Homemade Laundry Soap: What You Need to Know – Plus 2 Recipes

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Making your own homemade laundry soap can save your household money. A lot of money. The batch I made that produced the three large containers shown here cost me just $1.06 to make! That’s a huge savings compared to the same amount of brands like Tide or All. But does it work?

homemade laundry soap

I’ve been testing my homemade laundry soap for the last month or so, and I’m happy to report that, yes, it does work. In fact, I think I have officially converted and may never buy the ready-made stuff again, except maybe to use as a pre-treatment for stains.

Almost all homemade versions of laundry soap are some combination of the following three ingredients: a grated bar of soap, washing soda, and borax. Some recipes call for a laundry-type bar soap like Fels Naptha, however, I have been using a recipe that used Ivory soap and have been very happy with that too. You can purchase Arm & Hammer Washing Soda and 20 MuleTeam Borax on the laundry aisle of any grocery store.

homemade laundry soap ingredients

A fellow blogger (Terre at Saving Your Green) shared her post with me about her positive experience with homemade laundry soap.  She must have some better prices in her neck of the woods, because her cost for a batch came to only 87 cents! Her tutorial was super helpful and I would recommend you check it out:
Saving Your Green Homemade Laundry Soap Tutorial  (This is also the recipe below for liquid soap and the one I think I am going to stick with.

So, here’s what you need to know about homemade laundry soap:

WHITES ARE THE TRICKIEST
I did experience some “dingy” whites when I first started using the homemade stuff. After doing some internet reading, I found that people with hard water can have this problem. I now add a little scoop of Oxi-Clean to my white load and they come out fine. I also increase the amount of liquid soap from 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup for a white load. If using the dry mixture, I increase it to 2 tablespoons.

DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE CONSISTENCY
Many recipes referred to the liquid soap version as “gel-like”. Some referred to it as a “snotty” consistency. My mixture is really just like a thick soapy water and not much like either gel or snot. Apparently this can also be a result of how hard your water is. The consistency seems to have no bearing on the how clean the clothes are getting, so don’t get too hung up on that aspect.

When you first make your batch of laundry soap, you should let it set for 24 hours before using it, giving it a stir every so often during that time if you are home to do that. It does thicken up a little bit during that time.

ONLY MINIMAL EQUIPMENT IS NEEDED
The main thing you are going to need is some kind of large container to make your mixture in. I used a large Rubbermaid container to make my mixture. I’ve since remembered we have some 10 gallon pails that we get our pool chemicals in and I think the next time I will try using that. If you are going to keep your mixture in the large container you use for mixing, make sure it has a lid. You can also transfer your mixture to other containers as I did in the picture above.

You may want to purchase a separate grater for grating your soap. I found that the Ivory soap grated up easily, but the Fels Naptha was a much harder soap and took a lot more effort to grate the entire bar.

I also keep a long-handled wooden spoon by my washer now and I give the mixture another stirring on laundry days. This seems to help too.

SOFTER CLOTHES, LESS STATIC, FRESHER SMELL
This was the biggest surprise for me. Our clothes feel much softer, and when I take them out of the dryer, there is much less crackling of static going on. And when I first started using the homemade soap, I was giving every load the sniff test, and everything smelled very fresh and odor free. I got a real kick out of Terre’s tutorial saying her soap “knocked the stink out” of restaurant clothes. My daughter worked her way through college waitressing at a Mexican restaurant and oh yeah, we know about that restaurant stink. I totally believe this soap can knock the stink out.

NO PERFUMES AND DYES MEANS NO ALLERGIC REACTIONS
My son has always had a sensitivity to certain laundry soaps. I used to try to sneak in the cheap stuff I bought with coupons and a few days later, he’d be all broken out in hives going “Mom, did you change the laundry soap?” After experiencing some bad mother guilt, I finally gave up trying different brands of laundry soap and just used the Arm & Hammer brand that seemed not to bother him. So I was a little nervous when he used my homemade stuff, but . . . No Hives! It seems to be a gentle soap and has no perfumes or dyes.

Are you convinced? Ready to save some big money? You can get started by trying one of the two recipes below – one for a liquid mixture and another for a dry mixture. I found they both work well and the matter of liquid or dry is simply a matter of preference.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap Recipe

1 Bar of Ivory Soap – Grated
4 cups of Water
1 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
3 Gallons Warm Water

#1 – In a saucepan, bring the 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the grated bar soap and stir until the soap is melted.

