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Suds Up! Homemade Laundry Detergent

October 2, 2007
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Laundry detergent is one of those necessary items we all have to buy unless you pay to have your laundry done or you don’t wash your clothes. Commercial detergents can be very expensive and contain chemicals that can be hard on your skin and clothes. Here is a recipe for homemade powder laundry detergent that works just as well as the commercial stuff and is much cheaper!
You will need:

Fels Naptha Soap
Washing Soda
Borax
Large container

Directions: Grate Fels Naptha Soap to product 1 cup of soap flakes. Combine soap flakes with ½ cup borax and ½ cup washing soda in large container. Stir to combine.

To use: For large loads add 3 tablespoons to your washing machine while it is filling up, before you add clothes. For smaller loads use 2 tablespoons.

You should be able to purchase all 3 ingredients at your local Wal-Mart, Target or grocery store. In my area though I can only find Fels Naptha soap at Hy-Vee or Whole Foods. I have found that ½ bar of Fels Naptha soap grates up into approximately 1 cup of soap flakes. I usually score a bar in half and then grate until I reach the halfway mark. I use a stand up cheese grater on the small side and grate the flakes directly into my container. No matter how careful you are, soap dust and flakes will end up outside of the container. Keep that in mind when selecting your laundry detergent making location. Store the other half of the soap for a refill later.

Borax and washing soda come in large boxes that will last you awhile. Borax is great for other things around the house like homemade all-purpose cleaner. Washing soda was a little hard to find in my area, again I could only find it at Hy-Vee. It looks just like baking soda but it’s in a yellow box. It should be with the commercial laundry detergent or cleaning supplies. Look on the top or bottom shelves.

As for the container, I use a large round Glad-ware type container. If you purchased the round Ziploc containers for homemade cleaning wipes, you could use the second container for homemade laundry soap. I also repurposed an extra tablespoon from my kitchen to keep in the container at all times for scooping the soap.

The title to this post is actually misleading because this soap does not suds up at all. It’s still cleaning your clothes, its just not getting all sudsy. I would assume this would mean that this laundry detergent would work well in front-loading high efficiency machines, but I have not tried it to say for certain.

The whole process for making a batch of this soap took 10 minutes. I know because I made a batch tonight and I timed myself. This will last you for several loads however it is not the same amount as one of those huge jugs of commercial laundry detergent. If you have a lot of kids or do a lot of laundry for whatever reason, I would recommend spending an extra 10 or 20 minutes to make a double or triple batch. That way you are not grating up soap every other week. For your first time out of the gate on this one make a single or even a half batch to make sure you like it before going all out.

I do keep some commercial laundry detergent on hand for those times when I’m out of homemade laundry soap and I really need to do laundry and I don’t have time to make a new batch of homemade. It’s nice to have in a pinch. I also do not use my homemade laundry soap on my delicate clothes, so I keep Wool-lite or the equivalent on hand as well.

The Economics: I didn’t do my own cost calculation since I’ve been using this laundry soap for awhile now and I already have all the ingredients. I can tell you that a bar of Fels Naptha soap costs about $1 and a box of washing soda and borax costs between $2 and $3. Instructables.com did a similar cost analysis and says that the cost per load is $0.10 – $0.12 depending on the ingredients you use. That site also had some great pictures and says to use a food processor to grate the soap – great idea!

So is it worth it? If you have time to make this soap I say it’s worth it. You will save a lot of money by switching from commercial detergent. I also like that there are no chemicals either. I can say from experience that I did not see a difference in my clothes at all after I started using this soap. Next time I will try using a food processor to make the detergent. Sometime I would like to try making liquid laundry detergent too.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    November 7, 2007 3:24 am

    I just found your site and it is fantastic! I am going to try this laundry detergent. I am trying to de-chemical our lives. It is hard as a single (adoptive) mom on a very tight budget. Many healthy things are much more expensive. I love a recipe like this that is economical as well as healthy! Thanks so much. I’m going to go back and look at older posts now!Jan J., janschop@aol.com

  2. Kris permalink
    January 24, 2008 8:32 am

    I just found this post. I make the same soap, only I add it to boiling hot water and use it as a liquid. Take the same recipie and add 1 gallon of boiling water. Let it cool and dilute it further with an additional 2 gallons of water.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    February 28, 2008 3:48 am

    I’ve seen this recipe on a few sites now but does anyone know if this is safe for delicates (i.e. lingerie)??

  4. Amy permalink
    February 28, 2008 8:26 am

    I have never tried this detergent with my delicates. I stick to my trusty friend Woolite for that (or the generic Target version).Honestly I’m not sure what even makes Woolite safe for delicates. I think it doesn’t have phosphates which are hard on clothes (?). So then that would make me think that the homemade version would be safe for delicates because it doesn’t have phosphates either. Hmmm… I might have to do some research on this.

  5. Alex permalink
    December 20, 2010 2:28 pm

    Borax isn’t as safe as you may think. You can check this link here: http://chemistry.about.com/od/howthingsworkfaqs/a/howboraxworks.htm

    But you should also do your own research as well to determine if this product is right for you.

    One product, if you are looking for a more natural approach, could be soap nuts.

    http://www.buysoapnuts.com/howtouse.html

    http://www.naturoli.com/soapnuts/what.html

  6. p-- permalink
    May 28, 2012 10:31 pm

    pennilessparenting.com has a recipe to make your own washing soda. in a nutshell, you bake baking soda in a 400 degree oven for 1/2 hour per cup for approximately 1/2 hour. evidently the moisture evaporation is what makes baking soda into washing soda.

    • p-- permalink
      May 28, 2012 10:32 pm

      ho lawd, please excuse my repetitiveness.

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