Why I’m Still Using Homemade Laundry Soap

Why I'm Still Using Homemade Laundry Soap - not everyone sticks with it but here are a few reasons why it's been working at my house

One of the homemade recipes I was most curious about when I started trying DIY recipes for this blog was homemade laundry soap.  I’ll also admit that it was one of the recipes I was most scared about trying too!  I thought it would be great to save money with a homemade alternative, but I worried about how well homemade laundry soap really works, and I didn’t want to ruin my clothes in the process.  After all, ruining clothing would just be wasting money, not saving money.

That was five years ago and I’m still using my homemade laundry soap, even though it was scary getting started.  There have been no clothing disasters and we’ve saved money in the process too. But it’s also true that my process and recipes have evolved over that time and I’m not doing things exactly the same as when I started.  Every so often I read articles by others who have decided not to stick with it, like this article that says Goodbye Homemade Laundry Detergent! or this one that says It Doesn’t Work for Me!  Obviously it’s not the method of choice for everyone.

Which got me thinking – why have I been able to stick with it?  Am I just not as fussy about my laundry?

Ummm, maybe . . . but I think there’s a few other factors going on too.

Here are a few thoughts on how using homemade laundry soap has evolved at our house and why in most cases, it’s still working for us:

I keep some store bought laundry detergent on hand too.

Ok, I’ll start out with this admission: I always keep some store bought laundry soap around too.  I’ll use it if I’m worried about a particularly dirty piece of clothing that needs to get clean, AND more recently, I’ve been routinely using it on my load of whites. Dingy whites from the homemade laundry soap mixture is a common complaint, and I started seeing that happen too. I didn’t really realize my whites were getting that dingy until I bought some new white t-shirts and socks and saw them next to the old ones.  The old ones were definitely dingy which I suppose happens over time anyway, but I do think the homemade laundry soap made it a little worse.  So now I seldom use the homemade stuff on my whites anymore.  Keeping a store bought laundry detergent on hand gives you a little room for flexibility if there are times you don’t want to feel completely tied down to the homemade stuff, which can make you grow disenchanted with it.  And if you are only using the store bought version once in a while, it’s not a big expenditure of money either.

I’ve added boosters to my powdered mixture.

A while back I decided to add in OxiClean and Purex Crystals to my homemade powdered laundry soap mixture and I think they have been a good cleaning addition that’s helped me continue to be happy with the mixture’s performance.  Even with these additions, I think the homemade mixture is still a money saver.

Additional ingredients for homemade laundry soap

I stopped using the liquid Ivory mixture.

The recipe that was the most popular when I started this blog was one that used melted Ivory soap with several gallons of water.  The consistency could be rather “snotty”.  I used that for a couple years but grew weary of that mixture and instead switched to a homemade liquid laundry soap made with Dawn dish soap.  It mixes together quickly and easily and seems to clean well for us too.   This has also made it easier to stick with a homemade version because it’s very simple. I also wasn’t quite convinced of Ivory bar soap’s laundry abilities.  I stopped using Ivory in my powdered mixture too and now only use Fels Naptha soap, as Fels Naptha is made specifically for laundry purposes.

Homemade Laundry Soap made with Dawn dish soap

My water must not be too hard or too soft.  

Laundry is a science and many of those who have problems with homemade mixtures feel it tracks back to their water being too hard or too soft.  Again, maybe I’m just not that fussy, but I have never felt that was a big problem at our house and that the homemade mixtures work well with our water.

No funky smells.  

My experience has been that the homemade laundry mixtures do a great job of deodorizing.  I think the washing soda and borax are both really helpful in that area.   We have had no problems with any lingering laundry odors, such as the “mildew” smell problem mentioned in this article, that can be a reason to give up on the homemade stuff. Our clothing always smells clean and deodorized which is another incentive to keep using the homemade laundry soap.

I love the big size batch I make.

Here’s one of the big reasons I’ve stuck with my homemade powdered mixture.  I love the big size batch my recipe makes!  It lasts me for months and months and months.  Maybe even for a year!  So the half hour of effort I put into making it results in not having to think about laundry soap again for a long, long time.  I feel like it’s a super productive use of my time.  If you’re happy with the cleaning performance of the homemade mixture this can be a great way to have plenty of money-saving laundry soap on hand with just a little bit of work at the beginning.

Why I'm Still Using Homemade Laundry Soap - not everyone sticks with it but here are a few reasons why it's been working at my house

So those are a few reason I think I’ve been able to stick with homemade laundry soap most of the time at our house.  I allow myself some flexibility by keeping a jug of the store bought stuff around too for whites, I’ve supplemented my powdered mixture with the cleaning power of OxiClean, and I’ve made it simple to mix up quick batches and big batches of the mixtures I’m using.


What’s next?  I think I’ve noticed some loss of absorbency in my towels because the homemade stuff is a soap, not a detergent (or maybe my water is harder than I think).  I may try out a homemade mixture with no soap, that instead just uses washing soda, borax, and OxiClean, and see how that goes.

How about you?  Have you tried homemade laundry soap and stuck with it?  Or was it just a frustrating experience for you?

Feel free to share your thoughts with a comment below 🙂


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  1. I like my DIY laundry detergent, I have been using it for about 3 yrs. I started using it because my clothes would have a sour smell to them days after washing them and I felt that the Store bought brands were just masking the smell of my clothes. I also felt like I was paying for a lot of fillers. Using my homemade mixture my clothes smell clean and fresh all the time and everytime. I did change my recipe to include BIZ because it has enzymes to really help with deep cleaning purposes. For my whites, I add in a small scoop of the Awesome Orange from Dollar Tree, it brightens my whites and it is onl $1 to buy. I also use this to clean my washer, 1 or two scoops in an empty wash, or if your washer has a cleaning cycling like my washer, helps keep the washer from getting gummed up. Its the same chemical used in those packs you buy for $6.00 for a 2 pk box of washer cleaner, but only cost a $1, and if using just to clean your washer, last about 6 mos. I do keep some Tide pods around for my husband to use on his work pants because he is a mechanic it gets the deep oil stains out of his jeans.

