Homemade Laundry Soap: A Year Without Commercial Detergent

It was just about a year ago that my boyfriend and I were inspired to make our own laundry soap.  Ok, I was mostly the one who was inspired.  He was supportive, willing to lend his clothes to experimentation, and happily muscled through the grating of the Fels Naptha (not fun).

You’ll find several recipes for homemade laundry soap scattered around the internet.  For ease of assembly, I chose to go with the powdered version.  That, and I’m frugal.  I blame my Scottish mother.  After comparing ingredients and weighing the pros and cons, here’s the recipe we ended up following:

2 (5.5 oz) Bars of Fels-Naptha (If you can’t find it locally, check Amazon)
  • 1 (5 lb) Bag of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
  • 1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax
  • 1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1 (3 lb) Box or Tub of OxiClean
  • Optional:  Several drops of essential oils

Grate the Fels-Naptha soap bar, then put the grated soap into a blender or food processor and blend or pulse until it’s a fine powder.  Combine with remaining ingredients in a large container.  A 3-5 gallon bucket works best.  Use only 1-2 tablespoons per load.

Note:  If stored in a semi-damp basement as ours is, you’ll want to break up the detergent occasionally.  One of the few drawbacks is that it wants to clump in a moist environment.

The Bottom Line:  We paid slightly over $30 for all ingredients, as I recall.  They could have been purchased for less, but I shopped from the comfort of my living room sofa, and didn’t have to step foot into a large chain retail store (big bonus).  We average about 4-5 loads of laundry per week, and a year later, we still have about 2-3 cups left.  I’m probably using closer to 2 tablespoons per load since I do large loads.  My cost is closer to .12 cents per load of laundry, but others have reported .05 and .06 cents per use.  It cleans well enough, but we are an English teacher and IT worker.  We do play in the dirt on the weekends, and clothes come out clean and fresh.  Our youngest children are of the teenage variety, so I can’t speak to the stain removal capabilities for things like strained spinach and carrots.  Occasionally, an oily spot will need an additional wash to come clean.

Although the resulting costs per load (due to my heavy handedness) were double what I’d originally read, I feel good about doing this for a number of reasons:

  1. The amount of packaging saved is significant.  I always preferred liquid detergents. Plastics, even when recycled, are often shipped to China for processing, which has an additional environmental impact.
  2. The laundry soap is phosphate free and biodegradable. Environmentally responsible companies have created phosphate-free, biodegradable detergents, but the cost of these can be prohibitive.  This homemade version is both earth and budget friendly.
  3. Even at 12-cents per load, the savings over commercial detergent is significant.  I imagine we’ve saved a minimum of $100 by making this ourselves.
  4. There is satisfaction in simplification – in doing things the way our grandparents may have.

We are due to make another batch soon, and I think this time, I may research various liquid recipes and try something new, just for comparison.  If you have a great liquid laundry soap recipe, please let me know!




2 thoughts on “Homemade Laundry Soap: A Year Without Commercial Detergent

  1. I buy an environmentally friendly laundry powder made locally (within the state) and always stock up when it goes on sale, but now after reading your post I am inspired to try making my own. I think when I buy it on sale, I probably pay about 30 cents per load but still think I’ll give it a go.
    How does it make the clothes smell?


    • Its pretty scent neutral. I don’t add essential oils, but some others do. We’re about ready to make more, but this time I’m going to search for a liquid recipe and try that out to compare. Thanks for stopping by!


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