DIY Laundry Soap

I think every blog out there that has any kind of focus on DIY, frugality, or saving money has a post on making your own laundry detergent.  This one isn't going to be anything life shattering or game changing, just documentation on how I make my particular version. 

I've been really happy with my recipe for some time now, the last couple years I haven't tweaked it at all.  I've been making and using my own laundry detergent for around 8 or 9 years now and I don't ever plan on going back to store bought.  This recipe makes a detergent that has very little smell, and the smell it does have is faint, and tends to disappear the longer it is stored.  My clothes come out smelling like wet cotton, wool, or whatever material they are made out of, not artificial or even natural scents.  I have a real sensitivity to artificial smells and to really heavy natural smells so my main focus with this recipe in the beginning was to get away from the smell of the commercial laundry detergents on the market. 

I'm not really sure how environmentally friendly my detergent is, to be honest.  That is something I am probably going to have to research and tweak in the future when we are able to get on a grey water system.  It's probably something I really should research currently also, since I am concerned with chemicals and sustainability….however, I just haven't.  No excuses there, just something I really hadn't thought about, given I've been making this for so long, far longer then I've been concerned with sustainability. 

Well, here it is:

I start with a big Rubbermaid container, like so:

I add a full box of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda and a full box of Borax:

Next I add a big box of Baking Soda:

Usually the 4lb box.  Sometimes I get the 13lb bag from Costco and just try to guess at about 4lbs.  Real scientific, huh?  Its not really a big deal on getting the amount perfect, this isn't rocket science.  I use the Baking Soda to help remove odors and soften the water a bit more since we have fairly hard water.  Apparently you can make Washing Soda out of Baking Soda by baking it in the oven, however, I've never actually tried it as it's readily available in my neck of the woods and comparable in price to Baking Soda.  

Next I add a medium sized container of Oxyclean:

This probably isn't necessary, however, I do it anyway.  I like the way the soap works better with it, then without it.  I've tried both ways and prefer adding in the Oxyclean.  

I mix up everything I've added so far so its fairly evenly mixed.

Then I add 2 bars of soap, any soap will work.  Usually I use Dr Bronners, or something organic.  If Fate has made soap recently I will use that.  I actually prefer the soap Fate makes, but I make due with whatever I can get when his isn't available.  

I use a microplane:


and grate my soap into the container. If you don't have a microplane, no worries, you can use your food processor, I will go into that at the end.  No food processor either? You can use your cheese grater, however, I just don't feel like it breaks the bar soap up enough to really be worth the effort.  If you don't have a microplane or food processor you should really consider making the liquid version.

Again, mix well.  I usually mix in the soap several times as I'm grating it, it helps it to not stick together as much and I feel I get a more even mix that way.  

Now for the fun part.  Grab your pastry cutter:

I strongly prefer the type that has blades and is nice and heavy.  The wire type is fairly useless for cutting anything in to anything else.  If you get a thin bladed or cheaply made one it is just as bad as using the wire type.  The blades bend and are useless.  Invest in a good pastry cutter, not just for laundry detergent, but for general kitchen use.  If you don't have a pastry cutter, and don't want to go out and get one, a food processor will work, its just a whole lot slower.  

So, next I add a bottle of Dawn:

I prefer the citrus scents, however, it honestly doesn't matter what kind you use.  The baking soda will pretty much remove the smell from both the dish soap and the bar soap, so in the end you end up with non scented soap.  I highly recommend using Dawn over pretty much any other dish soap out there.  I've tried quite a few different ones, natural, organic, whatever, and I keep coming back to the Dawn.  It just seems to work a whole lot better at removing random grease and other stains from our clothes.  

I take my pastry cutter and a couple squirts at a time cut the Dawn into my powdered mix.  It really doesn't take much time at all to do this.  I make sure that the Dawn is cut evenly into all the powdered mix.  You should be able to make a ball of soap that holds itself together if you squeeze it in your hand, but shatters easily when you poke it.  As the mix ages it does tend to get a bit clumpy, however, its easy to break the clumps up with my spoon.   

If you don't have a pastry cutter, or want one, then I recommend using your food processor.  You can even grate up the soap with the food processor as well. I recommend using two large containers for this method.  First, mix the baking soda, washing soda, oxyclean, and borax together in one large container.  Take your bar soap and cut it into 1 inch x 1 inch or smaller chunks.  One chunk at a time run it through your food processor with your powdered mixture and dump it into the other container.  Repeat until all chunks are blended in. If you have anything left in the first container dump it into the second and mix everything well.  Next do the same thing with your Dawn.  Fill your food processor with your powdered mixture and drizzle the Dawn in until its ever so slightly sticking together. Empty your food processor into your empty container and run another batch until all the Dawn is gone.  If you have any powder left pour it into the second container and mix everything really well again.  

I really prefer the pastry cutter method to the food processor method.  Using the food processor tends to produce a fair amount of dust from the detergent that is probably not all that great for you to be breathing in.  You should be careful about that if you use that method, a face mask might be a good idea.  I never used one….but probably should have.  With the pastry cutter method there is little to no dust, especially if you are careful when you pour in the dry ingredients.  The food processor method also takes a whole LOT more time.  It always seemed like it would be faster to me, but it always turned into a really slow mess, with a whole lot of extra dishes to clean up.  I can seriously mix in the whole bottle of Dawn with the pastry cutter in less then two minutes.

Next, I jar it up!  I use quart mason jars for this:

Seriously, though, you can use anything.  I just use the mason jars because I have a ton of them….and I use them for practically EVERYTHING.  I tend to buy them at garage and estate sales for $.50 or less each, whenever I see them for that price.  We also recently got severl hundred jars from my Grandmother's basement, so I'm pretty set on jars.  

The last time I made soap this recipe as posted made me 11 quarts.  The cost worked out to a hair under $3.00/qt.  A batch of this will last my household around a year.  I have a front load, high efficiency washer, and I'm doing laundry for just the two of us.  I use about half a teaspoon per load for normal loads, and at most, for really dingy loads, I will use a full teaspoon, but that's rare.  This takes me about 15 minutes to make, including jarring it up.  

I highly recommend checking local prices and shopping around for your ingredients.  I linked to for reference, however, I can find all the ingredients locally for a lot cheaper then the prices online.  I can buy everything listed at my local supermarket, I'd check yours before ordering online.  

My DIY solution to fabric softener?

I buy it in bulk and use it for just about everything.  Its the best bathtub scum remover I've ever used.  Spray it on, let it sit for five minutes or so, and it comes right off with very little scrubbing!  


4 thoughts on “DIY Laundry Soap”

  1. Just this last go-round I switched out the baking soda for oxyclean, and I can't tell the difference. I think I will add the dawn, though. Of course, my batch is WAY smaller than yours! But my little 3 cups plus one bar of soap lasts me a good six months with all of us.

    1. I suspect that the dish soap does a LOT more then the oxyclean does, but I wash dog and cat blankets a lot so I figure it’s worth keeping in there. I definitely wouldn’t add a whole bottle to your mix though! I only make so much because it stores easily 🙂

  2. yeah, I was thinking more like a quarter cup of Dawn should do me. I'm just adding a little drizzle to each laundry load as I go along right now.

    1. Yeah, that sounds about right. Keep an eye out for suds when you’re adding a drizzle, that definitely means too much soap! I’m sure you know that though, lol.

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