If I told you that you could wash all your laundry in a month for only a quarter and about 10 minutes of your time, would it be worth it to you? A batch of this stuff takes roughly 10 minutes to make and will last anywhere from 3-8 months depending on how much you use per load and how many loads you do. An entire batch (448 oz.) costs about $1.83. I assure you, it is worth your time.
Before I start in on this amazing stuff (of which you will find I am SUPER passionate about) let me address the upfront concerns that I, and probably you, have had about laundry soap you make yourself.
1. Do your clothes smell good?
I have a slight obsession with pleasant smells. I always want my house, my linens, and my clothes to smell good and I have gone to great lengths to accomplish this. For my laundry, I used to spend inordinate amounts of money on not only detergent but add on top of that every single product on the shelves to make my clothes smell like my Nammie’s (grandma’s) used to. It was totally possible for me to spend over $50 a month on laundry products. Yikes! To answer this question, my clothes smell no different to me. My husband trains horses so you can only imagine how not-pleasant-smelling his work clothes are. However, even when I wash them with my own laundry soap, they don’t smell any worse or any better to me than with Tide or Gain or any other brand name laundry soap. Now, I do use fabric softener (although vinegar works just fine too) and I sometimes use the Downy Beads to give it a boost but I would have done that with regular laundry soap anyway. The difference now is that I can buy those kinds of products with zero guilt since I’m saving a truckload on the soap itself. As far as my Nammie’s laundry smell? Hanging my clothes outside has proven to be the answer. Totally free, totally easy, and smells glorious in my book!
2. Do your clothes get clean?
I have a somewhat messy 4-year-old and a ridiculously messy 2-year-old and I can tell you that stains are completely commonplace at our house. I use a regular stain remover like Spray and Wash or sometimes Clorox 2 but as far as the laundry soap goes, not any different than any other I have tried. Our clothes are clean but stains are still the bain of my existence. I have found that getting stains out has more to do with how soon you wash the clothes than what kinds of products you use.
3. Is it safe on HE machines?
I have an HE machine and so does my mother who also uses this recipe. We have been making our own laundry soap for at least 3 years and have had no problems to date. If you google “homemade laundry soap he machine” you will find mostly positive comments and just about every homemade laundry soap I have seen uses almost the exact same ingredients with very similar measurements. The HE machines can’t handle a lot of suds but this is supposed to be a low-suds detergent. I have also heard that liquid laundry soap is almost always better than powdered forms on HE machines. If you’re really concerned check your owners manual or call the manufacturer.
4. Are the ingredients safe?
If you were to research the ingredients in homemade laundry soap as opposed to store-bought laundry soap, you would probably find that homemade is almost always safer than store-bought. Not that I would drink this stuff, but I feel totally comfortable with the mostly natural ingredients. I have very sensitive skin and I haven’t seen any problems in that regard with this laundry detergent. But as always, do your own research if you’re still concerned.
5. How long does it take to make?
Ok are you ready to have your mind blown? This was another big hangup of mine and why it took me so long to catch onto the DIY laundry soap train. I watched my sister make laundry soap one time, grating the soap by hand and trying to pour this globby mess out of a bottle into her machine. I have experimented a little with this recipe and have found some serious shortcuts and tricks to make this as painless as possible. Most days that I make this (which I only make it about once every few months) it takes me all of 10 active minutes, if that. It takes a while to let it cool but since that doesn’t require my attention, I don’t count it. You may need once a year an extra 15 minutes or so to grate the soap and measure it out into baggies, which is what I do, but it saves you loads of time down the road. Also, a food processor and immersion blender make this job super easy and incredibly quick. You can make it without these but in my book, it wouldn’t be worth the time investment. I bought both my food processor and immersion blender at different yard sales for about the price of a month of store-bought detergent.
Let’s Get Started
Are you ready to get started?! You will need the following ingredients:
- Fels Naptha Soap Bar
- Super Washing Soda
All of which can be found in the laundry aisle of your grocery store, probably on the bottom shelf. I have included links to both Amazon and Walmart (I used the link where I found it the cheapest) but quite frankly, I was amazed at how expensive these are online. I can buy each ingredient for under $5 (and the fels naptha for less than $2) at my local grocery store.
