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Make laundry detergent yourself and save money

After using this homemade laundry soap for over a year, I enjoy it so much that I have shared the recipe with my friends, family, and co-workers who expressed an interest. I have also shared the recipe with Stray Rescue of St. Louis, Missouri, the largest and most productive animal sheltering organization in the St. Louis area, which uses it to wash their dog bedding at their shelter locations.

About one month ago, I posted the recipe for making laundry soap at home on the Arch Reactor Forums.  One of the comments to that post was along the lines of, "It would be nice try a small sample of this out before I make a huge batch of it."  I suggested that this might be a good topic for one of the monthly Show and Tell nights at Arch Reactor. The timing was right, since my storage bucket was just about empty from the first batch that I had made over a year ago.

I was introduced to the process of making my own laundry soap via television and the Internet.  I immediately recognized the advantages of using this recipie overy buying it at the store. First of all, it is economical, especially for members of large families. I am saving money and I am only washing laundry for myself.  Less than one cent per load of wash. Secondly, I  would know and could control the ingredients in my laundry soap. Third, the process is good for the environment as less plastic is used to make the containers of soap that I would be buying.  In fact, I have been recycling the same repurposed dispensor for over a year. Less fuel is used to ship three dry ingredients to a store than to ship a large container that is mostly water. Lastly, I don't have to lug home a heavy bottle of laundry soap several times a year. Eventually, I used up all of the previous laundry soap that I already had, then I purchased a bucket and the ingredients to make the first batch.

The process is very simple, so you can make your own laundry soap at home and enjoy the same benefits I have. Other than the use of a stovetop, most of the process is children friendly. If you would like a project the kids can enjoy "helping" you with, then include them in the process. They will enjoy the time spent with you and can appreciate their contribution to the household.  It takes about an hour to completely mix up one large batch with this recipe. I think you could possibly spend more time shopping in the store for laundry soap several times a year than you will making a batch of it in your home.

Tools and Ingredients

In order to make your own batch of laundry soap, you are going to need a number of readily available tools and containers, plus the ingredients.


  • One five gallon bucket with a sealable lid
  • A long stir stick (I use an old broom handle)
  • Measuring cups: 1/2 cup and 1 full cup
  • Medium or large funnel
  • A cheese grater
  • A pot or pan large enough to hold over 6 cups of water
  • A smaller stirring utensil, such as a long handled spoon
  • A source for 5 gallons of hot water
  • A stove, hotplate, microwave, fire, or other source of heat
  • A recycled laundry detergent bottle (the larger the better)


  • One bar Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap
  • One half-cup 20 mule Team Borax
  • One cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
  • Four cups hot water
  • Optional: Essential Oil in your the flavor you prefer

The Process

  1. Grate bar of Fels-Naptha soap, then add to saucepan with hot water.
  2. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.
  3. Fill your 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax.  Using your hands (or if you have an aversion to slimy things, a long handled whisk or old broom works) mix together your soap mixture and water. And yes… it will be very slimy, but your hands will be clean aftewards! Stir well until all powder is dissolved.
  4. Fill the bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.  (This is your five gallons of concentrate).
  5. Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with water and then fill rest of way with your soap. Shake before each use, as it will have gelled.
  6. Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.


  • Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons from 5 gallon bucket of concentrate
  • If you don’t want to make 10 gallons of detergent right now, it is easier to leave the rest of the concentrated detergent in the 5 gallon bucket.  Just keep the lid on it tight and set it aside in your laundry room.  Then follow the last couple steps again when the bottle of detergent you just made is empty.


  • Give your container a few good shakes prior to each use as some settling may occur.
  • Top Load Machine: Five-Eigths (5/8) Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)
  • Front Load Machines: One-Fourth (1/4) Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)


  • Arm & Hammer "Super Washing Soda" - in some stores (Rural King, Ace Hardware) or may be purchased online. 
  • Baking Soda will not work, nor will Arm & Hammer Detergent - It must be sodium carbonate.

Tips For Laundry Soap

  • I use a Fels-Naptha bar soap in the homemade soap recipes, but you can use Ivory, Sunlight, Kirk's Hardwater Castile or Zote bars.
  • You can find the ingredients at Ace Hardware, Rural King, or most any farm supply store.
  • Recipe cost approx. $2 per batch or less.
Posted by
Gene Jordan's picture
Gene Jordan
on Wednesday, July 13th, 2011
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