Sunday, January 22, 2012

Anyone can make laundry soap.....really!

Would I lie to you?  Never!  You can save lots of money, save the environment, save your septic system, and save your health by making your own laundry soap.  Let me explain.
You can save lots of money.  The liquid version of homemade laundry soap costs about a penny and a half per load.  Even on sale and with a coupon, you are not likely getting the cheapest of the cheap THAT cheap.  Those savings add up over the course of the year.  And when you run out, you can just whip up another batch, likely without going to the store!

You can save the environment.  Well, you can contribute to saving the environment.  Each time demand is created for another plastic bottle...and laundry soap jugs contain a lot of plastic...fossil fuels and dangerous chemicals are used.  Also, that soap, the bottles, the labels, and the finished product all need to be shipped, using more fossil fuels and polluting this planet even more.  Although we can't get away from using gas and plastics completely, we can reduce our own use of these items as much as possible.

You are saving your septic system.  OK, I admit I'm a little foggy on this one, but I read it somewhere....

You are saving your health.  This one I could go on and on for hours about.  Suffice it to say that laundry soaps are a toxic soup of harmful chemicals.  Have you noticed that it is difficult to rinse the cap that you might use for measuring out the soap?  Ever wonder how much is remaining on your clothing and being absorbed through your skin....and getting into your children's bloodstreams via their tender skin?  There has been a trend in laundry soap lately....long-lasting and powerful scents that don't rinse out.  I've purchased shirts and sweaters at used clothing stores that made it through many washings before that scent was gone.  Those perfuming agents are VERY toxic, whether you are hyper sensitive or not.  They build up in your system and do damage in ways that may only show up years later, and then won't be traced back to the source.  Nasty stuff.

It is super easy to make.  That is the truth, and I made this video to prove it.  You will see a batch made from start to finish along with lots of hints and tips that I learned in the years that I've been making our laundry soap.  Meanwhile, here are step-by-step instructions:
You will need:

A bar of laundry soap, such as Fels Naptha, Zote, or home-made laundry soap
Washing soda
A 2.5-3 quart sauce pan
A whisk or spoon
A 2.5 gallon bucket or container
A funnel (maybe)
A sharp knife and a food processor, OR a cheese grater and patience
Something to measure out half cups of powder and quarts of water
The first three items might be found at your local grocery store in the laundry aisle.  If you don't see them at first, don't give up.  I find the laundry bars in with the bath soaps at my grocery store!  But the borax and washing soda are in the laundry detergent aisle, on very high or very low shelves....the expensive stuff is always within easy reach.
 If you can't find washing soda, it is also known as pH Up or sodium carbonate and found in the pool section of your local department store or hardware store.  Both borax and washing soda are laundry boosters, not laundry detergents.  Keep this in mind, because if you have an extra dirty load to wash, you can throw in an extra half cup of either...or both.  I used to use borax when washing stinky horse blankets.  It was great for neutralizing the smells.

You won't want to use bath or hand soap for this project.  Those are made to be gentle on skin, not stripping the oils, and even adding some oils to be moisturizing.  You don't want to be adding oils to your laundry!  So you want a very harsh soap, and that is what a laundry bar is.  Harsh soap, bad for skin but perfect for laundry.
First, you'll need to grate the soap.  You can use a cheese grater....1/3 of a bar of fels naptha will make a two gallon batch of laundry soap, so this method is doable.  I make several batches at one time, so I use the knife to cut 1/8 inch slices from the bar....the slices shatter....then I run this coarse soap through the food processor to powder it.  I do it in batches....enough for one two gallon batch.  Then I add a half cup each of washing soda and borax and mix it together.  This will be my basic mix.
This then needs to be liquified.  This step is accomplished by heating two quarts of water in the sauce pan, then adding the powdered mix and stirring patiently until it is completely dissolved.  Next, add this to the remaining six quarts of water in your chosen container and mix thoroughly.  That is it.  Use a half cup of this per load.
Be forewarned that this liquid will gel quite a bit in the first day or two.  If you like a smooth product, you can stir it or shake it occasionally to keep it smooth during the time that it is setting up.  Or you can do what I do....keep a one gallon open pail next to your washer and dump a gallon of soap into it as needed.  Give it a good stir whenever you refill it, breaking up the globs.  I keep a length of wooden dowel on my washer to use for this purpose, and also to push items to be washed under the water if they want to float, keeping my hands out of the water.

A quick caution:  If you have white clothing, you may want to keep some purchased laundry detergent handy.  Our great-grandmothers used bluing to get their whites looking really white...and you CAN buy bluing in the grocery store, I've seen it!  Without bluing, however, your whites will start to look a bit grey after only a few washings.  I've simply moved away from is now only my husband's cotton socks that he wears mostly to work outside, and nobody but me knows they are not blindingly white. 

A laundry soap kit, with instructions and a few baggies of the mix, would make a nice gift to someone who has been out of work or fallen on hard times.  If you are out of work or struggling financially yourself, it is still a gift you can give that will save the recipient a few dollars (or a lot of dollars if they follow through and make more) without costing you more than a few cents.  Give a fish AND teach to fish....the best!

Does anyone else make their own laundry soap?


  1. I do! In fact, I posted on this very same thing not too long ago! I love it for all the reasons you mentioned, for how cheap it is (so much cheaper than buying it in the store), and because I can do it myself! But thanks for the tip on slicing the bar soap thin, then putting in the food processor. I just grate it on my food processor, but last time grated my finger pretty bad, and it hurt! I do this in a 5 gallon bucket, and it pretty much lasts us for a year! When I posted on this, someone left a comment that they make it in gallon milk cartons and take to their food bank, with the "recipe" attached to the carton. Just like you said about teaching someone to fish! And who can't use laundry soap!

  2. Oh, fantastic idea, Jane! Thanks!

  3. And you taught me a few things yourself, oh talented one!

  4. I saw the YouTube video you posted on the WAPF Facebook page and my first thought was: "I can do this!" Now I must assemble the ingredients. I think I have most of the equipment around, even the big plastic container.

  5. Yep, easy-peasy....and my! Er....I mean....frugal!