    1. I’ve done so much reading about homemade laundry detergents. I’ve also read a recipe for a laundry sauce that uses Fels Naptha or Zote. Both of those are laundry soap bars. Because the laundry sauce recipe calls for the laundry bar soap to be melted in water, it’s not supposed to leave any residue build up on your laundry. I’ve read that dry powder recipes that used grated soap bars is the reason for residue build up on the laundry. I’ve read about a semi-homemade that uses powdered laundry detergent, washing soda, borax, and either Biz or Oxi Clean. I can’t decide if I should try the laundry sauce recipe or the powdered recipe that does not use grated laundry bar soap. What do you think?

    1. I don’t have an HE machine, however my understanding is that homemade laundry soaps can be used in HE machines with no problems. HE machines need soap that is low sudsing and the homemade mixtures have almost no suds so they can be used.

      1. I used it for quite a while, even in an HE machine, but recently, my new HE machine started malfunctioning. I learned the very hard way, that the DIY soaps gum up the machine. I started using it in larger amounts because the laundry was not getting clean enough. That was a big mistake. I thought my machine was a goner, but we were able to clean the drain lines out. It had horrible looking stuff in it. The DIY soap had also gummed up the water inlet inside the detergent dispenser. I will never use the DIY stuff again. It’s just not worth it.

  2. I have a question if I may, does the homemade laundry soap seem to leave a residue on your clothes? A neighbor of mine who tried it said she saw a film on the top of her wash water from using homemade laundry soap.

    1. Lori, I would not know if there was a film or not, as I have a front loader, so I can’t see in the washer (at least that closely) while it is cycling. Your neighbor may be seeing some sort of natural reaction to the ingredients when they are put in water, or perhaps her water is very hard or very soft. Maybe what she is seeing is the dirt coming out of the laundry? To answer your question, the homemade soap gets my clothes perfectly clean and leaves them fresh-smelling. A bonus for me is that it is ecologically responsible. If I am laundering sheets or have a particularly dirty load of light clothes, I use Biz as an additive; for white towels and gym socks, I add bleach. I have never noticed a film of any kind on my clean laundry. You should try this; you will save a lot of money and you will love the results!

    2. Lori – I now have a newer model of washing machine where the lid locks during a wash load. Kind of bugs me now that I can’t open my washing machine anymore during a load to see what’s going on! However I can’t say that I’ve ever felt there was any residue left on my clothes.

      1. Thank you! Since I am very sensitive to soaps and detergents, and the Eco-friendly products I have been ordering online are pretty costly, I will give this a try!

  3. I love the homemade laundry soap, but I had to give it up because I’m allergic to something in it. I have decided to try my green fills, it is a completely chemical free laundry soap.

  4. Yes, I’ve been using your laundry recipe for two years and am satisfied. I do not add OxiClean, but I do add a bit of Clorox 2 to all my colored loads and a bit of bleach to all white loads, just like I did with purchased laundry detergent. I’ve never noticed any mildew smells, but I don’t let wet clothes sit in the washer or dryer. Some of my kitchen towels and a couple of my newer bath towels aren’t very absorbent, so I may run them through with some purchased detergent. I like the fact that it leaves virtually no scented odor on the clothes and doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin.

    1. I very much agree about no scented odors . . . I have never liked if there are too much perfumey odors on my laundry and that’s why I’ve liked the homemade stuff too.

    2. I’ve heard that using 1/4-1/2 cup of white vinegar in the rinse helps towels regain their absorbency. Not sure if this is exactly true, but may be worth a try?

    1. That is a common complaint with the homemade mixtures, and sometimes I miss the bubbles too. However bubbles aren’t really necessary to the cleaning power and the manufacturers add “sudsing agents” so we feel comforted by bubbles we probably didn’t need! The homemade mixture with Dawn dish soap does bubble a little bit more than the Ivory mixture I used to make a few years ago.

  5. I’m still using it too, Beverly. And I LOVE it. For the record I am very picky about my laundry: how it looks, smells, etc. I would not be using the “home made” stuff if I was not absolutely pleased. Oxy Clean is something I tried, and was never impressed with. In my judgment, Biz is the superior booster/stain remover. (Powdered works better for me than the liquid.) I will add Biz to light-colored loads, including regular clothing, lingerie, and white sheets. With my white towels, I add bleach, and always wash in HOT water. Ditto for white tee shirts and socks. If I notice any whites looking “dingy”, I add powdered dishwasher detergent (1/4 to 1/2 cup) to the dry soap and wash on hot, and this seems to work well. I wonder if you might have better results if you don’t mix in the Oxy Clean with your entire batch of soap; it is “diluted” this way. Maybe if you just add it as you normally would have, you will see better results with the whites. Just an idea. As for towel absorbency, try occasionally spinning your towels at a higher speed, and use the wool felt dryer balls in the dryer. I know people say it’s okay to use vinegar for this purpose, but it has caused rust under the dispenser drawer and on the front panel of my two-year-old front loader, so I don’t put it in the washer anymore. If I want things to smell really good, I will put a tablespoon or two of Farmhouse Lavender fabric softener in the dispenser.

    Thanks for a great blog!

    1. It sounds like you’ve come up with some good laundry strategies Judith! Dishwasher detergent is a good trick for dingy whites that I tried a while back for soaking, but didn’t think about using it from time to time in a wash load. I’m going to remember that!