Make Your Own Laundry Soap

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:49 am on Friday, March 18, 2011


[Crafter]

Since posting about turning a bar of soap into liquid hand soap, a lot of people have asked me about making your own laundry soap. I have never tried this but I am curious about the subject.

To make your own laundry soap, you use a combination of borax (found in the laundry section), grated bar soap, and something called “washing soda,” otherwise known as sodium carbonate. Arm and Hammer makes it. Here’s what it looks like:

Some people use baking soda instead of washing soda, which is gentler but may not work as well.

The advantages of making your own laundry soap is that it is cheaper. Roughly speaking, store-bought laundry soap costs $.30 a load and homemade costs between $.03-$.05 a load, which is an astounding 85%-90% in savings. And, like most soap making, it can be more efficient because you make large batches and don’t have to replenish your soap supply as often.

Also, as with making your own liquid hand soap, making laundry soap is a way to use up bar soaps. You could use travel soaps, the ends of soap slivers, or any other extra bars of soap you have lying around.

Finally, laundry soap may be more environmentally friendly and have a lower toxicity than the store-bought stuff.

The downside–and this is why I hesitate trying it myself–is that it might not work as well as store-bought laundry soap, especially in high-efficiency washers. I also wonder if it is harder on your clothes in the long run. If that’s the case, making your own soap could be penny wise and pound foolish.

But not having tried it myself, I can’t say for sure. So, for further reading:

If you have made your own laundry soap, tell me about it. Is it worth it?

19 Comments »

Comment by Cath

March 18, 2011 @ 7:53 am

I started making this 4-5 years ago, and yes, it is cheaper. It would be fine if it were just dh and I, but our kiddos (5 of them, ages 1-10) are hard on clothes and this is not good for stain removal. Their clothes started looking quite dingy. Adding OxyClean to every load as some suggest gets pricey. So we quit making it for awhile. But, I had several batches worth of ingredients left, and after a few years off, recently decided to start making this again for use on certain loads. I now use it on darks, linens and cleaning cloths, where stains either don’t happen, don’t show or don’t matter. Also purchased the “tide-type” scent from sweet cakes because I like the clean laundry smell. It doesn’t smell just like tide but does smell quite nice.

Comment by Brooke J.

March 18, 2011 @ 9:47 am

I have been making laundry soap for years. We have very hard water so I add extra borax. I do not have an HE washer, but my mom and sister do, and they also use homemade laundry soap. Not hard on our clothes, I pretreat stains, and for our whites I use a scoop of oxygen bleach (I use sun brand because it is a 1/3rd the cost of oxyclean, and is the same stuff.) If we have hard stains from the kids, I’ll soak the items in a bucket with oxygen bleach. A little extra elbow grease is worth the savings to me.

Comment by Melissa A.

March 18, 2011 @ 11:42 am

I’ve wanted to try this but haven’t yet. I have been using liquid detergent for years. I don’t know if there’s much difference between liquid and powder, except I found in the past powder left residue on my clothes.

Comment by miche

March 19, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

I havent made this specifically.

I have sensitive skin and troubles with highly fragrant things and an allergy to something in fabric softener sheets. i havent used them for like.. 10yrs.

when it comes to laundry, i used soapnuts
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapindus

i make liquidsoap out of them the add a little baking soda and sometimes a splash of Dr Bronners or an essential oil for a little scent.

this works wonderfully.
for stains there are bars you can use to spot clean.
or vinegar, baking soda, shampoo, dishsoap. it just depends on the stain.

Comment by WolfSong

March 20, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

I’ve made laundry soap now for 3 years. I make it because of my Kid’s super sensitive skin, using the one bar soap that doesn’t irritate her.

I have found it works just as well as any store bought brand I have used, and it’s way cheaper. Takes me 1/2 hour a month to make a batch, with a box each of borax and washing soda lasting 7-8 months. So, yeah, 6 bars of Kid’s soap…$2.99, and $5.29 each for borax and washing soda for a grand total of $13.57 + taxes for 7-8 months of laundry soap. With an average of 5 loads a week, works out to roughly $.09 a load.

For whites, I have found that when the dingys hit-and I had to do this with store bought soaps as well-I fill a big pot with water, add a couple sliced up lemons, bring to a boil, add the whites, take off the heat and let cool. Brightens the whites right up! I also hang my whites outside to dry in the sun as often as possible-though to be fair, all my clothes, except socks and underwear, go outside to dry-and drying in the sun keeps whites whiter too.

Now, I can’t tell anyone how well homemade laundry soap works in a high efficiency washer, because I have a simple top loader, and for really soiled things-like Hubby’s work clothes(he’s a welder)-I have an old wringer washer that I use.

Comment by Eileen

March 21, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

I just made my first batch of laundry soap about a month ago! I used the Jabs recipe that’s last on your list, and it definitely works well in our junky old apartment-complex top-loader. We don’t have a lot of super-dirty laundry, but we do have sweaty gym clothes, and they come out fresh and perfect.

I blogged my laundry soap-making process here: http://hampiesandwiches.blogspot.com/2011/02/making-laundry-detergent.html

Comment by Savvy Housekeeper

March 22, 2011 @ 9:32 am

Thanks for all the feedback, you guys. I am really enjoying reading your experiences with homemade laundry soap. Keep them coming!

