Thursday, September 30, 2010

12 New Things Challenge - Laundry Soap

So far, I'm loving the focus of learning one new thing each month.

I have to admit, I dabbled in a couple of the coming month's projects. Have to start researching, you know!

But back to this month, September's new project was to make my own laundry detergent.

I've been wanting to try this for a long time, but I thought it would be complicated. I've been using Charlies Soap, which I loved, but a friend finally convinced me to try making my own. I purchased the ingredients but they just sat in the cupboard until I finally decided I was purchasing no more detergent.

So one Monday morning, I emptied the last of the bought detergent in the first load of laundry - and I made laundry detergent. That wouldn't sound like procrastination, would it?

I couldn't believe how SIMPLE detergent was to make.

I made two batches of detergent, a dry powder and a liquid, while I was cleaning up the breakfast dishes amongst all the Monday morning crazies - and it took MAYBE a whole half hour.

Both recipes called for the same ingredients. I'll list the recipes and share my comments on each one.

Detergent Powder

1 Fels Naptha soap bar - grated
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup Borax

Mix all together. Use 1 T per load.

My Take-
This one was EASY and perfect when you need detergent NOW! I used my food processor to grate the soap so it didn't take long. One recipe didn't make a whole lot. I do a lot of laundry and used it up in just less than a month. I like the powder form because it can sit next to my washing machine in a canning jar and look cute. I thought it cleaned clothes well - even turning diapers sweet smelling (my ultimate test!)

Liquid Detergent

18 cups water
1 Fels Naptha soap bar
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup Borax
3 gallon hot water

Simmer 18 cups of water in large pan. Grate soap bar and dissolve in water. Add washing soda and Borax and stir. Pour mixture in a 5 gallon bucket with three gallon of hot water. Allow to sit overnight. Use 1/2 cup per load. If heavily soiled, use 1 cup.

My Take-
This recipe was slightly more complicated since it involves cooking, but it wasn't difficult. I was surprised the next morning to find the soap had gelled into a detergent that looked surprisingly like bought detergent. Since then, the mixture has separated and looks a little curdled, but I've heard that is normal.

I like using a liquid detergent because I feel like it dissolves in the washing machine better. But I really don't like dipping out of this huge bucket! I also worry one of the children will get into it and make a HUGE mess! I have only used this detergent for the past week, but it seems to get clothing clean well.

Next, I want to try Jeni's recipe. Her children sound like mine - mud lovers! (And did I tell you it is raining! Again! Twice in one week! Hallelujah! Bring on the mud!) I would like to test the difference in stain removal in her detergent.

What new project did you tackle this month?


  1. Gina, I make and use the liquid version and have been for the last few years. After I make my soap and let it set up overnight, my husband takes his power drill and with a long paint stirring attachment, blends it until it's smooth.Works great! I then use a funnel and pour the soap into plastic recycled juice jugs that I can just pour out of as needed. Much more manageable that way.

  2. I saved an old laundry bottle and I fill it up as needed here from my bucket. I also add some white vinegar in with each load as our water is hard enough to knock someone out! LOL!

  3. Congratultions on accomplishing your goal. Now, what will you do with yourself for the rest of the month?? ;)

  4. I have tried the same one that you made in powder form.While I really like that it was cheap, we live on a farm and my husband welds and well it did NOT get out stains. I wasn't happy with its cleaning abilities, but love the idea of making it at home. I think I am going to try Jennis recipe, if I can find all the ingredients. My kids love the mud as well, so I am hoping it cleans better! Thanks so much for post the recipes and link!

  5. Hi Gina!

    I make my own soap as well, and a couple of things I have learned is the soap you are using is hard on clothes, or if you have sensitve skin. I perfer dove, but Irish Spring works as well. Also, I use Oxiclean, Arm & Hammer, and rock salt (the salt you put on snow to melt). The first two because I have boys, and the last so I can still hang my clothes on the line. I discovered without enough salt they get really crunchy. some times I use a whole cup (like on towls). Glad you finally tried it!

  6. Hi Gina,
    Congratulations on your goal. I was going to tell you the same thing that Sarah did, basically. That soap is very chemical and harsh. I started out making the liquid version and moved to the powder version because it is so much easier, less messy and I think it lasts longer.

    Here is what I use:
    1/2 box of borax
    1 box of washing soda
    2 cups Oxygen Cleaner
    3 cups Baking Soda
    2 cups ground up soap(I make soap so there is usually extra lying around)

    For stains I will put 1/4 cup in a bucket of hot water and let it soak overnight and it usually works.

  7. I'd be interested to hear how you like the liquid detergent in the long term. (Like does it build up on your clothes, etc...) We were told to only use liquid because of the screwed up way they have it going through our septic so I never gave much thought to making my own, but if it works, I'd love to try. I imagine it's a very frugal option.

  8. Thanks for all your tips and comments. I was especially wondering whether I could use homemade soap in the recipe and it sounds like that is what Michelle uses.

    I actually didn't use Fels Naptha, since I couldn't find it at my store. I should have mentioned that in the post. I used Ivory. Was that a better choice? Why is it that most detergent recipes call for Fels Naptha? Especially if it is hard on clothes? Or did I misunderstand the comments?


  9. Gina, I'm happy you tried making your own detergent. I also make my own with the same dry recipe you did. However, I thought I'd mention that washing soda is sodium carbonate and is the same thing as the oxygen cleaner stuff mentioned in Jeni's recipe. The simple green is good stuff and I would use it as a stain treater, myself. I find that using spray n wash on hard stains and using white vinegar in the rinse cycle also helps. Any bar soap will work in the recipe but fels naptha is a stain fighting soap. I've used different kinds but really didn't notice a huge difference. Good luck in your quest for quality laundry detergent :)

  10. Can anyone share the difference between washing soda and baking soda? And where does one get 'washing soda'?

    Thanks for the tip on using other kinds of soap... that makes it much more do-able to me.

  11. I use to make mine but it didn't get the clothes clean after awhile, I thought. They got very dingy. We have hard water so that may have had something to do with it. My dh and boys also get very dirty at work from grease,etc,etc.I should try again since I have a new front loader. I was told thought that using anything other than HE detergent will void the warranty.?


  12. I have been making the powder detergent for almost a year now and I love it! I add Oxyclean Free to it, and use much more than the amount they tell you to. I use Dove soaps, I think they smell better! It does pretty good with stains, we dairy farm. Sometimes I use spray stain remover before washing. I make a batch x 4 each time and that lasts our family of 3 for a month.

  13. I've read in many places that using soaps like Fels Naptha, Dove, Ivory, etc. is not good for cloth diapers because it builds up on them and eventually reduces absorbency. So I've put off making detergent until I find a recipe that doesn't use grated soap. Any ideas for that? Maybe using a regular recipe and then doing a final rinse with vinegar would work too.

  14. If you use a 1/2 cup of white vinegar in the rinse cycle it preserves the fabrics and helps to rinse everything out. No, there is no vinegar smell afterward either :)

  15. I can't wait to do this! Can I steal it for my 12-things list???!!!


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