Homemade Laundry Soaps

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

I found these on Themestream, which has since gone out of business. The Google.com search engine had a cached copy of the page, thank goodness, so that saved the re-typing! Here are several recipes, along with some tips, quoted from the author of the article, Sandy Shields.

Liquid Laundry Detergents


Recipe #1

3 Pints Water
1/3 Bar Fels Naptha Soap, Grated
1/2 Cup Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Borax
2 Gallon Bucket
1 Quart Hot Water
Cold Water

Mix Fels Naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints of water, and heat on low until dissolved. Stir in Washing Soda and Borax. Stir until thickened, and remove from heat. Add 1 Quart Hot Water to 2 Gallon Bucket. Add soap mixture, and mix well. Fill bucket with cold water, and mix well. Set aside for 24 hours, or until mixture is gelled.
Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load.


Recipe #2

1 Cup Soap Flakes
1/2 Cup Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Borax
2 Tablespoons Glycerin
2 Cups Water

Mix all three ingredients together. Add glycerin and water.
Use 1/2 - 3/4 cup per load. Best when used with cold or warm water.


Recipe #3

1 Bar Soap - Any Brand, Grated
5 Gallon Bucket
1 Cup Washing Soda
4 1/2 Gallons Water

Place grated soap in a small saucepan and cover with water. Heat on low until dissolved. Fill bucket with hot water, and add soap. Stir to combine. Add 1 cup washing soda and mix well. As it cools it will thicken. May be used immediately. Use 1-2 cups per load.


Powdered Laundry Detergent

1 Cup Soap Flakes
1/2 Cup Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Borax

For light load, use 1 Tbsp. For heavy or heavily soiled load, use 2 Tbsp.

Edited 11/01/2003 to add this: Original article said to use 1 cup or 2 cups, depending on soil; however, the correct usage measurements is most likely 1 Tbsp. and 2 Tbsp., respectively.



Liquid detergent can also be used as a pretreater for stains.

Deodorant Soaps and Beauty Bars can be substituted for regular bar soap.

Essential Oils can be added to soap for fragrance.



Fels Naptha is in the bar soap aisle at your regular supermarket. I have found it in my area at Publix.

Washing Soda is made by Arm & Hammer. It comes in a 55 ounce yellow box. This is not the same as baking soda. It is found in the laundry detergent aisle of your supermarket. If you are having trouble locating this product, you may want to ask your local store manager to order it for you. It may be helpful to provide the UPC number: 33200-03020. To see what the package looks like, click here.

Borax is usually made by these brand names: MULETEAM or BORATEEM. It is also found on the laundry detergent aisle.

Ivory Snow used to make soap flakes, but I think that they have stopped making them. To make your own soap flakes just grate a bar of Ivory soap. (Hint: let your kids do this part!)


Fels Naptha Soap $.90 - $1.00 per bar
Borax $2.99 per box
Washing Soda $1.99 per box

Each box of Borax and Washing Soda will yield 30 gallons of laundry soap mix. 5 bars of soap will yeild 30 gallons. (Buy your soap on sale, and save even more!)

It costs $9.48 to make 30 gallons of homemade mix.
That is approximately $.30 per gallon!

1 gallon of pre-made, store-bought detergent can cost between $4.00-$7.00. If you normally pay $5.00 per gallon, after making 30 gallons of your own mix, you will save $141.00!!!

Start saving today!

Edited to make comment on the powdered detergent recipe.

This message was edited Aug 10, 2004 3:31 PM

(Zone 9a)

I use the #3 recipe. Couldn't be easier. Takes about 15 mins. to make. When I wash my husband's work clothes (he's a mechanic!), I add additional washing soda and borax to that load.

I was skeptical when I first read about homemade detergent, but became a believer real fast. It works great. I make 3 gals. at a time and figure it costs - at the most- $1.50/3 gals. BIG moneysaver!!!!

