Adventures in DIY Cleaners Part 1: Laundry Soap

So even though I now live far away and didn’t get to go to the green clean party, I was still inspired by my friends making their own cleaning products that are more environmentally friendly and nicer on the budget.

Everyone that knows her, knows that Tiffany is the master of this stuff. Every time she posts a new recipe for cleaning products on her blog I really want to try it, but I’ve been too chicken and it seems like it is so much more convenient to buy the overpriced “green” stuff at the store. Another one of my friends, Grace, really inspired me too with her step by step photos on Facebook one evening during her laundry soap making process.

I have had it with laundry soap. Every time I find one that doesn’t have any stuff in it, they go and change the formula. And some soaps don’t even have ingredient lists which I find disturbing. I have changed laundry soaps 4 or 5 times in the last 6 months alone. I thought I had finally found a good one, Arm & Hammer’s free dermatologist tested blah blah blah stuff, but ever since we have been using that Bean has been getting diaper rash.

So I was determined to make my own this week and not buy more laundry soap.

But let me tell you, finding the ingredients in this city was quite the adventure in and of itself. Yesterday I went to Target, Home Depot, Smart & Final, Trader Joe’s, Albertsons, Vons, and Ralphs in search of my ingredients. I did manage to procure a box of 20 Mule Team Borax, but was still needing two other ingredients.

My search took me to Oxnard today where I graced both Food4Less and WalMart with my presence. I wandered around like a lost little lamb in the biggest WalMart I’ve ever seen and still could not find what I needed. Desperate, I called both my friends for their advice. They let me know that for future reference I could get one of the ingredients at a pool supply store and I could use an alternative that I saw at Trader Joe’s the day before for the third ingredient.

Determined to not leave Oxnard empty handed I walked out of WalMart with an 89 cent bar of Pink Zote laundry soap and a container of Sodium Carbonate. I skipped lunch and hurried home eager to put my ingredients to use.

I cut up my bar of Pink Zote and then placed it in my food processor to grate.

At this point I noticed that the Pink Zote was quite fragrant, but figured that the smell would get dilluted when I added it to the water.

I was wrong. The smell got stronger and stronger until my house started smelling like the perfume counter in Macy’s. Ugh! I was getting a headache. Then, while I was waiting for the stuff to dissolve I started looking over the wrapper and I saw a big red flag in the ingredients list: optical brightner.


This was the whole reason I was making my own laundry soap. I didn’t want perfume-y laundry, brighters or any other additives. I was pissed.

I dumped the whole pot down the drain. I packed up Bean and headed to Trader Joe’s.

I quickly grabbed a bar of Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap. They only had peppermint, but it was from actual peppermint oil and was way better smelling than that Pink Zote stuff for sure.

So I was back to the beginning.

I grated the bar of soap in my food processor and added it to the fresh water on my stove.

The first thing I noticed was that this stuff dissolved way quicker. It also didn’t give me a headache from all the perfume.

Once it was dissolved I started adding in the other ingredients. This is where it got particularly interesting. In Grace’s photos she did this part on her stove top. So I assumed that was because she was heating the water and the ingredients. First I added the Borax. No problems went right in and dissolved just fine.

Then I added the Sodium Carbonate. The pot quickly foamed up so much that it spilled over the top. I shut off the flame immediately. Stirred everything and then added the rest of the chemical with no problems. It was kind of scary though when it bubbled up so much.

Then I followed the rest of the recipe, adding water at various temperatures until I had this:

Several gallons of liquid laundry soap that smells lightly of peppermint.

Oh, and a wreck of a kitchen to clean up.

Well, at least it isn’t like I have to make this stuff every week or something. I’m thinking all that laundry soap should last me quite awhile. Grace said her formula lasts her 4 months and she has twin boys. I think this stuff should last me even longer because I don’t have twin boy toddlers making messes all the time and I have a front load washing machine now which uses way less detergent.

I didn’t keep any of my reciepts, but the ingredients were all really cheap. I do know that the bar of soap was $3 and that’s the only ingredient I’ll have to buy again for making another batch. I still have tons of Borax and Sodium Carbonate leftover.

Anyway, here’s Grace’s/My recipe for laundry soap in case you want to be adventurous too.

Liquid Laundry Detergent
• 1 bar Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap, grated
• 1 1/2 cup Borax
• 1 1/2 cup Sodium Carbonate
• water

Place grated soap in 8 cups boiling water until it melts/dissolves. Turn off heat. Stir in Borax and Sodium Carbonate.

Add 8 cups hot water to a 5 gallon bucket. Stir in soap mixture.

Add in 2 gallons and 12 cups cold water and stir. Let sit 24 hours.

For a regular washing machine she says she uses about 1/4 cup per load. I’m probably going to use 1-2 tbsp for my front loader.


Filed under Homemade, Natural Living

8 responses to “Adventures in DIY Cleaners Part 1: Laundry Soap

  1. You’ll have to let me know how this works with heavyily soiled clothes and in your front load washer. I have seen soap made many times (like on the show about the Duggars) and I am nervous to make it because of our front load washer. Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  2. Emily

    I make my laundry soap as a powdered version so that it’s easier for me to store. There’s a phone number you can call to find out who carries the Washing Soda locally, if you google Where to find washing soda. I haven’t found Fels Naptha locally but I’m using another laundry bar that I like a lot. Major money saver!

  3. lwuertz

    Emily – They have Fels Naptha and Washing Soda at WinCo in Bakersfield. Just in case you wanted to use that. 🙂 What is your powered soap recipe? I might want to try that too…

  4. My family has really sensitive skin, have you heard that this is better/ok for that? Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!

  5. lwuertz

    Katie, I think it should be good for sensitive skin types. That is part of the reason why I’ve been having so much trouble with detergents lately. Not only because the additives are bad for my diapers, but also because my husband and I have sensitive skin. The Arm & Hammer stuff not only gave Bean diaper rash, but I’ve been feeling super itchy all the time since we started using it.

  6. lwuertz

    Olive – I just did my first batch of laundry and it was diapers. I’d consider those to be pretty heavily soiled items (especially the poopy ones). They came out nice and white as usual. I have a laundry scoop that has the measurements on the side in ounces. I used 1 ounce of the liquid detergent I made yesterday. It was super sudsy and like I said the diapers came out looking great.

  7. lwuertz

    That was supposed to say “it wasn’t super sudsy” because if it was that would have been bad for the washing machine. Sorry about the typo!

  8. anna franey

    powder is the way to go! SO much less messy.

    this website tells you where to find Fels Naptha – thats how i found out they sold it at Vons.

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