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Making Homemade Laundry Soap

Washboard Clean All
Natural Laundry Soap
Last fall, after preserving (canning/freezing/ drying) everything I could get my hands on, some free idle time presented itself to me. Feeling it a necessity to put this time to good use I began to experiment with making and bottling my own laundry detergent. (Well, it's really not laundry detergent as such so I righteously refer to it as laundry soap.) In my attempt to become more self sufficient and Eco-friendly I convinced myself I should no longer rely on store bought detergent when it's possible to mix up a batch without leaving my house using a few simple inexpensive ingredients. Being aware that most laundry detergents contain a potentially toxic stew of chemicals that can leave residues behind on your clothing and can be absorbed by your skin or released into the air you breathe prompted me to undertake this endeavor. From what I've read and understand fabric softeners and dryer sheets, although they make your clothes feel soft and smell fresh, are one of the most toxic products used in the laundering process. This knowledge suggested to me it would be 'a good thing' if I could produce a natural product for washing clothes that would also soften the fibers.

5 gallon pail
I began experimenting by following many of the on-line recipes. The first couple of batches required using five gallon buckets. It probably sounds as great to you as it did to me (wow, this will last me all year long) until it was necessary for me to pick up the bucket full of laundry soap. Whew, this is where a masculine being needs to be summoned. Unfortunately, the consistency of these recipes was a thick, gooey, snotty looking mess which created a messy disaster while transferring the thick, gooey, snotty mess through my funnel into smaller more manageable-sized recycled plastic jugs.

I then experimented with beating the heck out of the snotty mess with a beater using a man-sized cordless drill. 

dad's drill / mom's beater

soap after shaking
soap separated from the water

At first this appeared to have done the job but after a day or so the soap separated from the water and it became necessary to shake the heck out of the bottle before each use. The soap was still effectively usable but being a perfectionist I had to push forward in my research for a product that better pleased me.

one good experimental batch
 Experiment after disappointing experiment had me testing different methods and recipes desperately looking to create a quality finished product that I could be satisfied with.  My goal for getting a good product that cleans efficiently, smells fresh, presents good texture, and in a manageable size (just over 3 gallons) was finally achieved. Additionally this product is very inexpensive to make, has no added chemicals and is low suds proving effective for use in both regular and H.E. washing machines.

another good experimental batch
This laundry soap is highly concentrated and requires only 2 tablespoons per normal full-sized load; adjust accordingly for more heavily soiled laundry. Use it also to pre-treat stains if necessary. Low suds means no detergent residue left behind in your machine or on your clothes as with commercial laundry detergent...and what a great way to put those recyclables to good use.

Because I'm sooo very satisfied with my results I'm very excited in wanting to share with those who may be interested a step-by-step pictorial training session so you too can share in my success. (I don't do pictures well so you will be spared of seeing me in any of them - except, that is, for my feet.) 


ingredients to make laundry soap
First, gather all your ingredients together and have them ready before starting the process:
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 2 cups washing soda
  • 3 Tbs Liquid Glycerin
  • Fels-Naptha Bar Soap 5 1/2 oz* (grated)
  • 4 cups hot water to melt the soap
  • 3 gallons hot water
*For anyone with extremely sensitive skin I recommend using Kirk's Original Coca Castile natural hypoallergenic bar soap.

Note:  Borax, Washing Soda and Fels-Naptha Bar Soap can be found in the cleaning or laundry isle at your local supermarket or super center such as Wegmans and/or Walmart; the baking soda will be in the baking isle. I purchased the 'vegetable' liquid glycerin at a local health store (NatureTyme) but regular glycerin can be purchased at any pharmacy. 

utensils for making laundry soap
(two choices of kettles shown)
I use two funnels as shown above
 - a short one for a short container
and a long one for a tall container
and a dowel for stirring the mixture

Second, gather all your utensils together and have them ready before starting the process:

  • large deep pan/kettle able to hold 3 1/2 liquid gallons
  • large saucepan
  •  grater (cheese)
  • long handled utensil for stirring (spoon or dowel)
  • funnel
  • optional potato masher
  • measuring cup
  • measuring spoon
  • clean empty plastic recycled jugs

a good assortment of empty clean containers
to fill with homemade laundry soap
Plan ahead to stock up on jugs - ask friends, neighbors and family for permission to take from their recyclable bin. : )  I prefer to use clear containers for storing my laundry soap and strongly suggest anyone with children to not use empty milk containers. 

start time

OK, it looks like we can now begin.

Start time:  11:16 a.m.

