I used to pay an arm and a leg to wash my clothes. I cringed every time I had to put laundry detergent on the grocery list because I knew that it would push up the budget and we already spend way too much money at the grocery store. Clean clothes are kind of important though, so I didn’t think I had a choice.
Then we had a baby and I started buying fragrance-free, dye free, allergen free laundry soap, which is just code for million dollar laundry detergent. I quickly started looking for alternatives. I wanted something healthy, something that worked, and something cheap. Enter, homemade laundry soap. Now, this is nothing new. You can do a quick search of the internet and find thousands upon thousands of recipes for homemade laundry soap and they are all almost exactly the same. Some are powder form and some are liquid. I prefer liquid because every time I’ve tried using powder in the past, I’m too lazy to wait for it to dissolve before piling my clothes in and then I end up with chunks of non-dissolved soap and dirty clothes. So, liquid it is. (Update: I tried to make homemade powdered laundry detergent after originally publishing this post and I loved it. It’s even easier to make and I don’t have any dissolving problems with the DIY version. I’ve included recipes for both liquid and powdered below.)
You may have seen a recipe for homemade laundry soap before and been turned off by the fact that you have to make five gallons at a time. That’s what turned me off for a long time. I didn’t want to mess with finding a five-gallon bucket, finding something big enough to stir a five-gallon bucket and then you end up with five gallons of laundry soap in a bucket, just not very convenient. However, I worked on slimming that five gallons into one. I make one gallon of homemade laundry soap at a time. It’s quick, simple, and much less intimidating. I now have 2 one gallon jugs that I rotate. When one is empty, I have the second on standby so I have time to make another batch without skipping any laundry days. Genius.
Liquid Laundry Soap Recipe
This recipe literally takes all of ten minutes to make. Trust me, even as a busy working mom, you can find a few minutes to make this stuff every few weeks or so (depending on how much laundry you clean). The soap does need to sit and thicken for a while, which is the main reason I want to always have a backup. When I’m in the mood to do laundry, I can’t stop and wait for my soap to thicken overnight!
This soap is very natural and healthy, so it’s completely safe for babies and those with sensitive skin and allergies. I’ve been using this soap for a few years now and it works great! If I have something super dirty and stained, I might throw in an extra scoop of Borax or OxyClean, but usually, this is rare as the soap works great by itself. So without further ado, the recipe:
Things you’ll need:
Empty and clean 1 gallon(ish) jug (I use old jugs from when we bought laundry soap)
A funnel is handy to have
1/4 bar Fels Naptha Soap – technically you can use any bar soap. Fels Naptha is specifically made for laundry so it works great, some people use Ivory body soap. I’ve also used some random homemade bars that I picked up from Whole Foods. I didn’t notice a difference in the end result, so use what you prefer.
1/4 Cup Borax – this is a naturally occurring mineral (sodium borate), so nothing lab created and chemical ridden. It whitens and deodorizes.
1/4 Cup Super Washing Soda – not to be confused with Baking Soda. Washing Soda is Sodium Carbonate, another natural ingredient. Washing soda cleans and deodorizes.
*All of these items can be found in the laundry aisle of many grocery stores (I’ve found them at Kroger and Meijer). You might have to ask and look around a bit as not every store carries them. They are also very easy to order online (note the links above are affiliate links through Amazon, thank you for your support!).
To make your liquid homemade laundry soap –
Start heating about 3 Cups of water in your saucepan. Grate your soap. I used to grate mine really fine like pictured, but that’s not necessary. If you prefer knife-wielding you could even chop the soap if you prefer. Add the grated soap to the water in your saucepan and stir lightly until the soap is fully melted (don’t go crazy with the stirring or boiling to avoid excessive bubbles). Pour in the Borax and Washing Soda, stir until fully dissolved.
Fill your gallon container about 1/2 way up with hot water. Pour in your soap mixture. Cap up your bottle and give it a good shake. Let it sit for a minute to let the bubbles settle, then fill the container the rest of the way with more hot water. Shake a bit more. Let sit for a few to 24 hours to thicken. When it’s ready it will be a bit like the consistency of egg drop soup.
Use about 1/2 cup per load. Since I use old laundry detergent jugs, I just fill the cap for each load.
NEW: Powdered Laundry Soap Recipe
After many years of using the liquid laundry soap, I decided to try powdered. It is even easier and faster to make and works just as great. I now just use the powdered version for my homemade soap.
Things You’ll Need:
Full bar of Fels Naptha Soap
1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Super Washing Soda
Food Processor or good Blender
To make your homemade powdered laundry soap –
Slide your bar of soap through the grater on your food processor. Switch to the mixing/chopping blade on your food processor. Add borax and washing soda to the soap and combine in food processor until well mixed and even consistency.
Voila! You’re done.
Use about 2 tablespoons to a 1/4 cup per load of laundry, depending on dirt level.
A Note About Smells and Chemicals
Small soapbox note – As I mentioned, this is a fragrance-free soap, which is good for you! If you are used to the super strong “clean laundry” scent on your clothes that you get from the store-bought scented laundry detergent, it will not exist when you use this soap. Super strong “clean laundry” smell doesn’t equal clean, it equals toxic chemicals. When you make this laundry soap, the soap itself will smell very nice, but your clothes themselves won’t smell at all once you pull them out of the washer/dryer because they are truly clean! Natural fragrances rinse away with water, chemical fragrance sticks around. Do your lungs, your skin, and the environment a favor and learn to love the smell of fresh, truly clean, chemical-free clothes.
If you are also looking to save on Fabric Softener, you can replace your Fabric Softener with plain distilled white vinegar. Just pour your vinegar in your fabric softener dispenser as usual. Once again, toxin-free and super cheap.
And for your dryer, you can skip the expensive fabric softener dryer sheets and make your own wool balls! I had my sister make mine because she’s awesome, but you can find the instructions through this link. Before I had wool balls, I also used clean tennis balls, so that’s an option too.