Homemade Laundry Detergent

This is actually a “recipe” making the rounds in e-mail sharing.  I do not know the original author.  If you do, please, please tell me in the comments and I will give credit to them!  But this was too great of a recipe not to share with you.

When someone sent this to me, I was a tad bit skeptical and didn’t really look at it closely.  I figured it was just something silly making the rounds.  It looked to simple to actually work.  Then Aunt Kathy sent it to me with a glowing personal review.  Hmmm….maybe I should pay attention.  I looked at the cost projected for a batch and decided it was cheaper than a lot of things I waste money on, so why not try it?

I chose to use the Fels Naptha soap since that is what Aunt Kathy used and I wanted to make sure mine worked.  (I’ve since heard reports that any soap works well and will try that next time, because I’m pretty sure that most commercial soaps not from the health food section or store contain animal fats.)  I am not a fan of using my food grater for soap, so I slivered the soap with an old knife.  I didn’t really want to use any of my good pots in which I cook food, so I used the base of my double boiler (which is actually an old pan with it’s Silverstone coating peeling off.)

I bought a bucket and lid from Home Depot for less than $5 to store it.  I scoop it out using an old measuring cup.

When my old laundry detergent ran out, I nervously opened my new bucket full of homemade soap.  Would it work?  As I went through the piles of clothes, running them through the washer and drier, everything seemed to be coming out clean and fresh.  The big test still waited.  When hubby came home from work, I would need to wash his pile of work clothes along with the ones he was wearing….from roofing that week.  (For those of you who don’t know, roofing work clothes smell like tar and are grubbier than grubby with filthy knees from being on them and thighs because he wipes his hands there.)  How would they come out??  This was the acid test for me. Usually it takes 2-3 washings after hubby is finished with a roof for his pants to smell normal again.  That tar smell just sticks around.  Thankfully he doesn’t roof all of the time.

I always use extra soap when I wash this load.  I used the 2/3 c. for my extra-capacity machine, plus I scooped another 1/3 c. for good measure.  These were filthy and smelly.  When I pulled the clothes out of the washer I gingerly sniffed at them from afar.  Hmm…not bad.  I went in closer.  My mouth literally dropped open.  I could smell nothing but the clean smell of the soap!!  I examined the front of the jeans…and they were cleaner than I’d seen them in a long time (although work jeans are usually so stained that nothing EVER could make them truly “clean” looking again, but these were as good as I could expect.)  After they came out of the drier, I smushed them against my nose to smell them one more time.  I have the world’s most sensitive nose, according to hubby ~ who can smell next to nothing ~ and there was not any odor of tar to be smelled on them!!  I was amazed.

So, this recipe comes to you highly recommended.  It costs very little to make, except some of your time.  The 3 main ingredients can be found at Walmart just about right next to each other across the aisle from the Tide, Cheer, etc.  I believe my total cost for the 3 items was $10-12.  I have enough Fels Naptha to make 2 more batches and enough of the other 2 ingredients to make 10 or more batches!  My 5-gallon Home Depot bucket was about half full when I made the batch.  That is going to last me for a very long time.  Even if the half bucketful was only as much as 2 of my regular jugs of laundry detergent, just one batch costs half of what my Cheer normally does.  If I bought enough Fels Naptha to match how much of the other 2 ingredients I have, it would cost another $3.  I could then make 12 batches for $13-15.  If each batch makes a minimum of 2 jugs worth of the Cheer/Tide/etc., I would be saving at least $117.  (And I believe it’s more, because I think a batch would fill more than 2 of my empty jugs if I had a funnel to do so.)

Addendum:  A single recipe of this lasts my family of 4 (2 adult-sized teen boys included) for about 2 months.

Use this exactly as you would use your regular detergent.  If you add baking soda to your load normally, then do it with this.  If you use bleach or bleach alternative, then continue to use it with this.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

You will need a bucket or large soup pot that will hold about 3 gallons.

  •  1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap – grated (or other soap)
  • ½ Cup 20 Mule Team Borax
  • ½ Cup Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)

Place grated Fels Naptha (or your choice of soap) in sauce pan with 6 cups water.  Heat until soap is melted, stirring constantly.

Add Borax and Washing Soda, stir until they are dissolved. Remove from heat.

Place 4 Cups HOT water in bucket or pot.  Add dissolved mixture and stir well.   Add 1 Gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir well again.

Cover and let sit over night.  Mixture will be a semi-gel like substance.*  Soap will have a light fragrance and you may add a few drops of any essential oil you prefer.

Use about 1/2 c. per load.**  This is a low-, non-sudsing soap and can be used in front loading machines (the bubbles are NOT what cleans your clothes).

*Mine didn’t gel up much, although it did thicken a little.  Perhaps that’s because of our extremely hard water.                                                                                                            **I have a large capacity machine and use 2/3 c.