I'm making homemade laundry soap. Here's why. And how.

Laundry is expensive. 

Laundry. It's never ending. And laundry detergent, it's expensive! When I go through a lot of detergent - and am also on a tight budget - I care less about packaging and (dare I admit it?) even fragrance than price. The other day, while I was in the grocery store looking at the prices for laundry detergents and soaps, I was reminded of some blog posts and pins I'd seen about homemade laundry soap. They boasted unbelievable cost savings. Savings I could really use right at the moment.

Laundry Soap vs. Laundry Detergent.

Some people are pretty adamant about one vs. the other and it has little to do with cost. Without trying to explain the science behind it (because I was never good at understanding science let alone explaining it) it would be fair to say that detergents use synthetic ingredients while true soaps use natural ingredients. The science behind it is interesting though. Look it up if you are curious.

I've read various reasons that synthetics started being used instead of natural soap, including: 1.) to clean better, 2.) to reduce soap residue, and 3.) to make a cheaper product. Those are fairly good reasons.

Why not use synthetics, then? The people who are adamant about soap vs. detergent have concerns about the toxicity and the links found between some of the ingredients of synthetic detergents and cancer. Fairly good reasons.

It's true that for every article you find for one side, you find arguments for the other side. It can make your head spin a little bit.

For consideration: Permissible vs. Beneficial.

God gave us the ability to make things. Science is wonderful. It's also terrible. There are consequences to our synthetic and processed decisions. I'm not going to get all dogmatic about it, but realizing that there are consequences to synthetics, I think that we should at very least be aware of consequences and take them into consideration when we make our choices.

Just because it's permissible doesn't mean it's beneficial. That's how I feel about soap vs. detergent / organic vs. processed / natural vs. synthetic. They're all permissible. But they're not all beneficial. In some cases they maybe aren't even advisable. Never-the-less, I still use synthetics. Like I said, not dogmatic.

Naturally, cost is a factor.

I favor natural products, but I will use synthetic without too much guilt if I need to. (I tried a natural deodorant and I was not a fan.) Cost is the number one reason I will use synthetic over natural. Because, well, budget.

But if I can find a cost effective and natural product that works, I would much rather use that. Because, well, toxins.

That's why I've been moisturizing my face and body with extra virgin olive oil. That's why I've been washing my hair with a natural shampoo bar. And replacing our hand and body soap with natural soap bars. There are very many good companies who make very good products for the face and hair and skin, but I find that they cost way more than I'm spending on extra virgin olive oil and handcrafted soap, which are good products. So why pay more?

And that's what I thought to myself when I was looking at the prices of natural laundry soaps the other day. Why pay more when I have seen recipes for homemade laundry soap that claim to cost a lot less?

Finding & test driving a recipe.

I googled laundry soap recipes and I checked out Crunchy Betty's site for laundry advice. (She's my go-to for anything homemade.) I nixed the Duggar's family recipe because it's liquid. I knew I wanted to make powdered soap because liquid soap involves cooking, and I don't got no time for that.

I asked my Insta-friends if they make their own laundry soap and if they had any advice. A friend from church said that she makes her own laundry soap and offered to give me a sample of her homemade laundry soap so that I could try it and see if it cleaned our family's clothes. It cleans her family's clothes fine, she said. Evidently our family is dirtier than her family. No, really, it is... teenagers with stinky athletic apparel and all that.

My friend gave me her recipe along with the soap sample. It turned out to be a lot like Crunchy Betty's recipe, which is a variation of a common recipe that you can find by googling "homemade laundry soap recipe." I found that the proportions vary a little bit according to the needs and preferences of the laundry soap makers.

Basically all the recipes use:

   washing soda 
   shaved bar soap 
      (such as Fels Naptha, Zote, or Ivory)

Some recipes also use:

   baking soda

Other recipes include:

   Purex crystals

All the recipes are less expensive than store bought detergents.

