Sunday, July 10, 2011

Laundry Soap Tutorial

I've had such an overwhelming number of requests for directions to make my laundry soap. that it seems the easiest thing to do is show you step by step how-to here online. I've been making my own laundry soap for 8 years now and absolutely cannot fathom how much money we have saved, all by spending 20 minutes making soap about 4 times a year. Your need may be greater or less depending upon your family, but keep in mind that I have 3 girls who change clothes about 25 times (okay, really about 4 times) a day and that little man is in cloth diapers. We use cloth napkins and cloth baby wipes. In short, we do a lot of laundry every day. So I make 5 gallons of laundry soap every couple of months or so and we're good for quite a while. No one, in our house full of sensitive skin, is bothered or in any way allergic to the soap, either, which in my book is a huge plus!
I'm often asked how much per load my soap costs. Quite frankly, I've never bothered with the math before, so lets assume you're buying a 55 oz box of super washing soda for around $3 and a 76 oz box of borax for around $4 and your fels-naptha for $1.08 like I do,and you make a 5 gallon bucket at a time, which is 160 loads. You use 12 oz each of the soda and borax plus the entire bar of soap, so one 5 gallon bucket costs $2.39. That means that each of the 160 loads (using 1/2 cup per load) in that bucket costs a mere 1.4 cents.
So, lets get on with the how-to!
Grate your entire bar of fels-naptha, making sure to break down any chunks that may be left over. (You want it all to melt smoothly and evenly.  Fill a dutch oven or large pan about half way with warm water and place it on your stove over medium heat.
Add your grated soap, stirring for a moment until melted.
Add in 1 1/2 cups of washing soda and 1 1/2 cups of borax, stirring to keep your mixture an even consistency. Once it is even, lower the heat to low-medium and let the soap sit and thicken.  The mixture will not thicken as evenly if you continue to stir. Do keep a close eye on it though...depending upon your stove, you may need to adjust the temperature.  You do want the soap to melt, but not to bubble. Should it begin to bubble quickly lower the temperature, as it will easily foam up and out of your pan. (Should this happen, though, no worries. Your soap will still work, and once you clean up the mess your stovetop will sparkle like never before! I definitely speak from experience on this one!)
Meanwhile, heat a kettle full of water to boiling. In about 20 minutes your mixture should have a honey like consistency and be ready to mix with water. Add the boiling water to your 5 gallon bucket.
Then add your soap and stir well.

Continue to add cold water, stirring regularly, until the bucket is full.
Your soap will get a bit foamy from adding all of the water, but most of the bubbles will stir right back in. I like to break up any clumps that form at this time to help the end product have a more even gel consistency, but this isn't essential. (Your soap will do the job whether it is gel like, runny, or lumpy. Again, no worries.) Leave the top of off the bucket for 24 hours for the soap to cure, then make sure to keep the lid on tight after that, as it will evaporate a bit if left open too long. 
Ta-da!
Some people choose to add essential oils for scent. When I have it around, I add in about 1/2 cup of liquid peppermint castille soap. (Okay, so then it costs, what, 1.8 cents a load?  I can live with that,) for even better stain fighting power.
Let me just add that in the last 8 years I have bought laundry soap at the store twice. (Both times I was feeling lazy and didn't want to make soap that day!) I bought very good soap, too...and I was shocked at how much dirtier my kids clothes were when they came out of the wash. (Not only that, but the perfume gave me a headache and I had to rewash all of my clothes once I made soap a few days later.) This stuff is cheaper, healthier, and works better.  You can't go wrong. Use 1/3 to 1/2 cup of soap per lad of laundry. (I keep a smaller container of soap in my little laundry room and refill if from the bucket in the garage as needed. Whatever works for you.

Happy laundry day! (Okay, that may be a stretch. But you get the idea.)

Okay, some answers to some FAQ:

1. No, the consistency does not really matter, it will work whether gel like or runny.

2.No, it DOES NOT foam. The things that make your store-bought detergent have that nice, pretty foam in your washer are also the same things that strip away color, causing your clothes to fade. This soap will not cause your clothing to fade.

3. I use dryer balls in lieu of  fabric softener. They are chemical free, work like a charm, and I've been using them for about 7 years now. I was very skeptical at first, but quickly go over it since my clothes are soft, my towels are fluffy, and I've never once had static in my laundry since I started using them. I buy a two pack at Dollar Tree and they last for a year or two before they crack and need replaced. 

