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By June 4, 2012 Read More →

DIY Laundry Soap – Save Money Right Now!

All photos by Stephanie Dayle © 2014

By Stephanie Dayle. There are different versions of this recipe all over the internet.  If you don’t like mine, just google “homemade laundry soap” and you will see many many others.  I have tried a few other recipes.  They were either too strong (using too much ingredient for it to be cost effective at all) or too weak for my taste, and some of them used unnecessary ingredients that wastes money.

This is what works the best for me.  Here is what you need, try to get all these ingredients as cheaply as possible, price shop and keep a note who carries them at the lowest prices when you see one of the ingredients on sale – buy a lot of it:

Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe

  • A bucket to mix all your ingredients in I use a 5 gallon bucket as I double batch it, but for a single batch a 2 gallon bucket will work fine.
  • 1/3 bar of Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap (you can also Ivory)
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (NOT to be confused with Baking Soda – Super Washing Soda is DIFFERENT)
  • A cheese grater (Want to make this process faster? Use the grater on your food processor, clean up is easy cause IT’S SOAP so it just washes away).
  • A little stock pot for your stove.  Don’t worry about clean up, again it’s soap – so it will just wash away leaving you with a clean pot.

All photos by Stephanie Dayle © 2014

Using your grater, grate your bar of soap.  Put the rest of the bar in a ziplock for next time.

Put your grated soap in your pot plus 6 cups of water on low heat to melt the soap – stir frequently – do not boil.

Once the soap is melted, add your Borax, and Super Washing Soda.  Stir until dissolved, keep stirring until mixture thickens.  If you are the impatient type like me, you can bust out your stick blender (click here to find one) and hit the mixture with that for a few seconds and you will be all set to go.

All photos by Stephanie Dayle © 2013

Pour 4-5 cups of hot tap water in your bucket, add your warm soap mixture from your pot to it.  At this point, you could add your essential oil to it – add nothing and your clothes will simply smell clean.  Stir well for a few moments.

Then add a gallon PLUS 6 more cups of hot water to the mixture.  Give it another few minutes of stirring and let it sit overnight.  The mixture will gel up by morning.  Stir it again to break up the gel and break down the clumps.  If small clumps bother you – break out your stick blender again and give it a few more quick buzzes.  The small clumps don’t bother me so I seldom do this, but they bug some folks as it reminds them of snot.


Stick or Hand Blender
All photos by Stephanie Dayle ©2013

All photos by Stephanie Dayle © 2014

For this mixture, I use 1/2 cup per full load of laundry.  We hardly ever run less than a full load, but if I did I would just decrease the half cup accordingly. 1/4 = half a washer load, and so forth.

I keep the measuring scoop by the bucket and if I want to brighten my whites I turn to good old fashioned bleach or fancy Oxyclean to boost the power of my homemade detergent.  Works just fine in cold water.  PLEASE NOTE: this recipe does not bubble up hardly at all – but you do not need bubbles for soap to work.  Soap makers have known for centuries that bubbles are usually just for show, they do not indicate cleaning action, your clothes will still come out perfectly clean.


All photos by Stephanie Dayle © 2014

Questions and Answers

This is all over the internet and does it really save you money?  Yes.  It Does.  Costs will vary but mine comes in at just about 3 cents per load of laundry.  Try to get all of the ingredients on sale.  This would make Costco’s cheapest Kirkland brand detergent 2-3 times more expensive per load.

Does it work in the new high capacity washers?  Yes it does, my friend uses this in hers with no problems for over a year. Clean clothes – no problems with washer.

Will it work for hand washing clothes?  I have had no problems using it for hand washing either, in fact, its easier on my hands.

This seems like more trouble than its worth, how long does it take?  I make a double batch, this process takes 20 minutes for me, start to finish and that includes grating the bar of soap and measuring the water.  The end product lasts me nearly a year, so I figure spending 20 minutes of my time once a year is not that bad and not worth stressing over.

