Thursday, March 7, 2013

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have been reading a lot about homemade laundry soap in the last couple of years. I wanted to give it a try.  The thought of using ingredients I can pronounce  and being able to control what goes into my laundry soap, greatly appeals to me.  I read quite a few recipes, and read quite a bit about the various ingredients, and what their cleaning role is in laundry soap.  The following is a recipe that I ended up using, and also a few facts about the ingredients.

Grate your soap using a cheese grater.

The Fels Naphta is a dryer soap, and grates finer, resulting in less volume. The Pink Zote soap above is a big, moist bar and grates a larger volume. I used both bars...since I had gotten them both and couldn't choose one or the other. Some people suggested letting your bars of soap dry out for a certain amount of days before grating, to get a finer grated result... some even blended in blender or food processor. I am sure that those are great ideas, but I had no patience to dry out my soap, and got such great pleasure in grating it up with a cheese grater. It looked, felt and smelled beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed myself doing it. I know, I'm a little weird.

Mix the dry ingredients with the grated soap.

Store in a pretty Container. Use a pretty scooper to scoop it up.

Home Made Laundry Detergent

Powder Formula

3 -4 Bars grated soap (Fels Naptha, Castille, Zote or Ivory)
1 Box Washing Soda(3 lb, 7oz ): This not baking soda
1 Box Borax (4 lbs, 12 oz)
1 Box Baking Soda (the larger size... 4 lbs)
Oxy Clean (you can get it inexpensively at the Dollar Store). I put this in separately as needed for heavily stained clothes, or loads... but many people mixed it in with their laundry detergent. Do as you like.

Mix all ingredients Together. I used my biggest mixing bowl... someone suggested mixing it in a trash bag... it sounded like a good idea.

Use 2 Tb per load (I double that, because we have very hard water). Pour soap into washing machine as it is filling (I have found that, although using hot water adds to your costs somewhat, it is best to start with hot water, to dissolve and activate the soap and Borax and is usually best all around in removing dirt and stains.

Here are a few tidbits that I learned when I did a little study and decided to share them with you.

Bar Soap
Fels Naphta: My daughter, Marie was given a bar of this for her first baby shower. I had never heard of it before that (where have I been?). I loved the idea of it, and have since used it. I also love the smell of it. It is a laundry bar soap intended for the pre-treatment of stains by rubbing the dampened product on a soiled area prior to laundering. The manufacturer claims it to be most effective in removing chocolate, baby formula, perspiration, and make-up.

Castile Soap is named so because it originated in the Kingdom of Castilla, a part of the country that we know today as Spain. The name Castilla (or in English, Castile) means land or region of castles. It was a region that was first to use olive oil instead of lard or tallow in their soap making because of their abundant olive trees. The word Castile is now used generically when referring to a vegetable oil based soap. Coconut oil often falls in this category. Incidentally, coconut oil based soap adds a natural softener to the laundry.

Zote Soap is from Mexico and is bar soap as well as a laundry bar soap. I have also seen Zote soap flakes at the grocery store, and have tried them and liked them. It is the least expensive per its size that I have found, and I love the smell of it.

Ivory soap is descriptive of your basic bar of soap with no special additives. Any hard bar soap like it works well.

Washing Soda
Washing Soda is not the same thing as Baking soda, although one of its manufacturers is Arm and Hammer... the makers of Baking soda. They are a slightly different chemical make up and have different functions in the washing machine. Washing soda is a common base ingredient in many laundry soaps and works as a water softener and stain remover.

Borax is a laundry booster, and works a little like a bleach. Apparently, when combined with hot water, it converts to hydrogen pyroxide.

Baking Soda
Baking soda can be very effective at removing stains formed by age. Because it is a natural cleaner, your older linens can be trusted to be whitened and brightened by its effects. It is also a good odor remover and is good for neutralizing acid based stains, such as vomit and urine.

Vinegar is an acid. It can be used in a clothes washer as a laundry booster / fabric softener / water conditioner . In other words, it is wonderful for removing stains, mildew (I love it for towels that have gotten that mildewy stinky smell... bleach is the only other thing I know to get that out, (and that's not usually the best option), it is also great for breaking down hard water, and leaves your clothes soft (no need for a fabric softener). Don't use it directly on your delicate fabrics, because it is acidic and can be hard on them.

