Making my own laundry soap: recipe and review

My homemade laundry soap!! 

First, here is how I made my laundry soap. I used this recipe:

Homemade Laundry Soap

1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap or one whole bar of Ivory or homemade soap (I used Ivory)
1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1/2 cup borax powder
2+ gallon bucket, for storing

Grated Ivory Soap

1. Grate the soap and place in a sauce pan. Add 6 cups of water and heat until the soap melts.

Melting the Ivory soap in water...

2. Add the washing soda and borax and stir until it is dissolved. Remove from heat.

My homemade laundry soap!!

3. Pour 4 cups of hot water into the bucket. Add the soap mixture and stir. Add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir.

4. Store your laundry detergent in the bucket, covered. (I put plastic wrap on the top of mine, and I also left my long plastic spoon in the soap to stir it briefly before each use.) Use 1/2 cup per load of clothes.

Now, for my review of the soap!

I like it.

It's very inexpensive, and will save us a lot of money! At a penny or so per load, it's a really good deal. It was easy to make, and will last a while. And I feel soooo frugal! Wink

The good news:

This soap seems to work well for washing cloth diapers. It gets them really really clean and rinses out well.* I had been using "All Free & Clear" on my diapers, about a tablespoon per load, and it was still difficult to get rinsed out.

This soap is also working well for our normal, lightly-soiled laundry.

The bad news:

I double the amount of soap per load when I wash Joshua's work clothes. After I've washed Joshua's work clothes in this soap, they smell and look just like they did before they were washed. (He works in a factory.)

So I'm going to either have to increase the amount I use by a lot, or just use regular detergent from the store. I'm really not sure if this soap gets his work clothes very clean. Cleaner than before they were washed, yes... and I do use warm water. I'm just not satisfied with how the soap has worked for them so far.

In summary:

But, even if I keep using store-bought soap for Joshua's work clothes, I am still saving a lot of money by washing our other laundry with the homemade soap!

More info:

I have also read from various sources that you can add essential oil to your soap to make it scented. I want to try this but right now I only have tea tree, peppermint, eucalyptus, and clove oil, and Joshua and I weren't so sure we wanted any of our clothes to smell like those scents. ;)

Here is an interesting discussion thread all about making homemade laundry soap, from the Well Tell Me forum. Lots of people talk about the way they made theirs and what they like/don't like. Overall, it seems like this homemade soap gets good reviews for washing laundry.

Crystal Miller's recipe for homemade laundry soap, which is where I got the base for my recipe, also tells more about each ingredient used and the price breakdown, for those interested.  She also has a step-by-step illustration of making laundry soap, which (of course) I found after I had already taken pictures of mine... ;)

*Here is a quick run-down of how I wash my cloth diapers. Keep in mind that any poopy diapers are pre-scrubbed, so I skip the pre-wash soak.

1. Run large load of COLD water and add 1/2 cup of my homemade soap. Set washer to longest wash cycle and allow to run completely through.

2. Do a second rinse in WARM water. Line dry in the sun.

Edited to add: There are SO many different kinds of cloth diapers out there, and I can't recommend this homemade detergent for them all in good conscience. I used this on my thin(ner) prefolds just fine -- but that is a far cry from all the many types and thicknesses of diapers you may have. If you really want to use something homemade on your cloth diapers, I recommend making this detergent without the bar of soap.

5 Easy Frugal Recipes for Household Products: Scouring powder, deodorant, and more! :)


Hi Tammy,
I've been using this soap for a few months as well, and had the same problem with my husband's work clothes. What has seemed to work for me is to use 3/4 cup of the soap and some regular bleach for his grey or white shirts, or Purex-2 color safe bleach with his colored shirts. The Purex is less than 2$ at Wal-mart. I also use it for towels some times too. I'm so glad I found the Purex because I really love using the homemade laundry soap.
What do you use for fabric softener? I've tried using plain vinegar, it didn't work very well. Right now I use drier sheets cut into thirds.

Hi, Carey!

I don't use bleach much at all... and very little of our stuff is lightly colored, besides diapers (and it's best not to use bleach on cloth diapers)... I looked at color-safe bleach once, but it was expensive! So I've never tried that. I should look for the Purex-2 and see how long it would last and how much is in the bottle. :)

Today I washed Joshua's work clothes, and I tried using 1/3 cap of store-detergent AND 1/2 cup of my homemade soap. It seemed to work really nicely. If I continue doing this, I'll at least be saving 2/3 of the cost of washing the work clothes, since I normally have to use a completely full cap per load!! (I always used 1/2 cap or less for our regular clothes.)

I don't normally use fabric softener. Occasionally I add a little distilled white vinegar in the final rinse of my diapers, but that is more for reducing hard water build-up than for softening (though it does soften them a little).

I haven't had store-bought fabric softener for years... I find that if I just don't buy it, then there's never the temptation to use it (because I love the smell!). ;)

I do have some dryer sheets but don't use them very often. Most of our laundry is line-dried. We also don't have much clothes that isn't 100% cotton, so even when I do use the dryer, there isn't much static. After considering the fact that fabric softener and dryer sheets aren't good for the appliances, plus they cost money, we've gotten along well without them.

I find that shaking clothes out really well before hanging (and even after, if needed!) helps a LOT with stiffness. This goes for indoor and outdoor hanging. I wrote more about this in my article I just posted for you! :)

But, I also think I am probably just used to a little stiffness in my clothes! I imagine I might notice more if I were accustomed to always wearing dryer-dried clothes. :)


Just today I read a substitute for fabric softener in a magazine. I haven't tried it out yet, but thought I'd share it anyways.

"Add 2 cups of white vinagar to a full tub of rinse water OR use 1/4 to 1/2 of a cup of baking soda per wash load."

Again, I haven't tried it yet so I can't say if it works, but there you go!

Actually, I have done both! :)

The vinegar I thought would get a little pricey, and though I thought it made the clothes (or, diapers ;D) somewhat softer, I didn't think it was worth the expense or time spent trying to remember to run down to the basement and add it! :D I do occasionally use vinegar in my diaper rinses, but it's more for combatting hard-water build-up than softening purposes. :)

I didn't know that baking soda was supposed to soften clothes, but I've done that too! I've used it in diaper loads and in white loads. There was never an expense issue for me with baking soda, since I have a relative who works at an Arm & Hammer factory who can give me lots of free baking soda. ;) However, I don't really recall noticing that the laundry was softer.

It may be that these natural softeners make a more subtle difference than the commercial fabric softeners. But at least baking soda and vinegar are things that are okay/good* for washing machines! :)

*Although I was told once that leaving laundry to soak in vinegar water in the washer could cause rusting of the washer.

Good to know and learn from your experience! =D Thanks so much for sharing with us. I was thinking that baking soda would get a little pricey to use as fabric softener... I buy regular fabric softener sheets and cut them in three, and only use one chunk per load. The main reason is because of static. I hate static. =P My one box of sheets is still lasting and I've had it for about two years! ;-) So... I find that cheap and it works for us - for now at least. =)

BTW, this is Anne Jisca. I'm not home right now and don't have access to my password, so I can't sign in for this comment, or the one you replied to above! ;-)

I'm loving the discussions you have on here, Tammy. I grew up in a very thrifty home, and love finding even more ways to bring that into my home now. =)

Thanks for your comments, Anne Jisca! :)

For some reason, the limited number of times that I do use our electric dryer don't seem to produce any static in our clothes. I wonder if this is because almost all of our clothes is 100% cotton. Or, maybe it only happens to clothes that is regularly dryer-dried.

Okay, I had to stop and Google. :) It seems like static is from the clothes rubbing together in the dryer. Here's an interesting article I found about fabric softeners. I imagine there are a lot more good resources out there, I just haven't looked! :)

I buy the 2 gallon pack of white vinegar at the club store (actually - someone else picks them up for me since I don't really like to shop there) and they come out to $1.50 per gallon. I add the vinegar in the softner dispenser in the very beginnning. However, I only use it on 2 types of loads. 1) Stinky boy clothes - it does wonders on oders and 2) colors that I don't want to fade - it actually makes them brighter. I find it to be well worth the money, particularly when it is extending the life of my sweaters, tops and other brights.