#2 – Fill a large pail or container with the 3 gallons of warm water. Add the washing soda and the borax. Stir until mixed.

#3 – Add the melted soapy mixture from your saucepan to the pail and stir.

#4 – Transfer to smaller containers, or cover your mixing container or pail with a lid, and let set for 24 hours, giving it a few stirs during that time.

#5 – Use 1/2 cup to 1 cup per load.

Homemade Powdered Laundry Soap Recipe

1 – 5.5 oz bar Fels Naptha soap – grated
2 cups Washing Soda
2 cups Borax

Stir together the grated bar of soap, the washing soda, and the borax and keep in a covered container. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load.

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47 Comments

  1. Hi, Sorry, I wonder if regular Baking Soda works, please? I Use regular baking soda bcz I bake regularly and I get a 13.5 lb bags even I make a paste for mosquitos/bug bites.
    And I know this Mexican soap name ZOTE which is very good too in fact it’s a laundry soap so can be used instead of ivory soap. Thank You

    1. Washing soda is preferred in the homemade laundry soap recipe. However if all you have is baking soda, you can actually use that to make washing soda. Spread some baking soda out on a baking sheet, and bake it in a 400 degree oven for an hour, then take it out and stir it around, and then bake it for another hour and let cool.

  2. we’ve been making our own for years, but we started using liquid handsoap instead of grated bar soap and it works just as good without getting all goopy πŸ™‚

  3. I make my own also. I tried the ivory first and it wasn’t too great. then I went to the Fels Naptha… but I didn’t like the scent. SO I tried the Pink ZOTE and Added a Small bottle of tide from the dollar tree and it smells great and works WONDERFUL! Making My own I just started to Make my own fabric softener…. Any Suggestions??

  4. I’m using the dry formula laundry detergent; however when I had water to turn it to a liquid to add it to the laundry something in it is crystallizing could you tell me what it is ? Thank you.

    1. I have not had this happen to me, but I would first suspect that it might be the borax that is crystallizing. I’ve had borax clump and/or crystallize when it has set in a homemade cleaning solution for some time. The best defense against that is to have hot water for dissolving the borax.

    1. My understanding is that Yes, you can use homemade laundry soap recipes in HE machines because they are low sudsing (really almost no suds).

  5. I used your recipe to make my laundry soap yesterday but now that it’s cool it has become a stiff gel. Is that normal? Did I do something wrong?
    I tried stirring it and it did stir but it was almost like jello.

    1. Amy – You didn’t do anything wrong and it’s common for the soap to gel up when it cools. I find that it separates somewhat too, with the gel part floating to the top. I keep a big wooden spoon by my homemade liquid soap and just stir it up again if needed. A lot of people like to put their homemade liquid soap in containers that you can shake, because that gives you a good way to just shake it up again before using.

  6. If you have difficulty grating the soap (or lack the time), try what I did – found a small kitchen food grater/slicer at a yard sale and use it exclusively for the laundry soap! Works great!

  7. Another side note, I don't use dryer sheets or anything in the dryer. Clothes do not have static on them. (I don't have pure polyester clothes, though…just cotton/poly blends). I sometimes use baking soda as a water softener with the detergent mix, some ammonia as a non-chlorine grease fighter boosters, and vinegar as a fabric softener which also keeps the washer cleared out. I don't always use this extra stuff. The liquid homemade solution pretty much works as-is with little extra. But, you can def add some essential oils or osmething to boost the "clean smell". Most commercial soaps/detergents fool people into thinking clothes are clean for longer, b/c they get super-loaded with fragrance. Using these homemade versions, you'lll find your clothes get clean, but tend to be odor-neutral after drying. After wearing one time, they may absorb some malodors from the environment, and while still clean, they may smell a bit unclean. You can just air them out, or add some fragrance to your homemade solution to get the clothes to have a long-lasting smell like commercial brands.

