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Homemade Laundry Soap – Rewash
The #1 most requested recipe from our first website (about 10 years ago now!) was our homemade, DIY recipe for laundry soap! It’s an oldie but a goodie! It costs pennies compared to washing detergents and is so much healthier for your skin, better for your clothes, your washer (even HE washers!) and the environment.
Now I’m gonna do a little stain-fighting dirty little myth busting…
This recipe makes a dry powdered laundry soap. “Why don’t you make a liquid laundry detergent?” I’ve often been asked. Here’s my reasoning:
#1 It takes longer to make a liquid version.
#2 It takes up more space to store a liquid version.
#3 It’s heavier to lift the liquid each time (especially for little helpers).
#4 It’s A LOT messier (ditto the little [or big] helper issue).
#5 The liquid separates and has to be re-stirred before using.
#6 Why in the world would I want to add water to something that is going into the washing machine that is about to fill up with water?
Another common misconception, “But most of the laundry detergents at the store are liquid, so liquid MUST be better than powdered, right?” Sorry to bust that bubble (get it?) but they make most of them liquid these days because they can add water to it and charge us WAY more for it! There is no magical cleaning power in the added water or extra chemicals needed to keep that liquid emulsified.
Here’s a dirty little myth: “If it’s homemade it won’t clean as well!” After using this for a decade now and having 3 boys and living on a farm with many animals I can testify to the cleaning power of homemade laundry soap. The clothes are really clean, without leftover built-up residue.
Another myth: “It must be hard to make your own laundry soap!” Nope on the soap. Takes less time than it does to drive to the store.
More mythness: “But I like my clothes to smell nice!” Me too! But I don’t want artificial, chemical fragrances being absorbed into my skin and entering my body through my sense of smell (actually the FASTEST way to enter your system!). That wreaks havoc on our immune systems and hormones. Not good. At all.
In place of laboratory-made fragrances we use pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils (but they are WAY more than fragrances!). They leave a clean, fresh scent while also acting as powerful antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal sanitizers. Pure essential oils also eliminate odors, mold and mildew. They even serve as natural insect repellants! All of that power in your clothes just because you made a little homemade laundry soap!
Okay, so what about the folks that are saying “I just don’t want to make my own laundry soap, regardless of how easy, healthy and frugal it is.” May I offer you a suggestion? Maybe just buy these inexpensive ingredients once, store them away and bookmark this recipe. One day, when all of your underwear are dirty or your family has a stomach bug and all the sheets have been washed and washed and washed and need washing again but “Aaagghhhh!” you’re out of laundry soap now and can’t take a carload of pukers to the store… you can make this in about 5 minutes! You’re welcome and may you and your family never get sick.
On a cleaner note, this recipe makes great gifts! You can make a batch and put it in a quart-sized Mason jar with a pretty cloth lid cover and tie a little raffia around the lid with a wooden clothes pin on the side and you’re ready for gifting!
About the ingredients. You can find all of these inexpensive ingredients at a grocery store or a box store like Wal-Mart. Most people know what baking soda is. Washing soda is different and is (currently) in a yellow box. Borax is the brand name of the powdered boron mineral mined in the US.
Laundry Soap Recipe
- 2 bars of the plainest soap you can get (no added anything)
- 1 cup of baking soda (like Arm & Hammer)
- 1 cup of washing soda (Arm & Hammer makes this too)
- 1 cup Borax
- 28 drops Purification essential oil blend
Grate the soap. I use my food processor and it’s done in about a minute (although we used to do it with a cheese grater and it works fine). My method is to run it through the processor using the grater blade and then put in the “S” blade and give it a whir to make the shreds turn into a fine powder. That 2nd step is optional but I think making it a fine powder helps it to dissolve quicker in the wash and distribute more evenly throughout the clothes.
Now add the soap powder and the other 3 powders together and mix well.
Lastly, add the essential oil and stir well – using the back of a spoon or something to sort of smash the oil blobs until they dissolve. OR you can give it all another whir in the food processor. How much oil you add is up to you. I would suggest about 28 drops for the whole batch. Which oil should you use? I use Young Living brand essential oils and I prefer their blend called “Purification”. It is a blend of Citronella, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Melaleuca, Lavindin (a stronger antiseptic than the Lavender variety) and Myrtle.