I use white vinegar, particularly in the load of towels ... gets rid of the stale smell (like from the dish towels?!) AND seems to get all the soap rinsed from the towels as well. A plus plus for me.

1 Container of Name Brand Fabric Softener
4 Inexpensive sponges, cut in half

Pour entire container of softener into a 5 gallon bucket. Fill empty softener container with water twice. (2 parts water to 1 part softener) Add sponges to softener/water mixture. When ready to use wring out extra mixture from one sponge and add to the dryer as you would a dryer sheet.

I like Seventh Generation brand softener

I use this as my fabric softener. I refill a medium size container that cost only a few dollars but the mouth is wide enough for the sponge. I only make one cup of yummy smelling fabric softener/2 cups water at a time. I also use a whole sponge. Cuttig it up works just as well, but i like my clothes smelling more like the softner. i find myself adding more water to the mixture to thin it out because it starts to thicken up fairly quickly. I have been using this method for a while now and I will never be able to go back to dryer sheets. I love it!

Liquid Fabric Softener

6 cups hot water
4 cups white vinegar
15 - 16 oz. hair conditioner
1 cup baking soda

1. Mix hot water, baking soda, and conditioner in a lrg. container (2-3 gal) , stir slowly until mixed , will cause foaming. Very Very Slowly add vinegar stirring slowly , it will begin to fizz. mix well. Let sit until foaming has subsided. Pour into a gallon container.
2. Use ¼ cup in the rinse cycle or spritz it on a wash cloth and throw in dryer.Can also be put in a Downy ball. Shake before using to make sure baking soda hasn’t settled at the bottom of container.

Janette Branham Nugent Another good fabric softner, may like this one even better.

I haven't tried it yet but I heard that if you soak a washcloth in liquid softener then let it dry, it will last for 50 loads in the dryer!

I got the idea of putting vinegar in my rinse cycle from Mary Hunt (Debt Proof Living). I put it in the rinse on my towels because you're not supposed to use fabric softener on towels. It decreases their drying power because they're too soft and less absorbent. I really like the way the towels feel when rinsed with vinegar, they're fluffier. I use one cup of vinegar per large load of laundry.

That's all my mother used to use, as it cut any remaining soap film, but then she hung out the clothes. I've wondered about that laundry balls that are supposed to soften your clothes.

These work WONDERFUL....I'd recommend them, BUT they work better if you double them up (use four at a time)

I've been adding 2 cups of white vinegar (the cheapest you can find) at the beginning of the rinse cycle for about 2 years. Our water is medium-hard. I've found that it keeps my clothes softer, and the bonus is that, as thick towels take longer to dry, they don't start smelling moldy--I think the acid in the vinegar makes it less easy for the mold to grow (and also dissolves the minerals in the water that would make the fabric stiff). But I also put the wet clothes in the dryer for about 3 minutes to get them hot so that the wrinkles fall out more easily. Then, I hang them outside to dry. I've been pleased with towels that aren't scratchy when using the vinegar in every rinse, and I think the vinegar helps keep the colors from fading as much, too.

I read somewhere many years ago to put a ball of tin foil in with cloths an you have no static
at all in your dryer. This is the best thing I have found that works. I'm all for doing what works. Your cloths are real soft too! You may give that a try an just see for yourself.

I read static can be from drying the clothes too long or on too high heat. My son LOVES fleece blankets, he has 3. I washed them yesterday and dried them, taking them out before the dryer stopped....there was NO static, which is unusual with fleece.

Along with vinegar in the rinse, I am going to start mixing an all natural softner with the same amount (1 cup:1 cup) distilled water, dip a sponge in, ring it out and throw it in the dryer for the scent and static. (have not tried it, yet)

I have a friend who uses the same detergent recipe as you, but she uses the Fels. She says it works great on grease based stains and gets the smell out of her hubby's work clothes.

We used to use fabric softener, because if we didn't I would itch from the roughness.
I found theblue balls that go into the dryer at Bed Bath and Beyond. They are a type of soft flexible rubber, I think. They tumble with your clothing and make them soft without adding any more chemicals. They have always been in the section of "As seen on TV", when I purchased them for myself or others. We have used them for at least a year and still love them.
I believe they cost around 20 dollars, but we have saved much more than that in the last year on fabric softner.

they sell generic plastic dryer balls at walmart for $5, mine still work just fine. but they are a little loud.

When I started making my own laundry soap I also had a problem with my fiancee's clothes, I have added powdered clorax color protector to the recipe and that works great.

with my husbands work clothes we made the homemade laundry soap with lava bar soap it works good , my husband is a welder, he comes in everynight and his clothes are almost solid black

Hi. I make my own detergent and my husband is a welder also. I would just wash his clothes twice. Where do you get lava soap?

Ace Hardware stores sell Lava Soap as well as Fels Naptha, washing soda and even borax. Also you can make your own soap using shortening which will also work well instead of Ivory or Fels Naptha. Adding Tea Tree oil to the soap may help with sweaty clothing to avoid bacteria build up.

I pour fabric softener into a spray bottle and spray about ten times onto a used fabric softener sheet in the dryer. I also give a few shots of fabric softener around the drier. I reuse the fabric softener sheets several times before they are thrown out. Usually I have two or three used sheets at a time being sprayed. My spray bottle of fabric softener lasts about a year. Big savings!

I found a homemade stain remover recipe that might work for dirty work clothes you mix 1/2 cup peroxide with half cup baking soda,and 1 cup warm water mix in a jar soak overnight or put directly on the clothes! tracy

I know this is an old post but still, for a fabric softener I have used a damp rag with a quarter size amount of conditioner rubbed into the rag and threw it in the dryer before, it works nicely.

Sitting here I'm trying to remember why I stopped using it, that may have been the time I threw out all the 'fake' stuff out of my house and conditioner was one of them.

For my hair conditioner I mix about 1/4 c. of apple cider vinegar with 2 c. of water and rinse my hair, then rinse again with water. It really does a great job on my hair.

I added a lot more borax for work clothes

I wonder what exactly borax does, as far as clothes is concerned. I learned that hard way that too much washing soda is bad for the laundry. Now, I'm super careful how much of things I put in!

What happened with the washing soda?

It will "burn" holes in fabric!

Hi there
Just wondering if you use your homemade laundry detergent on your cloth diapers? I use Crystals recipe, but I figured that I'd better not use them on the cloth diapers. I mostly have fuzzi bunz diapers. Not sure if homemade laundry detergeent is safe for them or not? Any ideas? Jen

Hi, Jen!

Yes, I do use this recipe for cloth diapers. I have various prefold diapers (no Fuzzi Bunz). I use very little soap for my diapers.

I used to use All Free and Clear, and when I was first using cloth diapers, I was using way too much soap! I didn't realise it wasn't all rinsing out, until my baby got diaper rash from having a wet diaper against him that still had detergent in it. (I changed him very frequently, but detergent residue is really harsh!) The diapers also started smelling like a wet dog when they were washed! Yuck! So I rinsed them really well in hot water and started using about 1 tablespoon of detergent per large load (with top-loading washer).

I did find this page which talks all about laundering cloth diapers. They actually say not to use soaps on cloth diapers, and to use detergents instead. I try to be careful, because things can be harmful to cloth diapers but not show up until weeks or months later. I have been using my homemade soap for my diapers, but I do use a very very small amount. After reading the info from that site (, I now wonder if I should go back to using the All Free and Clear. Either way, I use such a small amount that it isn't very expensive.