  8. Another side note, I don't use dryer sheets or anything in the dryer. Clothes do not have static on them. (I don't have pure polyester clothes, though…just cotton/poly blends). I sometimes use baking soda as a water softener with the detergent mix, some ammonia as a non-chlorine grease fighter boosters, and vinegar as a fabric softener which also keeps the washer cleared out. I don't always use this extra stuff. The liquid homemade solution pretty much works as-is with little extra. But, you can def add some essential oils or osmething to boost the “clean smell”. Most commercial soaps/detergents fool people into thinking clothes are clean for longer, b/c they get super-loaded with fragrance. Using these homemade versions, you'lll find your clothes get clean, but tend to be odor-neutral after drying. After wearing one time, they may absorb some malodors from the environment, and while still clean, they may smell a bit unclean. You can just air them out, or add some fragrance to your homemade solution to get the clothes to have a long-lasting smell like commercial brands.

  9. Commented in the Soap vs. Detergent article, but worth mentioning here, too. Powder versions of this may not dissolve fast enough in the washing machine, so if you're not finding it works well, try the liquid versions. The powder homemade versions may work better in more aggressive washers that really scrub the clothes good vs. washers that just sort of gently massage the clothes. I've tried both, and personally I like the dawn dish soap version to work best for me. Simple, easy, no cookware or blenders involved.

  10. Commented in the Soap vs. Detergent article, but worth mentioning here, too. Powder versions of this may not dissolve fast enough in the washing machine, so if you're not finding it works well, try the liquid versions. The powder homemade versions may work better in more aggressive washers that really scrub the clothes good vs. washers that just sort of gently massage the clothes. I've tried both, and personally I like the dawn dish soap version to work best for me. Simple, easy, no cookware or blenders involved.

  11. excellent post.if we are going to go through the trouble of making our own soap,whats the point of using toxic, corporate garbage? you may as well just keep buying the garbage already made.also, animal rights are an issue,even for those who still don't know the truth about factory farming.why cause the suffering of an animal when there are so many animal free products being offered.sodium tallowate,tallow,etc.,is the fat from an animal.if you care to do the least harm,please check the ingredients,(also for the horrible deadly chemicals).as an example,I checked every ingredient in a bar of Dove soap,using the MDS database,lets just say it is horrifying what is getting into your body through your skin when you use those products.(you can google the site)

  12. excellent post.if we are going to go through the trouble of making our own soap,whats the point of using toxic, corporate garbage? you may as well just keep buying the garbage already made.also, animal rights are an issue,even for those who still don't know the truth about factory farming.why cause the suffering of an animal when there are so many animal free products being offered.sodium tallowate,tallow,etc.,is the fat from an animal.if you care to do the least harm,please check the ingredients,(also for the horrible deadly chemicals).as an example,I checked every ingredient in a bar of Dove soap,using the MDS database,lets just say it is horrifying what is getting into your body through your skin when you use those products.(you can google the site)

  13. also go to pinterest to see alot of different recipes for making DIY household cleaners .. amazing what you can make, and save money and the environment

  14. also go to pinterest to see alot of different recipes for making DIY household cleaners .. amazing what you can make, and save money and the environment

  15. ive just started using the dry DIY laundry soap .. for my whites i add 1/4C or so of lemon juice .. and the clothes come out smelling great and soft and even when i hang dry they are not stiff and hard .. also if i have to use the dryer i dont use fabric softener .. dont need it .. i have 2 dryer balls , mine are plastic but you can get felted wool ones on Etsy or make your own .. i also add a small crumpled ball of tin foil to get rid of any static cling ..

  16. ive just started using the dry DIY laundry soap .. for my whites i add 1/4C or so of lemon juice .. and the clothes come out smelling great and soft and even when i hang dry they are not stiff and hard .. also if i have to use the dryer i dont use fabric softener .. dont need it .. i have 2 dryer balls , mine are plastic but you can get felted wool ones on Etsy or make your own .. i also add a small crumpled ball of tin foil to get rid of any static cling ..

  17. Thanks for the second recipe! I was looking for something so I could take it up to my sister in law today to thank for watching our kids this weekend, and didn't want to make a big bucket of the liquid stuff. This is going to be awesome!

  18. Thanks for the second recipe! I was looking for something so I could take it up to my sister in law today to thank for watching our kids this weekend, and didn't want to make a big bucket of the liquid stuff. This is going to be awesome!

