Homemade Laundry Soap

Several years ago, when my oldest (born in 2007) was little, we found that baby skin didn’t do so well with standard (ie. Tide) laundry detergent. We started using Dreft, which is formulated for sensitive skin. It’s not cheap though (and I’ve come to the belief that even the cheapest generic detergent isn’t cheap, but we’ll get to that.)

I had heard of people making their own laundry soap, and thought I’d look into it. It turns out it’s actually pretty easy, and really cheap. I’ve been making our family’s detergent for several years now. Whenever I do, people inevitably ask me how I do it.

It’s been a long time since I found the original recipe I’ve been using, so I’m sorry I can’t give it proper attribution, though I suspect the website I got it from didn’t properly attribute it themselves, so it’s arguably a moot point anyway.

The ingredients and process are fairly simple, and once you get the hang of it, the process goes fairly quickly.

  • 2/3 Bar of Fels Naptha Laundry Soap
  • 1 Cup Washing Soda (Made by the same people that make Baking Soda, but they’re not the same thing)
  • 1 Cup Borax

To start, fill a large cook pot with some water. I usually do 2-3 quarts, but it doesn’t need to be measured out, you just need enough to dissolve all of the dry ingredients.

Heat the water on medium heat on your stove. Again, it doesn’t matter too much how hot, just as long as it does not come to a boil.

Dissolve the Fels Naptha first. It will be a lot easier if it’s ground into tiny pieces. I like to use the food processor. Cut it into fairly small chunks and let the food processor grind it into powder.

You’re only going to need 2/3 of the bar. A bar is 5oz, so if you have a kitchen scale, you can measure out 3.3oz and bag the rest for a future batch.

Dissolve the soap. Then add the other ingredients. Compared to the soap, the rest should dissolve quickly and easily.

Once everything is dissolved, dump it all in a 5 gallon bucket. Then add enough water to get the total solution to 4 gallons. I have a mark on the inside of my bucket, and just fill to the line.

The solution will need to sit overnight. When it’s done, there will be a few inches of thick gel on the top, and liquid below. I mix it all together as good as I can. I use a large paint mixer that attaches to my drill. Get it as homogenous as possible. Once mixed, it can be put into smaller containers and stored for future use.

As for containers, I’ve found that some work much better than others. Milk jugs don’t work very well. They tend to spring leaks over time. The best containers I’ve found are orange juice jugs (the plastic ones, not the cardboard ones.) They eventually tend to spring leaks too, but I do have some that I’ve been using for several years, so they’re fairly reliable.

I also have some large, 5 gallon jugs my dad got me. I don’t know where he got them, but he tells me they’re for food-grade phosphate. He does residential water treatment, and gets the phosphate for equipment he sells and installs.


To use, shake up the container before each use, as the liquid will tend to separate.

We usually use about a half-cup per load of laundry.

This DOES work in front-loading, high efficiency washing machines. It is low-sudsing.

My wife does most of the laundry, but when I do a load, I treat it like any other detergent, and fill the liquid detergent reservoir in the machine to the fill line.

Once you’ve used this, and get used to the process of making it, you’ll find it’s as good as the store-bought stuff. It’s much cheaper though. A bar of Fels-Naptha is about $1.50, and you might use $1 worth of the other ingredients in each batch. That brings the cost to roughly 60ยข per gallon. If you’re used to paying nearly $20/gallon for Tide, you’ll love this stuff.

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