Homemade Laundry Soap

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I don’t just make food and messes in my kitchen, you know. I also make laundry soap and hand soap. Of course you can search the Interwebs for loads of homemade laundry soaps and find quite a few great ideas for liquid and dry soap. Traditionally, I prefer a liquid soap, so that’s what this is. My friend’s mom uses this and gave me the recipe. You can find the original directions here. I tweaked them a bit to make it easier for me but mostly because I have an obsession with recipe tweaking. (Not to be confused with twerking).

This homemade detergent uses Fels Naptha soap (found at Wal-Mart and I’m sure other stores, but I found it at Wal-Mart) Borax and WASHING soda, please, please don’t use baking soda! This recipe makes 2 gallons of soap and I’ve experimented with halving this but it’s just as easy to make the full batch.  All together, these three ingredients are about $20 and while I’ve had to purchase additional Fels Naptha, the boxes of Borax and Washing Soda are still 3/4 full and I’ve made soap a few times this year.

fels naptha    borax washing soda

I use these containers (found at Wal-Mart) but any 1 gallon heavy plastic container with a tight lid will work. You do have to shake this vigorously before use, so make sure it seals tightly!


I’ve been making this for about nine months and I started off following the directions exactly, but then I adjusted some things and made it a bit easier. Start with the Fels Naptha. This stuff smells great and it’s a lovely yellow-orange color.  (Your soap won’t turn out this beautiful color though so don’t get too attached).  Grate about 3/4 of the bar of soap.  This is one of my deviations.  The original recipe said use 1/3 of a bar but I found that I needed more.  Maybe it’s because I’m used to a more viscous commercial laundry detergent, but I increased the amount of soap and it made me feel better.   I used to grate it, but my hands suffered terrible wounds from that torture device, so now I chop up the soap into small pieces and use my food processor.


Over low heat, bring about 5 cups of water to a simmer in a big pot.  This concoction grows quickly and can overflow before you know it (learn from my mistakes, please. I wish I had a picture to show you what that looked like).  When the water is simmering, add the grated or ground soap and let it dissolve.  You can use a whisk to get it moving.  It should all dissolve together and start to foam.  Watch it carefully here.  As I mentioned, this beast grows fast!


When the soap is all dissolved and it’s looking like a gloppy mess, add in 1/2c borax and 1/2c washing soda.  Whisk together. When it’s all incorporated, turn off the heat and let the bubbles recede.


Now this is the tricky part.  Carefully.  Carefully, I say!  Pour this hot hot liquid into a GLASS or heavy duty plastic mixing bowl with a spout.  Then place the gallon containers in the sink, one at a time.  Divide the mixture into the two containers.  Careful! This is hot, slippery soap!  You could also use a ladle to move the soap directly from the pot to the container, but that didn’t work out so well for me.  Once the soap has been added fill the rest of the containers with warm water.  Run it slowly to reduce the amount of soapy bubbling. You may have to do this in stages, while the bubbles settle. It should fill pretty close to the top. You want a little bit of room to shake it before use.

This is not my most technical recipe, but this is what works for me.  If you want more detailed directions, check that link I posted above.  Let it cool a day or so before use (but again, I’ve used it right away) and you do have to shake it up to loosen it before use.  I use about 1/2 cup for a regular load and 3/4 for a larger load.

This detergent gels but doesn’t get fully solid. If you find that it gets too gelled, then just add warm water to the container as you use it.  The first batch I made with 1/3 stick of Fels Naptha had an egg drop soup consistency and since I’ve added additional soap it has become more gelatinous.

My last bit of information is that I use white distilled vinegar almost exclusively as my fabric softener.  My clothes don’t smell like vinegar, people don’t mistake me for a salad and fabrics are soft but I admit when I do bedding and towels I add a small bit of lavender fabric softener and fill the rest with vinegar.  Works for me.

You can also use the bar of Fels Naptha as a stain treater, so keep all the little pieces from your bar. Most importantly, this soap will not get very sudsy but it IS cleaning your clothes.

Laundry Detergent
1/3-2/3 bar of Fels Naptha – grated or ground in food processor
1/2c Borax
1/2c washing soda
approx 2 gallons of water, divided

Bring 5 cups of water to a simmer in a large pot.  Add the soap and dissolve fully.
Add in the Borax and washing soda and stir until dissolved (watch for overflow).
Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Transfer to a glass bowl with a pouring spout (or use a glass measuring cup or ladle)
Divide equally into two 1 gallon containers.
SLOWLY fill the containers almost to the top with warm water.
Allow to cool overnight.
Shake well before using.  Use 1/2c for regular loads and 3/4c for larger loads.

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