Making homemade laundry soap is easy and cheap. Our simple washing detergent costs just $2.40 per year!
In this article you’ll learn how to make both liquid and powdered versions, using the same simple, environmentally- and pocketbook-friendly ingredients.
Our homemade laundry soap is color-safe, leaves clothes smelling fresh and clean and, best of all, is safe for sensitive skin.
Both the liquid and powder recipes have their advantages and disadvantages. The liquid version is the cheapest option.
While making liquid soap is messier and takes longer than powdered, once finished, it dissolves easily in cold water, saving you the expense of heating water for each load.
And though powdered detergents are slightly more expensive (see Cost Comparison below) and may not clean as well in cold wash cycles, they are far easier to make, and take up less space on the shelf (you only need to use a fraction of the liquid version per load).
Many other recipes will tell you to dedicate utensils solely to laundry soap making. I’ve never understood this.
Essentially, all soap-making does is make your pots and spoons really, really clean. If you’re worried about residue, use non-porous utensils (no wood or plastic) and wash them afterwards, as you normally would, with common dish soap.
Makes 2 gallons. Use ½ cup per load. (Enough for 64 loads.)
1. Pour 2 quarts water into the pot.
2. Dissolve borax and washing soda in water over medium heat. Stir occasionally. It will turn clear when dissolved (about 10 minutes).
3. While borax and washing soda are dissolving, cut the bar of Fels-Naptha laundry soap in thirds (save the other two-thirds in a zipper-lock bag for future batches).
4. Grate the 1/3 bar with a cheese grater. This will help it dissolve faster. Grate as small as possible.
5. Once the borax and washing soda are dissolved, add the grated soap. Stir occasionally until completely dissolved (about 20 minutes). The mixture will be cloudy.
6. After all ingredients are dissolved, combine the mixture into a bucket with 1.5 gallons (6 quarts) water.
7. Allow mixture to cool for at least 4 hours. (We usually let it sit overnight.)
8. Once the mixture has gelled, stir well to mix the gel with liquid. The soap may still be a little lumpy, which is ok.
9. Pour the soap into smaller containers (we use old plastic coffee containers) or store the soap directly in the bucket and cover with the lid.
Makes about 7 cups. Use 1 tbsp. per load. (Enough for 112 loads.)
1. Grate bar of Fels-Naptha soap as finely as possible.
2. Sift the borax and washing soda to remove large clumps.
3. Combine borax, washing soda, and Fels-Naptha in mixing bowl.
4. Store powdered detergent in a large container with a lid. Again, an old coffee can works well.
For best results, use powdered detergent in warm/hot wash cycles, or dissolve in hot water prior to adding to cold wash cycles.
Prior to making our own homemade laundry soap, our family spent an average of $11.99 for 150 oz. jug of store-brand, hypoallergenic detergent (our baby and toddler have sensitive skin). 150 oz. will wash 96 loads.
Of course, if you previously bought name-brand, your savings will be even greater.
As you saw above, both the liquid and powdered recipes consist of just three, inexpensive ingredients: borax, washing soda and Fels-Naptha bar soap.
All the prices below are from our local Walmart.
One 76 oz. box Borax: $3.97
One 55 oz. box Washing Soda: $3.24
One bar Fels-Naptha soap: $0.97
For the cost analysis, I used a digital kitchen scale to measure the weight, in ounces, of the borax and washing soda.
1 cup borax = 4.4 oz. (1/2 cup = 2.2 oz.)
1 cup washing soda = 9.2 oz. (1/2 cup = 4.6 oz.)
Borax: $0.12 for ½ cup (76 oz. box / 2.2 oz. = 34.5 batches per box, $3.97 / 34.5 batches = $0.12 per batch)
Washing Soda: $0.27 for ½ cup (55 oz. box / 4.6 oz. = 11.9 batches per box, $3.24 / 12 batches = $0.27 per batch)
Fels-Naptha: $0.33 for 1/3 bar ($0.97 / 3 batches per bar)
Total Cost per Batch: $0.72
Borax: $0.69 for 3 cups (3 cups = 13.2 oz., 76 oz. box / 13.2 oz. = 5.75 batches per box, $3.97 / 5.75 batches = $0.69 per batch)
Washing soda: $1.62 for 3 cups (3 cups = 27.6 oz., 55 oz. box / 27.6 = 2 batches per box, $3.24 / 2 batches = $1.62 per batch)
Fels-Naptha: $0.97 (1 bar)
Total Cost per Batch: $3.28
Liquid Homemade Laundry Soap: $0.01 ($0.72 per batch / 64 loads)
Powdered Homemade Laundry Soap: $0.03 ($3.28 / 112 loads)
Store-brand Laundry Soap: $0.12 ($11.99 / 96 loads)
Our family averages 20-25 loads of laundry per month. (For a family of four, with two small, messy kids, this is, I think, not unreasonable.)
We actually keep a running tally of loads washed for the purposes of our budget. When we started tracking how often we cleaned our clothes, bed sheets, towels, etc., I predicted our monthly wash totals to be about half of what they were. I was shocked with how often we did laundry, and, I imagine a lot of others would be as well.
With store-brand detergent 12x more expensive, it just made sense to make our own.
Say, on the low end, we wash 20 loads per month. That’s 240 loads per year. At $0.01 per load that costs us just $2.40. Using a store brand, it would cost $28.80 (240 loads x $0.12 per load).
A savings of $26.40 per year may not make your heart skip a beat, but consider this:
At just $2.40 per year, you can make 10 years’ worth of homemade laundry soap for just $24.
And when you consider rising fuel and labor costs, taxes, inflation, and the notoriously unreliable “just-in-time” retail inventory system, stocking up now is a good idea.
None of the ingredients spoil. They hardly take up any room on your shelf; you can make more as you need it.
For less than $150, you can have a lifetime supply. Imagine: Never buy laundry detergent again.
Not a bad investment.