Saturday, May 14, 2011

Adventures in Homemade Laundry Soap

When i was visiting my parents last month, i took home a whole lot o' loot.  So much loot, that i couldn't take it home, and my parents had to box it up and mail it to me.  It was great.  Among said loot, my mother sent me the ingredients to make 2 gallons of homemade laundry soap, a project i've been fantasizing over for months and possible year + months, but never got the ingredients and the plan together to make it happen.  My mom's awesome, so she measured out the ingredients for me, placed them in a plastic bag with the directions, and gave them to me.  Moms are awesome.

I've read where lots of people wrote about their triumphs in making laundry soap - but never so much about the parts that confused them.  That's where i come in.  This simple process confused me a bit and had some complications i've not heard about in the past.  So i'll share it with you, and maybe you'll decide to make your own laundry soap too.  Or not.  Whichever.

Here is the recipe and instructions i followed:

3 pints water
1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soap, grated
1/2 cup washing soda (Arm and Hammer, NOT baking soda!)
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
2 Gallon bucket to mix it in
1 Quart hot water HOT WATER

Mix Fels Naptha soap in a sauce pan with 3 pints hot water and heat on low until dissolved.  Stir in washing soda and borax.  Stir until thickened, and remove from heat.  Add 1 quart hot water to 2 gallon bucket.  Add soap mixture and mix well.  Fill bucket completely with additional hot water, and mix well.  Set aside for 24 hours, or until mixture thickens.  You may add additional HOT water if the mixture becomes too thick.  Mix well before each use.  Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load.  Makes 64 loads.  Cost per load, 3 cents.

O.k. let's get started.

Step one:  grate a third of a bar of Fels Naptha Soap.  Fels Naptha Soap is . . . well, it's a bar of soap.  It's yellow, and it smells like the strongest bar of Dial you've ever sniffed.  Oh, and it does this to your cheese grater.

Thankfully, it IS soap after all.  So it's not too too hard to wash off.  Use plenty of hot water.  Oh, grating the soap.  It's not like grating cheese.  It takes a while.  And i only did 1/3 of a bar.  So if you're going for the big 5 gallon bucket, hopefully you have some eager children to enlist, so you don't wear yourself out.

Next step:  dissolving the grated soap in hot water.  I put the specified 3 pints of water in my stock pot and heated it on low while i was grating said soap, so when i was done, the water was near boiling.  Then i just poured in the grated soap, like you would.  I grated mine pretty fine, so it dissolved pretty quickly.

The next next step is to pour in all the powdered stuff your mama measured out for you.  And stir.

Until it thickens.

Problem is, it doesn't give you any hint how long it will take to thicken or how much it will thicken or how you will know when it has thickened enough, etc., etc.

I cooked it for a long time, and stirred and stirred and stirred, and it still looked pretty much like thin chicken broth.  But with a lot of foam on top.

I googled about it for a while and found someone else whose soap didn't thicken, who said that it didn't seem to matter.  So i went with that.

Does anyone have any insight on this thickening business???

Next, you need a container.  I have a hard time finding 5 gallon buckets with lids, but i did find this "utility bucket" at the Family Dollar.  It holds about six gallons, and it has a lid.

Then, i poured my soap soup into my utility bucket and added more hot water, until it was as much as they said.  Kind of looks like somebody peed in it, but they didn't.

I waited 24 hours, and i don't have a picture, but it kind of separated like grease and water.  And it looked like the "grease" part might have solidified.  Happily it did not solidify; it jellified more, and i was easily able to stir it up.

I'm still using up my inferior, store-bought laundry soap, so i haven't used this concoction yet.  But i'm using extra store-bought detergent on my clothes so as to get to the good stuff sooner.

Extra Info: 

* to an olfactorily impaired person, such as myself, boiling soap just smells clean.  To olfactorily-sensitive folks, they might want to leave the house for a long time until the attack of their senses is over.

*the reason this recipe says "HOT" water so many times is because if you put cold water on this stuff, it sort of solidifies.  Don't ask how i know.  Just use hot water.

*my mama included marbles in my soap-making kit to put in the bottom of the bottle (once my soap is in a bottle) to aid in shaking up the mixture before each use.  She's smart like that, so you should do it too.


  1. Amy has been making and using our laundry detergent for a while now. We don't have to cook it, since we are on the sewer system. Makes for a MUCH quicker and easier recipe. Works well on laundry, too. :)

  2. I have done my own laundry soap for a long time. I don't worry about thickening, just dissolving. Any cheap soap will do, you don't have to use just that brand. This recipe is OK for HE washers since it is low sudsing. Clothes are clean but not heavily perfumed--most commercial detergents do not clean well but mask odor REALLY well. I have no more problems with sensitive skin either. Should you want a recipe for homemade fabric softener, I have that as well.

  3. Also, do not boil the soap when you dissolve it. You can get a big bubbly foamy mess.

  4. Awesome! I have bought somebody's granular type laundry soap that is not half bad from
    Etsy. This looks like fun. I can't wait to hear how it turns out. Too bad we don't live closer. I made about 4 pounds of Cold process soap this week and a few bars of coffee soap. We could really get into some crafty fun.


What do you think about that?