Monday, June 3, 2013

Homemade Laundry Soap

Note: I originally wrote this over two years ago on a previous blog, and I haven't purchased storebought laundry detergent since.  It makes me very happy to think about how much money I've saved, and to know I am not tossing tons of chemicals into our local water supply.  So, I'm sharing it again, here.

I have found that I enjoy a bit of scent in my laundered clothes, and I solve that by using woolen dryer balls (rather than disposable dryer sheets), and putting a drop or two of lavender or rosemary essential oil on them before tossing them into the dryer.

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It's a goal of mine to make an exercise of trying as many methods as I can of reducing costs, reducing my environmental impact, cutting out unnecessary chemicals from my life - and household products are the most direct way I can think of to do this.

So today, I made laundry soap - I won't know until tomorrow when I run a load with it whether or not it works satisfactorily, but here's what I know at this point - the total cost of supplies for this would have run me approximately $3.00 (while overall, it cost more than that, you'll see that a large quantity of detergent takes only a fraction of the supplies... if this works, I've got enough to keep me supplied for months).

So the savings is undeniable - if this gets my clothing clean, I'm way ahead of the game.

So what about the other reasons?

First, environmental impact - I am told this formula is low suds... there is some sudsing, but not too much, and of course it is missing all the stabilizers and scents and binding agents intended mainly to make the degergent look smooth and rich coming out of the bottle.  All of that ends up in our water supply.  And I know from some work done on the pipes here a couple years ago that commercial products have suds so strong that they stay in the pipes for days after they've been flushed through the system - at the plumber's recommendation then, I switched to Arm & Hammer detergent, and it's done me fine.  Now I'm taking that one step further.

Secondly, chemicals - that is one thing I'm looking to see - we've got Borax, A&H Washing Soda, and the Fels-Naptha soap (which, to be frank, did smell and feel mildly caustic - I am wondering if Ivory might be a better answer, and if it would work as well?).  So this part is an open question for me, but without a doubt, there is less going on here than there is with any commercial product.

The time start to finish to prepare this was about 25 minutes - no major issue to spend that much time once a month or so. Here's how I did it:

Homemade Laundry Detergent

1/3 bar Fels-Naptha soap
1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup washing soda

1.  Begin heating 4 cups of water to a boil.  While the water heats, grate the 1/3 bar of Fels-Naptha soap using a box grater into small flakes.  Be sure to wash hands well after grating... this is a mildly irritating soap.

2.  Once the water boils, begin sprinkling in the grated soap, a couple tablespoonfuls at a time.  Stir constantly - it will begin to suds up and will overboil if not stirred.  Work slowly so that soap dissolves completely.  

3.  Once all the soap flakes have dissolved, lower heat and add 1/2 cup each Borax and washing soda, continuing to stir until completely dissolved.  Remove from heat.

4.  In a very large container (like a clean bucket), pour in 4 cups of very hot water, then add the soap mixture.  Stir, and add an addition gallon plus 6 cups of water and mix well.

Now... this is where I messed up - I had a container I thought would be big enough to use and it quickly became clear it wasn't, by half.  The only container I did have available to me (my bucket not being clean enough to use) was my large stainless sauce pot.  So here's hoping my metal pot isn't ruining the soap  - or that the soap isn't ruining my pot. Oi.  I'll turn the soap out into a couple smaller containers tomorrow and find out.

5.  Last step - set the container aside and let it rest for 24 hours - I'm told that it will gel up to some degree or another - anywhere from a full gel to watery with gel floaters, but either way, it will be ready to use.

The proportions for using this are 1/2 cup of detergent for a load of laundry.  I'll take a final picture tomorrow afternoon to show what it looks like after setting up, and then do a test load of laundry.

Oh - as a nice final bit of frugality - the supplies (other than the Borax, which I already had) didn't cost me a penny, because I was able to purchase  them with giftcards I'd acquired from using Swagbucks.  Considering that laundry detergent has been a budget buster for me in the past, I'm pretty tickled that it may be something entirely free for me for the next few months.

UPDATE:  The first thing I did after waking up this morning was to head into the laundry room and take a peek.  Happy dance - I've got gel! It's about the thickness of jelly, rather than gelatin, and was firmer at the top of my pot than down toward the bottom - but it thickened all the way through, and it was an easy few minutes work to turn it into a pair of plastic containers.  The total amount looks to be a little more than double that of my commercial jug of detergent and the amount to be used is pretty close to the same.

I've run a couple loads of laundry and can't tell any difference at all, other than a lack of scent... which really isn't a bad thing, although I may toss in a little essential oil in a cheery scent whenever it's time to make my next batch, just because I can.

And yes - barring finding out something that isn't apparent yet - I'll be continuing this project and happily saving the $20.00 dollars a month I spend on laundry detergent.


  1. This is a must try for our home! My husband washes so much it costs us a fortune to keep up with the supply and demand!

  2. I love trying DIY projects - this is one I would like to try!!! I didn't know you could make your own laundry soap - wow!

  3. I've wanted to try to make my own soaps and cleaners for a long time. I'm hoping to cut down on allergies.