Here's the recipe from my friend that I test drove:
Stephanie's Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe:
1 cup washing soda (not the same thing as baking soda! found in laundry aisle)
1 cup borax
1 bar of soap, shaved (she uses Kirk's Castile)
Use 2 Tbsp per load.
Add 1 Tbsp of baking soda for towels or smelly stuff.
Stephanie told me that this recipe is about 1/10th the cost of store bought detergent. That's impressive. Definitely worth trying.

Making my own.

After trying Stephanie's sample and liking the results, I bought my own ingredients. Except I couldn't find Kirk's Castile, so I got Zote soap.

[side note:]
Kaitlin thinks Zote smells like lemons. It doesn't smell like lemons at all to me, but she seemed excited about the lemony smell and pink color. It's huge for me that my teenage girl buys into natural stuff. So far I have convinced only 3/5 of my family to wash their hair with bar shampoo.
 Get them while they're young is my advice. 
Or old and on a budget.

When I finished grating the Zote, I ended up with about 6 cups of shaved pink soap.

I looked at Stephanie's recipe and thought that 1 cup each of washing soda and borax seemed a little on the insufficient side compared to all that pink soap I had. Maybe Kirk's Castile is a smaller bar of soap?

I looked up Crunchy Betty's recipe again, remembering that she had broken it down to a ratio, which is helpful in these situations.

Crunchy Betty's Homemade Laundry Soap Ratio:
1 part washing soda
1 part borax
2 parts shaved soap
Use 1/4 cup per load.

Since I had 6 cups of soap, that meant 3 cups each of washing soda and borax. I found an extra ice cream tub to store it in, I made a little instruction sheet to hang by the laundry machines for my laundry helpers. And now we are in business!

Laundry notes.

>> HOW MUCH? Stephanie's recipe said to use 2 tablespoons while Crunchy Betty's ratio said 1/4 cup. I have been using 2 tablespoons of Crunchy Betty's ratio and it has been cleaning just fine. Even on my son's football practice clothes.

>> FABRIC SOFTENER It is recommended to use white vinegar as a fabric softener to ensure that the soap residue is removed from the clothes in the rinse. Again, science wasn't my thing but it involves pH balance and alkalinity and whatnot. The clothes do not end up smelling like vinegar. I tried it and can attest to that. I put the vinegar in my Downy fabric softener ball, but you can also just add 1/4 c. white vinegar to the rinse cycle if you don't have a ball. I'm not sure, but I think I read somewhere that the vinegar helps get rid of yucky smells too.

>> STATIC CLING can be eliminated by wool dryer balls or even balls of tin foil. I just use a dryer ball that I bought many years ago.

>> I LIKE THE CLEAN SMELL, BUT. The above recipes will make your clothes smell like clean clothes. That is, they will smell like... nothing. If you really must have your laundry smell pretty and you don't want to add Purex crystals, you can put some essential oil on a square of cotton cloth and toss it into the dryer with the clothes. I'm still experimenting on how much essential oil to put on my cloth. So far I don't smell much of anything but clean clothes. Which is much better than dirty clothes but not as nice as lavender.

>> IS BORAX SAFE? Borax is natural. As with many natural things, it can be unsafe if not used properly. There is a lot of concern about this ingredient and Leslie did a great job in this post of explaining why she isn't too concerned about using it in her laundry soap.

>> SAVINGS I haven't figured out the final cost savings for this homemade laundry soap adventure yet. But all the ingredients together cost less than what I usually spend for a thing of laundry soap. At 2 tablespoons per load, it will last me a lot longer than the normal laundry soap too.


I read lots of sites to learn what I listed here, but here are some that I will bookmark for future reference:

  • Crunchy Betty - Like I said, my go-to site for all things natural.
  • DIY Natural - natural laundry recipe and advice.
  • How Does She - Homemade detergent recipe using Purex crystals and OxiClean.


ladydiole said...

You go girl! There's lots better, more enjoyable things to spend money on that laundry soap. I've been making my own for about a year...but I use the liguid version.

Mindy Whipple said...

Laundry is never ending...! Thank you so much for sharing your recipes and tips for making soap. Once our weather cools down and I feel the need to create again, I will be trying it out. Happy Washing : )


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