For tools you will need:
- Large pot
- 4 or 5 gallon bucket
- Food processor or hand grater
- Immersion blender or large whisk
- 4 one gallon containers (I use old laundry soap containers)
- Kitchen scale (optional)
- Small plastic baggies
I do this step once every year or two usually. I buy 4 bars of fels naptha soap and grate them all in a food processor. Use the finest grate you have and if there are any large chunks, mince them up with a knife. The chunks will not dissolve unless they are finely grated or minced. Then I use a kitchen scale to measure out 2/3 of a bar. I have already done the math for you so don’t let it be more complicated than it is. One fels naptha bar weighs about 5.7 oz. so 2/3 of that is about 3.8 oz. I separate each batch of grated fels naptha bar by weighing out 3.8 oz and putting it in a small baggie. Four bars will yield 6 batches, which is enough for at least a year or more. Doing this ahead of time will save you the largest chunk of work and time.
When you’re ready to make your laundry soap, heat up 8 cups of water (not to boiling but obviously hot) and pour in one bag (2/3 of a bar) of grated fels naptha soap. Stir or mix with an immersion blender until dissolved.
Pour in 1 cup of borax and 1 cup of super washing soda. Stir or mix with an immersion blender until dissolved.
*Note: Try not to allow your water to boil or it will start to suds up with the soap in it. It just needs to be hot enough to allow the mixture to dissolve.
Fill your 5 gallon bucket with 3 gallons (48 cups) of hot water from the tap. I actually drew a line with a permanent marker on my bucket so I wouldn’t have to measure 3 gallons every time. Empty the contents of your pot into the bucket. Mix with an immersion blender or large whisk until mixture seems properly diluted in the water. Let sit until mixture comes to room temperature, preferably overnight.
This is what the soap will look like after cooling to room temperature. There are several inches of congealed soap sitting on top. You can use your hands to break it up or just start mixing again with the immersion blender.
This is what it looks like after a couple minutes of mixing.
Mix, mix, mix! The more often you mix the detergent while in the 5 gallon bucket, the less you’ll need to shake it in the container to keep it from congealing. I usually mix it with the immersion blender once after adding the mixture to the bucket, again after it starts congealing and before I go to bed, and once in the morning before I start to empty the mixture into my detergent containers. That seems to be the trick and I rarely need to shake my container afterwards.
Fill your laundry detergent containers with the soap. I use old Gain containers and fill them with a ladle and a funnel. Each container should only be about 3/4 full. This allows for room in the container should you need to shake the detergent a little in case it congeals.
I made you a little label that you can print out on waterproof sticker paper and stick on your containers. These labels look like they would work but I actually ordered and used these ones. It helps to have the recipe on the back so you don’t have to look it up every time you go to make it.
Download (PDF, 847KB)
And there you have it…the easiest laundry soap and $30 of savings per month. That’s almost $400 a year! What could you do with that extra money? I hope you do something fun with it…tell your husband that you worked hard to make it and so that’s your extra money
- 2/3 Fels Naptha Bar (3.8 oz) grated
- 1 cup Borax
- 1 cup Super Washing Soda
- Heat (just under boiling) 8 cups water in stockpot and add grated fels naptha bar. Stir until soap dissolves.
- Remove from heat and add borax and super washing soda. Stir until dissolved.
- Fill 5 gallon bucket with 3 gallons of hot water. Add soap mixture and blend with immersion blender until completely dissolved (about 2 minutes).
- Allow detergent to cool to room temperature or overnight. Blend with immersion blender two more times, allowing to sit for several hours in between to avoid congealing.
- Empty detergent into containers.
- Use 1/4-1/2 cup per load of laundry.
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Let me know if you try this and any questions or concerns you have. I’ll do my best to answer them! Happy Laundry Day 🙂