Friday, November 19, 2010

homemade laundry soap

I did not come up with this method, I just followed some directions found on the internet and adjusted accordingly. However I can say that after making my own soap for the last two years or so, I think it works great and see no need to ever buy regular laundry detergent again. I took photos of what I do but I have to tell you up front that my laundry room is the roughest part of the house so don't expect the photos to be full of gorgeous backgrounds and natural light. It is what it is and no amount of picniking can make it glamorous. I've warned you, now I'll show you.

I start with this large, formerly-occupied-by-Dairy-Queen-ice-cream bucket which is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of five gallons but since this is Canada, they don't use gallons so I'm pretending.

Next I measure carefully(I did at first, now I guesstimate and pour), one-third of a cup of liquid soap. Pictured here is Sal Suds, but I've also used Castile soap, which is usually available at natural food stores. The original recipe called for shaving ivory soap bars, but that's too much work for me so I buy liquid. Feel free to use whatever is available. Now, I realize that the bottle looks empty here.

But as you can see here, it's not. Interesting, huh. And don't even try to read all the writing on the label, a lot of it is (if I can make a sweeping generalization) New-Age mumbo-jumbo. But it's a great multi-purpose cleaner so let's move on.

Okay, so next I add four cups of hot water and stir well. If you are using bar soap this step would be more important so that you completely dissolve all the pieces of soap. That's not an issue here, but since I always follow the directions(ha!) I still do it like this.

The last two ingredients I currently add are washing soda and borax both which can be found with other laundering products at most stores. (For my local readers, Real Canadian Superstore carries the borax, but not the washing soda which I found last time at Walmart, perhaps a suggestion to either store to carry both is a good idea I just brilliantly thought of now.) smile.
These are the original boxes and I just ran out of the washing soda a few weeks ago. So they will last a long time and best news is that both soaps are cheap. I paid less than five dollars Canadian for each box. I'll mention here that this soap has no perfumes so if you are like my husband and you like a laundry scent, you can either get a scented liquid soap or use scented essential oils. You probably would need around 15 drops to give enough scent. I plan on doing this with my next batch as my husband misses a perfumed odor to his manly clothes. :) I don't need a certain smell other than clean.
If you search the internet you will find that this is one area where the recipes vary: the amounts of washing soda and borax needed. I found some that call for only half a cup of washing soda and borax, but I use a whole cup of washing soda and a half cup of borax. Since the clothes are getting clean and the washing soda is very inexpensive, I don't think I will change my amounts. But of course, feel free to experiment if you want.

The borax box hasn't changed much since I remember it as a little girl. It's fun to see how far you can look into the picture to see the girl holding the box. Okay, so maybe that's just me. Anyway, borax is a chemical compound so take precautions and don't inhale it or sample it as you pour it.

Next, I add about three gallons of warm water. This amount varies as well with some people only adding two gallons but it appears to be very effective with three gallons of water so I would say stretch it as much as you can. (Yes, that is my hand holding the bucket up to the tap, freakish thing.)

Grab an expensive paint stick stirrer and stir for a moment or two until the powders are dissolved. As you can see, there are some suds but they will not last as the soap settles. If you use a bar soap, I think your consistency will be different. I do often use my soap immediately although some people speak of letting it sit overnight.

I then fill my containers with the soap using a plastic cup which is usually what I use to measure all the soap ingredients. I don't own any funnels but it would be handy here.

My assortment of containers grew out of my son's orange juice addiction. Wouldn't the OJ people be so glad to know? :)

And this is how many full containers I get from that bucket.

I do leave room at the top to shake it well before I pour it into the washing machine. And how much do I use for a large load of laundry? I think I generally use a laundry capfull, but I often just pour it in a circle around the washing machine as it is filling. And I use the same amounts for a hot and cold wash.
A couple of notes:
* I do not have a high-efficiency machine as the photos show so if you have such a fancy new machine, you'll need to check into this further to see if this stuff works for those new-fangled gadgets.
* I do soak soiled baby clothes and bibs in an Oxi-Clean solution(found at grocery stores and Walmart) before I wash them. But I did that when I used store-bought detergent so nothing has changed for me. So I'm saying if you pre-treat stained clothes now, then you will want to continue this with your homemade soap.
* I don't have any numbers to crunch to show how much per load you will save by making your own, but it is cheaper and I'm sure if you look into it, someone somewhere has done all the calculations.

And it seems only fitting to end with a laundry blessing. (If Mot-el can get his sewing machine blessed in Fiddler on the Roof, it only seems fair there should be one for laundry).

May your clothes be clean and your wallet be full and may you happily shred all your detergent coupons as you waltz past that aisle every week.


  1. I was hoping you would post this soon! I plan on trying it as soon as I run out of all my store bought stuff! If you remember from your visit this past summer, I have quite a collection! Thanks for the visual instructions!

  2. I WAS picturing your laundry area and that buffet of soap, Gina, as I worked on this. I love your laundry chute too! :)

  3. Crystal1:24 PM

    I've tried homemade laundry detergent and I don't find that it works. It gets most of the stains out, but with the stuff I buy I don't have to pre-treat anything, including cloth diapers. I also noticed that after using homemade stuff for about two weeks, my clothes have funk, like BO or generally smelly laundry. I don't have a clothesline, I wash my diapers separately, but I do use deodorant.

  4. Crystal,
    Over the years I have seen things work for other people that don't work for me when I try them, so I completely understand that not everything works the same for other people.
    Most important is the clean clothes, right?
    Thanks for sharing your experiences here.


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