08 November 2010

Home Made Laundry Detergent

* 1 bar (about 3 oz) of bar soap (Fels*naptha works best for us, but lot of people like Ivory)
* 1 cup of borax
* 1/2 cup pf washing soda (NOT baking soda)
* Water

* grater/knife/food processor shredder
* 5 gallon bucket with lid (a cleaned out cat litter tub works great)
* 2 quart saucepan
* LONG stirring spoon
1) Grate the soap into shreds or crumbs so that it will dissolve easily. (This is the "hard part")

2) Next, heat 5 cups of water in a saucepan.

3) When the water starts to steam, add the soap shreds and stir.

4) While the soap is melting, put three gallons of hot tap water into your 5 gallon bucket.

5) Once the soap is completely melted, pour it into the water in the big bucket and stir well.

6) Add 1/2 cup of washing soda and stir thoroughly.

7) Once the washing soda is completely dissolved, add 1 cup of borax and stir thoroughly.

OK, now you have a big bucket of soapy water. You can use it immediately, but as it cools, it will gel. The exact texture depends on the soap you choose, but in each case it will be part gel and part watery liquid. It ain't pretty, but it works really well as a general cleaner, too - - and it's a whole lot cheaper and easier to carry home than the commercial detergents.

Use about 1/2 cup for each load of laundry. Because the gel tends to lump up, if you have a high efficiency washer, you'll want to chop the lumps up befopre you put them in the washer. Hot water dissolves it just fine, but you'll get some backwash as it gets started. With a top loader, just dump it in. The water and agitator will do the trick.

I find it works even better if I put 1/2 cup of baking soda in the drum along with the wash and then use white vinegar and a drop of essential oil as the "fabric softner" in the final rinse. The clothes are fine without, but smell fresher with.

With thanks to Felicia Williams over at Suite 101 for getting me started.


  1. I was curious if Fels*naptha contained naphtalene (which is the carcinogenic ingredient in mothballs), so I googled it. I found that it has its own website, at felsnaptha.com , and the ingredients are listed there. (Nothing is listed as "napthalene," but there are some chemicals with long names that I wasn't sure if they were alternate names for it.)

    But I also found another website that actually came up as an even higher match for my query:
    What intrigued me about *this* site is that it has almost exactly your laundry soap recipe, and then it also has a "quick and easy powder version" that says this:

    ----- start here -----


    1 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated (comes to about 2 cups)

    1 cup Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda)

    1 cup Borax (20 Mule Team)

    Combine grated soap with washing soda & borax. Use 1 tablespoon for light load, 2 tablespoons for heavy or heavily soiled load. Use half that for front-loading washers.

    ----- end here -----

    I am curious if you've run across the "quick and easy powder version" before, if you've tried it, and what you think of it. It looks to me like it should work similarly to your version and be a lot less effort, and easier to store, too.

    I'm intrigued!

  2. Hey, Valerie! I have indeed heard of the powder version, and it sounds like it would work fine. I prefer liquids so I haven't tried it, but if you do, I'd be curious to hear what you think.

    It occurred to to me to wonder about naphtalene, too. And I periodically try other soaps. When I find one that works, I'll be switching permanently. ;)

  3. Fels Naptha has "Contains no Napthalene" branded across the back under the ingredients list for what its worth.


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