Can I add essential oil for fragrance?  You have to add a very small amount so the oil does not interfere with the cleaning action of your homemade detergent (like 10 drops at the most). The fragrance of any essential oil you add will most likely wear off your clothes before you even wear them, remember you’re adding ‘oil’ (something that soap breaks up) to laundry detergent (soap).  Personally, I don’t add it – its a waste of money and the detergent you end up with does have a nice soapy lemony smell to it (from the Fels).  My advice is to just be happy with your clothes smelling clean.  The fact your clothes don’t “smell” can be a good thing especially if you are a hunter.

How do I make fragrance free homemade laundry soap? You can eliminate all fragrance from this recipe for the washing of hunting clothes or if you are sensitive to commercial fragrances by substituting the same amount if not a tad more Soap Flakes (which are fragrance free) instead of Fels Naptha, Zote, or Ivory.

Should I prep (stock up on) the ingredients for emergencies?  In my never humble opinion, no.  If there is an emergency you aren’t going to want to put everything on hold to make laundry soap.  For emergency preparedness I would either store bought laundry soap or just make do with bars of Fels-Naptha, Ivory or Zote (which will get the job done by themselves if need be), but of course it’s up to you.

Is homemade laundry soap really better for you? Yes. It lacks many of the chemicals, dyes, and artificial fragrances that other commercial detergents use (but there are still some present).  The ingredients are simple, straight forward and they all have multiple uses.

Here is the nerdy stuff:

  • Borax: Also known as sodium borate or sodium tetraborate, occurs naturally and is mined in the Mojave Desert (Boron, California), other US states, in Chile and Tibet.  It can also be created synthetically from other boron compounds.  Not all but most commercial laundry Borax is now only synthetic, which is probably better for the places being mined, and the end product is still non-toxic.  It will whiten your whites, soften hard water, remove soap residue from your clothing, aid in disinfecting clothing and it increases the stain removal ability of your detergent.  It can also be used as an insect repellant in the yard and garden, household cleanser, and to make other materials flame retardant.
  • Washing Soda:  Also known as sodium carbonate – is the end product of baking soda if you let it sit around and do not store it properly for long enough.  It’s function in laundry is as a water softener.  It competes with the magnesium and calcium ions 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.  It effectively removes oil, grease, and alcohol stains and can be used as a descaling agent to clean coffee pots.
  • Fels-Naptha: Is a brand of bar laundry soap commonly used for pre-treating stains on clothing and as a home remedy for exposure to poison ivy and other skin irritants.  It is made by the Dial Corporation.  If you can’t find Fels-Naptha, Ivory Soap, will work in its place only you would want to use 2/3 of a bar instead of a third. Soap Flakes and Zote also works as well as most homemade soap if it has NOT been super fatted too much.

Making your own laundry soap doesn’t go along with our “instant” “just in time” “commercialized” mainstream society so don’t be surprised if you get weird looks or thoughtless comments from your friends and family.  Just tell them how much money you’re saving, how easy it is, and how much better it is for you.  If all you have is good stuff to say about it and set a good example – trust me, a few of them will come around.

Be proud of your efforts! Don’t hide them – post a picture of your finished product of laundry soap on Facebook, and see who messages you for the recipe!

Please Note:  There are many laundry soap recipes out there on the internet, almost all of them use the same basic ingredients (because those ingredients are time proven) any similarities are merely coincidental. 


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Click here to visit my personal site – the Home Front!

About the Author:

Stephanie is a writer for the American Preppers Network, a small local paper and for her blog, The Home Front and was featured in Marie Claire UK in the October 2012 issue that featured women preppers. She is also the credited writer of "Emergency Bag Essentials (Swatchbook): Everything You Need to Bug Out" released in August 2014 and available on "I write articles based on my own experience with emergency preparedness, self-sufficiency, homesteading, food preservation and life around the farmstead. I grew up in a very rural area where I learned to garden, the art of canning, to hunt and fish, and to raise my own animals for food. I also spent 6 years volunteering for the local county Search and Rescue group where I learned a variety of survival skills and a little bit about law enforcement protocol. " "As a general rule of principle I do not write articles about information that I have only read - if I am writing about something it's because I have done it myself and gone to great lengths to provide you with the facts meshed with personal experience. My alter egos are as an full time mom, amateur photographer, and backpacker." Stephanie's past APN articles are featured below on several pages. To connect with her --> click on one of the many little square social media buttons below!