Over the years, I have found that using a very small amount of detergent, making sure diapers are rinsed well, and line-drying whenever possible is the best way to keep my diapers looking healthy and smelling good! :)

I was going to ask if you used this on cloth diapers but I see someone already did! I always thought you were supposed to avoid soap with diapers so I never tried it. I imagine you could probably get away with it better using prefolds than you could using Fuzzi Bunz, though. I don't use Fuzzi Bunz myself BUT I do use fleece liners and have a couple Wonderoo pocket diapers and in my experience it is more "fiddly" washing fancier diapers/products than your ordinary cotton prefolds. Fleece seems to retain smells and get "build up" after awhile. Which is annoying because I really like using fleece liners but I haven't been doign so recently because I am washing on cold water only. (We have hot water but not hooked up to the washing machine.) I don't have problems with my prefolds getting clean but the liners have been retaining smells so I've given up using them until I can "strip" them in hot water and dish detergent. *sigh* I do like how they keep babies' skin so nice and dry, though.

But I did find a roll of flushable liners that my mom got for me when Malachi was a newborn but I hadn't used them and I use them in Malachi's diapers only...because OH MY they make it nice to take care of "real" poop, esp. when we are out and about somewhere. It's nice to be able to just throw the whole thing down the toilet. It's a nice little compromise for me right now, anyway. I never LIKE changing solid food poopy diapers but, um...since Malachi upped his breastmilk intake so much let's just say his output is the worst of both worlds (i.e. consistency of breastmilk poo with other attributes of solid food poo...)

Okay it's probably really wrong to talk so much about poop on a COOKING website!! Yikes, I'm sorry!

Leave it to you, Ruth........ nah, don't worry about it. I probably shouldn't blog about diapers on the front page of my site, but we can talk about poop in the comments. lol! I mean, Joshua blogged about tomato horn worms, and put up pictures! I'd rather touch poopy diapers than tomato horn worms. Yeah. :)

My mom always used a bar of soap when she was scrubbing out her cloth diapers. But then, she used a little bleach on her diapers, too...

Can you strip your fleece liners in the bathroom sink with hot water, since you don't have hot in your washer right now? Also, what's this about dish detergent stripping diapers? What kind do you use?

I have been having some smell issues. I probably just need to get more baking soda and do a nice hot wash with it. It's like the hard water build-up smell, but a hot vinegar wash isn't taking it all away like it did before. It doesn't help that it's getting colder and colder outside and less favorable for hanging on the line to dry...

Cloth diapering is so easy, but yet so... um, interesting! I went a whole year blissfully washing my diapers with lots of detergent and it wasn't until I couldn't line-dry that I had build-up and smell issues...

Oh, my, sounds like you have some fun on your hands with Malachi's diapers! You're such a good mom. I hope Malachi doesn't do those poopy diapers all day long. Usually the benefit of solid-food poop is that it's less frequent than breastmilk-only. Well, at any rate you'll really love it when he's potty trained. It's amazingly wonderful only having one in diapers again. I didn't mind two in diapers, but now I think it must have been a lot of work! :) Funny how we feel that way afterwards :)

Thanks for your comment. :)

Wow, I have been cloth diapering for 18 months now with Chinese prefolds and Mother Ease covers. I also wash with All Free and Clear. I line dried for 1 year, but we moved and now I am waiting on my clothes line. I read on to use baking soda in the wash cycle and vinegar in the first rinse cycle so I started doing that right from the beginning.I have always prewashed poopie diapers and washed in hot water with a second rinse. My little girl, Lauren, had a terrible diaper rash as a baby. We went through every diaper cream imaginable and several dr visits with no resolution. I finally concluded that it might be the baking soda, vinegar combination and stopped using both of them. It has gotten a lot better, but I still have to watch her bottom closely and at the first sight of redness apply balmex and change her every hour. I never thought I might be using too much detergent! I use a whole cup full for a full load. Thanks so much for the idea. I also have recently had problems with the urine smell in the house from the diapers. I thought it was because of using the dryer all the time, but you say you're having problems and your hanging them out on the line. I have been trying vinegar again in the rinse cycle, but it doesn't seem to be working. My new approach is to just wash the diapers every other day instead of every 3 days. Don't know yet if this will work...Please post if you find anything else that works. I would like to try the homemade soap, but I too have read in numerous places not to because of build-up. I certainly don't want anything else to make the smell worse:)

Oh, my! A whole cap of detergent in the diaper loads?! Here's what I would do: Put your clean diapers in the washer and run a hot wash. No soap, no nothing. See if the water gets soapy.

I did that and I had an amazing amount of suds. And this was from diapers that I had washed and dried and thought were clean. I kept washing (well, actually, rinsing!) in hot or warm water until the water had no suds. It took like 4 or 5 rinses. I know, an awful lot of water!

From then on I use at MOST 2 tablespoons of detergent. The key is to watch how sudsy your rinse water is, because you want the detergent to all wash out. I realised that my baby's diapers weren't really greasy or extremely soiled, and that washing them was mostly for just rinsing them clean and sanitizing. I think that may be why they require so little soap. Just open your washer and see how sudsy the final rinse water is. It shouldn't be very sudsy, if at all.

If the baking soda and vinegar are getting all rinsed out of the diapers, it shouldn't bother your baby. Here is how I could tell that the diaper rash was from detergent build-up in the diapers: The rash was on the front of the baby and all over, not localized like a normal rash. Around that time I also noticed that the diapers smelled a little like a wet dog when they had been washed (before they were dried) and someone suggested detergent build-up.

When I line-dry my diapers, I think they smell wonderful. When I use the dryer, even occasionally, they start smelling funny. If you have hard water, there's also a possibility of hard water build-up. That will cause the diaper to stink horribly when the baby has wet. A hot wash with vinegar should help. But I've also heard that some people who use vinegar every single time they wash, can get funny smells from that. So I don't routinely use vinegar.

Really, my basic tips are to use very little detergent and to line-dry in the sun. I wish I could line-dry all year for my diapers and never ever have to put them in the dryer!!

Last year, I made up this detergent but changed the washing soda ingredient to baking soda and I tested it against Xtra, All, and Gain storebought detergents. They all actually seemed to work alike, and after the school science fair, I was able to take my project to regionals and state, where I got first place! My family and I even continued to use the homemade stuff well after the fair. =)

Wow, sounds like a neat project! Thanks for sharing about it! :)

Hello! I was just wondering about washing soda...what it is/where to find it/and is it really different from regular baking soda?

Arm and Hammer has a product called Super Washing Soda, which is baking soda ash. (The box doesn't say what it is, but my uncle who works at an Arm and Hammer factory was able to tell me what it was.) It is definitely different from sodium bicarbonate ("regular" baking soda, the edible kind!).

It can be found in the laundry aisle, and a medium-sized box (can't remember the weight) is a couple dollars.

It goes a long way. For those of you who haven't used washing soda before, be sure you don't use too much. Before I knew better, I would sprinkle washing soda on my laundry as the washer was filling with water, and one time, a piece of fabric got a hole in it from the soda. It's caustic. Use in SMALL amounts!! :)

Just thought I would add that Laundry soda is sodium carbonate. It is the same thing as PH up in the pool chemical aisle. Just make sure the label says 100% sodium carbonate. You can buy it at any sporting goods store year round. For me it was easier than trying to find the Arm & Hammer kind.

I found my washing soda at Walmart. It's a laundry detergent booster and it can clean lots of other things. I put it in my homemade laundry detergent. I personally think it is different than baking soda but you can check the box.

Hey Tammy,

I also use Crystal's recipe for laundry soap. Since my husband is a pastor and doesn't get greasy, it works great on all our clothes. Especially the cloth diapers! When I make mine, I use Ivory lavender-scented soap. I really like how it smells.

During the summer I add some vinegar to the rinse, then hang outside to dry. If necessary, I fluff in the dryer. This time of year I put my clothes in the dryer and add a wet washcloth with a tablespoon or so of Downy. That works perfectly for static!

I just started putting my clothes in the dryer without softener for 10 minutes, then hanging to dry. I'm pleased with the outcome. They are soft, and not very wrinkled when they are dry.

Thanks for all your great advice on so many topics! You are a wonderful resource!