Adding 1/2 c. white vinegar to the rinse cycle helps remove any soap residue, and works as a fabric softener (though don't expect same results as commercial softeners). Leaves clothes smelling sunshine fresh!

This message was edited Tuesday, May 15th 8:26 AM

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Gardenwife and Bloomer, thanks so much for posting these recipes and where to find the ingredients. I didn't know where to find the stuff to make it, but my daughter has eczema and I have wanted to try this for a long time to see if I couldn't help her skin.

(Zone 9a)


There has been some discussion on other forums about difficulty finding the ingredients....fels naptha, etc. Both groceries in town here carry them on the laundry aisle. If yours doesn't, ask the manager if he can get them.

May I suggest, since your daughter has eczema, that you try using Ivory instead of the fels-naptha. You may have to increase the washing soda if it doesn't clean as well, but it would be, IMO, more gentle for sensitive skin.

(Zone 9a)

Also forgot to mention-----this 'detergent' does not make suds like commercial detergents. We've been programmed to think that the suds are what cleans, but that isn't true. So don't panic if you don't see any suds in the washer.

And if you're like me and use your 'grey' water for watering flowers, lawn, etc. you'll like the fact that there aren't a bunch of suds everytime to do the laundry :-D

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

Yes -- you're right, it does not suds much! That was my first lesson in homemade soaps -LOL.

My grocery store stocks the Fels Naptha soap in with the bath soaps instead of with the laundry stuff. Considering it will irritate the skin, that's kinda odd. I've used grated deodorant soap in some batches, just to make it smell a little better. Fels isn't a really good-smelling soap!

If you unwrap your soap and let it sit in a paper bag atop your fridge for a week or two, it dries out and grates very easily. I've even whacked it with a hammer and put the shards in my blender to reduce it to a cornmeal consistancy.

Letting your hand/bath soap dry before use is a money saver, too. It lasts longer if dried first. I remember the petrified, cracked bars of soap at my great-grandma's house -- the stuff lasted FOREVER! :o)

Have any of you had any success adding essential oils to the liquid laundry soaps to provide a nice fragrance? How do you do this?

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Kimberly, your last point piqued my interest. I'd like to find tea tree oil and add a small amount to the laundry detergent. I used to use Melaleuca products, but (long story short), I stopped ordering. I have found tea tree oil very helpful with my daughter's skin condition. I would think adding this oil would be similar to adding any other oil.....any suggestions?

Boonville, MO(Zone 5a)

Anyone ever used pure lye soap in the laundry? My sister makes soap and many people on the lists she is on use it. I don't know how much and she didnt either so neither of us tried it. If anyone makes their own bar soap though then that is a great, inexpensive soap to use instead of buying it. Homemade soap is about .25 - .50 a bar depending on addatives such as essential or fragrance oils, exfoliatores, etc.

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

Well, I want to save money, but I don't want to spend 2-3 hours making bar soap. That's a little more than I'm willing to invest ~ LOL. The laundry soaps don't take much time at all, especially if you let the bar soap dry and just use a blender to quickly puree the stuff.

Anyway, don't ya have to have a big cast iron kettle next to a "see-ment" pond like the Beverly Hillbillies if ya want to make lye soap? ;-)

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

LOL, Kimberly! Now since you're not from around here, you should understand that we don't actually spell things differently, we just say them funny. Southern grammar rules state that anything that starts with a consonant plus an e gets a long e treatment, and is the accentuated syllable. Here are a few for you to try out:

DE-troit, THE-A-ter (the a is long in that one, too), PE-can pie, CE-ment.

Pretty soon, you'll be able to understand us very clearly, and if you're not careful, you'll start talkin' like us, too.

