Laundry, and lots of it, is a natural byproduct of a large family. And in a house of girls, laundry piles are supersized due to the natural tendency of the female race to change clothes every 15.2 minutes. So, when I say we can go through laundrey detergent like nobody’s business, I mean it.
Several years ago when I thought we might have to cut a meal a day to pay for our laundry supplies, I stumbled upon a homemade laundry soap recipe. I was skeptical because I’ve tried more than a few homemade cleaning formulas. Some work great. Some do a reasonable job, but quite a few are a total loss. I really figured that laundry detergent would fall in the fail category. But, what the heck? I’ll give it a shot if I can eat three meals a day.
Now, there are quite a few laundry soap recipes, and I compared several of them. Many are very similar, so I picked the one with the least amount of unusual ingredients and effort. This is laundry. Not a four course meal for the queen.
My first attempt was not great, but it got the job done. Nothing stunk or shrunk. Silver star.
It doesn’t have any sicky chemical smells. Bronze star.
I liked that it lasted us about three months. That’s easily in excess of 120 loads of laundry. Gold star!
It costs less than $5 per batch to make. No joke. That’s approximately 4 cents a load. I’m not making this up. Ding! Ding! We have a winner!!
Now, initially the cost is more than a box of store brand detergent, because you have to buy an entire box of A&H Washing Soda and Borax. But since you use those two boxes for five or more batches, the cost quickly pays for itself. Unless, of course, you put the leftover contents of the Borax under a sink, which leaks, which soaks the box, which hardens the contents to concrete. Just a hypothetical scenario.
Since my first attempt at making laundry soap, I’ve improved. It’s not that it is difficult at all. It just took me a little while to get the hang of it. To know how it was supposed to look and feel. To not over-analyze the exact number of minutes spent stirring, the exact temperature at which to heat it, and the exact amount of water needed to top it off. Because you can never be too careful with something like this, right?
And without further ado, here is my recipe, slightly tweaked for my needs, with appropriate commentary to dispell any confusion I might have encountered in my first forays into making laundry soap.
1/2 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
- Pour half the grated Fels Naptha bar into large stainless steel pot. Do NOT use this pot for food. Dedicate it to the art of soapmaking.
- Add three pints (6 cups) water to pot.
- Turn on heat and stir until soap dissolves, less than 5 minutes.
- Add Borax and Washing Soda to pot. Continue stirring until it dissolves. Don’t boil the liquid. Just get it hot enough to melt everything.
- Scoop equal amounts of the solution into three gallon jugs. Again, dedicate these jugs to your soap. No rinsing and using them for lemonade later.
- Fill the jugs to the top with water. Let cool and put tops on. Voila! You got yourself some laundry soap.
Now, my notes to clear up any questions you might have had which are similar to the questions I had when I started. Make sense?
- I originally couldn’t find Fels Naptha and substituted Ivory Soap. When I finally found Fels Naptha, I figured I’d do a comparison. No comparison. Fels Naptha is way better. I felt like the Ivory Soap left a film on everything. The Fels Naptha does soap up more, but it rinses clean. It has a slight smell that Ivory Soap doesn’t, but I don’t smell it on my clothes.
- I grate the whole bar at once. Use half; store half. Then, the second batch is a breeze.
- Don’t use milk jugs. They tend to leak after a while. Even though this stuff isn’t expensive, you don’t want to waste it or, worse, slip and fall in the puddle the leaking jug leaves. Again, just hypothetical. I bought gallon milk jugs from Wal-Mart that are a heavier-duty plastic than milk jugs. Some people use one large bucket, but that’s just asking to be turned over or dripped at my house. I like things that pour.
- After the heating, let everything cool before you move to the next step. No hurry here, and no burns.
- Sit the jugs in a sink while you fill them up. Drips are just washed down the drain.
- For distributing the concentrated soap, use a scoop and a funnel or a measuring cup with a spout. The contents should be fairly equal in each container, but not necessarily to the drop.
- For particularly smelly clothes, such as towels, you could consider adding essential oil to the detergent. I have not added it to the whole container. Instead, I sometimes put a drop in with the detergent as I add it to the washing machine. I suggest Tea Tree Oil or a germ fighter blend, better known as Thieves Oil from Young Living, but there are several similar blends from other essential oil companies.
- Shake up the container before you use it each time. The contents sometimes separate.
- If the liquid is a little thicker than you like, add water until you get a good consistency. I’ve had batches that were a little “globby”, if you know what I mean.
So, there you go. If you have any questions or thoughts on homemade laundry detergent, leave a comment. I’ll answer to the best of my ability.