Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe

September 11, 2008 at 6:01 pm 5 comments

Here it is – the long overdue and much anticipated recipe for homemade laundry soap.

I got this recipe from my friend Audrey.  She’s been making and using it for years.  You can make either powdered or liquid soap with the recipe.  We’ve done both, but tend to prefer the powder as it’s easier to make and store and seems to work as well as the liquid in my large, front-load washer.  Note that this detergent will not create suds.  This makes it very good for new, high-efficiency washing machines – but it may look really odd to you if you have a top load machine and peek in while the load is running.


1/3 bar Strong Soap (see below)

1/2 Cup washing soda

1/2 Cup borax

Optional – essential oil for fragrance


Grater or food processor

3 gallon stockpot (for liquid soap)

5 gallon bucket (for liquid soap)

Stove (for liquid soap)

Stick blender (optional for liquid soap)

Air-tight container (for powder soap or extra powder to make more liquid)

Empty detergent bottle (for liquid soap) look for one with a no-spill, self-measuring lid


Note that this recipe is easily multiplied.  It’s a lot easier to make a triple batch of powder than a single one.  If you’re making liquid soap, you can keep the extra powder in an air tight container until you need it.  That way you don’t need to store gallons of liquid at once.  For both recipes you’ll need to grate the soap.  I use a Cuisinart food processor and the fine grating attachment.  I cut the bar in thirds and feed it into the food processor.  It makes short work of the job.

Liquid Soap

If you’re going to make liquid soap you’ll need 6 cups of water and a large (3 gallon) stock pot.  Put the water in the pot and put it on the stove on medium heat.  Add the grated soap and stir until it dissolves.  Then add the washing soda and borax and stir over heat until they are dissolved.  If the mix is not dissolving well, carefully use a stick or hand blender to mix it up.  Increase heat and bring pot to a boil.  Boil for 15 minutes.  The liquid should have about the texture of honey.

Take the pot off the heat.   Mix it well with a hand blender.  Once the soap is dissolved and well mixed, add enough hot water to make two gallons.  Add water a quart or so at a time and mix well before adding more to keep the mixture smooth.  Add a teaspoon or two of essential oil if desired.  A lighter oil (less viscous) with no color is best.  We like lemon and cedar,

I use about 1/2 cup per load in my large, front load washer.  Make sure the lid on the bottle fits very tight, as it’s best to shake the bottle before using it.

Dry / Powdered Soap

For dry soap, just grate the bar soap and add it to the borax and soda.  Stir well, then add essential oil if you want and mix again.  About 1-2 Tbsp per load (depending on how dirty the clothes are) works for me.

This soap will not work well if you have very hard water.  Adding extra borax to the recipe may help in this case.

A Note Regarding Bar Soaps

Regarding soaps.  The most commonly available strong (lye) soap is Fels Naphtha.  Fels is a lye and animal fat based soap.  It used to contain Stoddard Solvent (or mineral spirits) which made it more effective at removing oily stains.  Fels was an old time remedy for poison ivy.  If the name or the idea that it used to contain solvents bothers you, you can substitute Octagon Soap or Zote.  Fels Naphtha and Octagon are available at our local grocery and hardware stores.  You’ll find Zote at a tienda.

Don’t use facial soap.  It usually has added oils you don’t want and isn’t an aggressive enough cleaner for laundry. 

Or if you are incredibly motivated — and handy (like Audrey is) you can make you own bar soap from lye and rendered lard.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dorene  |  September 11, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Whoo-Hoo! Thanks for the recipe!

    Even though I now have balsam growing all over the community garden to counteract the poison ivy, I still have a bar of Fels Naphtha at home, just in case.

    One of these days, I’ve got to get motivated and save all the free-ranging fat from the free-ranging meats I buy at the farmer’s market and make my own soap. All the effort to raise free-ranging livestock, plus so much of my own less-than ample cash that went into buying it, I feel like I should be using it all! 😉

  • 2. Caveat  |  September 13, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Neat-o! However, our water is so hard that the only bar soap that foams up at all in the shower is Dove. You get mineral residue when you boil water. On the upside, there are lots of old ladies around here shovelling snow in the winter.

  • 3. Dr.Bubble  |  November 10, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Thank you for laundry bar soap recipes. I believe that instead of using soap base, use for coconut oil and beef tallow. Your soap wiil be get better quality. If you wanna know about soap oils, please visit at http://barsoapmaking.blogspot.com

  • 4. Jaime  |  February 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Hi there,

    I am interesting in making my own soap after I was successful at making my laundry soap. SOOOO COOL. Well in my town & my neighboring city, Salt lake City. I haven’t been able to find Lye anywhere and there have been some recommendations to buy a certain draino. Well buying draino makes me nervous & I don’t really know anyone locally that makes soap (family thinks I am crazy lol). So I was wondering if Audrey (your friend) could tell me where she gets hers or maybe would have any ideas for me…

    Thank you so kindly for your help in advance,


  • 5. SmartDogs  |  February 21, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    The $*&# meth heads have made lye a bigger a pain in the @$$ to get than cold pills.

    Some family drugstores and hardware stores still carry it. You’ll probably need to show ID to buy it. There are also some places to purchase lye online. This blog post from someone who’s a lot more into soap than I am lists some online sources.

    I’d stay away from using drain cleaners. They usually include other ingredients you wouldn’t want in your soap.

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