Homemade laundry soap is an affordable and safe alternative to leading store-bought detergents. In 15 minutes, you can be well on your way to saving money and living better with this homemade laundry soap.
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A Mother's Last Resort Turns Into Homemade Laundry Soap
When my youngest daughter was in her infant/toddler stage, she suffered from extremely sensitive skin. Her pediatrician and various specialists could not determine a cause and, since she didn’t seem particularly bothered by the eczema-like blotches on her delicate skin, they advised me to simply wait and see if she would eventually grow out of it.
Easier said than done.
When I looked at the raw, red, rough patches on my sweet baby’s skin, my eyes would well up with tears, and thoughts of scarring my daughter for life (literally and figuratively) due to my neglectful parenting would crowd my brain. It legit looked like some sadistic, medieval quack had placed leeches all over her body and allowed them to suck her precious, virginal blood for some ancient dark arts ritual.
Alright, I do need to come clean here. My daughter suffered little to no discomfort from her skin irritation/inflammation. She remained relatively unfazed.
Since time is the greatest giver of perspective, I can readily admit now that I may have been a little bat-shit crazy at the time. This same daughter was the cause of years worth of sleepless nights for a whole host of reasons – 9 months of colic, projectile vomiting on me EVERY SINGLE TIME I nursed her, night terrors that went on for years, a mysterious illness that warranted a spinal tap at 18 months old and the list continues from there.
Nevertheless, in my sleep-deprived, semi-psycho state of mind, I happened upon an article about making laundry soap. Homemade laundry soap? This is something that did not even enter my mind as a possibility prior to this particular sleepless night. The article touted the benefits for the skin, environment and clothes. And when I got to the part about the cost savings, I knew that this was a no-brainer for me.
And so, I started one of my very first DIY projects that led me to ask myself one very life-altering question time and time again. What else can I make myself?
Is Homemade Laundry Soap Safe to Use?
Yes, it is safe for your family and the environment. Homemade laundry soap is free of artificial dyes, sulfates and other harmful ingredients that are often found in store-bought detergents.
This homemade soap is also safe for septic systems, and it is safe to use in HE and non-HE washing machines alike. If you do have an HE machine, you may even be able to use less detergent than you would if you had a non-HE machine. Regardless of your type of washer and detergent, soap and residue build-up can occur over time, so regular machine cleaning and maintenance is a good practice.
Looking For Even More Money Saving Projects?
Liquid Soap vs. Powdered Soap
I initially started with a couple of recipes for homemade liquid soap because that was what I was accustomed to. However, I quickly switched to the powdered version, primarily because I found the process of throwing together the powdered soap easier for me. I also think it stores better. But that is my personal preference. As effectiveness goes, I did not have any real issues with the homemade liquid soap.
One benefit that is frequently repeated in different comparison articles and forums is that you can wash your clothes in cold water with liquid soap whereas you must use warm or hot water for powdered soap. I’m going to be honest with you – I wash most of our clothes in cold water using powdered soap, and I have not experienced a single issue.
Results may vary depending on the washer, the load size, etc., but I am happy to report that I successfully use powdered soap for all cycles and all manner of items that I wash in our house.
The Controversy Surrounding Borax
Borax is a compound made from boron, a naturally occurring element. It has long been a staple for homemade laundry soap due to its natural stain-fighting properties. However, the use of Borax is a highly debated issue.
In the course of my research, I have not discovered anything that gives me pause or causes me to rethink using it for homemade laundry soap or some of the other things I use Borax to make (homemade slime and homemade geodes, to name a few). I also have not experienced any adverse effects from the homemade soap made with Borax, and I have exclusively used this particular homemade soap for nearly 8 years.
With that said, I do take precautions when using Borax much as I would with other household cleaning products, and I only use it as directed. It should be kept out of reach of children and should never be ingested.
As with anything that may cause you concern, I encourage you to do your own, independent research prior to use. I have made this same laundry soap without Borax due to a supply shortage at one point at the height of the COVID epidemic, and it seemed to work just fine. If you are at all hesitant about using Borax, feel free to try this recipe without it. Just know that the results may vary.