Comment by Trisha

May 1, 2011 @ 5:29 pm

I LOVE making homemade laundry soap. I used to be a Tide ONLY person because with 5 boys I deal with stains on a very regular basis! I have found that my homemade soap works just as well as Tide ever did and is much more cost effective. For the hardcore stains that even Tide didn’t get out I always used a stain spray…and I still do on occasion though I prefer not to. But in any case, I don’t have a problem with dingy clothes, and everything comes out very clean and fresh. What I do is mix 1 cup each of the following: washing soda, borax, and sun oxygen cleaner. I combine this with a grated bar of Kirk’s castile soap. I sometimes add a little bit of essential oil just because I like to change up the scent, but it really smells nice as is. I use this on all our laundry, including cloth diapers, with great success. I never thought I’d ever use anything other than Tide…but I’ve truly been converted! I’m sticking with homemade – and the money I save makes it that much sweeter. :-)

Comment by Sephia

May 25, 2011 @ 2:41 am

Is it worth it?

Family of 10
2 bottles of commercial laundry detergent @ apx $20 a month = $240 a year.

1 5gallon bucket of homemade laundry detergent @ $2.50 a month = $30 a year. (This is with OxyClean added to my recipe)

I save Apx $210 a year.

What is $210 extra dollars in your pocket worth to you? In this economy, our larger than normal family $210 extra is worth a LOT to us.

Currently, I bought all the ingredients and portioned them out according to my recipe and bagged them. I am seriously set for the rest of the year on Laundry detergent and I don’t have to think about it unless I am getting low and need to make more.

Comment by Savvy Housekeeper

May 25, 2011 @ 10:23 am

Sephia, wow that is a lot of savings. Thanks for commenting.

Comment by Beth

June 8, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

I have made and used this detergent and had it take out stains that had been set in for over a year. If you want the stains out, then put the detergent directly on the garment or article to be cleaned and allow to set for 5 to 15 minutes and then wash with the rest of your laundry. I will be making another batch soon and I use inexpensive vanilla to fragrance mine.

Comment by Cara

June 29, 2011 @ 7:36 am

I’ve been making liquid laundry soap for oave a year. it has saved us so much money and I would never go back. It always surprises me how clean our clothes turn out – much cleaner/whiter than when I was using a national brand. And it rinses so well I don’t have to use fabric softener – which I learned that static in our clothes is just soap residue! There’s a step-by-step tutorial on my blog with pictures if anyone is interested. http://gardenviewcottage.blogspot.com/2010/05/homemade-laundry-soap-recipe.html

Comment by Cara

July 17, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

I make my own laundry soap and love it. If you have a load of extra dirty clothes, or in my case any load of kids laundry, let the washer fill up and start swishing the clothes. (Swishing is the scientific name for this by the way… :) ) Open the lid so the swishing stops and let clothes soak in the water for about 30 minutes. I’ve done this with my husbands work clothes and found that I had never seen them so clean!! When you feel that you’ve given the detergant ample time to really penetrate the dirt, close the lid and let her rip! Also, a little scoop of the Washing Soda in with the wash will help whites be brilliant! A splash of white vinegar (or put it in a downy fabric softener ball will work just as well as any fabric softener without leaving a toxic residue on your clothing. And no, it does not make your clothes smell like vinegar. I also make my own dishwasher detergant! Those detergant tabs are expensive!!

Comment by Robin

July 20, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

I’ve been kind of playing around with the recipe for homemade laundry detergent for a few months. After being a die-hard liquid detergent user for years, I have finally decided that I prefer using powdered homemade detergent. It’s less hassle, it takes up less room to store, and it dissolves very well. I use 1.5 cups each borax and washing soda, about 8 ounces of grated bar soap and 6 tbs of Oxiclean Versatile. It works great but I think I will try cutting back on the Oxiclean until I know how much I can get by with before performance suffers.

Comment by Robin

July 20, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

Forgot to say, I only use a tablespoon (!) of detergent with that recipe, and it cleans better than any store bought detergent I have used.

Comment by Pierre

July 21, 2011 @ 4:26 am

Never made my own laundry soap, But after reading all the comments, I realize all the money that can be saved over the years and I might try it. But I have one question : I do my laundry with a cold water detergent. So can the home made soap be used in cold water has well ?

Comment by Savvy Housekeeper

July 28, 2011 @ 7:53 am

Pierre, it sounds like it would work fine in cold water.

Comment by frankiesoup

January 18, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

I just use soap flakes for my laundry – mixed with a little water in an old Avent baby bottle cap and placed in the drum, it works brilliantly. No need for fabric softners and when I do need extra stain-removal, I just make a paste up of baking soda and water – very thick – smear it on the stains and leave it overnight before washing.

If you can line dry on a sunny day, the sunshine also acts as a bleach and you’d be amazed which stains just vanish on the line!

Comment by tj

January 29, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

I have made my own laundry detergent for over a year it has worked fine on not only getting stains out of clothes especially motor oil but appears to work well in my he machine

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