Anonymous, welcome! :) Thanks for sharing your ideas and thoughts! I didn't even know Ivory had a lavendar scented soap! :D That sounds nice! :)

I found my way over here from the Biblical Womanhood blog.

I have used homemade laundry detergent for years and have been very happy with it. For cloth diapers or any other soap buildup, vinegar does work well for getting that out. If you buy vinegar by the gallon it is pretty cheap.

Many people think the Fels Naptha laundry detergent recipe is healthy since they can make the stuff at home, but actually it is not natural, etc. Not everybody cares about that, but others do.

You can use an old fashioned lye soap in place of the Fels Naptha if you are looking for a healthy, natural product.

Some people can't find the ingredients in their area, so some people (like me) do sell laundry kits also. These are pre-measured, pre-grated, etc. to make the process really easy.

I do sell some that use essential oils for scent. Basically, if you cook the detergent with the essential oil in it, it will almost totally kill off the smell. It is better to add the essential oils afterwards, once the liquid has cooled.

You really don't notice a lot of scent from the essential oil once the clothes are clean, but some people feel it makes a difference, or just really like having the liquid be scented.

Hope this helps!

~Erica Johns

Thanks for sharing, Erica! I've actually never used Fels Naptha soap (I use Ivory in my laundry soap), although I think I recall my mom using it years and years ago, on cloth diapers. :)

Careful about assuming that natural=healthy. Lye is very caustic. It is a very effective cleaner, but it is caustic just like washing soda. (My great grandmother made her own lye in a big pot out in the yard. She used ashes to make it. Wonder if there is similarity there with Baking Soda Ash process?)


If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands? –Milton Berle

From what I understand, the way that store-bought fabric softeners work is to coat the clothes, so they feel softer from the slickness added by the softener. With vinegar or baking soda, you don't get that same softness, because you don't get that same residue that remains on the clothes. My grandparents used to use TONS of liquid fabric softener in their washloads. I was recently given some old towels of theirs and was quite shocked at how many loads it took before the smell of their softener was gone. In my mind, that chemical residue wouldn't be real softness but just an illusion of some kind.

Yes, the commercial fabric softeners leave a coating on the laundry! It's actually not recommended to use fabric softener on towels or on sleepwear for that reason.

I love the smell of fabric softener, but it's expensive, not healthy, and bad for the washer and dryer. I've done my laundry without it for som long, I don't really miss it. And I have my bars of soap to make my clothes smell nice. :) Until the day I decide not to buy commercial soap.... ;)

This recipe is for a top load washer, not a front load, I'm thinking? Front loads generally have a problem with oversudsing on regular amounts/types of laundry soap. We've tried using just a little regular laundry soap, and it oversudsed and undercleaned. So we have to get "HE Free" (high efficiency unscented - the unscented having nothing to do with the washer, of course). Overall, I love the front load, though, and it definitely uses less water!

I like the idea of saving money on soap. But we (well, that was mom back then) have used a similar recipe of homemade detergent on a top load washer before, and found it didn't get things clean enough.

Marissa, I've never used a front-loading washer, so yes -- I've only tested this in top-loading machines. :) It doesn't make very much suds at all though. Much less than even a small(er) amount of commercial detergent. So I doubt it would cause any lather-issues, but I don't know all the ins and outs of different machines. :)

And for Joshua's (dirty, greasy, etc.) work clothes, I do use 1-2 Tablespoons of commercial detergent, along with my homemade soap. :)

This recipe does not contain an added sudsing agent like detergent does therefore it does not sud making it safe for high efficiency washers and regular front loaders too. Just use a tiny bit less for your HE washer because it uses less water than a regular machine.

I also have a front load washer and have notice that they leave a smell on your clothes over time. So this weekend I decide to make my own laundry soap. I use the recipe but added heavy handed cup of baking soda and a two scoops of oxyclean and my clothes were very clean. Every one now thinks I have taken cheap to a whole new level. Just wait until I start making my own fabric soften from baking soda, vinegar. Also I think zote soap works better in front load washer because there is less bubbles.

hi ladies! i just made this laundry soap, as many of my friends have made similar and loved it. i stirred it every hour or so, and in the end i have something that looks like vanilla pudding. quite thick. what did i do wrong?

Hi, Holly!

I should figure out how many ounces of Ivory soap I use in mine. I know it just says "bar", and that's my fault. I know that having extra borax or soap in the mixture will make it thicker. That's probably what caused yours to turn out like pudding!

You can still use it, however. :) I made a double-strength batch once, and it turned out too thick. I just mix it with a little hot or warm water before using, to be sure it un-lumps. :)

By the way, welcome! And from your proflie, I see that you live in the same state as we do. :D

well i added some to a little bit of hot water, and it dissolved right away, so i think i will be ok! i am so anxious to use this, as it will definately save us money. between hubby and i, and 4 children, ages 4 and under, we do alot of laundry =o}

thanks for the welcome...i wonder where you are in relation to me. i am in the akron area. pretty northeast. glad to know there is someone nearby! (especially someone who loves cooking and trying new yummy recipes like me!)

Holly, you're welcome! It is really nice not having to spend a lot of money on laundry detergent! :) We're in NW Central Ohio. Probably a couple hours from you! :)

Hi there
We live in Akron area too.
We love using this recipe. I want to thank Tammy for having this on her page. And I coming across it. I had used it for a while and was sick when recipe needed made again. Hubby just went out and bought store bought. I couldn't find my recipe. Now i will be making again and the ideas for fabric softener. My daughter is allergic to majority of soap out there. So need to go back to this. Thank you for all the ideas to do things more healthier. love this site. Jeri

Hi! I love reading your blog. How do you think this soap recipe would work on sensitive skin? Some of my children have issues with eczema. Does it have to be Fels or Ivory? Can you something like Dove?


Hi, Missy! :)

I think this laundry soap would be helpful for those with sensitive skin; I've heard of others who had skin issues with most laundry detergents and this homemade laundry soap worked better for them. I'm guessing Dove would be fine, (although I don't think it's "pure" like Ivory?? But I never use Dove) and I haven't tried it myself so I don't want to say for certain. ;)

I would also be sure to get the laundry rinsed really well, regardless of the kind of detergent used (or use less detergent if possible) since detergent or soap residue on clothing can cause problems. :)

I think I will try this. I used the last of my detergent yesterday, so now is the perfect time.


Hello all - I'm late on replying but new to the making my own detergent world :-)

From the research I've done, Dove and other soaps with moisturizers and oils are not good to use in the detergent making process. The reason for this is that they could possibly oil/grease stains to the clothes.

I'm excited to know there are so many others out here!!

Hi all you laundresses! I ran out of laundry detergent and decided I better bite the bullet and make my own over the weekend, but I used Sunlight laundry bar soap instead of Ivory or Fels Naptha. The soap smells like lemon pie filling! But it did turn out very thick . . . kind of like lemon pie filling. (I hope nobody tries to eat it! Ha.) It was a pretty big bar, so maybe I will try half next time. However, I am up to 6 loads of laundry so far and I LOVE it! Some things I have noticed:
*Clothes smell just plain FRESH instead of chemical
*Clothes are softer than usual
*No residue on the clothes afterward
*Some of the gel used straight on spots works just as well as pre-treating with Shout stain remover (I tried it on strawberry, balsamic vinegar, and mystery spots on my sons' white Sunday shirts)
*Some smells don't come out, though. I got some clothes at a thrift sale on Saturday and they came out of the dryer smelling a little bit "thrifty" still. I will have more info in a couple of weeks. It usually takes a few cycles through the laundry before you can really tell how a detergent/soap is doing.

All in all, though, I find that this soap is great and so inexpensive! And I felt very pioneer-ish making it. :) Thanks Tammy!

