Posted by: meriambull | September 29, 2010

You Might Not Want to Eat This One, But Your Clothes Will Love It

Anyone who knows me very well knows that I despise laundry.  I mean hate it.  I hate treating stains. I hate lugging baskets up and down the stairs.  I hate folding it.  I DESPISE putting it away.  Do not get me started on sorting socks.  Let’s just say that the best part of summer is sandals and I have been known to be reduced to tears digging through baskets trying to find that elusive matching pair when we’re late.  Yup.  Laundry and I are definitely not friends. That’s what makes this post so surprising.

Last year I read a blog post and the writer was talking about making homemade laundry soap.  I thought they were nuts and it sounded like way too much trouble.  A few months later I read a post from another blogger and she gave a little more details about how easy it is and also how cheap it is.  She had me at cheap.  When I go to the grocery store for groceries I only use cash.  This keeps me from going over budget, but when I have to pick between buying food or laundry soap, food always wins so I am always buying cheap soap.  That means I don’t buy $10.00 detergent unless I have a killer coupon and Kroger is having a huge sale.  I figure I could try this homemade stuff and I won’t be out much and it has to be better than the cheap stuff I usually buy.

I just got my first load out of the dryer and I just have to say, “Oh, Wow!”  And making it was super duper easy! (I did cheat in one way, but it was oh, so worth it.)  I’m going to give you two recipes.  The first one is for liquid soap and the other is for a powder.  I usually buy liquid so that’s what I had planned to make, but I was desperate to do laundry tonight and the liquid has to sit 24 hours. I made the powdered and I’m pretty sure I will not be making the liquid.  It takes longer and seems to be easier to mess up and needs more tweaking.  My first load is done and it smells good, looks very clean, and seems softer.  (I don’t use any dryer sheets or fabric softener.  Too much trouble.)  What I am most excited about is my sons’ underwear is white!  If you have boys of early elementary age or younger you know what I am talking about.  It even seems like the old stains are coming out.  Love it!

I found many different recipes by doing a Google search, but all are basically the same.  I did find that this soap is excellent for front loading washers because it is extremely low suds.  Many people commented about how it worked great in their machines.  I was able to find all of the ingredients at Wal-Mart and Kroger.    On the internet there was some argument about the safety of the Fels-Naptha.  This was discounted, though, because the company reformulated the bar in the ’80s and it is now safe.  I cheated by using my food processor.  I worried a little about this, but many people said they did the shredding in theirs.  I am just going to wash it two or three times to make sure.

Here are the recipes:

Liquid Laundry Soap

1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soap (Ivory or Zote will also work.  Many commented using standard bath soap and getting good results.  I like the smell of the Fels Naptha and it is a stain treatment that your grandmother probably used.)

1/2 cup washing soda (found in laundry aisle.  NOT Arm and Hammer detergent and not baking soda)

1/2 cup borax powder (20 Mule Team brand)

2 gallons water

Grate the soap and put it in the sauce pan.  Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts.  Add the washing soda and the borax.  Stir until it is dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Pour 4 cups of water into a 2 gallon bucket.  Add soap mixture and stir.  Add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir.  Let the soap sit for about 24 hours until it gels.  (If it gels too solid just add more hot water.)  Use a 1/2 cup detergent per load of laundry.  Store in large bucket with lid, keeping a long wooden spoon with it to stir it with.  You may also put the gel in empty detergent bottles that have been rinsed well.  This may be easier since you have to stir or shake it before using it.

Homemade Powdered Laundry Soap

1 bar Fels Naptha (Or Ivory soap)

3/4 cup borax

3/4 cup washing soda

Grate one bar of Fels Naptha.  Add borax and washing soda.  Mix very well until soap has a powdered consistency.  This could take about five minutes.  Store in an air tight container.  Use 1-2 tbsp. per load.

I shredded the soap with the shredder blade on my food processor and then used the chopper blade to make it more fine.  I then added the borax and washing soda and processed it for a few seconds to mix it in well.  I think the whole process took less than 10 minutes and then I was ready to wash.

Another laundry tip I found was to use white vinegar as a fabric softener.  Just add 1/4 cup to a Downy ball or to your washer’s fabric softener dispenser.  Also suggested was a spray bottle of diluted liquid fabric softener.  Just spray a wash cloth a few times and then throw it in the dryer with the load.  I probably won’t do these, but if you use fabric softener or dryer sheets it might be worth the try.

Happy washing!



  1. Hey Meriam….I am so going to try this. You are so inspiring. Now do you have the magic recipe that mixes your kids in and they do this for you? Let me know when you get that one. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing. You Rock!!!

  2. just made a batch – i’ve wondered about it in the past and you made it sound so easy & i had to get detergent today anyways…so i checked and publix had all 3 ingredients!

    now i’m just waiting on my landlord to bring me a new washer because my water heater and washer broke at the same time! oh boy…my poor landlord, my house seems to be falling apart these days!

    • So sorry you had to come home to that big mess, Abigail! We had our water heater do that last summer. Not fun! I hope nothing was ruined.

      • no worries, my water heater & my washer/dryer are all on my back porch outside – so the water heater just watered a bunch of plants! my landlord was wonderful, replaced the water heater the same night, but i’m still waiting on a washer. i’m getting desperate after 2.5 weeks overseas! i might just try out my new detergent in the bathtub!

  3. I’ve been making this for about a year and I love it! It’s easy and fast (I just do the powdered) and cheap–who could ask for more? I do want to give my input about using vinegar, though…I tried that for awhile and found that our clothes ended up having what (to me) was a faint pee smell. None of the kids were having accidents, so I blamed the vinegar rinse at the end of the wash cycle. Needless to say, I stopped that and have returned to good ole dryer sheets. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the tip about the vinegar, Rebekah. I’m considering the diluted fabric softener on a wash cloth. There are tons of ideas out there on the web.

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