13 Comments on "DIY Laundry Soap – Save Money Right Now!"

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  1. Please note: If you sub your bar soap out for Ivory, you will need to use a full bar. Ivory bars are smaller than Fels-Naptha and not as concentrated. 

    Here is an ADDITIONAL TIP: Add some vinegar to you fabric softener dispenser or Downy Ball to soften your clothes. Your clothing will last LONGER if you quit using fabric softener & vinegar is cheaper. No your clothes will *not* like vinegar. 

  2. lethargic says:

    So when finished, is this a gel consistency? How thick … like jello or like jam or like … ? And the recipe yields 2 gallons?

    • It’s like jello – not the finger jello, but the spoon type of jello. And yes this recipe almost fills my two gallon bucket. Don’t let the clumps bother you. 

  3. I used a recipe almost exactly like this and was mostly disappointed. The main difference was that the recipe I followed was significantly more watered down than your recipe. I’ll have to give this a shot again. Thanks.

  4. I tried one that was really watered down and was not happy with it either Millenniumfly, but remember this won’t produce suds, but, it should still get your clothes clean – been using it myself for a few years now and I have never thought it was too weak…LOL we have livestock, dogs, chickens and chores – there very dirty clothes too.

    Makes enough on one batch to nearly fill up a 2 gallon bucket. I have seen this same thing stretched out to fill a 5 gallon bucket – but it was too weak that way for me.

  5. winfrey271 says:

    A very interesting article! (I was a little surprised to see the permissible substitution of Ivory for Fels, though.)

    > [Borax] can also be used as an insect repellant in the yard and garden […]

    One issue of possible interest to those who have greywater systems…. Boron is a plant micronutrient within a certain range of soil concentration. It readily leaches out of soil. So as a soil supplement it can be desirable in areas that have high rainfall (where boron tends to leach out), but can become toxic to plants in areas that have low rainfall (where boron tends to concentrate).

  6. Winfrey271-

    Boron Toxicity is not common and usually only occurs in areas where you have a desert climate and where the native soil is already high in boron and is subject to a commercial agricultural irrigation source high in Boron. When all of these factors are combined in commercial agriculture yes, you can come up Boron Toxicity in soil, but only certain plants are sensitive to high levels of boron while others are more tolerant. Most of the studies that have been on on Boron Soil Toxicity have been in relation to irrigating commercial crops – the chances of your grey water from your homemade laundry soap causing your soil to build up a toxicity AND and actually effecting some plants in you garden or other crop are VERY small. Small enough that it is not even on my radar. You can’t always take something large scale like commercial agriculture and shrink it down to small scale and say “well if it happens to them, it could happen to us.” It doesn’t always work like that. 

    Here is an excerpt about Boron Toxicity and how to spot it if you are still concerned.
    “Boron Toxicity”Boron does not often occur in toxic quantities in most arable soils. Toxicities are normally associated with inland desert areas where native soil high in boron and low rainfall co-exist. Soils derived from marine sediment deposits can also be high in naturally occurring boron….Some fertilizers, like muriate of potash (potassium chloride) can contribute substantial amounts of boron to soils where they are used. Some animal manures can also add appreciable boron to soils where applied. When toxic levels are reached, excessive boron can cause off color and stunting of plant growth. As boron concentrations in plant tissue increase to toxic levels, older foliage may exhibit leaf edge burning or necrosis. Some plants will also develop black spots on older foliage.” (