  19. To Anonymous who uses Dial Soap. Please consider using another soap if you value your families health! Dial's fragrance is hazardous rating "8" on the ewg.com toxicity website. Hormone disruption and neurotoxicity are potential problems with Dial soap. Did you know that if an item (whether perfume or cleanser, etc.) has fragrance, parfum in it that it may also have formaldehyde and other toxic ingredients? I am switching from artificial scented products to those which use essential oils instead. Consider using natural soaps such as Dr. Bronners, Sappo, or a locally made soap. Fels Naptha and Zote, Dial, Ivory Soap all contain beef tallow, not good for the environment. They also contain other bad ingredients. These mega corporations really don't care about the health and safety of people or the planet. We can purchase better products for our homemade supplies than what these companies offer. And for just a little more money. Look up the ingredients in your soaps, it's not pretty. ewg.com

  20. To Anonymous who uses Dial Soap. Please consider using another soap if you value your families health! Dial's fragrance is hazardous rating “8” on the ewg.com toxicity website. Hormone disruption and neurotoxicity are potential problems with Dial soap. Did you know that if an item (whether perfume or cleanser, etc.) has fragrance, parfum in it that it may also have formaldehyde and other toxic ingredients? I am switching from artificial scented products to those which use essential oils instead. Consider using natural soaps such as Dr. Bronners, Sappo, or a locally made soap. Fels Naptha and Zote, Dial, Ivory Soap all contain beef tallow, not good for the environment. They also contain other bad ingredients. These mega corporations really don't care about the health and safety of people or the planet. We can purchase better products for our homemade supplies than what these companies offer. And for just a little more money. Look up the ingredients in your soaps, it's not pretty. ewg.com

  21. About the bar soap- I have been making my own laundry soap for almost a year now, (and love it, I have an HE water efficent washer and use 1 tbsp usually with vinegar in rinse) a recipe similar to your's Bev (nice directions btw) but the dry version and slightly different.However, I have been using Dr. Bronner's castille BAR soap, not the liquid. I LOVE it! I use different scents and feel good knowing that the soap I am using is ORGANIC, FAIR TRADE, and is gentle on my teen who has scars from when the dollar store soap made her break out in a rash. Fels Naptha (which I used to have before I was "enlightened" is made from cow/beef tallow- yuk, poor cows. Zote is also I believe made from animal fat. When I was a teen, I could not tolerate Ivory soap on my skin- rash and itchy- not sure what's in it. Since we are going thru the trouble of making our own custom laundry soap, why not spend a few cents more and buy better quality bar soap that is better for the planet and your skin. You can get Organic Dr. Bronner's Bar Soap for about $3-4.00. Thanks for you website!

    1. Thank you! I finally found a simple soap I thought I would like and wouldn’t make my kids sneeze. It softened my clothes, cleaned well, but then my husband just broke out in hives from the pink Zote. My guess is the animal product or violet dye? Now I have to start all over! πŸ™ I’ll try the Dr.Bronner’s. I hope it will work with my front loader. Does it disolve easily in water?

  22. About the bar soap- I have been making my own laundry soap for almost a year now, (and love it, I have an HE water efficent washer and use 1 tbsp usually with vinegar in rinse) a recipe similar to your's Bev (nice directions btw) but the dry version and slightly different.
    However, I have been using Dr. Bronner's castille BAR soap, not the liquid. I LOVE it! I use different scents and feel good knowing that the soap I am using is ORGANIC, FAIR TRADE, and is gentle on my teen who has scars from when the dollar store soap made her break out in a rash. Fels Naptha (which I used to have before I was “enlightened” is made from cow/beef tallow- yuk, poor cows. Zote is also I believe made from animal fat. When I was a teen, I could not tolerate Ivory soap on my skin- rash and itchy- not sure what's in it. Since we are going thru the trouble of making our own custom laundry soap, why not spend a few cents more and buy better quality bar soap that is better for the planet and your skin. You can get Organic Dr. Bronner's Bar Soap for about $3-4.00. Thanks for you website!

  23. I made the powder version a few weeks ago, and so far I love it. I used Dial, cause I loved the scent. I put the bar of soap in the microwave for two minutes (I think a minute and a half would have been better, it almost burned in the middle, but still worked great) it foamed up about 4 times it's size and stayed that way even after cooling. Once it cooled, it just crumbled in my hands. Note: when using in the microwave, it really smelled the house up lovely: downside now when I use the microwave for cooking, I still smell the soap, but it doesn't seem to affect the food or Tea I'm heating up. you might want an old microwave that's just used for odd items such as this. I know it was a lot better than grating an entire bar of soap.