Any other questions, please feel free to ask and I will answer to the best of my ability. I'm so glad to hear from those of you who have gotten back to me with your success stories as well. Way to go!



37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks! This looks a lot easier than I thought it would be!

Jsthvnf1 said...

Your first step says to fill a dutch oven or large pan about half way with warm SOAP, and place it on your stove over medium heat...is this the fels-naptha soap??? But then you say to add the grated soap...I'm confused. And do you buy the fels-naptha soap at a regular store, or do you have to go to a whole foods store? Thanks!! I'm definitely going to use this!!

Melanie said...

@Jsthvnf1.....Oops! Fill the pan halfway with warm WATER.Thanks for pointing that out. Maybe I shouldn't blog directions to things in the middle of the night?!?

Jessica@SewHomegrown said...

Great tutorial - I love making this stuff, but haven't made it in a while. I'll be linking to you today on my Follower Fridays on Facebook - thanks for following Sew Homegrown!

Annie Noumi said...

Melanie, thank you. This was so much clearer than the recipe I saw on the Duggar family's show. I was done in 30 minutes, start to finish, and I plan to use this soap for clothes, dishes AND floors. 1.4 cents, Yo!

Melanie said...

@ Annie....the girls and I actually just cleaned the outside of our house (dust, dirt, cobwebs, cottonwoods and the lovely Northwest algae that grows on everything!) with this stuff and I can't believe how well it worked! So many uses! Who knew?

Karima said...

Hi thanks for sharing, now google following you, please pop by, Karima x www.karimascrafts.com

Anonymous said...

Does this work for front load washers that normally need HE?

knuckles said...

would this work in an HE washer?

Melanie said...

Regarding HE washers...
I don't have one myself, but my understanding is that HE detergents are simply more concentrated because they contain less water. An HE washer will disperse the detergent more easily and doesn't need the extra H2O. I have talked to those that have used this detergent for the HE front loading machines and they've seemed perfectly happy. I hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

I just started cloth diapering, and one website I read said to not use detergents containing Borax on PUL cloth diapers. Do you use this mixture with your diapers? Have you noticed any breaking down of the materials?

Melanie said...

About cloth diapers...
I always use this with diapers, but my diapers of choice are traditional prefolds with Thirsties brand duo wrap covers. For these the detergent is excellent, and I only bleach every couple of months when I want to brighten them up a bit ( I do like things to be pretty). I have used all in ones with the PUL outer layer and they have broken down, but in fairness they took two years and a LOT of abuse to do so. Plus I do wash my diapers daily, which I know most people don't do.
This may not be as helpful as you had hoped, but I do know a few cloth diapering mamas who use this and no one has mentioned problems.
Congrats on your choice to cloth diaper!

Anonymous said...

can you use this in a dish washer?

Anonymous said...

my mixture never turned to honey-like consistency on low med. heat. then i pulled it off heat and it became too thick. any tips?
how much water is in a kettle?
when do you add the dr bronner peppermint soap to mixture?
thanks

Melanie said...

Regarding dishwashers:
I know people who do use this in their dishwashers, but as none of these ingredients are technically food safe I would not reccomend it.

Melanie said...

Peppermint soap:
I add and stir it in just after removing from heat, before adding the soap and water together.

Kettle size:
Approximately 1/2 gallon

Thickness issues:
Again, a beautiful thing about this soap is that it seems to work well regardless of consistency. If it is not thickening well on the stove, my guess would be that you are stirring too often. It needs to sit to thicken and may seem to thin out as you stir it. If it does not, DON'T WORRY. Every stove is different and issues such as humidity may affect the outcome, as well. IT WILL STILL WORK.

JHalo said...

Can you tell me an easy way to transer the soap from the 5 gal container to smaller containers?

Melanie said...

@JHalo...
I find the easiest smaller containers to use are the large (1/2 gallon?) size disposable Gladware or Ziploc type containers. (the containers, not the bags!😊) they work well as a scoop. I keep one in my dryer with my 1/2 c size scoop on top of it. When it empties, I just go out to the 5 gal bucket and scoop it full again. This has been much more practical for me than using jars or the like. I used to transfer the liquid to multiple containers, but I now have limited space in my laundry room and refilling one container from the large bucket has been simplest. I hope that helps!

Stacie said...

Have you made this in a smaller proportion? Say maybe 2 gallons? I don't have a 5 gallon bucket, but I still would like to try this recipe. . .it seems so much more straightforward than the other recipes I've found.

thea said...