This makes 4 cups of laundry soap and will fit in a quart jar. “But that doesn’t sound like very much!” you might say. And you would be right. BUT it only takes 2 TABLESPOONS per load of wash! I told you this was economical!
< I’ve added this paragraph post-post (thanks to the commenters below that asked about soft & hard water!):
I have had both softened city/county water and hard well water over the years of using this recipe. It works well for both. I realize that all of us in different areas and with different washers and filters, etc. will all have a slightly different experience so I’ll try to note a few guidelines to help you tweak your soap.
Softened water needs less soap because it makes the water “wetter”. Plus the soap dissolves easier. The 2 T. amount is perfect for this scenario.
There are many types and variations of hard water so this is where you may have to tweak it. The recipe stays the same regardless – it’s just the amount that may change. Typically the 2 T. will work very well for smaller or less dirty loads. If you have larger or dirtier loads try 3 T. and if need be 4 T. Each person will have to find the right amount based on their water supply and quality (and size of washer). We have the largest non-commercial size washer we could buy, hard water and lots of dirt, sweat and animal poop stains and 4 T. is the most I’ve ever had to use. Someone in some other part of the country with way different water made need more than that sometimes. But even that is WAY LESS than the big ol’ cups of commercial powdered detergents or the cost of the “concentrated” liquids that everyone still pours the same amounts of as the old regular bottles! They’re banking on our habits!
Old top load washers and new High efficiency front load washers are another point to clarify. This recipe works great for both! HE washers need less soap and don’t like too many bubbles. This recipe is naturally a non-sudsy type.
I’ll throw this little factoid into the wash too: the day that I wrote this post we were completely out of homemade laundry soap (we do laundry every day here) and we used bottled liquid commercial laundry detergent (that I keep as an emergency back-up) to wash our clothes! I added this to point out that we don’t want to ever let ourselves become proud or arrogant about the “better” choices we make for our health. There are days and even seasons where all we can do is pray that the laundry gets done at all – regardless of what is used to wash it! If you are there right now – that’s okay. We do the best we can each day!
Fabric Softener Recipe
Another question I have gotten over the years is “How about fabric softener?” Well, years ago, after having just come out of Downey detox I still thought we had to use a fabric softener but just needed a purer, safer version. So, I used the one I’m about to tell you. But, I finally came to realize that we don’t really need any fabric softener at all these days. “Back in the day” when the guys had to wear stiff-as-a-board brand new Dungarees, Wranglers and Levis they needed a little help to sit down. Today almost every fabric is soft as silk straight from the store! That being said, here is what I used to use as a very effective fabric softener, rinse and smelly-good…
- 1 Tablespoon white distilled vinegar
- 2-3 drops pure essential oil (whatever one you like)
Pour into fabric softener compartment of washer or in top load washer at rinse time.
A few helpful tips:
This laundry soap recipe makes 28 loads. I make 3 batches of this at a time and store it in a wide-mouthed gallon glass container that I bought at Wal-Mart (it looks like an old cookie jar or gum ball jar). I use a long-handled stainless steel coffee scoop to scoop the soap out with because it is conveniently a 2 tablespoon size. 1 scoop cleans the poop…
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What is your preferred soap to use? With so many to try to choose from, my brain just shut down… Thanks!
Barbara – if I had my best-case scenario I would use plain homemade lye & tallow soap but that’s not happening right now (and we continue to make dirty clothes daily!) so I am using soap made by the Dial company called “Basic” Pure & Natural. It has no deodorants or strong fragrances, etc. The big + is that I can get it at a Dollar Tree store 3/$1!
I’ve been making my own laundry soap for several years. Recently, out of laziness, I bought some at the store, a purportedly healthy brand. The scent on my sheets, towels, clothes, and even in the cupboard where I keep the soap is just overwhelming. Time for me to get out the cheese grater and have some nice fresh laundry again.
jmr – I hear ya! Just watch those finger tips with the grater method! I get so intent on grating every. single. bit. of that soap that I often end up with band-aids to show for it! ; )
We just moved into a house with a water softener. My understanding is we need less soap for everything ( dishes, people, laundry, etc.) Do you think the amt. you suggest still applies? What about front loaders? Also, I see salt in the picture but not in the recipe. Thanks for the tips (and sense of humor)!
cmo – Congratulations on the move!