  24. I made the powder version a few weeks ago, and so far I love it. I used Dial, cause I loved the scent. I put the bar of soap in the microwave for two minutes (I think a minute and a half would have been better, it almost burned in the middle, but still worked great) it foamed up about 4 times it's size and stayed that way even after cooling. Once it cooled, it just crumbled in my hands. Note: when using in the microwave, it really smelled the house up lovely: downside now when I use the microwave for cooking, I still smell the soap, but it doesn't seem to affect the food or Tea I'm heating up. you might want an old microwave that's just used for odd items such as this. I know it was a lot better than grating an entire bar of soap.

  25. I make the dry soap and love it. I add in a tub of store brand Oxyclean (about $1.97) just to take care of stains and dinginess. This stuff lasts our family of 6 MONTHS!! Have also started making my own fabric softener using 1 cup hair conditioner (whatever brand/scent you like), 3 cups HOT water, (mix together) and 1 1/2 cups white vinegar. Works great!!

  26. I make the dry soap and love it. I add in a tub of store brand Oxyclean (about $1.97) just to take care of stains and dinginess. This stuff lasts our family of 6 MONTHS!! Have also started making my own fabric softener using 1 cup hair conditioner (whatever brand/scent you like), 3 cups HOT water, (mix together) and 1 1/2 cups white vinegar. Works great!!

  27. Here are a few other soap ideas, however I'm not sure if they are available in the UK or not. You could try the Fels Naptha bar soap or the Zote bar soap. Both of these brands are intended for laundry. You could also try the Dr. Bronners castile soap which is a liquid. You would use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

    You can also order Zote, Fels Naptha or Dr. Bronners soaps from Amazon.com, however I'm not sure how much money you would then save because of the shipping costs.

    If you cannot find any of those soaps you could try just using a basic brand of bar soap that is available to you. I would look for one that does not have a lot of perfumes or moisturizers in it.

    Hope that helps!

  28. Hi what is the equivalent soap to use in the making of this in the UK? And will it save money? I m all for that in these hard times. Only a pensioner!

  29. I've made laundry soap in the past and was moderately pleased with it…it got the job done and I may go back to it if I don't find anymore good detergent deals when the stash I have runs out πŸ™‚

  30. Awesome! This is also a step I intend to make in 2011 – homemade laundry soap.

    I have been a soapmaker for over a decade, so I will probably try and make some plain unscented soap to grate up instead of buying store-bought. It may or may not be cheaper to do it that way but I know the quality will be superb! One thing you end up with as a soapmaker is lots of TRIMMINGS and so a lot of soapers I know will just save them until they have enough and then make them all into laundry soap.

    If you want to learn more about soapmaking – I learned from Kathy Miller at http://www.millersoap.com. Her website is a fantastic teaching tool for anyone who wants to learn how to make soap.

  31. Missie – The homemade laundry soap should work in an HE (high efficiency) washing machine. There are no suds with the homemade stuff because it does not contain any sudsing agent like the ready made laundry soaps. Most of the laundry soaps made for HE washing machines are intended to be very low sudsing so it should be OK. I do not have an HE washer to personally testify to that fact, but I have read several comments from others on the internet who say they have used the homemade laundry soap for many months in an HE washer with no problem. Hope that helps!

  32. I was using the Fels Naptha soap in my homemade liquid laundry soap, but have switched to liquid Ivory and like it much better. It is easier because I do not need to grate it and I just like the consistency much better. I have never had my soap be snotty, it is like soapy water. I love it! I wouldn't care if it cost more to make it than store bought, that is not why I use it.

  33. Thanks Bev! I have kids with really sensitive skin also and I LOVE this home made soap.

    I just give my laundry soap jugs a shake before I use them. I use one full cup per wash.

    Sometimes you can find a coupon for Borax and I get my Ivory when it is on sale at Walgreens with a coupon it comes out even cheaper.

    I have been using the liquid home made recipe for way over a year now and I will never go back to throwing my money away with buying store brand laundry soaps again.

    Great post!