Homemade Laundry Soap is Super Affordable
The ingredients for this laundry soap recipe cost me a whopping $21.00. Now that doesn’t seem stellar on the surface, but this one batch of laundry detergent will clean roughly 270 loads of laundry in my home. Compare that to the popular store-bought brand of powdered laundry detergent which boasts that it will clean 102 loads for $18.96.
The homemade laundry soap comes to a whopping $0.08 per load while the store-bought brand comes to $0.18 per load. Now, as all frugal mothers and housewives know, those seemingly insignificant savings accumulate into something quite significant over time. Especially considering the amount of laundry that we all do!
Aside from the ingredients listed, you will need the following supplies for your homemade laundry soap:
- A 5-gallon bucket with a lid for mixing and storage
- A food processor – I use a 15-year-old food processor that is dedicated solely for the purpose of making laundry soap. Once it finally goes kaput, I have my eye on this bad boy. No more hand grating!
- Grater – If your food processor doesn’t have a grater blade
Tips and Tricks
- As an option, you can add some fragrance boosters to your laundry soap such as Downy Unstoppables. This laundry soap isn’t scented, so if the fragrance is something you will miss, feel free to add your favorite brand of scent booster beads. You just mix it right in with everything else.
- Once the soap mixture has sat in the bucket for some time, it does tend to clump up. This is perfectly normal. I just break everything back up and give it another good mix. I don’t generally have an issue with it clumping again after the first re-mix. As an added precaution against humidity making the mixture clumpy, I add silica packets that I have saved from previous shoe purchases and such to the mixture.
- The Zote soap can be substituted for another laundry soap such as Fels Naptha. I have read that some regular bar soaps such as Ivory may be used for this application as well, but I have not tested that theory.
Begin by grating your bars of laundry soap into a large bowl.
Working in small batches, add some baking soda to your food processor along with some of the grated soap. This reduces the potential of the soap getting gummy in the food processor. Pulse until you have achieved a sandy consistency.
I then add everything to my 5-gallon bucket. I do this in stages. I add a little Borax, followed by a layer of my soap/baking soda mixture, then some Oxiclean, followed by washing soda. The process just repeats from there until all the ingredients make their way into the bucket.
Once everything is added, start mixing everything together. You can certainly jump in there and do this with your hands or you can throw the lid on your bucket and push it around on the floor until everything gets all nice and mixed together. I usually do a little mixing with my hands and then let the girls push the bucket around. The girls think this is pretty fun to do, and I’m not above tricking them into helping with household tasks. If you do any mixing with your hands, I recommend that you immediately wash your hands to avoid any prolonged exposure that could be irritating to the skin.
I transfer some of my homemade soap to a glass container and keep the rest in the 5-gallon bucket. I then refill the prettier container as needed. This fella has served me well and survived multiple moves.
To use, add 2 tablespoons of your laundry detergent according to your washing machine’s recommendation. I have a top-loading machine with an agitator, so I add my detergent in as my machine begins filling with water. When I had an HE front-load machine, I added my detergent to the designated detergent area without any issue.
Homemade Laundry Soap
- 5 Gallon bucket with lid for mixing and storage
- Food processor
- Grater Optional - If your food processor doesn't have a grater blade
- Scoop to measure out your laundry detergent
- Glass container Optional - For keeping a smaller amount of detergent accessible.
- 1 55 oz. box Super Washing Soda
- 1 4 lb. box Baking soda
- 1 76 oz. box Borax
- 1 3 lb. container Oxi Clean
- 3 bars Zote Soap
- 1 container Downy Unstopables or similar fragrance booster Optional
- Grate bars of soap using either your food processor grater blade or a hand held grater.
- Working in small batches, add some baking soda to food processor along with some of the grated soap bars. Pulse until a sandy consistency has been achieved. Continue doing this until all of the bar soap has been reduced to the sandy consistency
- Add everything to your 5-gallon bucket - washing soda, baking soda, Oxi Clean, Borax, bar soap. Add scented beads at this time as well if you are using.
- Give everything a thorough mix once added to the bucket.
- Attach lid firmly to your bucket and store until ready to use.
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