Monday, September 24, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap

Do NOT try to eat this recipe!

BUT, it may very well be your favorite concoction ever.

Would you believe me if I told you I haven't bought laundry detergent for at least ten years? And I spend less than 75 cents for 64 loads of laundry?

And yes, I still do laundry :)

No, this is not a hoax, and no, you don't hear Billy Mays's voice in the background.

Using a few easily found ingredients and about 20 minutes a month, you can live in my frugal world.

(Don't you just love "frugal"? It's a much nicer word than "cheap", isn't it?)

Here are the four ingredients you need:

1/2 bar soap (I use Fels Naphtha, but you can use any soap - Ivory, home made, Artisan, etc. Just make sure it's pure soap)

1/2 cup Washing Soda (Note: this is not the same as Baking Soda. They are different chemical compounds)

1/2 cup Borax (Yes, the stuff that used to sponsor the TV show "Death Valley Days". Did you love that show as much as I did?)

2 gallons water

This is so easy....

First, shave your soap into small pieces. I use a knife, other people use their cheese grater. You want the pieces to be small so they'll melt easily.

Heat one gallon of water and dissolve the soap in it.

You can either do this in a big pot (I have an old 2 gallon stock pot that I use), or you can pour hot water into a large bucket (at least 2 gallons) and dissolve it there.

In any case, stir the soap pieces in the hot water until they're mostly dissolved (I'm never patient enough to get them all the way there...).

Add 1/2 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup borax (make sure there aren't any lumps in these powders), and stir until the powders are dissolved. The mixture will thicken while you're stirring.

Now add another gallon of water - cold water - and stir it all together.

Pour it into containers (I use old ice cream buckets), and there you go.

I use about 1/4 cup soap per load of laundry. It worked great in my old top loading washer, and its low-suds is perfect for my new front loader.

The consistency is kind of a watery gel that separates, but just scoop up the gel and liquid together. I keep a small plastic cup in the bucket to use to measure it.

In case you're wondering how well it works...well, my boys are Eagle Scouts. They camped year 'round for six years. You know the drill - mud, dirt, wet, fish guts, mud, more mud, and {{shudder}} boy sweat.

No problem.

And if you use powder, you can use the same recipe, but just mix the dry stuff together (make sure the soap is in very small pieces) and use two tablespoons per load.

So, lets talk frugal living today - What's your favorite frugal tip?


  1. Okay -- I'm officially uber impressed! And what I like about this is it's scent free!!!!! I buy the no scent, no phosphates, no nuthin' kind of detergent and I just opened a new container and it reeked of perfume! My daughter is sensitive -- poor thing has princess skin -- and though she doesn't live at home any more sometimes her laundry finds it's way here anyhow. :-) I'm going to try this as soon as I run out of detergent.

    Frugal tip #1 -- buying at the outdoor market is way cheaper than grocery store produce. Unfortunately that ends in October up here in Canada. :-(

    Frugal tip #2 -- also a dieting trick. Only eat sweets that you bake from scratch. Way healthier for you PLUS you really have to be craving something sweet in order to go to all the trouble. And it's cheaper since you have most of the ingredients on hand anyway.

    Frugal tip #3 -- you can jack the heat right down if you have a warm furry canine buddy to warm your back at night. :-)

    1. Kav, I love your frugal tips!

      #1 - the season here is like yours. We're winding down in our outdoor markets, but that's one reason why we eat a lot more frozen veggies than fresh in the winter. I haven't had time to put up much produce this year, but I'm usually canning and freezing away during August and September!

      #2 - I'm not sure I'm brave enough to try this one. The biggest problem is that when I bake, I have less-than-zero will power when it comes to eating the cookies, brownies, cake, etc. when it's right out of the oven hot. I'd have to wait until my craving coincided with the boys being at home to pounce on the freshly baked goodies.

      Hmmm, maybe that would work even better...

      #3 - Well, he's not furry, but my husband works pretty well. We keep the thermostat down during the winter - mid 60's during the day while I'm at home, a little warmer in the evenings (my husband gets cold faster than I do) and in the low 60's at night.

      Sweaters, warm socks, a furry body at your feet and a cup of hot chocolate work wonders, don't they?

  2. Jan, this is amazing! Do you find it's okay on color clothes--doesn't fade them? I always buy Tide to do my colors and a cheaper detergent for towels, underwear and sheets.

    I'd really like to try keeping it as a powder just for simplicity. Do you think it would dissolve in cold water, though? I use cold on most things to save energy.

    Thanks for sharing! I would have never thought of this.

    1. I'm not sure how well this would dissolve in cold water. I stopped using powders before I started making this because I had problems with the commercial powders dissolving.

      You could try it and let us know -

      And I've never had trouble with colors fading, but we don't have many clothes that are brightly colored :)

  3. Kav, I love your tips! :) I really like that sweet tip. Although I have to admit I often hint for my daughter to bake brownies (which she craves like I do). I don't think it'll work if someone else does the baking for me! :)

  4. I keep seeing this and want to try it but.... The three ingredients are nothing I've seen before. Where do you get them? Do you have to order them?

    When I was in college my roomate was from Mississippi (I was SO lucky, that girl could cook like nobody's business)and she always was looking for things like Ro-tel... which we don't have. :D

    As for laundry detergent, my dad's a Costco fan (do you guys have those?) and he buys giant buckets of detergent for us. And hand soap and dish soap and sponges and toothpaste. Hm. What could he be telling me????

    Frugal tip? Rags instead of paper towels. :)

    1. Yes, rags.

      Actually, by the time my youngest was twelve or so we ran out of old diapers, and most clothes get sent on rather than making them into rags.

      But a couple years ago I finally convinced my husband he would stay warmer if he wore an undershirt. He hated undershirts because when he was a kid they never stayed tucked in and were always too tight around his shoulders.

      Then I figured it out. He had been wearing his brother's hand-me-downs, and the two boys were pretty much the same size, so he always had clothes that were too small. I bought him undershirts that fit, and he's warm and happy.

      And in another year or so when these start wearing out, I'll have rags again!

    2. Oh, and you might have to look for the ingredients. Around here I find them all at Walmart, but in Kansas I had to go to Dillon's, and in Kentucky I had to go to Kroger.

      You might have to look around in the stores where you usually don't shop to find the things. They're carried in the laundry aisle.

      Amazon carries the ingredients, too. There's one listing I saw that sells 1 box of washing soda, 1 box of borax and 3 bars of Fels Naphtha for $35.00. That seems a little steep to me. I pay about $4.00 for each of the boxes and $.98 for a bar of Fels Naphtha.

    3. I just re-read my rags reply - between the diapers and undershirts, I've been using old dish towels. They make great rags. I keep them in a basket under the kitchen sink and they're always handy.