Homemade Powdered Laundry Soap

One of the most popular parts of my blog are the free homemade cleaning recipes.  And the #1 asked question is for a recipe for homemade laundry soap?  I used to make my own, but after a few months, it no longer satisfied me. I now buy Arm and Hammer brand powdered detergent from Wal-mart which is $.13 a load.   I’d feel bad giving you the recipe I didn’t like when I won’t use it myself.  So I found someone that loves to use homemade laundry soap and asked her to write about it here.    Stacy’s recipe is about $.05 a load–a little less than half of what I spend.

I’d like to introduce you to Stacy from Stacy Makes Cents.  She’s a wife and mom and she loves to save money!  Here’s her recipe for powedered laundry soap:

Homemade Powder Laundry Detergent

I had been wanting to make my own laundry detergent for a while….but being busy with Annie and other things kept me from it. However, when a reader asked me to write about the process, it was the shove that I needed – but in a good way, not like a shove off a cliff. The verdict? I really, really like it. It gets everything super clean and at a fraction of the cost of store-bought detergent. My mom and I have been using it and we’re both fans. I think when I empty out the last of my stash, I’ll only be using homemade detergent.  From what I can tell with my mad math skills and reading on the internet, this soap costs about $.05 per load, give or take. Most laundry detergents from the store cost around $.20+ per load. That’s a winner for me! Let’s get clean, y’all.

To make this powder detergent, you’ll need Washing Soda, Fels Naptha Bar Soap, and Borax. That’s it. (I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about the dangers of Borax;  Here’s I feel about Borax.  I personally believe it is safe for my family when used correctly, but you are free to use your own judgement on that.) All this stuff can be bought at Kroger. Strangely, the Fels Naptha Soap isn’t with the regular soap at my Kroger…..it’s with the mops. Tell me how THAT makes sense? The Arm and Hammer Washing Soda was on the top shelf near the Borax. A good source (thanks Rebecca!) tells me that these items can also be found at Food City. If you can’t find them at either store, you might be able to find them at a hardware store. Ivory soap can also be used, but Fels Naptha is really great for getting clothes clean. You can also use it as a pre-treater and just rub the soap right on the stain. Nice!

Now, you need to grate your soap. I used my microplane. Somehow when I bought it, I never thought I’d be using it to grate soap. Cheese, yes; soap, no. But it worked great! If you don’t have a microplane grater, you can use any regular type of grater. I won’t judge you because you don’t have the most awesome grater of all time in your kitchen. I’m not here to point fingers. Oh, and this soap smells really good so when you’re done grating you’ll smell like you just had a shower. You’ll need to grate the whole bar – your arms will get tired. You’ve worked out today, baby!

Add 1 cup Borax. Borax is going to give your detergent that little extra stain fighting power. It can be used interchangeably with Oxy-Clean but at a fraction of the cost. Have I mentioned that I just love Borax?

Add 1 cup of washing soda. I read on several forums that some people just use baking soda, but then I also read that it doesn’t work quite as well. We don’t want to bake our laundry. Cakes, yes; socks, no.

Time to mix it up. This isn’t a time to sit down on the job. Unless you want to sit down while you stir – that’s cool. You really need to stir this puppy.

You’re supposed to stir it until it’s well incorporated and looks like powder. This is what I had after what felt like an eternity of stirring – or maybe it was only like two minutes. Don’t judge me.

I wasn’t happy with it because you can see all the white powder on the bottom. Hmmmmmm. I’m a perfectionist. So, I broke out…….

the food processor. Yes, I use mine daily. It’s up in my top five kitchen tools. I poured my soap in there and let it mix away. So much for my workout. You know, I never thought I’d use my kitchen tools to make soap – but I like to adapt. Wonder if Barry would mind if I used his workshop tools in my kitchen. Survival of the fittest.

This is more like it! Powder! Isn’t it pretty? And it smells so nice and fresh. But here’s the funny part – it won’t make your laundry smell like the soap. Your clothes will come out smelling just non-dirty. They’ll be clean, but they won’t smell like Tide. If you NEED your clothes to smell pretty, then just sock a dryer sheet in the dryer with them. Me, I can just settle for not smelling like sour milk.

