Earlier this week, I confessed that I make my own laundry detergent. Not only is it easy to make, but it’s also super affordable and it cleans really well. As promised, I’m posting my favorite soap recipes, along with some helpful hints. I know many people aren’t interested in making their own soap. But, if you have a lot of laundry and are trying to save money, this is a cheap and easy solution.
Editor’s note: While this IS a cheap and easy laundry solution, I no longer believe it’s the safest for my family, so I’ve stopped using it. Please be aware that Fels-Naptha has received a C rating from the Environmental Working Group and is not recommended for septic systems. And Borax has received an F rating from the Environmental Working Group. For more information, please read my posts, My Huge Homemade Detergent Mistake and You’ll Never Guess Why I Can’t Use Fels-Naptha Soap.
First things first
Before you make your own laundry detergent, you need a few supplies: a bar of Fels Naptha, a box of washing soda, and a box of Borax. (I’ve read that Ivory, soap, Sunlight soap, and Zote soap also are effective, but I haven’t tried them. And I haven’t checked out their ingredients … so I can only vouch for Fels Naptha.) All soaps can be found in the laundry aisle at grocery stores, although I’ve had trouble finding Fels Naptha and washing soda at many stores. If you want to skip a trip to the store, you can purchase them from Soaps Gone Buy.
These recipe produces unscented laundry detergent. If you want to add a little scent, add five drops of essential oil to every gallon of liquid detergent once the soap cools to room temperature.
For the liquid soap, you’ll also need a plastic mixing spoon, gallon jug, a 4-cup measuring cup, and emptied laundry detergent bottles.
The first thing you’ll want to do for both recipes is grate your bar of soap. I’ve tried grating the Fels Naptha by hand, but it takes a little longer than I like. I’ve had a lot of luck in chopping a bar into smaller chunks, then grating it in my food processor. (Because it’s just soap, I don’t worry about using it in my food processor. I just wash everything afterward and it gets really clean.)
You also should be warned that both recipes make a very low sudsing soap. The soap definitely cleans your clothes … just don’t expect to see lots of bubbles like you see with commercial brands.
Powdered laundry detergent
2 cups finely grated Fels Naptha Soap
1 cup washing soda
1 cup Borax
Mix the ingredients well and store in an airtight container. Use 2 Tablespoons per full load of laundry.
Liquid laundry detergent
¼ cup finely grated Fels Naptha Soap
¼ cup washing soda
¼ cup Borax
16 cups water
Pour 4 cups of water into an emptied gallon jug.
Pour 4 cups of water into a saucepan. Add ¼ cup finely grated Fels Naptha Soap. Heat until Fels Naptha melts (usually right to the water’s boiling point).
Stir ¼ cup washing soda and ¼ cup Borax into hot Fels Naptha liquid. Stir until all soaps are incorporated.
Pour hot soap mixture into gallon jug. Add 8 additional cups of water. Shake well. Cool to room temperature. Once soap is cooled, transfer to emptied laundry detergent containers.
When using, the soap will be like a very lumpy gel. Shake your laundry detergent container well to mix the soap and loosen the goopiness, and use two capfuls per full load of laundry.
Please let me know about your experiences with homemade laundry detergent! How do you like the effectiveness and the cost? Do you have any other recipes you’re willing to share?
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jessica cochran says
Hi Hilary!! Just an FYI I am getting my coworkers hooked on your blog and making their own detergent. I just found a recipe for homemade fabric softener that I am going to try! It was at http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com and involves hair conditioner, white vinegar and water. Check it out!
Hilary Kimes Bernstein says
Thanks for the homemade fabric softener tip, Jess … she has such a cool blog. Thank you, also, for getting your coworkers hooked on Accidentally Green! :)
I’d take another look at Fels Naptha. The Environmental Working Group gives is a ‘C’ grade in terms of toxicity and safety. http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/441-FelsNapthaHeavyDutyLaundryBarSoap
Hilary Kimes Bernstein says
I completely agree with you, Annie! Since this post has been written I’ve stopped making my own detergent. Fels Naptha doesn’t work with our septic system: http://accidentallygreen.com/youll-never-guess-why-i-cant-use-fels-naptha-soap/
And I’ve stopped using Borax in all of my cleaning because it’s received an F from the EWG: http://accidentallygreen.com/my-huge-homemade-detergent-mistake/