The cost of buying laundry detergent can quickly add up, especially if you have a large family. Making your own laundry soap can reduce the cost significantly, often to under ten cents a load. When you make it yourself, you get a product that is phosphate free, doesn’t require manufacturing in a factory, and is free of preservatives and artificial chemicals. If you are trying to go green, homemade laundry detergent is an environmentally friendly option. There are several different recipes to make your own laundry detergent, all containing a few basic ingredients that are typically easy to find at your local grocer or mass market retailer.
The first thing you need is some kind of bar soap and a sturdy metal grater to get the soap ready for the laundry. The classic laundry soap is a bar of Fels Naptha or Kirk’s Castile soap, which can usually be found in the laundry aisle. A bar of regular soap, the kind you would use to wash your hands, will also work but may not remove stains as well as the actual laundry soaps. But soap alone will not adequately clean laundry. We have to add some boosters to that soap first!
Washing soda, or sodium carbonate, is a solvent that works with the soap to remove stains. It will also prevent hard water stains on your clothing and in your washer. Washing soda is chemically similar to baking soda but they are not interchangeable. It can usually be found in the laundry aisle or with the cleaning products. If you don’t see washing soda at your local store, ask the manager if they can order it. If your store carries Arm & Hammer baking soda they may be willing to order washing soda, also manufactured by Arm & Hammer.
Also in the laundry aisle, borax is another necessary ingredient in your homemade laundry soap. Borax acts as a brightener and can help prevent fabric fading. It also boosts the power of the other ingredients in your laundry soap. 20 Mule Team is the most widely available brand of borax.
Powdered laundry soap is the easiest and quickest to mix up. You can not add scents to the powdered soap though, the only scent would be the scent of the soap you choose to use. If you prefer a laundry detergent that smells nice and strong like retail laundry soap then making the liquid laundry soap may be a better option for you. By using essential oils you can make your own custom scent – lavender and vanilla smell particularly nice. When making liquid soap, you will need a large pan to boil the mixture and a large bucket or pail to mix all of the ingredients in. You can store the liquid soap in large buckets with lids, or save old detergent bottles. Now, on to the recipes!
Powdered Laundry Soap
2 Cups finely grated bar soap
1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Washing Soda
That’s it! Just mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight lidded container. For an average size load of laundry, only two teaspoons of soap is needed. For large or heavily soiled loads increase soap to 1/4 cup.
Liquid Laundry Soap
4 cups Water
2 cups grated Bar soap
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
10-15 drops Essential Oil (Optional)
In a large stockpot bring water and grated soap to a boil. Turn heat to low and continue heating until all of the soap has melted. Add borax and washing soda, stir until dissolved. Pour the soap mixture into a large, clean bucket or pail. Add essential oils, if using. Add two gallons of cold water and stir briskly with a large whisk until thoroughly mixed. This mixture usually gels after setting and may need periodically stirred with a large whisk or your hands. If storing in detergent bottles, then cap well and shake. Use 1/4 cup for normal loads, 1/2 cup for large or heavily soiled clothes.