You never knew it was this easy to make laundry soap

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This post originally appeared on Hipster Housewife.

So one day after we moved this fall, my husband sent me an email. It contained a link to a Lifehacker video about how easy it is to make laundry soap and its subject was “LET”S DO THIS!!!!!”. I watched it and was immediately convinced that we had to try making our own laundry detergent. I am here to tell you that it was a huge success and you should try it, too.

But Cat! Why would anyone want to make laundry soap? We can buy it at any store.

Friends, the benefits to making your own laundry soap are many:

  1. It’s super cheap.
  2. It’s phosphate free.
  3. You can control the scent of your detergent.
  4. You can feel awesome and self-reliant when you make it.


You only need three things for this product: Fels-Naptha Soap, Washing Powder and Borax. 

I did have a bit of trouble finding these, even though they’re super basic cleaning materials. With more patience I’m sure I’ll have zero problem getting a local hardware store to order the washing soda and Naptha in.

I ordered the Fels-Naptha soap on Amazon, and ended up ordering the washing soda as well. Borax was easier to find. The soap and washing powder were quite a bit more expensive online than they should have been. Still, I spent a total of $16 on enough supplies to make soap for less than five cents an ounce. That’s about half of the best price on Amazon.


THIS WAS SO EASY. Do you see those capital letters? 

I used a slightly different recipe — same ingredients, different proportions. This recipe makes about 2.5 gallons of soap, not the 5 from the recipe in the video. 

First, grate up a third of the Naptha bar. Dissolve in 6 cups hot water on the stove. When dissolved, add 1/2 cup each of Borax and washing soda. 

Add the soap mixture to 26 cups of hot water in a five gallon bucket. Stir.  

Let the mixture gel for a day and you’ve got about 2.5 gallons of soap. 

I stored the fresh soap in three clean two liter bottles, and we use about a half cup per load.

Really, all my concerns were alleviated once I tried out the soap:

  • I was unhappy that I’d ordered a scented Fels-Naptha. You can definitely smell the soap, and I don’t like perfumey scents — but it’s so mild that you can’t smell it on the clean laundry. A friend recommended that I try adding a tea tree oil in the next batch — and I think I will! What’s better than my own custom laundry scent?
  • Some recipes suggested that homemade laundry soap isn’t good for stains. Now, we’re not a super stained household, but I haven’t noticed a problem.

The soap goes a looooong way, and we’re definitely saving money over other laundry detergents — especially unscented ones, which are usually marked up. But the savings and eco-happiness are dwarfed by the fact that every single time I do laundry I’m like, “DAMN, girl! You made this!”

Comments on You never knew it was this easy to make laundry soap

  1. For years I have lamented the fact that Dove Beauty Bar does not come in a liquid form. I’ve even written the company about it. Surprisingly, they wrote back and said that liquid Dove is the number one requested item. That was four years ago and still it’s not on the market. Fed up with gloopy mess from the bar yet unwilling to give up the Dove, I decided to make my own liquid Dove. It was shockingly easy to do! Just chop up the bar into bits and heat it in a saucepan on the stove with water. One bar renders about 24 ounces of liquid soap and it took no effort or time at all, really.

  2. I’ve been using a similar recipe for a while now and so far, it’s great. The only difference in mine is, instead of using the fels naptha bar, I’ve been using a bar of body soap (dove, dial, ect). It smells awesome and kinda neat to switch between scents. <3

  3. I tried this recipe many years ago to make laundry detergent and I was utterly disappointed but reading the suggestions here makes me want to try again.

    My biggest complaint was that clothes that were extra-sweaty ( like workout clothes ) still smelled like BO.

    I’ll have to experiment with different soap.

    • That could be. I’m a magically unsweaty person most of the time. BUT I do have a big furry bear of a husband and I haven’t noticed any ick smells since switching in December.

    • I had two questions for people: one, if adding your own scents, about how much should you add? I was thinking of adding rosewater, but I don’t wanna put in too much and make the smell obnoxious.

      Also, has anyone besides KathyRo had any complaints? I told my mom about this recipe, and the first thing she said was, “What did people complain about? You can always tell how well a product will work for you by what the complaints are.”

  4. You had to order washing soda? That’s weird. My Dad was a grocer, and we always had it in stock.

    I soak my resusable pads in washing soda and warm water, and it really gets the blood stains out.

    The most unusual use I’ve put it to though, was mummifying a chicken for a Mad Scientist contest at a Steampunk convention.

  5. What type of pot would you use for this? I wouldn’t re-use it with food, but I’m not sure if a stainless steel pot would be OK, or would cast-iron be necessary? Thoughts?

    • I use the same stainless steel pot I cook in to make my soap. After all, its just soap, not some weird chemical. It won’t have a negative effect on your food, plus your pot will be clean!

      • So much this! I usually use it dry, but when I cooked the liquid version in my biggest pot the “stains” that simply would not scrub off peeled right off!

  6. The hubs and I have been making our own laundry soap with castille soap rather than Fels-naptha, for the past couple of years now. We’ve found just the right way to shred the soap so that it doesn’t clump on clothes in the wash, and we love it!

  7. If I didn’t want to use tea tree oil, but wanted to customize my scent, what other options do I have? I love the smell of
    peach, could I use essential oils?

  8. Another great alternative are soap nuts. The ancient Egyptians started using them to launder clothes when they noticed they suds up in water. They work really well. It’s also sold in liquid form and only a teaspoon or so is needed fora full load.

  9. I’ve been using this recipe for years, and would advise not to be put off by the description of Fels Naptha as “perfumey.” It does have a mild lemony scent which is barely detectable once mixed with the other ingredients. Guess it depends on your tolerance, it’s certainly not perfumey in comparison to premade detergents.

    I’ve been dying to make sandalwood detergent using sandalwood bar soap as recommended in another forum, but haven’t gotten around to ordering the soap online yet. Fels Naptha is still my favorite of the supermarket soaps.

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