Boonville, MO(Zone 5a)

No gardenwife, I would not suggest making bar soap just to make laundry soap. Many people do make bar soap though and if they do then this is a good way to use it. Cast iron kettles are not needed for making soap either. It really isn't a difficult process, just one that you must be VERY careful with since it involves uncured lye. I'm sure you probably have all or most of the utensils needed already in your kitchen. Maybe when I find my book of soap recipies I will post it unless someone beats me too it.

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

I was typing with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek - It just made me think of Granny Clampett stirring her lye soap by that gorgeous in-ground pool. They were millionaires, but she still made that lye soap! :o)

Go_Vols: You forgot a couple...UM-brella and IN-surance! I used to kid my husband..."EYE-talian dressing? What, do they make it in EYE-taly?" He has since changed his ways.

;-) Kimberley

This message was edited Wednesday, May 16th 6:35 PM

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

You mean that's not the way you pronounce umbrella and insurance????

Used to work with someone who pronounced (mangled?) Italian as EE-talian. I think that might have been a Texas/Oklahoma "thang."

Port Huron, MI(Zone 5b)

Hey Go_Vols,
Speaking of melaluca...someone called me from that company after i expressed an interest(on the net) about a home based business. I politely declined after i found out that they test their products on animals(which i am vehemently opposed to), but it took me quite awhile to shed the repeat calls from the individual in the co. From your experience ordering from them..are their products any good..just curious after the lenghty sales pitch i received

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Sandy, I found their products to be pretty good, and my daughter's eczema finally cleared up when I switched to their laundry detergent - could have just been she outgrew it, but it was highly coincidental that it happened a few weeks after I started using it.

In case you're wondering why I stopped ordering, here's the slightly longer version: a friend of mine got me started on the products, and I guess I misunderstood the way it worked; I thought as long as I ordered a certain amount of "points" each month, I didn't have to get into selling it....I'm just not a salesperson, and not to take anything away from home-based businesses, but to be honest I have friends who do Longabarger, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, etc. By the time they all buy from each other, I find it hard to believe any of them are actually making more than they spend.

Anyway, Melaleuca let me place orders for about 4 months, and then they refused to let me order until I purchased a sales kit. That's when they and I parted company. I've used mild detergents since I stopped buying their products, and her rashes haven't returned, but I'd like to make our own, and add some tea tree oil, as it seems to have some genuinely beneficial properties.

Joshua Tree, CA(Zone 8b)

GW I am going to try it!! I do TONS of laundry! Thanks and I will tell you how it turns out. And you know , I like to use Bluing in my wash. They have a powdered version called La France. I am going to put it in too.

This message was edited Monday, May 28th 2:59 AM

Joshua Tree, CA(Zone 8b)

I did it! I bought the Fels, the Borax, the washing soda, and the Powdered Bluing, a 4 pack of Ivory Soap. I grated 1/2 the Fels Soap, It was a little strong smelling. So to made a triple batch I added a full bar of the Ivory snow. And tripled the the recipe with a 1 1/2 Cups of Bluing. I added it to the old liquid detergent bottles I had 4 of them . So It filled them up. I spent 10.00 and I figure I spent about $2.25 to make it with the extra ingredient. I used 2 Tablespoons of white vinegar, and filled the rest to the softner resevoir with regular liquid fabric softner.The clothes are sweet, and soft. I am so pleased. Next time I would like to add a little dove soap for the scent (I love the smell of Dove soap, I use it as a sachet in my clothes droors)The tea tree oil can be found at the health food store. I will check that out for next time. It took me 20 minutes to make. I figure on this batch alone I save $20.00.This is such a great idea. We can tweak the recipe and customize our soap too. Thankyou Gardenwife for the wonderful Recipe.

You can buy just plain Tea Tree Oil (say that 3 times fast!)
from a health food store. I just bought a one oz bottle from the health food store (Abners I believe) but the "brand" name is NOW. I think it ran me approx 6.00 but the thing that makes it a good deal is that you don't need to use much.... and you don't have to buy from melaluca.
(boy you can't beat their "gold bars" though - my Ex has diabetes and he would get boils sometimes and that soap stopped the break outs totally... it was amazing!)
We used to order their products but it was just too expensive so I thought I would make my own from the Tea Tree Oil from "NOW".
Good luck on finding some.