Fill a large deep pan/kettle with 3 gallons of water and bring to a boil (or close to it) on your stove top. Turn off heat at boiling point.

While the water is getting to the boiling point grate the bar soap onto a loose piece of paper to make it easier to pick up and transfer into the water.

Using a large saucepan heat another 4 cups of tap water over medium high heat on stove top. 

When hot steam begins to rise from the top of the large saucepan stir in the grated soap until it is completely melted. To this soap mixture add individually the borax, baking soda, washing soda and Glycerin stirring continuously until each ingredient is completely blended.

Pour the melted soap mixture from the saucepan into the large pan/kettle of boiling hot water and stir gently until all ingredients are completely blended. (If the pan is too heavy to lift use a ladle to transfer.)  Move the mixture off the burner and let it sit uncovered for 8-10 hours to thicken/gel; this usually turns into a gelatinous texture. 

finish time

OK, the process is completed.

Finish time: 12:06 p.m.

Considering I let the dogs out once, the cat out once, stopped to put new batteries in the camera and had unsolicited conversations with the spouse I would say I could have shaved at least 5 minutes off the entire process. Not bad, 45 +/- minutes to make 416 oz of laundry soap.  This batch produced enough liquid soap to launder 416 loads of dirty clothes (each batch uses 2 tablespoons and 2 tablespoons equals 1 ounce.) Just think about this for a minute - enough laundry soap to do more than one load of wash a day for over a year. Doesn't this blow your mind? It does mine.
yes, these are my feet
Now that wasn't hard, was it? Scheduling the time to make the laundry soap is very, very important. I planned this 'manufacture' perfectly. Finished just in time to grab something for lunch with a cup of green tea, put up the aching feet (not) and catch the Millionaire Show before I take the rest of the afternoon off before the bottling process begins.

potato masher sitting
on thick mixture before
'punch down'
mashed down lumps
at 3:50 p.m. and 6:10 p.m.
In the best interest of the soap's consistency it's important to stir the ingredients periodically during the cooling process.  Mash any existing lumps with a potato masher until you have a texture smooth enough to pour fluidly through the funnel into the container(s) you'll be filling.

Let the filling begin!

use a short funnel
for a short container
use a tall funnel
for a tall container
For easy use and/or storage use a funnel to transfer the cooled liquid laundry soap from the kettle into used (recycled) clean laundry containers.

honestly, this is one batch
If it's easier for you to store the entire batch in a 3 gallon pail then do it! Just be sure to keep a lid on it and store it out of reach of small children. (You can get a free pail from your local bakery and/or supermarket.) If you prefer to share it with family and friends (as I do) smaller bottles work much better.

Eco-friendly gifts
My tall bottles are family size, the medium containers are grandma/grandpa size and the
short glass canning jars filled with the liquid laundry soap make great Eco-friendly gifts for the neighbor, babysitter, friend, teacher, etc. 

A regular large load uses 2 tablespoons (1 oz); you might have to adjust accordingly for more heavily soiled laundry or pre-treat any difficult stains. I have never had an issue with this laundry soap recipe not meeting my expectations. This is quite a testimonial considering I'm an avid gardener (both vegetable and flower) who tends to two dogs, one cat, and four chickens with a husband who is a high achiever in producing dirty laundry.

Luv, luv, luv the fresh smell and the softness from the dryer and especially that it costs a fraction of the amount that store and national brand laundry detergents cost.

 Requirement: Shake container well before each use and enjoy!


  1. This is Amy, Andrea and Jeremy's friend! I think we are kindred spirits :-) I really enjoyed this post... You are a fabulously eloquent writer and intricately explained the process with wonderful photos! I enjoyed it emensely! I am not sure if I would make this myself, but would consider purchasing some from you!! I wish you all the best in this endeavor, you are very talented!!
    Amy :-)

    1. Hi Amy. You are so kind. Thank you for your positive feedback. I edited the 'OK, the process is completed' section of this page since you last read it to explain more in detail exactly how much laundry soap this batch produces and how many loads of laundry it will clean. Maybe after reading this update you may want to reconsider making it yourself - especially since you run a baking business which I'm sure generates extra laundry above and beyond that of normal household usage. I can't express enough what a great cost savings this is. Best wishes for the continued success of your business and thanks again for this positive comment.

  2. I will consider!! I am quite storage challenged here without an extra room, garage or basement so keeping extra detergent around would probably have to go in my bedroom lol THANK YOU for the sample! I love it, so fresh and yet so hard to believe that is allll it takes for one load!! Thank you for sharing your experience from one frugal mom to another... Andrea said you would be doing a craft fair possibly? When and where will it be?