Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let's Make: Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have a little confession to make. I’ve been making my own laundry detergent for about 4 months now. And it wasn’t born out of some dire need to be Ma Ingalls (which most of my craft/homey pursuits usually are)-- it was out of um... money and needing to do laundry. So I set out to look for a recipe.  I found a few, all based on the same premise, bar soap and borax. Praise the Lord, that’s what’s in my laundry cupboard. I’ve made it four times now, with variations so I could fully report back on my findings.

I found that I liked Ivory above any other bar soap I’ve tried. If you like any other non-oily soap, I’m sure you can use it too. Zest, Lever2000 and Dial have all been suggested. I found that making detergent with just the fels naptha was harsh, I use this as a pretreated and as a laundry booster, but it works great as an add in to this detergent.

First off, this stuff is awesome. And you can use it on everything. I now use it for dishwashing liquid detergent and dish soap too. Seriously, it’s that awesome. It saves us about $22 a month or more (depending on how much laundry/dishes we’re doing) each batch three gallons costs about $1.35 to make and you get about 55-60 loads per batch. Two and a half cents per load. Woah...

This takes about 20 minutes of active work, and about 12 hours after that until it’s ready to use. I make this after dinner and it’s ready by morning. Cool, huh? Ok so here’s how it’s done...

Laundry Detergent
1 bar ivory soap
1/3 bar fels naptha soap
2/3 cup borax
2 quarts of water
3 gallons of warm water

Grate the bar of ivory and third bar of fels naptha soap. In a saucepan combine 2 quarts water and the grate soap. Cook on medium watching and stirring as needed until all the soap is melted. Take off the heat add borax. Allow to cool slightly. Add to three gallons of water and stir. Cover bucket and allow to sit over night. The mixture will be slightly gelled. I will have chunks of gel in a thickened liquid. Use 3/4 cup per load.


*For homemade dishwasher detergent and dish soap, use as you normally would. It will not be as sudsy as other soap, but works just fine!
*I do keep a bottle of strong smelling commercial soap on hand for tougher jobs. But I’ve only had to use it twice in the last four months.
*I still use fabric softener, Method from Target I stock up when it goes on sale, which is often.
*You can add about 20-25 drops of your favorite essential oil to the 3 gallons of water to add a scent.
*Use this has a homemade pre-treater too! Naturally cleaner laundry!

If you have any questions I will answer to the best of my ability.

Now, you too can be a penny pincher or a Ma Ingalls— go forth and make your own laundry detergent!!

Don't you wish this was your laundry line? Photo from


emily said...

wow!! that's really cool. you're so resourceful... :)

isthis said...

You forgot to mention that your husband (as skeptical as he was) approves too. :)

davideelder said...

wow, Mary good job. I have been looking at alternative cleaners for awhile now. where do you get the fels naptha, online?

Kerry said...

This is awesome! I'll have to give it a try. It is very expensive to buy all of this stuff, especially the "green" kind. Thanks for sharing.

our little love nest said...

My neighbor makes all her own detergents and soaps and I think it is genius! Thanks for sharing this recipe!
P.S. Something cute and interesting: my friend, Teresa (used to be Larson) just told me yesterday that she went to college with you. Small world.

patty-jean said...

Thanks - this sounds great! I'm always looking for laundry concoctions!!! Recently I tried soapnuts and was not TOO impressed with the results. Lately I've been doing a lazy version with similar ingredients to yours; I start the machine on hot while grating some bar soap into the hot streaming water (bar and grater on shelf above), then I switch to cold/warm and add some borax and some arm and hammer washing soda! I like your recipe better - THanks!

Jackie said...

Do you have a high efficiency (front loading) washer? Or a standard top loading washer? I'm just curious if you would need to use less than 3/4 cup of detergent for a front loader. Thanks!

The Yellow Door Paperie said...

Jackie! I don't have an HE machine, however this is very low sudsing so I would use it at full strength first, and experiment from there...

jeremyandgirls said...

Where can you buy the fels naptha?

lexylou said...

Do you think you can use this on cloth diapers? I am using soap nuts on the diapers, but would like this version!

The Yellow Door Paperie said...

Hello friends, Fels Naptha can be found at Target-- that's where I get mine.

And I don't know if it will work for cloth diapers. But I do have a friend who uses fels on her children's cloth diapers.

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