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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Homemade Laundry Soap

I have gotten around to making my own laundry detergent finally. You need borax (easy to find), A lye like soap (Fels-Naptha is most often used for this), and Washing Soda (not baking soda).

I searched all over for Washing Soda awhile back and gave up, but I did recently find it at a small grocery store that I had checked before but didn't have it at that time. They had all three ingredients: borax, Fels Naptha bar soap and Washing Soda, something tells me someone else in this town makes their own (wonder who it is!). I know they did not have this before, and when I used to shop there, I asked them to carry a cereal they didn't previously carry and they did, so I have a feeling someone asked them for this stuff. Washing soda seems to be fairly hard to find. If you can't find this stuff, go to your local Mom and Pop type grocery store and ask the manager if he/she would carry it. I bet they would!

Recipe: (I have read a few different ones, I settled on this one)
One bar of grated Fels Naptha soap, 1 1/4 cup borax, 1 1/4 cup washing soda.
Or - 1 cup grated soap, 1/2 cup borax, 1/2 cup washing soda.

I grated the bar of soap, but when it mixed in with the borax and soda, the perfectionist in me said, "With those big flakes how can I get close to scooping out an equal proportion?"

So I threw the flakes in the food processor. Much better. I am storing it in an ice cream bucket.

or: UPDATE - you can use the side of the grater that looks like someone just punched holes in it. Never knew what that side was for, but it's perfect for making it into a fine powder dust, I no longer use the food processor.

I've washed my clothes with it and it is just fine. 1 T. for light soil, 2 T for heavily soiled. Does smell like Dial soap, but no biggie.

Here's the price break down.

I have been buying Charlie's soap, since I was unhappy with store laundry soap because things weren't getting clean anymore. For 80 loads at $15.49, it costs 19 cents a load.

Fels Naptha Soap = 99 cents makes about 2 1/2 cups grated = 40 cents/cup
Borax = $3.79 for 9 1/2 cups = 40 cents / cup
Washing Soda = $2.79 for 7 cups = 40 cents/cup

Cool, all 40 cents a cup! So no matter what proportion I make, it is 40 cents a cup.
16 Tablespoons equal one cup, so 2.5 cents for one tablespoon (recommended for lightly soiled laundry), 5 cents for two tablespoons recommended for heavy soiled laundry.

80 loads of Charlie's soap is $15.49.
80 loads Homemade soap is $ 2 - $4. Definitely worth the time to grate soap!

UPDATE: I have made this detergent using my normal bathroom soap bar, Ivory soap, which makes it cheaper and less fragrant. It works well, but not really for heavily soiled items like my husband's work clothes. So, I returned to using Fels Naptha.

UPDATE II: Unless you want to convert this into liquid soap by boiling it with water, this soap will leave linty like residue on your really dark/black fabrics. I'm too lazy to convert it (Find directions to make the above into liquid here, actually now that I type this, I'll go make some to see if it keeps the linty black from happening) until then I gave up and ordered Charlie's soap for my blacks.


Melanee said...

Hey MJ,
I like this idea, the soap I buy is terrible on the wallet. I bet there is a way to make it smell better. I'll think on it.

Melissa Jagears said...

I have heard of some people using essential oil in the mix, but I don't want to add that to my cost. But after it dried, it didn't smell at all like dial, so I'm not too worried about it any longer.

Melissa Jagears said...

I forgot to add, Melanee, I found all the stuff at Marvin's.

Unknown said...

I love the idea of making my own laundry soap. I wonder if it is possible to do for and HE washer.

Melissa Jagears said...

Yes, I have heard of HE washer people using it successfully.

Anonymous said...

Washing soda can also be found with pool supplies. It is sold as pH up. I have used this mix for a while now with all my laundry including my diapers. I have hard water and 2 tbsp per large load works great.

Anonymous said...

I have a ton of J&J Buddies bar soaps that I got for free. I am wondering if I can subsitute Buddies soap for Fels Naptha or just add some in to make it smell nice.

Myrnie said...

Fantastic! I've been using this (1 bar, 1 cup each washing soda and borax) since October 2007. It's GREAT! I have an HE washer now, and it works well with that since it doesn't suds. I DO have a soap build up developing on my washer door though, so I'm thinking about trying a cleaner-rinsing soap. I've seen people do this with Dove and Zote as well.