For cleaning and deodorizing laundry: I usually use 2-3 cups added to the laundry before the detergent, to pre-soak a stinky dirty load.  Use a pre-soak cycle, or soak as long as you feel necessary, then  drain and wash as usual.

For Fabric Softener: Add about 1/2 to 1 cup to your final rinse for a fabric softener and freshener. That is what I use depending on the load size. I have seen every variation of suggested use, I know that so much of it depends on the hardness of your water, and the size of your load. Experiment.

Powder or Liquid? Hot, warm or cold? Agitation, soak or rinse? Chemistry? Do you have hard water or soft; these are all questions to consider; so here are a few tips that might give you an answer:
  1. Vinegar together with Baking Soda will neutralize each other. so consider the timing of what you are using For example: if you are soaking something in Baking Soda, its best to hold off on the vinegar until the rinse load; if you are soaking something in vinegar, do it first, drain, and then add your soap (if it has baking soda) afterwards
  2. Increase the temperature of the wash water. Grease and oil based grime don’t come out as easily in cold water.
  3. Put your soap in first, it will distribute and disolve better this way.
  4. Put less clothes in the wash so they agitate/tumble better.
  5. Use more detergent for hard water, and less for soft.
  6. Soak the load before you run it.
  7. Liquid detergent is more easily dissolved and evenly distributed in cold water washes.

Happy Laundering Everyone!


  1. Hey Pam! I have been wanting to make my own laundry detergent for a couple of years. I even went and bought all of the ingredients to make a batch of the liquid detergent about a year ago. Never made it and ended up using the Borax and washing soda for other cleaning projects. I have recipes for both the liquid and the powdered, but I think I remember hearing that powdered detergent is harder on septic systems because it doesn't dissolve as readily. Have you ever heard that? Regardless, I really think I need to try mixing up some detergent. I've also heard of adding a bit of essential oil to the detergent.

  2. Hi Amber,
    I hadn't heard that the homemade powdered was harder on the septic systems, but I had heard that the commercial variety was due to the excess fillers that they use. It is possible that it is true. I do think that the liquid version is probably the better way to go all the way around... because it is dissolved already, and is easier to get it working in you clothtes... starting with hot water really is the best way to go over all in getting the soap dissolved whether powdered or liquid.. not everybody wants to or can do that though, so the liquid version already has a head start in that arena. The liquid version is a little messier and more inconvenient in terms of making it, storing and using it, but I do think I will try it next... I loved Luke's when he made it.

  3. Okay Pam... Your laundry soap looks way to pretty to use! I love the pinks and yellows mixed in. I love the soap scooper, of course it would be a tea cup. Brillant idea. Roxy and I were just saying how we would like to mix up a batch and see the benefits to making your own. I made my own fabric softner (from Farming on Faith's site) and I just absolutely love it! Any thing to save a few dollars is my motto.

    Hope you have prepared for the snow storm, we got wood up to the house earlier. Roxy and I ran to town earlier and got more paint. Her bedroom is gonna look so classy when it's finished. Have you decided what color you want to paint your walls yet? I'm ready when you are. :o)
    Have a great weekend. Stay Warm!
    Love ya,

  4. What a great post! It's far more detailed than mine ever was. If you're weird, then I am weird right along with you :o). I LOVE doing laundry!

    I know you asked me several questions about the girls, but at the moment, the only one I remember is if they are bio siblings. Yes, they are. We adopted them together. I can't remember for sure now, but I think that was ONE of the things that attracted me to your blog.


  5. I recently made my first homemade laundry detergent, mixing it in the trash bag as others suggested. My husband warned me not to do that, that the bag would break, but I didn't listen. Um. The bag broke. It made a big mess. Next time I will mix it right in my container, which is an old cat litter bucket that I sanitized. I also added my Oxy straight to the entire mix and really like how clean our laundry is now. Thanks for the tip to find it cheaper at the Dollar Store. I hadn't thought of looking there. I found your blog through Roxy. :)

  6. Thanks for stopping by Anne. Love the story about making the laundry detergent in a trash bag. It makes me laugh, and I think your husband has the "I told you so" rights now doesn't he? haha. Even so, its always good to try out an idea, even if it is a failure; you never really know until you try something right? The cat litter bucket sounds like a great idea.. those big ol buckets are great for things like this. I really love the homemade laundry detergent. Have a great week.