Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to Make Your Own Laundry Soap (Tutorial)

“Laundry” seems to be the theme of the week here at the Good Old Days Farm!  I’ve been doing plenty of it!  Last week I posted my good friend Pam’s incredible Laundry System that keeps her from getting behind and overwhelmed by laundry!  (If you haven’t read that post yet, it’s definitely worth the read!).  And of course, the dryerball giveaway ends this Thursday, so be sure to enter if you haven’t yet!

Then yesterday, I ran out of laundry soap.  Not good, because I’ve got a huge pile of dirty (read:  “stinky”!) diapers that need … um… attention.  So today I’m making laundry soap.  It’s so easy, dirt cheap (no pun intended) and it hardly takes any time.  It sure isn’t as hard as loading 3 little farmhands into the van, buckling everybody’s carseat, driving to the store, unbuckling everybody’s carseat, going in to the store, getting laundry detergent, going to the bathroom 3 times while we’re in the store because “I know I went, but I have to go again… really bad!” checking out, then repeating the whole carseat scenario in reverse to get home. 
So, today I thought I would show you how I make laundry soap.

(Now keep in mind that we live on a FARM and I have TODDLERS.  We get crazy-dirty.  These pictures are for mothers of crazy-dirty families who need to make 18 gallons of laundry soap at once.  If you’re just a normal family, you probably can get by making 1/3 of this at a time… so I’ll give the directions in two batch-sizes)

Here’s what you’ll need to make the soap.  I was able to buy enough ingredients at Kroger’s to last our family at least a year (maybe 3!) for under $10.

 Picture 177
(Oops!  I forgot to include soap in the picture – 1 bar for regular families, 3 bars for crazy-dirty families!)
  • Washing Soda (This is NOT the same as Baking Soda!)  1 cup for normal families, 3 cups for crazy-dirty families.  Washing Soda can be a little difficult to find… I was able to find some in the laundry aisle of Kroger’s.
  • Borax (optional, but it really helps to boost the soap’s cleaning power)  1/2 cup for normal families, 1 1/2 cups for crazy-dirty families
  • Soap (use whatever type you have on hand.  Since I make soap, I often just use scraps.  In this case I had some old dried up bars of ivory kicking around from my pre-soapmaking days.  You do NOT have to buy special soap for this!)  1 bar for normal families, 3 bars for crazy-dirty families
  • Water

First, I set a pot of water on the stove to boil.  (4 cups for normal families, 12 for crazy-dirty families.)  While I’m waiting, I grate the soap.  You can see in this picture that the ivory was so old that it crumbled.  Usually you would have long shreds, as if you had been grating cheese.

Picture 169

When the water is boiling (or close to it) I add the grated soap.  Then I let it dissolve in the boiling water, stirring occassionally.

Picture 171

Now, I do the next step in an 18 gallon storage container, but if you are making the smaller batch, you would use a 5 gallon bucket for this next step.  Whichever you are using, fill the container a little over halfway with water.  (Technically you’re supposed to put in 3 gallons for normal families, 9 gallons for crazy-dirty families… but I just eyeball it.)  To this, add the washing soda and borax.  Then, pour the dissolved soap and boiling water from the pot into the main container.  (Be careful!  Boiling water is hot!)  You can see the nice sudsy concoction:

Picture 172

Then put the lid on it and let it sit overnight.  It has occurred to me that a small child might be able to pop the lid off and then flip into this and not be able to get out, so take steps to prevent that.  (I have been known to put a playpen upside down over my laundry detergent bucket).  Wait 24 hours and you will have laundry soap! 

Picture 176
Here’s what it looks like after a really good stir!

I’ve seen many websites that say to use 2 Tbsp of laundry soap per medium sized load… but I rarely have a medium sized load!  I guess I usually use just less than 1/4 cup per extra-large load.
Several women I know have special high-efficiency machines that they can only use low-sudsing formulas with.  So you can judge for yourself, here’s a load of bed sheets mid-cycle.

 Picture 178

For those of you who are more detail-oriented than I am, there is a wonderful blog post over at TheSimpleDollar.com which is where I learned how to do this.  That post goes through all the math and shows you how much money you are saving.  That guy also has pictures of an experiment where he poured mustard onto two white shirts to show how this laundry soap compares to Tide with Bleach (both cleaned equally well).  Definitely a post worth checking out!


