soap.”
A: No grime on my machine, but I make sure to clean my washer once a month, and I always leave the door open when not in use. As I mentioned before, this may one of those times that people have mixed results due to water hardness and other factors. What works for some families may not work for others.

Q: Can I use another kind of soap instead of Fels Naptha?
A: There are other recipes that use different kinds of soap. I can’t tell you if they’re effective or not, as I haven’t made or tried those recipes.

If you have a question that hasn’t been asked yet, feel free to ask in the comments, and I will do my best to answer them.

Thanks to Being Creative to Keep My Sanity for sharing this recipe!

 

Happy Homemaking signature

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28 thoughts on “Homemade Laundry Soap

  1. I put white vinegar in the washer with my soap to get rid of musty smells from dish towels (I use the pre soak). Will there be a problem using this detergent since you recommend the baking soda?

    1. Hi, Paula! I use vinegar sometimes as well, but I use it in the rinse cycle. That’s what I would recommend to help with your towels, and it would prevent the possibility of the bubbly reaction you get when mixing baking soda and vinegar.

  2. I have been using this recipe for several years and I love it. I omit the Downy only because I think it is like a scented filler that reduces the cleaning power. Also, if you break the Fels Naptha in half and microwave it, it will expand. Let it cool (it will be really hot) and it will crumble very easily. I put it through a wire mesh strainer and it blends so much better with the other powders.

    1. Hi, Elizabeth! I’ve only used it in my HE washer, so I can’t say one way or the other if it would work in your manual machine. I don’t have any experience with those. Sorry. Maybe another reader will eventually chime in with their manual machine – homemade laundry soap experience. Otherwise, maybe try googling it to see if anyone has used it in their successfully. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

    2. Elizabeth, I have the “old fashioned” type of washing machine and this recipe works beautifully! What takes getting used to is the complete lack of soap suds; that is just weird to me!! I don’t use the Downy Unstopable Scent Booster in mine, but I do add white vinegar, and it works wonders on towels, dog bed covers, and my husband’s firefighter clothing! I highly recommend this recipe!

      1. That is awesome to know that it even cleans your husband’s firefighter clothes! If that’s not a great testimony, I don’t know what is! 🙂

  3. If you have a food processor you can put the Fels Naptha in with the borax and it will turn it into a fine powder. Then just mix as usual.
    I had Zote on hand and used Dreft scented beads which are pink too. Looks cute. I have the Fels Naptha for tomorrow. I couldn’t find the Lush scented beads so bought some Purex ones.

  4. This is the laundry soap recipe, minus the scent crystals, I’ve been using for a couple of years in my front loading HE machine and it works great. In fact I’ve never had a problem with any “soap slime residue” left behind on the large rubber seal around the door like I did with commercial detergent that I used. Give it a try! Just think of the chemicals you’re taking out of your family’s lives! I also use my own homemade bar soap instead of a commercial bar.

  5. I love the extras in this recipe! I’ve made the liquid kind before and wasn’t happy with the results. Tip for you on the Fels Naphtha, don’t grate-slice in about 4 to 6 chunks and microwave for up to 2 min instead! I know it sounds weird but it puffs up and when it cools it turns the bar to powder.

    1. Hi, Margaret! I didn’t have luck with the liquid soap, either, but this one I’ve been using for years with no problem. 🙂 Thanks for the tip about the microwave!

  6. I just made this about a month ago and I love it! I am very picky when it comes to laundry and this does such a great job at cleaning our clothes…I am sold! I cheated a little…I bought the soap flakes instead of the bars. SO much easier. I don’t have little kids at home anymore, though, so I splurged! haha Thanks so much.

  7. I have used this recipe for laundry detergent for the past two years. In Canada we have a wonderful bar soap called Sunlight Laundry Bar. I grate it but the rest is basically the same. I have an HE machine but I do add it to the dispenser without any issues and have done this for a couple of years. One batch has done our 2 people household for 1 year. I only use 2 tablespoons for each load for great clean clothes. No problems at all, have tried liquid in the past but won’t go back.

    1. I love how long this lasts, too! 🙂 Thanks for letting me know if it’s okay to put it in the dispenser. So many people have asked me if it’s fine to do that, and because I put mine right in the drum, I couldn’t answer that. I always love hearing what works for others.

  8. Just curious, I have a water softener that uses salt. So we have no natural hard mineral deposits. So are their ingredients I should just leave out, or cut back on? I really don’t need things that additionally soften the water more.

    1. Hi, Michelle! I have a water softener also, and use the recipe as is. You can experiment and see what works best for you. I know there are people who use baking soda as a softener, so you could try reducing that if you wish. 🙂

  9. I have all the ingredients to make this detergent, only my box of borax is a 64 Oz box instead of 76.
    Would it matter if the borax was that much less than what your recipe states?
    Would the detergent still work well?

  10. I have omitted the baking soda and find the laundry detergent works well without it. I was told by a friend that the baking soda stains clothing. Now I’m wondering if I should put it in and give it a shot. LOL You have not had any problems with it staining your clothes?

    1. Hi, Donna! I’ve never had a problem with it staining any of my clothes. That’s my personal experience with using this for several years. There are variables at play though… different fabrics, the type of washing machine, hard vs. soft water. I can only speak of my experience and what I’ve heard from others. 🙂

  11. Thank you for your recipe. I am excited to try it. I have used the liquid and the hubby didn’t like how his clothes came out. I haven’t tried anything else since we got our HE top loader. Hubbie does HVAC and while at a customers house over heard a repair man talking to them about their washer not working. He informed them that because they didn’t use HE detergent in voided their warranty on fixing it. So, hubbie wouldn’t let me use any home made detergent. But I think our warranty is expired, so I am going to give your recipe a try. 🙂
    I also, use vinegar as a rinse agent. Occasionally will add a few drops of Essential oils to the bottle to add smell. But mostly not.
    I also use wool dryer balls but not on hubbies clothes. He likes the smell of the sheets too

    1. I always let people know to try this at their own risk. 😉 My machine is more than 10 years old, so I didn’t think twice about using this. Everyone should do what they feel comfortable with. I still can’t believe all of the great uses for vinegar. I’m never without a big jug of it in our house. 🙂

  12. Has anyone tried this recipe placing the powder in the detergent tray instead of directly in the wash? I want to make something my husband will use (we have a front loader) and he doesn’t want to have to place it in the front with the clothes.

    1. I did just hear from one lady that puts it in her dispenser and it’s worked fine for her. (She said she’s been doing it that way for a couple of years.)

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