Oh, I loved reading your review! :) Thanks for sharing. :)

I agree, the long-term use of a detergent or soap shows its true colors. ;) And I don't think my homemade laundry soap removes odors very well, either. However, I add baking soda in the wash sometimes, which helps. I usually just use that with diapers though. Joshua's work clothes smells like, well, a factory! But he only wears them to work, anyway. :)

I made my own laundry soap last week, and love it. Although the recipe I used is from the Duggar Family website. Same amounts of soap, soda and borax but fill a 5 gallon bucket half full, then after adding melted soap fill the bucket. Let is sit overnight (it is thick and gooey like egg whites) then half fill a container with soap and fill with water. My HE front loader only takes 1/4. This bucket is going to last me forever!!

I filled an old stain remover spray bottle with the diluted detergent from my dispenser and use it to pre-treat. I think it works the same as the commercial stain remover. I noticed a few things that still had a smell, like under the arms of a sweaty shirt, so I sprayed the area with the detergent and re-washed. It smells great now.

My question is (finally)I don't want to keep using the Fels Naptha because I found out it has petro-chemicals in it and I don't really like the smell. I have seen tons of good reviews for the Sunlight bar soap, but where do I get it???? I know it's sold in Canada but does anyone sell it in the US (I'm in Texas) I don't have a problem buying online or purchasing a large amount. I plan on continuing to make my own laundry soap.

Also does anyone know if the homemade detergent is harsher on clothes than commercial detergent? I just worry about thing becoming faded and worn. I try not to dry too many things for this reason.

I am going to make this the moment my store bought detergent runs out. I've been complaining about the cost of store bought detergents ($10 or more a month) and am thrilled to see a way to cut that cost. I also like that I could use this on my cloth diapers. Thanks for sharing! :-)

Just wondering about the essential oils...I have some oil from Walmart that is for fragrance. Can this be used to scent the detergent? And do you think it would mix in or potentially ruin clothes?

Tania, I have heard of people adding essential oils to their laundry (I think maybe a couple drops of orange or lavender; also, tea tree oil for cloth diapers) but I have never done it myself. I doubt the occasional use would be harmful, but I'm not sure about frequent use. The problem with a lot of laundry "issues" is that the side effects don't start showing until the damage has already been done! :P

I see you mentioned Walmart, but I have strong objections against going there. So where would one find these? What aisle would you find them in?

Jules, I have found my essential oils at local health food stores. Other options might be a larger grocery store (if they have a "health" section) or ordering from a co-op. :) I'm sure you could order online as well... actually, now that I think of it, I got tea tree oil and peppermint oil from Nature's Sunshine. :) I don't know if they're the cheapest, but I was ordering a couple of their other products during my last pregnancy, and needed a $40 order total, so I added the oils onto my order. :)

Dear Tammy,

I have just started line drying my clothes and really enjoy doing it, but my husband strongly objects to the crispness of the clothes, especially towels and underwear! Do you have any suggestions to soften them up!

Would appreciate some advice.

Jane Hall
British Columbia, Canada

Actually if you just fluff your towels in the dryer for about 5 minutes before hanging them out, they loose all stiffness. I have done that before- started the dryer and then decided to hang out the laundry and that little bit of time seems to soften things better than trying to do it while they're a bit damp coming in from the line.

Hi, Jane! :) Thanks for commenting, and welcome! :)

In the comments above, adding vinegar to the final rinse water is suggested as a natural fabric softener (though I don't think it gives the extreme softening results that commercial fabric softeners or dryer sheets do). Also, baking soda added to the wash water. I don't routinely do either of these, though. :)

In a reply on another post, I wrote about dealing with stiff towels:

"About stiff towels. Mine are stiff unless there has been a strong wind that day. Joshua hates stiff towels, so I usually use his once first before giving it to him. (We use our towels several times between washings.)

"Another option is throwing the line-dried towels in the dryer on the air-dry setting for about 10 minutes or so. This uses less electricity or gas, because it isn't using heat. If you have a full load, 10 minutes of air-fluff should make them a lot softer. I was raised on stiff laundry, so I hardly notice, but Joshua likes soft socks and towels and such. So about once every week or two, I have a load that I fluff in the dryer. (After I've line-dried it, of course.)"

Another option is to put the wet load in the dryer for 10 minutes (with heat, not just air fluff), then hang it outside to dry. This makes the clothes softer, as well. I don't usually do this either, since it would mean yet another trip down to the basement... :)

Hope these ideas help! :)

Hey Tammy.. I hope you still get replies to this post.. I wanted to add my thoughts on laundry soap. Well the first two batches I made did NOT turn out so well. But I used Crystal Millers recipie and misunderstood her 2 gallon tub and bought a 5 gallons tub from a local hardware store.. Ooops! My first two batches did not work at all! I was using a cup sometimes 2 cups to get things clean.
Then when money wasnt as tight anymore I went back to my regular detergent. Actually the first bottle was given to me and I missed nice, fresh clothing. Or at least the smell of store bought detergent. :)
Then recently I read this post and thought I'd try again. That's when I caught my error! So I increased the recipie to 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda, 1 capful left over tide and 1 bar Rosa laundry soap. So far so good. :) I've yet to use it, its still gelling up. But I thought you'd laugh at my experience.
And on laundering diapers, I got rid of my pockets when using homemade detergent. Build up was a huge issue, as is with pocket diapers. All the more reason to love my prefolds more. :) And in the winter when Im not line drying I use two capfuls of bleach in my prerinse. You almost have too. Makes you think about the wonderful sun and its disinfecting powers. :) Actually my diapers stink all winter long. :( But the bleach still helps. :)


Ladies, bleach is so toxic as we all know. I love what it does for my laundry and disinfecting properties, however wanted another option.. Use a cup of hydrogen peroxide instead of bleach whitens whites and also is a disinfectant... I made the switch months ago and I am in shock at the great results. google it and all it can do. It maybe a option for bacteria or odors in diapers? It is also reasonable on the budget..
I love this site!


If you use bleach you can just do a double rinse. More water, but won't be as hash. I have super sensitive skin, and that's what my dr suggested to me.

Hi! I just wanted to share that my daughter 'introduced' me to homemade laundry soap and her recipe was similar to yours only instead of Fels Naptha or Ivory, she uses Kirk's Castile Soap. And when we make it, its consistency varies between liquid and gel... and it matters not in the outcome - at least in our experience anyway! And I like to add essential oil to mine... I've used lemon and a blend called 'rain' but the next batch I make I plan to use eucalyptus - which I bought from for a very reasonable price (if my memory serves me correctly, it was $4.00 for a 2 ounce bottle). I'm hoping that it helps with the 'odor' issues that I see you ladies also experience as my husband plays hockey... enough said, huh?! :-)

For my own fabric softener, I use a Downy ball I put 4 tsp or a quick squirt of hair conditioner and dilute it with water. I use the cheapest conditioner with a scent that I like. Now the scent is not as strong as the fabric softener scents. But I don't have static or roughness in my towels, which is more important to me. I hope this will help you.

I have used the cheapest conditioner for years. When we were growing up my cousins (all girls) would go sneak a cup of Downy on Saturday nights and mix it with warm water and make a whole batch and use it on their hair. So I figured, why not try it backwards? I usually wait til hair conditioner goes on sale. Take the old downy bottle and fill about one third full with luke warm soft water. Then about a cup of cheap conditioner, shake it about and wait til suds go down. Then about an hour later, fill it up with luke warm water and just gently shake.
Used it for years. I tried to do it where my daughter lives but they have hard water and had to use a bit more.

i started using soapnuts a while back and they work great. kind of pricey but reusable, low suds, cleans without perfume, and when they get used up they go to the compost pile. 100% all natural too. i also add a bit of borax to the wash too. as for fabric softener ive hear vinegar works well. and if you have some super concentrated downy or snuggle, put couple of tsps. in a spray bottle and fill with water and shake to mix. spray the inside of your dryer drum lightly with the mixture and dry clothes as usual. this uses less softener, no running for the rinse cycle and works well.

Does the homemade detergent ever build up? Is there anything I can put in the rinse to remove any soap residue or does the washing soda and borax prevent it from building up? Sorry for the questions, but I would really like to try this, but I have to make sure everything rinses clean due to sensitive skin issues here.