Greenfield, IN(Zone 5b)

I just made my first batch of homemade laundry soap! I used recipe #3 & it is great! Thanks so much! Julie

Great ideas everyone.
I'm going to try this.
Anyone have any idea how much they save by doing this?
Just curious...I want to compare...:)

Newnan, GA(Zone 8a)

I use my own recipe, mixed from above. could never find Fels Naptha, so I just use cheap soap. Let it air dry for 24 hrs if I remember to make it easier to grate. Add grated soap to 1 qt water and put on low heat to melt. When soap is melted, add 1 cup washing soda and 1 cup borax. Stir til dissolved. Pour into 3 gallon bucket and fill with cold water. Stir well while adding water and every few minutes for a half hour or so. I've got it down to where it takes less than 15 minutes to make and lasts a month or more. I use it for a pretreat too.

Greenfield, IN(Zone 5b)

Mummy, I can't remember the prices I paid exactly, but the washing powder was, I believe, around $3. I used Fels Naptha (it grated very easily without drying first), it was under $2. I used recipe #3, it makes a 5 gallon bucket full. I used to use Purex - $2.99 (on sale) for 100 ounces.

My comparison: Homemade laundry soap 5 gallons or 80 cups around $5

Purex: 100 ounces (12 1/2 cups) $2.99

plus lots of extra washing powder for the next batch.

The Fels Naptha has its own scent...kind of reminds me of Pine Sol. I use vinegar as a fabric softener and there is no scent to the clothes when they come out of the dryer. although I still had some static cling.

This message was edited Monday, Mar 4th 12:03 PM

Mount Prospect, IL(Zone 5a)

Many years ago I made a batch of soap with lye. The recipe was on the can. I don't remember measurements, but I had to save grease for ages for it. I think that was all. Somehow you mix it together and it has to set in a square container to "ripen" for a length of time. Then you cut it into bars. By then you can use it, I believe it did suds up and had a nuetral odor and it really cleaned well. I only tried it once out of curiosity.

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

I have not made the homemade stuff for a while. I want to make up another batch of the liquid. It worked great when I used my blender to mix it up. I might use my food processor now, using the grater blade.

I really like the Sam's Choice powder from Wal-Mart, too. It does 40 loads for around $4, but I don't use as much as recommended. THat's my stand-by when I don't have the homemade stuff made up. It dissolves great in water, too. :)

Newnan, GA(Zone 8a)

I have a very dumb question. How do you save your grey water?? with all I'm going to be watering this year, it doesn't make sense not to save it if possible.

High Desert, CA(Zone 8a)


i do not know how others does it. but when i was in my old house, i use scrap hose i connected one end to the washer's exchause pipe. the other end, i allow to flow out on the flower beds and the bermuda grass. aside from saving water, the plants tend to be greener and prolific in growth.

GW... would the Fels Naptha be the same as the Latin American's call 'Lirio'??? Lirio accdg to the package consist of the following ingredients: coconut oil, tallow soap, sodium hydrocloride, abietic acid, sodium chloride, soium lauryl ether, sulphate, coconut fatty acid diethanolamide, prefume and dye. i found this at a 99 cents store for 89 cents.

the tea tree oil, can be found in WalMart's pharmacy section, a 2 oz bottle cost $3.89.

Newnan, GA(Zone 8a)

it would have to be in buckets for me MV, no beds out back and I don't want the woods to grow anymore!! LOL!! will have to talk to DH, I'm sure he could rig something up for me. About how much water does an average load produce? anyone have an idea?

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

Doesn't a washer hold something like 30-32 gallons of water? It depends on the capacity of the washer, of course.

