Homemade Laundry Soap

Yep. Homemade Laundry Soap. I'm pretty sure that vaults me right up to the top of the freak-zone (and here I thought not eating cheese would be the topper). Actually, I think the lack of cheese in my diet was trumped by my decision to abstain from shampoo, based on the reactions I've had. Some have actually reached over and touched my hair after hearing my no 'poo story...to determine if my hair was, what? normal? (gimme a break).

It's time to wake up and smell the chemicals, people.

And don't even get me started on cheese...

So, laundry soap. OK, I did the most research on this because it seems to me this is a fairly important product in our households. Also, one of my goals was, as usual, simplicity. I wanted to be able to argue against walking into a store and buying an organic healthy irritation free laundry soap vs making one myself. Meaning, there's no beating walking in and buying. That's pretty simple stuff. So I was on the hunt for something EASY. Manageable. Doable. Realistic. And cheap.

What I discovered in this search was essentially the same basic recipe, with about 210,587 different versions. And at the end of the day you can't beat walking in and buying in terms of simplicity. You're still going to have to walk in somewhere and buy these basic ingredients, and you're still going to have to take the 10-30 minutes involved in mixing it up. However, you will save money, you will have to walk in and buy less, you get to tweak it how you want, make it smell how you want, and have less crazy chemicals absorbing into your skin (and into your kiddos). AND you get hippie-chick, freak-zone credit for making it yourself. So there. And for about 3 pennies a load...BEAT THAT!

So here's the basic recipe (from The Naturally Clean Home book - in addition to about 24,000 different blogs I found):

Basic Laundry Soap Powder
1 cup washing soda
1 cup baking soda (which can be scented with essential oils)
1 cup soap flakes or finely grated bar soap (1 bar made about 2 cups grated)

Blend all ingredients and store in a heavy container, such as a large plastic tub, or a pretty glass jar. Use about 2 tablespoons per average laundry load.

OK, so the tricky parts: soap flakes. I couldn't find soap flakes. Hobby Lobby might be the place to look. Or online. I didn't want to have to grate my own soaps, but after giving this some thought I decided I kinda like the idea. This way I can pick my own soaps, making sure they are pure and smell the way I want. Don't use oily soaps, BTW, such as Dove (which also contains tallow). From what I've read, oily moisturizing soaps don't work well for laundry. I use Dr. Bronner's castille bar soap. Sometimes I use Ivory when I'm in a pinch. I've even used homemade soap made from goat's milk. Anything that's pure will work fine. Personally, we don't buy soaps (or any products) with tallow in them (tallow is made from ground up animals: cows, dogs, cats, lambs, and sheep - super ick - so for this reason also stay away from the Fels Naptha soap - which contains pig fat). Otherwise, experiment and try a variety! That's what's exciting (yes, exciting!) you can pick something different each time. And yes, you can use your kitchen grater.

*Note: if you only wash in cold water (I do) then you want to use the fine side of the grater, or after mixing all the ingredients together you can throw it all in the food processor for a few seconds to get the soap flakes even smaller. The point being that in cold water the soap may not break down as it would in warm or hot water. I think it depends on the soap, as well. I haven't had this problem but have read it from others so thought I'd mention it.

I've read, too, that it's a good idea to make a huge ginormous batch that will last a while. Say, 6 months. It stores well. So spend an afternoon grating soap bars, or better yet, pay your kids to spend an afternoon grating bar soaps, then mix up a bit ol bucket o' laundry powder and cross that sucker off your grocery list!

Oh, and I found the washing soda with the other laundry powders at our local grocery store. And that's also where I found the Borax.

For a Natural Homemade Fabric Softener: 2 cups white vinegar + 10 drops of essential oil (again, choose your favorite smell...I used a lemon/orange combo). Add 1/4 -1/2 cup to the rinse cycle. Viola! - softness and smell-good-ness. In fact, repurpose an old large vinegar jar to mix this up in and just pour a bit in when you need it.

My only problem with the vinegar rinse so far has been remembering to catch the rinse cycle. But living in San Antonio, with our hard water, this vinegar rinse is necessary, really does work, and is much appreciated. Don't even get me started on dryer sheets. Ick.

Here's the Liquid Laundry Soap recipe that's in the book. I had a hard time finding one online that didn't involve boiling soap or water first. That just shuts me down quick. I haven't tried this one because the powder version seems the most cost-effective, but this one looks doable.

Basic Liquid Laundry Soap
1 oz liquid castille soap (Dr. Bronner's is my pick)
2 T glycerin
1 cup washing soda
1 cup baking soda
2 cups warm water
10 drops essential oil

Combine all ingredients in heavy container. Mix well. Use 2 T per load.

And for those of us here with hard water. This is the laundry soap powder I've been using for about two years now.

Hard Water Laundry Powder
1 cup soap flakes (grated soap)
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax

Combine. Mix. Etc, Etc.
(and use the vinegar rinse!)

Whew! See? Exciting!

More info here. And more tips and recipes here.

and dishwashing liquid recipes here

(you'll learn a lot by reading the reader's comments on all these pages).

Happy Soap Making!


  1. Grating the soap isn't too bad - I also didn't want to be bothered with it when we first started making our own laundry soap, but I've gotten used to it. I hadn't thought of storing it in a pretty jar like that, though - I'll have to look around & see what I have. Much prettier than the old plastic Oxy-Clean tub we keep it in now! xo

  2. Can you use vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser so you don't have to remember? Some washers, like ours, has one built in, or you can use those Downy ball things.

    I had been switching back and forth between soap nuts and the eco detergent at the store, but I would like to try this. Any recommendations for stain removers? I've never found anything that works as well as Oxyclean. For some reason I am really prone to spilling stuff on my clothes.

  3. Hi! I think the vinegar can go in the fabric softener dispenser. That's where I put mine (when I remember). As far as stains go, I haven't explored that too much. I'll look around and see what I can find. Thanks for your responses!