I stored mine in a Tupperware container. You’ll use two tablespoons per load. That’s it. Don’t overdo it! I actually put a tablespoon in mine to help. Next time I think I’ll just use my food processor to make the whole batch.

When you’re ready to wash, add your powdered detergent to the water before you put the clothes in. That will assure that it will dissolve. And don’t expect bubbles. This stuff doesn’t bubble, but it does clean.   So, a few handy things to know:

  1. This will also work in HE Washers
  2. I use it on Annie’s laundry without any sensitive skin problems….and I read online that other people do this successfully as well.
  3. It’s so FAST! I made my batch in like 5 minutes. I love fast, frugal things!

So, I’ve tackled that for you. If you’ve been too scared to do it now you don’t need to be! I’m a good source for trying things first to make all the mistakes. You’re welcome.

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12 Comments

  1. Amy
    Posted April 6, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    You say to dissolve this in the water before adding clothes. How do you suggest this for front-loading, HE machines? In how little water could this be dissolved before adding to the load and turning on the machine — or would that not work as well?

  2. Posted April 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Amy, I’m not sure how to answer your question because I don’t have a HE washer. Tomorrow I am doing a post here about the liquid version and that might be more up your alley. :-)

  3. Dianne
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Hey there! I have been doing this recipe for about 4 years now and am still thrilled with it’s results!! I now make four batches at a time and build my muscles after grating four Fels Naptha’s :) I also let my two tablespoonfuls sit in the water as it fills about halfway before I add my clothes. Great tutorial!

  4. Posted April 7, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Dianne! :-) I’ve switched over to using Ivory instead of Fels Naptha. I like the smell better…..but I still buy the Fels Naptha to get stains out.

  5. Becky
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m so excited to try this! Thank you!

  6. Melissa
    Posted April 7, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I have an HE front load washer and I love this recipe. Will not be going back to the other store brands. It dissolves great, I have never had an issue. I also use vinegar as a softener. Love the two!! They work great. My clothes feel softer and smell so fresh and clean.

  7. Therese
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    I’ve made the liquid version and love it, but hate the big bucket on my floor. I like the idea of storing the powder in a pretty jar or can. Do I use the whole bar of soap? In the liquid recipe you only use half a bar with the same amounts of soda and borax.

  8. Sharon
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Loved your photos with the directions! I have the supplies and will now mix mine. Would love to know more about Melissa’s use of vinegar as a softner. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  9. Posted April 8, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Sharon, check out my blog for all sorts of laundry tips. Here is my vinegar post:
    http://www.stacymakescents.com/it%e2%80%99ll-do-everything%e2%80%a6%e2%80%a6-except-dust-my-house
    And yes, I use only have a bar for liquid and the whole bar for dry. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s how it works. LOL :-)
    Melissa, on the liquid version post someone asked if it would work in HE washers…..could you comment on that post and let her know it works? Thanks! I don’t have a HE washer.

  10. Melissa
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I read somewhere on a website that you can use vinegar as a fabric softener. I was hesitant at first but decided to try it on some towels. I was so impressed at how soft my clothes felt. NO smell what so ever. I guess it works because it removes all the soap residue from the clothes and by doing that it softens it as well. I am no expert by all means, I just started using it and I have to say I love how clean my clothes are looking lately. :)

  11. Diane
    Posted May 26, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    I use a similar recipe, just slightly varied. First, I use my food processor to grate the soap first. I got tired of sore arms! I use the cheese grating attachment (I use one bar of Fels Naptha and one bar of Ivory.) Then I dump all the shredded soap into a bowl and set it aside. Then I put my regular blade into the food processor and add 3 cups Borax, add the shredded soap and turn the processor on. Then I slowly pour 3 cups of Washing soda in through the open pour. That way it all mixes very well. That does about 100+ loads for my family.

  12. Geneva Walker
    Posted June 5, 2011 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    I use 1 bar of Fels Naptha, 3 cups each of washing soda, and Borax. Last 3 years, and it is a money saver. Vinegar is great to get rid of extra suds, so I am sure it would soften your clothes as it does hair( I use a 1/2 cup mixed with water to rinse my hair) . Used in the AM the scent of vinegar is gone by the time DH gets home.

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