I started making this about a year ago and love the cost savings. My only issue is that it doesn't seem to remove strong odors (vomit, cat pee). Is there anything you recommend to deal with these? I never added any oils, would that make the difference?

Anonymous said...

I made some detergent just last night for the first time in forever.. i got the recipe from another source off pinterest and it was 1 bar of the graded soap, 1 cup boraz, 1 cup washing soda.. cook as you suggested but then to add 1 gallon of water.. Needless to say when i woke up this morning it now has the consistency of a gel candle.. :( Is there anyway to revive it before just starting over with your version???

Gail said...

I made it yesterday, and it smells wonderful !!!

danielle cockrell said...

Is there any way to add some sort of scent to the detergent?!

Sheena said...

Have you added scent to yours? If so, what did you use??

Cheryl said...

I am excited to try this recipe. I went out to get the supplies this evening and could not find the Arm and Hammer Washing Soda! I tried Walmart, Target and Safeway. Is there another place I could look OR would Arm and Hammer Pure Baking Soda work instead? Thanks for your help!

Fallon's Mommy said...

I made this same detergent c/o the Duggars' family blog but their recipe is diluted 50/50 with water. You make your 5 gallon batch then, as needed, put it in your smaller containers but mix 50/50 with water so you actually end up getting 10 gallons from each batch. Do you do this? I noticed the diluted soap doesn't seem to get smells out of my clothes (especially armpit--ugh, sorry, TMI, haha) and I was wondering if I should skip diluting it in the future....?

Lori said...

Where did you find a 5 gal bucket with a lid for that price?

Anonymous said...

I make the laundry soap but a little different. After mixing the soap in the pan until dissolved I pore it into the bucket with the water before it jells. I then add liquid blueing to help my whites look whiter and what ever scent I have at the time. I then use a funnel and coffee cup to pour it into plastic juice bottles that I have saved. The soap then jells overnight in the bottles. I have given many bottles away and most folks ask for additional bottles. I have noticed that my clothes seem softer using this soap.

Melanie said...

@Lori Honestly, I'm still using the same bucket from 10 years ago when Costco sold their detergent in 5 gallon buckets! However, Lowe's has the best priced well made 5 gallon buckets I've seen, and made in the USA to boot! I hope that helps!

Melanie said...

I'm in a bit of a technology black hole at the moment, I apologize. Pls see answer posted below... Thanks!

Melanie said...

I know there are more question to get to... I've got answers for all of them! I've been away from technology for a bit. I'll get to your questions SOON. Thanks!

Melanie said...

@Fallon's Mommy
I DO NOT dilute this. It works well this way and is cost effective enough for me! I think diluted just wouldn't work well, and i've been very happy with this mixture. (And honestly, with only 4 kids I dont need 10 gallons at a time, lol!)

@Cheryl
I'm not sure where you live or what stores there are, but I've bought the washing soda at Fred Meyer, Kroger, and Winco. I hope that helps!

@thea
Regarding strong odors..
I've never had a problem with odors, and I use this for cloth diapers (and, TMI, cloth menstrual pads). HOWEVER when I used to have a roommate with a cat that had it in for me, I discovered the vinegar trick: after the first rinse, add 1 cup of distilled vinegar and then do a 2nd rinse. This also works well for laundry that has sat in the washer and soured. No, It doesn't leave a vinegar smell! :)

Melanie said...

Regarding Scent.... I have added various essential oils and it seems to work fine, but the best way to go seems to be adding the liquid castille soap in a scent you prefer. Stir a cup of it in after cooking the soap, but before adding it to the water.

Morgan Powell said...

i have found getting one of those water containers that go in your fridge that have a spout and putting your soap in one of those containers using a measuring cup with a pour side on it is easy enough and then i just keep a measuring cup in my laundry room to measure it out with

Amanda Kisella said...

Mine geld up really thick & separated gel from liquid... Is it normal to shake it or stir it everytime I need to use it?

How can I get a smooth even consistency?

Melanie said...

@Amanda Kisella The best way to get an even consistency is to really stir well and break up any clumps that form as you're adding cold water the bucket in the final step. HOWEVER, the consistency truly seems to have no bearing on the effectiveness of the soap. The gel and the liquid work equally well. The more you make the soap, the easier it gets. I promise.

Erin Lastinger said...

Im going to have 3 babies in cloth diapers soon....do you do anything different for the cloth diapers? I have a hard time getting rid of the urine odor w store bought detergent and want sure how this recipe works w it.
Thx...Erin