Sunday, April 17, 2011

Frugality Experiment: Homemade Laundry Soap

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It's a goal of mine to make an exercise of trying as many methods as I can of reducing costs, reducing my environmental impact, cutting out unnecessary chemicals from my life - and household products are the most direct way I can think of to do this.

So today, I made laundry soap - I won't know until tomorrow when I run a load with it whether or not it works satisfactorily, but here's what I know at this point - the total cost of supplies for this would have run me approximately $3.00 (while overall, it cost more than that, you'll see that a large quantity of detergent takes only a fraction of the supplies... if this works, I've got enough to keep me supplied for months).

So the savings is undeniable - if this gets my clothing clean, I'm way ahead of the game.

So what about the other reasons?

First, environmental impact - I am told this formula is low suds... there is some sudsing, but not too much, and of course it is missing all the stabilizers and scents and binding agents intended mainly to make the degergent look smooth and rich coming out of the bottle.  All of that ends up in our water supply.  And I know from some work done on the pipes here a couple years ago that commercial products have suds so strong that they stay in the pipes for days after they've been flushed through the system - at the plumber's recommendation then, I switched to Arm & Hammer detergent, and it's done me fine.  Now I'm taking that one step further.

Secondly, chemicals - that is one thing I'm looking to see - we've got Borax, A&H Washing Soda, and the Fels-Naptha soap (which, to be frank, did smell and feel mildly caustic - I am wondering if Ivory might be a better answer, and if it would work as well?).  So this part is an open question for me, but without a doubt, there is less going on here than there is with any commercial product.

The time start to finish to prepare this was about 25 minutes - no major issue to spend that much time once a month or so. Here's how I did it:

Homemade Laundry Detergent

1/3 bar Fels-Naptha soap
1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup washing soda

1.  Begin heating 4 cups of water to a boil.  While the water heats, grate the 1/3 bar of Fels-Naptha soap using a box grater into small flakes.  Be sure to wash hands well after grating... this is a mildly irritating soap.

2.  Once the water boils, begin sprinkling in the grated soap, a couple tablespoonfuls at a time.  Stir constantly - it will begin to suds up and will overboil if not stirred.  Work slowly so that soap dissolves completely.  

3.  Once all the soap flakes have dissolved, lower heat and add 1/2 cup each Borax and washing soda, continuing to stir until completely dissolved.  Remove from heat.

4.  In a very large container (like a clean bucket), pour in 4 cups of very hot water, then add the soap mixture.  Stir, and add an addition gallon plus 6 cups of water and mix well.

Now... this is where I messed up - I had a container I thought would be big enough to use and it quickly became clear it wasn't, by half.  The only container I did have available to me (my bucket not being clean enough to use) was my large stainless sauce pot.  So here's hoping my metal pot isn't ruining the soap  - or that the soap isn't ruining my pot. Oi.  I'll turn the soap out into a couple smaller containers tomorrow and find out.

5.  Last step - set the container aside and let it rest for 24 hours - I'm told that it will gel up to some degree or another - anywhere from a full gel to watery with gel floaters, but either way, it will be ready to use.

The proportions for using this are 1/2 cup of detergent for a load of laundry.  I'll take a final picture tomorrow afternoon to show what it looks like after setting up, and then do a test load of laundry.

Oh - as a nice final bit of frugality - the supplies (other than the Borax, which I already had) didn't cost me a penny, because I was able to purchase  them with giftcards I'd acquired from using Swagbucks.  Considering that laundry detergent has been a budget buster for me in the past, I'm pretty tickled that it may be something entirely free for me for the next few months.

UPDATE:  The first thing I did after waking up this morning was to head into the laundry room and take a peek.  Happy dance - I've got gel! It's about the thickness of jelly, rather than gelatin, and was firmer at the top of my pot than down toward the bottom - but it thickened all the way through, and it was an easy few minutes work to turn it into a pair of plastic containers.  The total amount looks to be a little more than double that of my commercial jug of detergent and the amount to be used is pretty close to the same.