Newnan, GA(Zone 8a)

I don't have a clue!!! that's a lot of water! but if it's that much, that's an awful lot to waste!

High Desert, CA(Zone 8a)

i do not have a clue on the water load. used to have Maytag washer & dryer. backyard then was so huge... there doesn't seem to have enough water around for the plants i grew.

wash also depend on the amount of load. plants have a grand time when i wash blankets and bedsheets.

maybe u should get some of those big 50 gal. plastic containers. ask around or let ur hands do the walking. am sure u'll come across some. how about some paint shops? HomeDepot mixes lots of paint, am sure they have those big plastic containers. am sure the brugs will benefit from all those water.

GW... do u know if Fels Naptha is the same as Lirio??? i wonder if it is the same stuff?

Greenfield, IN(Zone 5b)

MaVie, The list of ingredients on the Fels-Naptha is as follows: cleaners, soil & stain removers, chelating agents, colorants, perfume. CONTAINS NO NAPTHALENE.

It is made by the Dial Corporation.

For questions or comments: 1-800-258-3425 or visit website at www.purex.com

I hope some of this helps, I know the ingredient list doesn't! Julie

High Desert, CA(Zone 8a)

Thanks Julie :) deeply appreciate that. i have not seen Fels Naptha here where i live, which is why i am curious if they are the same.

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

It's usually in the laundry aisle, but occasionally stores put it in with the bath/hand soaps. You can order it directly from Dial, too - I think it's $1.29 a bar at their site, or something like that. Thay purex.com address has links to where you can buy their products online.

Mansfield, MO(Zone 6a)

Fels Naptha is a good bar to have on hand for poison ivy and oak encounters and for skunk attacks. If you wash with it right out of the thicket you can keep from itching. Would not be without it here. We keep a bar in a nylon sock for quick reach in the laundry area to use on grass stains too. The skunk scent seems to go away better when you wash whomever is affected with this one. (Saves on the tomato juice too.) :0 Gonna make some laundry soap with some of the slivers we end up with. It just kills my stingy soul to throw them out. : )

Bodrum, Turkey(Zone 10a)

Well, it took me a while, but I have all the ingredients, I think I will cook up a batch of no. 1 and see how it works.

besides, I wanted this thread to come alive again, I enjoyed reading all the posts the first time around, and enjoyed them again the second time around - lol

Newark, OH(Zone 5b)

Yeah, it was nice to see them again! Kinda surprised me to see it again after all this time. I've been buying the Purex powder the last several times I've needed detergent. I do use Fels Naptha as a pre-treater, though. It's good for odors and for stains.

Bodrum, Turkey(Zone 10a)

This is one of those "comfort" threads...you know, like mash potatoes is a comfort food, and "I love Lucy" is a comfort show, your old blanket is a "comfort blankie"
this is a comfort thread......

Georgetown, TX(Zone 8a)

After enduring numerous changes of detergent because of the stinky fragrances, I am finally going to do this. I have had it with those cheap smells the soap manufacturers insist on putting into laundry products. I use most of the ingredients listed already, just to remove the smell left after washing. And I have always used washing soda to boost the effectiveness of detergent. I'm not sure about essential oils, but there was one at a health food store years ago, called rain forest, that I would love to put into my laundry. I added it to mineral oil for bathing and it was just really nice. Thanks for bringing this thread back up, to get my off my duff and into action.

Bodrum, Turkey(Zone 10a)

Aimee, I am planning on making some this weekend. Good luck to you, and let's check back after we've made our batch and tried it....this is going to be fun...

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Bringing this one back up to the top, since someone was asking about alternate recipes....

I've found everything except the washing soda. WalMart and Sam's don't have it, the Dollar General doesn't either (I was really hoping they would, since they carry a pretty extensive line of cleaning and laundry stuff.)

I'll try a few of the "real" supermarkets this weekend, as my gigantic jug o' detergent is starting to feel kinda light :)

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