We also use oxy clean with it, and fill the "fabric softener" cup with white vinegar to help make whites a little brighter and just make the clothes a little softer.

Have fun!

Myrnie said...

Oh, and a microplane works really well to grate it- nice and small :) When I use my food processor it tends to leave chunks.

Anonymous said...

i have been making this for a while now and use different kinds of soap- fels naptha, zote, ivory, irish spring, etc. i think the soap part of it is more for the smell anyway.

Unknown said...

I've nominated you for an award.

Anonymous said...

Someone asked about HE washers. I looked into it when I got an HE, and you do need to use detergent designed for HE washers or you will gum up the sensors and pay big on repair bills, especially if you live in an area with very hard water. I was so disappointed, because I'd just started making my own soap for the top loader I did have. Our water table is dropping so rapidly that even the farmers around here are recycling their water, so I had to get an HE to conserve water. I'm very pleased with the performance. It uses 15 gallons of water as opposed to 40+ in my old top loader. The clothes are fluffy when they come out of the spin cycle, so I don't have to dry them nearly as long in my dryer. Often, I hang them on racks to dry. And I found the best deal on HE detergent at Sears. One bucket on sale is going to last about a year. I don't use a full scoop, and the clothes come out clean. Hope that helps! I think part of "making do" is knowing when not to. . . . .Sure enjoy your site. We have to make do on lots of things, and it's encouraging to know we aren't the only ones. Gets tough some days, you know?

Beth said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Charlie's Soap for diapers. I stopped using it for awhile (started using Purex Free & Clear), but my baby started goetting ammonia burns on his bum. I just invested in the 5-gallon bucket of the powder laundry soap, which averages out to about $8 for 80 loads (I got a discount because I also bought the all-purpose spray).

I used to make my own laundry soap, but I made a liquid version. I don't think I liked it quite as well as the Charlie's, plus I had read that you shouldn't use actual soap on cloth diapers (something about build-up that will cause them not to absorb).

So, we're back to the Charlie's, which I'm happy about. I'm hoping I can save my cloth stash from the Purex detergent residue.

p1p3r said...

I hope to be able to make this later this year after we've worked through our stockpiles.

Passing along the site where I got the recipe for homemade dishwashing detergent. It's actually BETTER than anything we've bought commercially.

You can get citric acid at wholefoods and online, of course.

Anonymous said...

Okay so I went to the store and I bought Baking Soda that was in the laundry asle and used for laundry. Can I use this to make the soap?? THANKS!!

Melissa Jagears said...

They are two different things. Baking Soda is sodium bicarbonate and washing soda is sodium carbonate. You can use baking soda in laundry, read this:

I will post this since it is interesting. I have only heard of using this, but if you are doing cloth diapers, etc. you might want to use the baking soda???

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have also starting making my own soap, because my daughter had to give up all fragrances. I did some experimenting for us, and I gave some of my experiments to my family for Christmas. I gave my sister-in-law, the farmers wife some of the batch of Fels Naptha soap. She really liked it because it took out the barn smell from the clothes. So a week or so ago I made her a bunch more. It is too smelly for me but she really likes it.
I first made a 4 gallon batch with Kirk's castile, that made a nice soap, but it coated my microfiber cloths and they weren't as absorbent. So then I had to wash them in hot water and regular detergent to remove the coconut fat off of them. After that batch I found recipes for powered soap which is much easier to store.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm making some with Ivory soap right now. Ivory is very wet soap out of the package... the first time I processed it, it formed clumps.

I'd recommend grating it and letting it sit in a shallow container for three or four days to dry out. When I did that and food processed it just now, it made a nice powder.

Thanks so much for sharing this recipe.

Unknown said...

From Wikipedia:
"According to the "Chronic Health Effects" section of the National Institutes of Health's MSDS for Fels Naptha:

Chronic toxicity testing has not been conducted on this product. However, the following effects have been reported on one of the product's components. Stoddard solvent: Repeated or prolonged exposure to high concentrations has resulted in upper respiratory tract irritation, central and peripheral nervous system effects, and possibly hematopoetic, liver and kidney effects."

I'd stick with Ivory, just in case. If you need extra cleaning power, just add a little more borax and/or baking soda to the load.

Also, I use powder and dissolve it in hot tap water just before using it. I haven't had any "lint" problems this way.