    If Boron Toxicity does occur in addition to rainfall, soil amendments can be used to detoxify boron laden soil as shown in the excerpt below:
    “Besides leaching with water, amendments have been used to detoxify B laden soils. As B adsorption by soils is pH dependent (Keren and Bingham, 1985), liming some soils to increase the pH and thus promote adsorption of B from soil solution may provide a short term solution (Bartlett and Picarelli, 1973). In sodic soils, the B hazard can be ameliorated by the addition of gypsum, which improves water infiltration and converts readily soluble Na-metaborate to less soluble Ca-metaborate (Bhumbla and Ckhabra, 1982). Heavy applications of Ca(H2PO4)2 also lower plant available B, especially in acid soils. Prather (1977) reported that sulphuric acid may effectively aid in reclaiming B laden soils. Although decreasing soil pH by the addition of sulphuric acid increases the concentration of water soluble B in the soils, readsorption of B occurs with time.” (

    On how Boron toxicity usually happens:
    “Of all the potential sources, irrigation water is the most important contributor to high levels of soil B (Chauhan and Power, 1978; Table 1). Boron is often found in high concentrations in association with saline soils and saline well water (Dhankhar and Dahiya, 1980). In assessing the potential toxicity of B laden irrigation water, the physical and chemical characteristics of the soil must be considered (Goldberg, 1993). Sorption capacity of a given soil is crucial in determining the amount of B in solution. A soil that has high adsorption capacity would be expected to maintain lower soil solution B over a longer period of time than a soil with low adsorption capacity when both soils are irrigated with the same B laden water.” (

    I am sure someone somewhere googled Borax – saw the studies about Boron soil toxicity, didn’t read them completely, and came to the conclusion that the leftover Boron in your grey water from homemade laundry soap would do the trick. When in reality you’d have to have a high Boron content in your soil already AND live in a desert climate AND dump your water on Boron sensitive plants AND do this for a long time – for it to happen. When the reality is that Boron is a helpful soil additive and even essential for some plants. But you know what they say – too much of a good thing, is never a good thing – all things in moderation. Common Sense will protect most people if they listen to it. 

    And to address your other comment, here is some info on WHY Ivory soap is an acceptable substitution in homemade laundry detergent:
    “…..some consumer investigations had found that Ivory’s antimicrobial activity was better than that of other skin soaps, even those containing antibacterials such as triclosan. A postulate for this effectiveness is the ability of the soap to lyse bacteria efficiently, and to rinse cleanly.Of all the commercial soaps, Ivory has been considered the best by holistic health people, but was criticized for what it did not contain, glycerin. One reason is that glycerin was expensive and would raise the cost of the bars, which had the value of being about the least expensive soap available for people of modest means” ( 

    By removing the glycerin you take this soap one big step closer to laundry detergent and away from bath soap which is why it was originally marketed as a laundry bar, and one of the many reasons why it works well as such. Note on soap bars for this recipe for anyone still reading: use whatever ingredients you are comfortable with. Many people cannot afford natural soaps, while others make their own. Brands of commonly used bar soaps (for homemade laundry detergent) include Ivory®, Fels-Naptha® and/or ZOTE®.  Both ZOTE and Fels-Naptha are made for and sold as “laundry bar soap” as Ivory once was. 

  7. Thank you for sharing this. Just a week before your article came out, I had started using this recipe because I had allergy testing done and am alergic to everything! I am sleeping better already.

    • Me too Sandra. It’s so sad. I make cold pressed soap – and I can’t use ANY of it! Got some special ‘sensitive skin’ stuff from Burt’s that I use – that’s is about all that I can use anymore. I started this cause I was broke, but soon realized it helped my skin allergies too!

  8. Grandi says:

    I have to say I LOVE the detergent but to save LOTS of time and effort, I put my bar of Fels Naptha in an ice cream bucket with a few inches of water to soak between the time of making a batch to the next. This makes it gushy and soft. Then it will melt easily on the stove without the grating or the clean up. The grating to me is the hardest, time consuming part. I also heat the powders in the mixture on the stove. This makes it totally dissolved all in one day. I store in those ice cream buckets to make it easily excessable. I figured when I started that it costs me $1.56 for TEN GALLON!

    • Grandi says:

      My husband is VERY sensitive to detergents and is also working outside and drives a lot of miles so sweat usually sets him off. He has had NO PROBLEM at all with this for 2 years.