The Homemade Laundry Soap Experiment…1 Year Later

In January of 2011 our family would attempt to make/use our own laundry soap.  Most of the people in our family thought I was cracked to use a non-commercial brand of laundry soap….as well as leaving the fate of my family’s cleanliness in the hands of Fels-Naptha.  HA!  Here is to pioneering a “new”  way…

We heard all kinds of horror stories about men who were unhappy with the smell of the laundry, women who would NEVER use it, how it never took out stains, didn’t suds enough to count as clean, never really worked – and positive stories of how it worked well and saved a family a ton of money, removed smells and stains, families who would NEVER live without it – people were pretty much on one end of the spectrum or the other – what we like is that it had much reduced chemical components in it than standard laundry.

After a year’s use, here’s my two cents:

  1. Stain Removal:  “Standard” laundry soap [SLS] (starting with a T, but I do not want to get in trouble from the big guns…) does remove some stains better, if you are in a hurry and do not have time to put on stain remover.  (On the other hand, I may have laundry gremlins who forget to remind me they spilled chocolate sauce with Kool-Aid on their FAVORITE white shirt!)  “Homemade” laundry soap [HLS] removes everything just fine, however on items such as grass or oil – I keep a bar of Fels-Naptha on hand and rub a little extra on for my own peace of mind.
  2. Smell:  SLS has a highly perfume smell to it – even if you buy the one that has NO added perfumes or dyes which touts itself as “clear”.  After using HLS for a year plus, the perfume smell in SLS if overwhelming – similar to walking through a perfume section in a department store.  I did not realize this until we stopped using SLS for a year and then restarted in April of 2012 for the comparison test.  HLS has no order to it, unless you utilize a bar soap that has a smell or add essential oils for smell.
  3. Loads: We have a front loading HE washer – a 5-gallon bucket of concentrated HLS lasted our family from January of 2011 through April 1st of 2012.  On average, I do six to eight loads of laundry per week for a household of four, extra when our son is visiting.  That is 1/2c of HLS per load.
  4. Cost:  I was skeptical about using HLS, so I kept on hand SLS I had bought on sale in 2011 – three 50 Fl oz containers total cost of $15.89.  I only recently opened one at the beginning of April to do a fair comparison and have been using it since April 1st – I have very little left as I notice it takes more than HLS to do the same standard of cleaning.  The HLS cost $11.74, the reason the initial investment was so high was that I bought a brand new 5-gallon bucket from Home Depot.  Keep in mind that even though an entire bar of Fels-Naptha was utilized, very tiny amounts of washing soda and borax are utilized – so I added these to my cleaning arsenal.  The double use of products makes them even more cost effective.  This time the only investment for one year’s worth of HLS will be the Fels-Naptha – which is $1.39 at Fred Meyer’s.
  5. Whitening: I am a stickler about the whites.  I choose to use Mrs. Stewarts Bluing, as I detest bleach.  I was only recently introduced to this product as soon as I started using HLS, and I think it’s wonderful I wish I would of known about it years ago.  (

Overall, our family will continue to use HLS – not only is it highly cost effective – I know what goes into it, and it is better for our machine and the environment.

Here is the recipe:

  • Borax
  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (NOT Baking Soda)
  • Fels-Naptha Soap Bar or Zote Soap Bar
  • 5-gallon bucket with lid
  • A Container that has been cleaned and rinsed
  • A cyprinid (I used a cleaned 2-liter soda bottle and cut the bottom off.
  • OPTIONAL:  Essential Oil Drops for fragrance (We did not add this)
  • Grate the whole bar of Fels-Naptha Soap
  • Put into a pot with 4 cups of hot water – stir constantly over medium to low heat until all the soap is completely dissolved (took about 15 minutes) Ensure there are no chucks because if there are they will not dissolved over time.
  • Fill a 5-gallon bucket with four cups of HOT water.
  • Pour the soap mixture into the bucket then add 1 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda and ½ cup of Borax.  Continually stir until combined. (There are many different tools you can use; I used an old wooden rod to ensure you reach the bottom of the bucket).
  • Fill the rest of the 5 gallon bucket with water until full then stir again.
  • Let sit out overnight (we sat ours on the back porch).
  • When opened the next day it will be thicker (gel like consistency) and more difficult to stir.  Stir again.
  • Use a funnel to fill a clean container for your laundry room.  (I utilized an old Costco laundry soap container because of the spout size) Only fill the container HALF way with the soap mixture.  Fill the other half with water and SHAKE.
  • Reseal the 5-gallon bucket and store in a cool place.

Once you’re ready to do your first load here are the recommended measurements:

-5/8 cups for a regular top-loading machine
-1/4 cup for a front-loading (HE) machine**

**(NOTE: I have been using this and find that ½ cup works best in our HE machine.)

Disclaimer: If you are worried about your HE machine, please call the manufacturer.  I called ours and they said it was not a problem to use with our machine.  One of the major concerns with HE machines is the suds and this recipe does not generate suds.  We have had no issues with our machine, however please consult your machine manufacturer if you have any concerns.

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