Hi, I gon't know if you are still making your own laundry soap, but I thought I would ramark on my recipe. I have a husband who gets pretty nasty at work, coke syrup and lots of gunk, grease etc. anf ours has had no problem cleaning. My husband is the one who noticed his clothes cleaner than with store bought soap.

I USE POWDERED and it does make a difference over the liquid... I have made both and was buying liquid at the store as I hated powdered laundry soap, now I ONLY USE POWDERED.... First of all it does seem to work better, second I AM BUSY, it is so much easier and takes me only 10 minuyes at the most to make laundry soap for a family of five (all over 15) soap for 2- 3 months at a time. Mine does cost a little more, but the results for me are worth it.

Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe:

2 small bars or 1 very large bar of soap, grated (See note below on grating) I use Fels Napha, Zote, or Ivory, or a combo of them

1 Box Washing Soda

1 Box Borax

3 Cups Baking Soda

2 Cups Very Fine Epsom Salt

Essential Oils - Pure - Tea Tree, Lavender, Eucalyptus, or Cedar Wood or a combo

Directions: Let soap completely dry out unwrapped for 7-10 days (this will make it a breeze to work with) Sliver the soap using sharp knife and sliver edges until bar(s) is completely shaved - next I pulse in my very cheap food processor and if soap is dried it will powder (thiswould be great to take on patio, as it will have powder sifting up and fumes, but a mask can work to, just ventilate area ( i usually crack kitchen window) Now add to all other powders in a large container you will use to store soap in. ( I use a container that has a little room so I can shake well to mix.) I then randomly start adding drops throughout mix and shake and mix again. I am done. I do use 1/8th of cup for my hard water issues. but still the result is still cheaper for me and I have the best soap we have ever used. I do use 1/4 to 1/2 c vinegar in rinse cycle so there is no fragrance on clothing..... I do not have static, but I love fresh smells, so I do make my own dryer sheets to freshen each load (for my senses) I also use club soda and/ or peroxide in spray bottles for spot/stain removers. I know some will argue that you do not have to use both washing soda and baking soda, but I do notice a difference for our laundry. I just started adding the salt a little while ago and I noticed the wash even got better. I have read that the salt (it can be other salts, as well) helps go against the grain of fabric to kinda act as a lifter to help clothes get cleaner and I feel it does work better. I hope this recipe will be a blessing to many of your readers.

I was wondering what size boxes the washing soda and borax are?


~ Katie

Borax is 4 lbs 12 oz
Washing Soda is 3 lbs 7 oz
Washing soda is caustic, but you dissolve soap into water before adding clothes.... I have never had an issue with washing soda causing any problems whatsoever, but I do not directly put on clothing either. I hope this helps.

i have used the lquid soap to wash a load of clothes and seemsthey allways come out dingy looking. i want to keep saveing money so is there something els i could do to keep from beening dingy look. sue

Does anyone know if there is a difference between caustic soda and washing soda?


For some purposes, the only difference between washing soda (sodium carbonate) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is that washing soda will consume two equivalents of acid, while baking soda will only consume one equivalent.
However, for other purposes they are distinct. Removing the second proton from carbonic acid (H2CO3), to form washing soda, takes more oomph than removing the first--which forms baking soda. Since these reactions are reversible, this means that washing soda is a stronger base than baking soda, and in fact is considered a caustic (which means that, among other things, you DON'T want to use it for baking!) If you rub a little washing soda on your hands, then rinse it off, your hands feel soapy and softer; baking soda doesn't do that, and the reason is that baking soda is too mild a base.

Washing Soda (Na2CO3 + 10H2O) In domestic use, it is used as a water softener during laundry. It competes with the ions magnesium and calcium in hard water and prevents them from bonding with the detergent being used. Without using washing soda, additional detergent is needed to soak up the magnesium and calcium ions. Called Washing Soda or Sal Soda in the detergent section of stores, it effectively removes oil, grease, and alcohol stains.
In dyeing with fiber-reactive dyes, sodium carbonate (often under a name such as soda ash fixative or soda ash activator) is used to ensure proper chemical bonding of the dye with the fibers, typically before dyeing (for tie dyes), mixed with the dye (for dye painting), or after dyeing (for immersion dyeing).

Other applications OF WASHING SODA
Sodium carbonate is a food additive (E500) used as an acidity regulator, anticaking agent, raising agent and stabilizer. It is one of the components of kansui, a solution of alkaline salts used to give ramen noodles their characteristic flavor and texture. Sodium carbonate is also used in the production of sherbet lollies. The cooling and fizzing sensation results from the endothermic reaction between sodium carbonate and a weak acid, commonly citric acid, releasing carbon dioxide gas, which occurs when the sherbet is moistened by saliva.

Sodium carbonate is used by the brick industry as a wetting agent to reduce the amount of water needed to extrude the clay.

In casting, it is referred to as "bonding agent" and is used to allow wet alginate to adhere to gelled alginate.

Sodium carbonate is used to encapsulate and kill mold. When mixed with water and put in a spray bottle, it is sold for its anti-mold cleaning ability. It is also used to blast off mold from wood or other materials.

Sodium carbonate is used in toothpastes, where it acts as a foaming agent, an abrasive, and to temporarily increase mouth pH.

The crystalline form of washing soda can be used to induce vomiting in dogs. A tablespoon for large breeds is sufficient to force the animal to empty the contents of its stomach.

Sodium carbonate may be used for safely cleaning silver. First, aluminium foil is added to a glass or ceramic container, and covered with very hot water and some sodium carbonate. Silver items are dipped into this "bath" to clean them, making sure the silver makes contact with the aluminium foil. Finally, the silver is rinsed in water and let to dry

CAUSTIC SODA - Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as lye, caustic soda and (incorrectly, according to IUPAC nomenclature)sodium hydrate, is a caustic metallic base. Sodium hydroxide forms a strong alkaline solution when dissolved in a solvent such as water, however, only the hydroxide ion is basic. It is used in many industries, mostly as a strong chemical base in the manufacture of pulp and paper, textiles, drinking water, soaps and detergents and as a drain cleaner. Sodium hydroxide is a common base in chemical laboratories.

Pure sodium hydroxide is a white solid; available in pellets, flakes, granules and as a 50% saturated solution. It is deliquescent and readily absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, so it should be stored in an airtight container. It is very soluble in water with liberation of heat. It also dissolves in ethanol and methanol, though it exhibits lower solubility in these solvents than potassium hydroxide. It is insoluble in ether and other non-polar solvents. A sodium hydroxide solution will leave a yellow stain on fabric and paper.

Sodium hydroxide was traditionally used in soap making (cold process soap, saponification). Persians and Arabs began producing soap in this way in the 7th century, and the same basic process is used today.

Sodium hydroxide was also widely used in making paper. Along with sodium sulfide, NaOH is a key component of the white liquor solution used to separate lignin from cellulose fibers in the Kraft process. It also plays a key role in several later stages of the process of bleaching the brown pulp resulting from the pulping process. These stages include oxygen delignification, oxidative extraction, and simple extraction, all of which require a strong alkaline environment with a pH > 10.5 at the end of the stages
Food uses of sodium hydroxide include washing or chemical peeling of fruits and vegetables, chocolate and cocoa processing, caramel color production, poultry scalding, soft drink processing, and thickening ice cream. Olives are often soaked in sodium hydroxide to soften them, while pretzels and German lye rolls are glazed with a sodium hydroxide solution before baking to make them crisp. Due to the difficulty in obtaining food grade sodium hydroxide in small quantities for home use, Sodium carbonate is often used in place of sodium hydroxide.