  1. I use this same recipe except for the bar soap I use Fels-Neptha (I believe and hope it is spelled correctly). This is low sudsing then and I can use it in my he front loading laundry machine. The site I got it from says to use 1/4 cup in front loaders and 5/8 cup in top loaders. When you fill a smaller container with the soap do you use half water/half soap? I make mine in a 5 gallon bucket then I transfer it to my gallon jug from baby water half gallon soap/half gallon of water. Using 1/4 cup in my front loader seems to work exceptionally well. For those of you who don't have a Krogers (like me!) I found all the ingredients at ace hardware and I bought a 5 gallon bucket and lid there so it is very hard to open. No way my 2 year old will get it open!

  2. Question... I am very new to cloth diapers and cloth wipes... Ok, been using them for about 4 months on my little guy... do you soak yours at all before washing? I put mine in a bucket of vinegar water which cuts down on the odor big time! And, when I wash my diapers I use half the soap I would normally use to wash a load of laundry. So, I use like 1/8 cup or so and I use a small amount of lavendar essential oil in with the soap for the natural antibacterial... right or wrong? lol I am not sure if there is a right or wrong with cloth but look for any suggestions people might have...

  3. I have been using this recipe for years! I also use Fels-Neptha soap. It is a bar of soap and can be found in the laundry isle at Krogers. When you make your laundry soap it should have the consistency of egg white. I have a front loader and use 2T of soap. Sometimes while washing the teenage boys gym clothing...(YUCK) I will add a few drops of essential oil to the load. Lavender or Tea Tree Oil.

    I am REALLY enjoying your writings! :)

  4. Hi Amanda! When I had my first baby I used to rinse the diapers in the toilet and then soak them in water with a bit of oxy clean before washing them. Now I have 3 children and less time. I still rinse the diapers in the toilet first, but then I just sit them in a dry bucket (with a lid!) until I'm ready to wash them. Nothing fancy going on at our house these days! =) I just try to keep it simple. =) (Oh - and I just use flannel rectangles that I fold. No fancy diapers for me!)

    Anonymous - So glad you are enjoying the blog! Thank you for your kind compliments! I've got lots more to come that I hope you will enjoy! =)

  5. I have the snap in liners but am going to try to sew some of my own diapers when I get some spare time... hmmm... might take me a year or two to complete one diaper! Lol I have a pattern I got for free online to make diapers and covers so I was pretty excited! Lol and I just ordered a wet/dry bag online so I can quit using all the little plastic bags when we are out and about. Wednesdays and Thursdays the boys and I are gone from 6 or 7 until 4 or 5 in the evening so I use quite a few little bags. It will be cheaper and much more environmentally friendly! Right now I am rinsing (have a spray handle) in the toilet and then soaking in vinegar water but I can see where the oxiclean makes sense. I have a 5 gal bucket and lid so I dump them in the washer then immediately fill with vinegar water when I put the bucket away. But, that's what works for me. I am currently looking into the cloth swim diapers (my in-laws have a pool and in SD we will be at the pool a lot). Maybe you could do a blog on cloth diapers and tips you have found over the years... things to get odors out, best way you have found to clean whatever...

  6. I've had several requests for a cloth diaper post... When I started doing cloth diapers I was in a different place on a lot of levels, so I'm not sure that oxy clean would be what I would use now. Just drying the diapers in the sun instead of in the dryer does a good job with getting any remaining stains out. And of course, do you know the trick to spray hydrogen peroxide on anything that gets soiled with body liquid? (Urine, newborn bowelmovement, blood, etc) It does a great job lifting the stain! =)

  7. I keep seeing articles about making laundry detergent and I'd love to try it, but I'm afraid to mess with what is working for us. My kids have super sensitive skin and the only detergent we've been able to use is All Free & Clear. We have a front loader, so we use the He version. I just wonder how the ingredients for this stack up allergy-wise. Have you ever seen any info on this? Really, with the front loader, we use so little, that our big jug of detergent from Sam's lasts about 4 months, so it may not be enough savings to worry. I love seeing the pics of what it is supposed to look like, though. :-)