Economic Survival: DIY Laundry Soap

Last time I talked about the recession and household goods, I realize it may have sounded like I was complaining without offering any sort of solution. This issue finds me in a different situation. I’ve found something else to complain about, while at the same time, I’ll offer up a solution.

The topic of today’s discussion is laundry soap. We’ve seen bottles of soap turn from regular to condensed soap claiming “more powerful blend” so they can still sell it at a higher price without really improving the operation. We used to purchase the cheapest bottle of laundry soap at Walmart, usually Sun or Purex, but found the price increasing by sometimes 150% to 200%, with no reason. What used to cost $0.06 per load has increased to $0.11 per load. Our household income hadn’t increased by as much and our washing needs certainly hadn’t decreased, so we had to find a solution.

My wife happened upon a recipe to for DIY laundry soap at Broulim’s. It touted a price as low as $0.02 per load. But, it caused me to ask a few questions: 1) Can we make it? 2) Is it effective–does it get the clothes clean?, and 3) How does it smell?

First, here’s the recipe:

  • 5 Gallons boiling hot water
  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 1 Soap bar
  1. Grate the bar soap and add to a large saucepan with hot water. Stir over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.
  2. Fill a 5 gallon pail half full of hot water. Add the melted soap, Borax and Washing soda, stir well until all powder is dissolved. Top the pail up with more hot water.
  3. Use 1/2 cup per load, stirring soap before each use (will gel).

Our batch looks like this in the process:

Start by boiling 5 gallons of water
Start by boiling five gallons of water. We used this canning pot because it was the biggest we could find.

Next, grate the Fels-Naptha
Fels-Naptha soap
Fels-Naptha soap package, the soap is ready for grating

Grating Soap
Grating the soap, I use the smaller side of an old cheese grater found at the thrift store. DON'T reuse this for cheese...ever!

Grating the soap
The grating goes pretty quickly if you've a sturdy hand.

All grated
All grated. Make sure people don't mistake it for cheese... yuck!

Next, we add the grated soap to a saucepan to water and bring it to a boil:

one large saucepan full of hot water
One large saucepan full of hot water

Pouring in the grated soap
Pouring in the grated soap

Stir the soap while getting the water to a rolling boil
Stir the soap while getting the water to a rolling boil

You may want to pull the saucepan off the stove if the soap gets close to boiling over. Once boiling you can turn it down to medium-high until the soap is dissolved.
The soap is dissolved
The soap is dissolved. Note, there may be bubbles in the saucepan. This is OK. Just don't let it boil over... or you'll smell it every time you cook.

The next step is combining all the ingredients. First, pour the soap mixture into a 5 gallon bucket.

Pour soap into five gallon bucket
While still hot, pour soap solution into five gallon bucket.

Then, add the boiling water, I used the saucepan as a ladle, because who wants to try to lift and pour five gallons of boiling water? Not I!
We used 20 Mule Team Borax. Pour half a cup into the bucket.

Washing soda
We use Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (also nice in your loads to keep whites whiter.) Pour one cup into the bucket.

stir, make sure you have a long enough spoon to reach the bottom
Stir it all in. Make sure you have a long enough spoon to reach the bottom.

Finally, put a lid on it and wait.

We added lavendar to the mix before letting it sit. ABout 15-20 drops per five gallons, depending on concentration, smell preference, etc.

Once you add any scents if desired, let the mixture sit, covered, for at least twelve hours. It will gel, Use your long spoon again to stir it into a kind of lumpy jello consistency.
use half a cup per load of laundry
Use half a cup per load of laundry. Or, if you need more, use a little more. Seriously it's only two cents a load!

So that answers whether we can make it. Is it effective? We’ve been using this detergent for six months now, and the clothes come out both looking and smelling clean. I’d love to share the smell over the net here, but we’re not to that point yet technologically. Sorry.

If you’d like a different smell, or looking for a dry powdered version, here’s a link with a few different options (

I recently saw an episode of “18 kids and counting” on TV with the Duggar family, where they used the same recipe. So it’s obvious I’m not the only one doing it.

But, even if I were the only one, my clothes get clean, there’s no weird chemicals to mess with my skin, and the best part is the money we’re saving!

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3 thoughts on “Economic Survival: DIY Laundry Soap

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ryan Haworth. Ryan Haworth said: Save money! DIY Laundry soap. […]

  2. great post as usual!

  3. This is a great recipe! We love it. You can also make your own automatic dishwasher soap as well. You use equal parts borax and washing soda and then spoon about 2 Tbsp. of this into your large powder/liquid soap container in your dishwasher, then in the smaller side add 1 tsp. of lemon juice or 1 tsp. of clorox bleach, whichever you prefer. Your dishes come out just as clean and smelling just as nice as they do with any expensive name brand dishwasher soap –the only difference is 2 cents a load making it yourself! It is an incredible savings, especially if you have a large family, which we do. I love it! Good Luck. Hope this helps you save some money in our ever changing economy.

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