Specific foods processed with sodium hydroxide include:

The Scandinavian delicacy known as lutefisk (from lutfisk, "lye fish").
Hominy is dried maize (corn) kernels reconstituted by soaking in lye-water. These expand considerably in size and may be further processed by frying to make corn nuts or by drying and grinding to make grits. Nixtamal is similar, but uses calcium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide.
Sodium hydroxide is also the chemical that causes gelling of egg whites in the production of Century eggs.
German pretzels are poached in a boiling sodium carbonate solution or cold sodium hydroxide solution before baking, which contributes to their unique crust.
Most yellow coloured Chinese noodles are made with lye-water but are commonly mistaken for containing egg.
Sodium hydroxide is used in the home as a drain cleaning agent for clearing clogged drains. It is distributed as a dry crystal or as a thick liquid gel. The chemical mechanism employed is the conversion of grease to a form of soap. Soap is water-soluble, and can be dissolved by flushing with water. Sodium hydroxide also decomposes complex molecules such as the protein that composes hair. Such drain cleaners (and their acidic versions) are highly caustic and should be handled with care.

Sodium hydroxide has been used as a relaxer to straighten hair. However, because of the high incidence and intensity of chemical burns, chemical relaxer manufacturers have now switched to other alkaline chemicals, although sodium hydroxide relaxers are still available, used mostly by professionals.
This is a process that was used with farm animals at one time. This process involves the placing of a carcass into a sealed chamber, which then puts the carcass in a mixture of sodium hydroxide and water, which breaks chemical bonds keeping the body intact. This eventually turns the body into a coffee-like liquid, and the only solid that remains are bone hulls, which could be crushed between one's fingertips. It is also of note that sodium hydroxide is frequently used in the process of decomposing roadkill dumped in landfills by animal disposal contractors.

Sodium hydroxide is frequently used as a cleaner in breweries, where it is simply called "caustic". It is added to water, heated, and then used to clean the large stainless steel tanks where beer is brewed, fermented, and stored. It can dissolve oils and protein-based deposits. A sodium hydroxide soak solution is used as a powerful degreaser on stainless and glass bakeware. It is also the most common ingredient in oven cleaners.



for really greasy clothes and dirtier the nnormal clothes, we use a trick while we were in the army-----cheap generic cola....pour in, let set and wash as normal...worked with my 4 boys and their dad's stuff thru the years..also worked on my nursing whites for blood stains and such. hope you try it and that it works out great for you!

You are right on this!! We now do this with my hubby's greasy, smelly work pants and if our dish rags become rancid smelling. Crazy that this works - makes one wonder why? I don't usually use the whole can either, just a half or three quarter of it. We don't drink soda much but I like to have the generic brand around for this purpose.

I use a wash cloth( white) and put it in about 1 cup of liquid fabric softner(your choice) make sure it gets good and wet all over, does not need to be dripping. Hang it up let it air dry for 24 hrs, throw it in your drier and leave it, it will last about 20 loads. I use 2 cloths that way if I think I need to change I don't have to wait the hanging and drying process. You may need to mark your wash cloths some way or you'll be folding it up and putting it away my cloths after a while have cahnged colors.

vinegar was used by the pioneers, and I'm certain that they didn't carry jugs of it in their covered wagons.
I have tried to use the product "Bragg" without success

I should get the details from my parents some time. They made lots of homemade apple cider vinegar in wooden barrels when I was a child! :)

I found out quite by accident that color safe bleach is sodium carbonate, the main ingredient in washing soda. also it has oxygen cleaner and a light fragrance. I found this out after I made my first batch and will try it next time. Washing soda is not available in my area. Dollar General brand is about $2.00 a box and is bigger than the name brands.
Just thought you'd like to know! This would make making the detergent even cheaper. It pays to check labels.

Also this is working on my husbands greasy clothes and he likes using it. He does most of the laundry.

I was watching some videos on Youtube about making HLD, & a woman mentioned using the Color Safe bleach powder from a dollar store since it contained Sodium Carbonate. I have mixed a batch of it, but have not used any, since I'm using up the last of the previous batch. It seems a bit grainier than using Washing Soda, but the batch gelled up as previous ones. I will see if there is really any difference in washing results between them.

tammy's recipes are the best! I have tried a couple of them and they actually turned out pretty good.

tammy, i recently found your site, and have been loving your recipes! i especially loved your chicken pot pie and your condensed soup recipe, thank you!

anyway. so i saw this thread and thought i'd put my 2 cents in.

my husband works at a restaurant and his clothes come home disgusting. greasy. smelly. you name it.
so we've been using the laundry soap recipe from the duggar's (other different recipes too at first) which is a liquid detergent that matches yours pretty closely. i make a double batch of yours in a 5 gallon bucket and use a whole bar of fells naptha. so for your half recipe i use 1/2 instead of 1/3. over time i've also started to add 1c baking soda and 1/4 cup of whatever dish liquid i have on hand. dawn works well, and i'm trying out method soap in my newest batch. i've also used ajax with good results.

the dish soap combats grease and greasy stains with the baking soda for odor. i usually get a good price on dish soap with coupons, so it really doesn't add much to the cost but adds a lot to the punch of the detergent.

i have friends that have used 15 drops of essential oil in their detergent with good results, i usually just use a sent of dish liquid i like instead. right now the detergent smells like grapefruit. not noticable on the finished clothes though.

my husband and daughter both have extremely sensitive skin and neither noticed or had symptoms after i switched to making my own from using arm and hammer free and clear. however, i used a bottle i had gotten for free after coupon once between making some and both noticed, and disliked.

i have never noticed any build up. i have noticed dingier whites, but have just gotten used to it, or used bleach.

if you ended up with a thicker detergent, check your ingredients, did you use too much of something? you could always warm it up and add more of something else to compensate accordingly. or maybe you didn't add enough water?
the duggars dillute thier detergent with water at the end. i don't and simply use half as much.

thanks for all your recipes tammy!

I want to try this and this will be a first for me... I do have a question I was hoping you could answer for me...

The pot that you melt the soap in... can it be used for food after that or will the food always end up tasting like soap?

If I need to go find a really cheap pot to melt my soap in I can do that but I don't really want to if I don't have to.

Thanks for your awesome site and for taking the time to answer my question!


I too made a detergent with washing soda, borax, and fells naptha and it pretty much ruined the PUL on my cloth diapers, so be careful! I contacted Cotton Babies (my diapers were mostly Bum Genius) and they said that all three of those things are bad on the PUL. I only washed them in it maybe 4 or 5 times and several of my diapers are leaking through the PUL now. So.... I just caution cloth diaper users to be careful!

I put the entire big bar of soap(i bought Zote because that's what Wal-Mart carries) in a clean large plastic coffee container, added water, and let the soap dissolve in the water. It is dissolving while I am using the current batch and is ready for the next mix. Saves all that grating and melting on the stove.


well that is something i did not know how to make! thanks for sharing that with me and i hope to be seeing more cool things like that. keep up the good work and i will return soon. I might even try doing this tonight, i got a big pile of clothes to wash :)

I pour some Downy in a tub, not much, and dilute it with water. Then have some small sponges soaking in it. Take a couple and squeeze out as much as possible and throw in dryer. Works for me. I still have my bottle of Downy after a couple of years. I like the homemade soap too, have been making it for years. I am a single dad and raised 2 boys. They are frugal too. Thanks for the info. Found other things to try. Water softener pellets ground up in the blender (plain salt) A tablespoon in the dishwasher compartments and everything came out clean and no spots.

Can you clarify this statement for me....""3. Pour 4 cups of hot water into the bucket. Add the soap mixture and stir. Add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. "" What do you mean by add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water, is it one gallon of soap or water....

thank you


Candy, it is all water. A gallon is 16 cups, so I suppose a better way of stating it would be "Add 22 cups of water." :) Sorry for the confusion! :)

I tried the homemade laundry detergent and was not happy. No suds, and the clothes weren't really clean. I went back to half the recommended amount of regular (on sale w/coupon) laundry detergent.

But I put a half of a container of Downy in a 5 gallon bucket, filled it half full of water and added a couple of sponges (cut in two). I squeeze out the sponge a bit, toss it in the load, and my things come out soft and smell wonderful. I've been doing this for two months and my bucket still looks half full....

