Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap: Recipe & Tutorial

I started making my own laundry soap a couple of years ago, right before the girls were born.  I'd heard friends talk about it what a good deal it was.  With the twins doubling our family size, I knew I couldn't pass up the chance to save a little money!  

No matter what kind of detergent you normally use, making your own laundry soap will save you a lot!  A gallon of my homemade soap costs me about 29 cents.  Compared to over $7 a gallon, even for cheaper brands of store-bought detergent, I'd say it's a significant savings!  It's also easy and doesn't take much time.  Want to make your own?  Here's how I do it!

You will need:

- Borax
- Washing soda (this is NOT baking'll find it in the laundry aisle)
- Fels-Naptha soap bar (you can use other brands, but I prefer the Fels-Naptha)
- A 5-gallon bucket (it can optionally be awesome and lime green like mine, one with a lid is helpful)
- A box grater or some other way of grating the soap
- A large measuring cup is quite helpful
- A wire whisk (having a small one and a large one is helpful)
- A saucepan and hot tap water (not pictured) 
- A large funnel is also helpful (not pictured)
- (5) 1-gallon sized containers for storing the soap (old clean milk jugs are perfect as are old clean detergent bottles)

Okay, once you've gathered your supplies, you first need to grate the soap.  I make 5 gallons at a time because I just don't have space to store more than that.  For the 5 gallon recipe, you just need half a bar of the Fels-Naptha. 

The basic recipe is:
1/2 bar of Fels-Naptha soap, grated
1/2 cup washing soda
1/4 cup Borax

Mark the center of the soap and grate it with your box grater until you are down to a half bar.  This is not difficult, but it does require a bit of muscle.

This is NOT a big plate of shredded cheddar, so keep the kiddos away!  Dump the grated soap into your saucepan and add 2 cups of hot tap water.  Heat over medium heat until all the soap is dissolved, stirring frequently with a whisk.  It foams up and can be a bit hard to see when it's all dissolved, but do your best.  It should take about 5-10 minutes.

Once the grated soap has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and add 1/2 cup of washing soda and 1/4 cup of Borax.  Stir until dissolved.  It will resemble a pan of half-whipped cream.

Now fill your 5-gallon bucket halfway with hot tap water.  This is 40 cups of water if you're doing the math :)  Add the soap mixture to the bucket and stir it a bit.  This is when it's helpful to have a larger whisk.

Cover the bucket tightly.  If your bucket does not have a lid, use some plastic wrap or aluminum foil.  I criss-cross two sheets of plastic wrap and secure it with a large rubber band.

Put the bucket up out of the way (you do NOT want this slippery mess to spill!) and let it sit overnight.  The next day, remove the cover and you will see a seriously globby bucket full of goo.  It will be the consistency of half-set Jell-o.

Take your large wire whisk and stir until everything is evenly mixed.  It should be a thick liquid, but you don't want a lot of large globs in there (yum...).  

Once it is mixed, it's time to fill the containers.  I like to put down an old towel to keep my counter clean because this can be a slightly messy process.  Start by filling each of your gallon containers about half full with the soap mixture.  If you're doing the math, this is about 8 cups per jug.  I use my large measuring cup and a funnel to make this easier.

When you have filled all 5 containers, you might have a little soap leftover.  Just evenly distribute it between the containers.  Then fill the jugs the rest of the way with hot tap water (another 8 cups or just a little less).  Be sure to leave some room at the top to shake the soap before you use it.

That's it!  You have 5 gallons of awesome homemade detergent ready for use!  I usually let it sit out for a bit to cool off before putting the caps on.  The hot liquid tends to make hairline cracks in the milk jugs if you seal it up while it's hot.  You will use 3/4 cup for top loading machines and 1/4 cup for front loading machines per load.

A few personal notes/tips about this soap:

- It is safe for HE machines.  It actually suds much less than commercial detergent, which makes it ideal for front loaders.

- You may find yourself using much less fabric softener as this homemade soap seems to leave clothes much softer than commercial detergent.

- You will want to shake the jug well before measuring out your soap.  It tends to separate as it sits.

- I have found this soap to be just as effective as any commercial brand at removing stains/odors from clothing.  For extra whitening power on white loads, try adding a little vinegar to the cycle.

- This detergent is very natural and mild and is safe for baby clothes!

I hope you try making some!  The entire process takes very little time and 5 gallons lasts for quite awhile.  The scent of the Fels-Naptha is strong when you are making the soap, but once it's all diluted, it leaves a very pleasant and mild scent on the clothing.  Happy washing!


  1. Shared this tutorial on my blog =)

  2. ill be trying this for sure!! thanks.. i really enjoyed this.. how much do u spend on the supplies btw?

    1. Thanks Daisy! I hope you enjoy it! We've been using it for a few years now and I still love it! The supplies are fairly inexpensive. I believe the Fels Naptha bar runs about $1.99 but you only use 1/2 a bar for each 5 gallon batch. The Borax and washing soda are around $2.99 per box, but those last for many, many batches since you use such a small amount. It really is super cheap to make!


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