-You are correct that softer water needs less soapy things than harder. I have had both while using this recipe. I think the 2 T. would be the right amount for you. (I’m so glad you brought up that point though, because I intended to mention the soft/hard water differences and forgot to! I will add a short paragraph about that to the article.)
-Front loaders are the kind I referred to as “HE” washers i.e. High Efficiancy. I have had both a top loading old washer and also a front loading HE washer and both love this recipe. It works especially well for the HE washers since they recommend non-sudsy soap (sold for more $ at the store “made especially for HE washers”!). It also keeps the washer clean with no build-up.
-The pix I used there was a “rewashed” picture from the old website (10 years ago!) It was on a page that included recipes for other natural cleaning products and the pix showed all the ingredients combined. No salt in this recipe.
You are very welcome! And thanks for getting my jokes ; )
Hi Angelia, I will try your recipe as it includes baking soda, something that mine didn’t and it seems like that would be an extra boost. My only concern is our hard water… I hope the powder will dissolve in it as I wash a lot with cold water. I am going to try this with my 100% coconut oil soap Thanks for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays. I will pin this!
JES – Great point about the hard water and one that I meant to address in the article and totally forgot to include! Thanks for bringing it up! I have had both R/O softened county water and now very hard well water (with a filter system but no softener) and this has worked well for both. I used the 2 T. amount with the softened water and have continued to do that with hard water for less dirty or smaller loads but have doubled it to 4 T. for larger and dirtier loads (the dirtier being the more common around here!).
I too use mostly cold water except for those whitest whites loads. When I do the grating method mentioned in the article with the food processor it makes it super fine and I’ve never had trouble with it dissolving. I know what you mean though – little clumps of soap left on things. I did find that the type of soap made a huge difference in how well it grated and how well it dissolved. The drier the bar of the soap the better it will work. I thought it was normal to have clump issues for a while. I thought it was the humidity in FL with the windows open (no A/C), etc. I even resorted to keeping the soap bars in the freezer until I grated them but eventually determined that the “healthier” type or more expensive type soaps were just too sticky/gummy for this purpose.
Now I will say I am feeling a wee bit jealous of the coconut soap! I would SO like that for bathing! Do you use the coco. soap in your detergent now? I am curious because the homemade deodorant I made with coconut oil made oil stains in the underarms of our shirts : (
I will go make a note about this in the article now! Thank you!
Which is exactly WHY I DO use a liquid version of this: it allows me to thoroughly dissolve those hard-to powders first. I don’t use hot water, I have a well, so a liquid is a must for me. I have tried this version, and found lots of tiny white specks on my washed laundry. So I went to a liquid version instead, and have had no issues since.
Carol – Glad to hear you are happy with your soap. I too have a well and hard water. Once I realized I wasn’t grating the soap fine enough I never had issues with any soap specks. It’s definitely worth the effort to find what works best for each of us!
I’ve made my own, but never added baking soda or EOs. I love that addition. I came over from a blog hop. Pinning!
Holly – Nice to meet you! Please stop back by and let me know how you like the new version! Thanks for stopping by!
I too prefer the powder. Great for cloth diapers too.
Mommy the Maid – Hi! Thanks for pointing out that this laundry soap is good for cloth diapers! In the original article I wrote about the laundry soap (a decade ago) I mentioned how it was ideal for baby laundry. The essential oil blend called “Gentle Baby” works well in a second rinse for baby loads as well. Sorry to leave the littles out!
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I had just finished making liquid laundry soap when I received your recipe. (Previously, I had unsuccessfully searched for a powdered soap that was made with essential oils.) Now, the question ‘what to do with the liquid laundry soap?’ I discovered that it works great for cleaning just about anything from pots & pans to toilets.
Thanks so much!
Betty – I’m so glad for you! All of these DIY natural versions of things are so multi-purpose!