I'm worried about using this detergent on my cloth diapers. I have alot of AIO's and read a post that said the detergent would ruin them. UGH! Does anyone know if this is true? Some of my AIO's are older and I worry that they might get ruined quickly. I can't afford to replace them right now and have a baby on the way (#7!). I would wonder if the soap bars make a difference as some of them have fats in them. I would think that would coat the diapers after a while and make them non-absorbant. Just like fabric softener.
I've been using this recipe for a while and haven't noticed any change to the diapers yet. Just was wondering if anyone else had.
Also a friend of mine who gave me a similar recipe said to use the bounce dryer bars. But I didn't like trying to remember to take it out before I put towels or diapers in. Just thought maybe some without babies might like to try that. Of course only if they are truly addicted to the fabric softener smell! I don't use anything anymore in the dryer. I don't use sheets or vinegar or anything and my laundry is just fine. It's not stiff and it smells good. I use Zote bars by the way.
One quick question...those of you using outside you use the traditional clothesline or do any of you use the clothes Tree thing?

i have been useing homemade laundry soap with fel napha...for about a year and have to spray all my clothes arm pits and smelly places with a vinager solution before washing. It's a huge pain. i've tried puting vinegar and baking soda in the wash .. it doesn't help..i also have tried using color safe beach in the wash... this doesn't help either.. the only thing that really gets the odor out is fabreeze ...but i think it might not be worth making homemade laundry soap if i have to use all this extra stuff. I washed my clothes with out spraying anything at my mom's house.. she just uses commeral laundry detergent..and no odor.....i wish their was either some kind of other bar soap for odors ..or something to put in the homemade laundry soap to help....any suggestions?

I have been making my own homemade laundry soap for about 7 months now and absolutely love it! I wouldn't go back to comercial soap for nothing! I make my soap with the fels naptha bar soap and have never had any problems with excess odor. However the odor could depend on what type of water you have wether its soft water or hard water that sort of thing. Also when I have strong ordors in my load, I wait til the rinse cycle to put about 1 cup of vinegar in the wash and that usually takes out any smells. Also if you want to add a smell to you soap,you can purchase essential oils and add about 10-20 drops per batch, and that will make it smell good also! Hope this is some help!

Katie Jean

I am very interested in making my own laundry soap, but have heard this isn't good on septic systems. Does anyone have any information on this? If I end up with a huge bill for repairs I'm really not ahead of the game.

I have been using homemade laundry soap for about 6 months my septic has been giving me problems I stopped using it and everything cleared up so far so we will see I will post again in 1 month and let you know if that was my problem but i am pretty sure it was

I add 1/3 bottle of fabric freshner from dollar tree, 1.00 makes a really nice smell for clothing. Have to do half and half homemade detergent and Tide to clean hubby's clothes.

Hi, my name is john and I was wondering if I could use face bar soap in recipe.I came across a lot of bar soap cleaning out a building. This soap has cold cream in it,will it hurt the recipe? Thanks

Laundry detergent
2 bars ivory
2 cups washing soda
2 cups borax
1 cup baking powder
5 gal bucket
make like u do after cools seperate into gallon jugs, 20 drops essential oils/jug. Eucalyptus good for dust mite-lemongras+lavender good for overall freshness.

Fabric Softner (in washer)
1 cup vinegar
1 cup baking soda
2 cups water
10 drops lavender

mix well add 1/4 cup to rinse cycle (i use downy ball)

I started making my own laundry soap about 6 months ago, using Tammy's recipe exactly at first. As I made other batches, I added essential oils and I also tried adding 7th Generation dish soap and small amounts of leftover shampoo from a nearly-empty bottle, etc. just to experiment, and it turned out fine.

Since I live in GA, it's incredibly hot and humid during the summer months, and we sweat a lot. The homemade laundry soap generally doesn't get our clothes clean enough during that time, even when used along with bleach or ammonia. The armpits of our shirts still smell like sweat and deodorant even after washing.

I think my solution will be to use store-bought detergent in the summer months and use homemade when it's cooler out, since I was pleased with the results of my homemade detergent when the weather was cooler earlier this year. It really does save a good bit of money and I think the effort of making my own soap is worth it.

Also, I think that as a general rule, all undergarments will be washed with store-bought detergent - I've experienced some irritation recently, and although I don't think it's the only cause, I suspect that my undergarments may not be getting clean enough with the homemade detergent. (TMI?) I picked up some Arm & Hammer unscented powdered detergent and plan to use that for washing undergarments from now on...better safe than sorry!

Has anyone else living in a warmer climate experienced these problems?

-Tiffany (didn't sign in - sorry!)

I live in the south and I had to quit using it because all my whites got really dingy. My clothes didn't smell but I started to notice that the whites just didn't look good.

My husband works on a lobster boat and also spends a lot of time with his greasy car. I've found that soaking the clothes in washing soda before washing with my homemade laundry soap does an amazing job. Before I did this, I found myself washing his clothes multiple times and still smelling that nasty fish smell..but not anymore, I just soak for 30 min- 1 hour and wash normally. You can also add hydrogen peroxide to the soak and it will help boost it even more.. I also wash all my clothes by hand in the bath tub...I'm not sure if that makes a difference.

Also, I don't use bleach at all, for anything. Soaking whites in washing soda and hydrogen peroxide will do a better job getting those whites really bright.

Great tip about soaking whites in washing soda before regular wash cycle.,,can't imagine this wouldn't take care of odors. I live in the south and haven't noticed "dingy" whites yet but will just incorporate this tip into my laundry routine. I love the idea of making my own laundry products and have been doing it for several months now.

Kirk's Castile soap is an amazing alternative to other laundry bars. It's all natural, made with coconut, and acts as a fabric softener. I can get 3 bars for $1 when it's on sale at my local grocery.

ZOTE.. instead of IVORy or Fels Naptha..

i just recently started using the homemade soap..i use the dry mix, and i use 1 entire ZOTE bar either pink or white the chunky one...because they also sell a skinny one... oddly both are the same price at my walmart..LOL and 2 cups each of the Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and borax powder... 9since the bar is chunkier...i doubled it..).. and that has been leaving my whites actually whiter...i dont use fabric softner ...i do use the dryer sheets becaus well i have a ton of them ..i buy them from costco and before i would buy 2 of the double i have a clothes r soft and not full of static...

does anyone find that the blacks dont bleed as much with the home made soap.. my daughters uniforms still look like i just bought them and they are still navy blue..not a bleeded out blue...anywho i think thats awesome since i like to donate the uniforms to the school when she has outgrown them...

I've been using a homemade recipe for a couple years now. We're saving money and I'm happy with the end product.
The only difference in our recipes is that I use 3/4 of a cup of the washing soda and the Borax.

I use 1/2 cup on all of my clothes with the EXCEPTION of my husband's work clothes. He works at an oil change place and though his clothes are always greasy, they ALWAYS smell greasy.
So instead, I use 3/4 of a cup and they come out smelling great.

I've been extremely satisfied - so much so, that I tend to turn my nose up at store bought brands. Who needs 'em!

Take care,

Can you use fragrance oil instead of essential oils?

Am I correct in saying that this recipe will make about 2 gallons which will equal 32 wash loads (1/2 cup each load)

I just made laundry soap with my daughter. We used 1/2 cup of borax, 1/2 cup of washing soda, and a 1/3 of 1/3 of a fel napha soap that we grated. My question is, how much liquid soap do I add to an average load of clothes?
Thank you, Suzette

Try using lavender buds in a reuseable tea bag in the drier. It will last for several loads and will make your clothes softer and smelling good!

Does anyone know how many loads of wash I can get out of the homemade laundry detergent that is made using 1 box borax, 1 box superwashing soda and 1 bar fels haptha? Should I use more than 1 bar of fels naptha when making the recipe that calls for a whole box of both borax and super washing soda? Who can tell me how many loads this recipe will make?

Do you think it would be as effective to substitute some liquid Dr. Bronner's soap to the mix instead of grating and heating the bar soap?

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