I've run a couple loads of laundry and can't tell any difference at all, other than a lack of scent... which really isn't a bad thing, although I may toss in a little essential oil in a cheery scent whenever it's time to make my next batch, just because I can.

And yes - barring finding out something that isn't apparent yet - I'll be continuing this project and happily saving the $20.00 dollars a month I spend on laundry detergent.

(shared with Saturday Spotlight, Not Baaad SundayShow and Share Day, Weekend Wander, Weekend Wrap Up Party, Whatcha Got Weekend, Check Me Out Saturday, Sundae Scoop Link Party, Sunday Showcase Party, Think Pink Sundays, Show and Share Sunday, Sister Sister Sunday, Amaze Me Monday, Craft-O-Maniac Monday Link Party, SSB's Mad Skills Monday, Made By You Monday, Making Monday Marvelous, Making the World Cuter Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Motivated Monday, You're So Very Creative Monday, Homemaker Monday, Market Yourself Monday, Monday Mania, Running with Glitter Tuesday, Creative Bloggers Party, Nifty Thrifty Tuesdays, Hearth and Soul Hop, Get Your Craft On Tuesday, Anything RelatedHOO's Got Talent?, Penny Pinching Party, Works For Me Wednesday, Make It Yours Day, Show and Tell Wednesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday, We Did It Wednesday, Will See It Wednesday)


  1. Sounds interesting I'll be happy to know if this works and pass it along to a friend. They're trying to cut out chemicals from their home.

  2. Can't wait to hear how it turned out

  3. I've been making my own laundry soap for two years now. I had to play with the amounts of washing soda and borax due to our very hard water but I love it!

  4. I need to try this! I'd love it if you joined the Running with Glitter Link Party

  5. I have heard of homemade laundry soap and always wondered how it worked. Thanks for sharing the recipe and pictures.

  6. Hi, friend! You've got a lot of informative & creative posts so why
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  7. This is great! The all natural detergent can get expensive! I am going to write this down so I can get all the items on my next grocery store run! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Now that is interesting. I never thought of making my own laundry soap. I hope it works. That would be a great money saver. I'm following you from Homemaker on a Dime's blog hop. Have a good day!

  9. Nice write up! I have been making my own laundry soap for over 15 years. I wanted to caution you to please check the MSDS on Fels Naptha. I liked that you were already thinking of Ivory . . . I use my own soap and it works great! There are a lot of things in FN that don't match up to your goal of environmental issues and chemicals.

  10. Thank you all for your comments!

    Dawn - I'm coming to that conclusion, too... I think I'll be switching to Ivory for my next batch. F-N has some interesting properties I'll keep in mind (specifically, it apparently combats contact sensitivity for poison ivy, which runs rampant where I'm moving, and can be used to scrub the skin and clothes - but that's extreme measures for an extreme situation), but for daily use clothing, we don't as a rule get them heavily soiled, so more gentle cleaning is perfectly fine.

    For those following along - the formula I'm seeing recommended for that is 1 bar of Ivory soap in place of the 1/3 bar of F-N.

  11. I am a new follower. I have been making homemade laundry detergent for about 8 months...and absolutely LOVE it. The best part is never having to worry about what kind is on sale or forgetting to get it at the store and running out!

  12. I've been making this exact same recipe for about two years now and love it!

    New follower. :)

  13. Nice idea, thanks for wonderful recipe as soap is homemade we know what is going in there. Thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.

  14. You came! Yay! Thank you for sharing this at the Creative Bloggers' Party & Hop :) I hope you'll join us again starting 5 pm this Sunday, PST.

  15. Now this is something I need to do. Great idea!

    Hi, I'm your newest follower. I would like to invite you to our no rules blog hop called "Show Off Your Crafty Side"

    Hope you have a great evening!


  16. This looks interesting, do you know if it works with high efficiency washers? Thanks for linking this up with my Show and Share party! I have featured this post, please come by, check it out and grab a bragging rights button.