Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent: Photo tutorial + Tips

on February 5, 2015

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I made our second batch of homemade laundry detergent last month so I thought I would update this post. The first 5 gallon batch lasted us almost 9 months!

With a toddler in the house we do a LOT of laundry. My dear friend Pam has been making her own liquid laundry soap for a few years and she loves it. Knowing Pam’s high standard for cleanliness, I figured it must really work. Plus she says making her own soap has saved her family hundreds of dollars, so I decided to give it a try.

The recipe she uses is modified from the Duggar Family’s site. To be honest, the only thing I know about the Duggars is that they are good at procreating, which means they must do an awful lot of laundry. So here is their recipe and my experience making and using it!

The laundry detergent has three ingredients, all of which I was able to find at Drugstore.com. Luckily they all also qualified for free 2-day shipping with my ShopRunner service so they showed up at my doorstep in just a few days. You will also need a 5-gallon bucket in which you’ll mix and store the detergent. Here is the recipe to make 5 gallons of detergent:

1 cup Borax

1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

1 bar Fels-Naptha Soap

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The first step is to grate the bar of soap. I decided to try using the grater disk in my food processor. I really had no idea if this would wreck my food processor (my husband warned me that it would) but it actually worked really well. The whole bar was grated in sub-five seconds and I didn’t bloody any knuckles on the grater in the process! It came clean and showed no signs of damage from the soap bar.

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The grated soap

The next step was to add the grated soap and 4 cups of tap water to a pot and stir it over medium heat until the soap was dissolved. This only took about 5 minutes this time.

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Melting the soap with water

Then I filled a 5 gallon bucket half full with warm tap water and added the melted soap along with the 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of washing soda. After stirring this I filled the bucket almost to the top, put the lid on and let it sit overnight as directed.

Now Pam warned me about the consistency of the soap, but I don’t think I was adequately prepared for what it looked like after it sat and thickened overnight. If you have a weak stomach , then this recipe might not for you, because the soap really resembled 5 gallons of snot. Stirring it around made me a little nauseous. After I stirred it thoroughly (reader Erin suggests using a drill with paint stirring attachment… brilliant!), I filled an empty laundry soap container and started washing. The original recipe suggests watering the detergent down, but Pam suggested using it at full strength and I think it works better that way.

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The snotty soap concoction

I was REALLY pleased with how the clothes turned out. Very clean and fresh smelling without any trace of fragrance. We prefer fragrance-free laundry soap and I was a little concerned that the soap would leave a scent behind because the Fels-Naptha bar has a pretty strong albeit pleasant odor. But there was no “soapy” smell, the clothes just smelled clean.

SO here is my honest evaluation of the homemade liquid laundry soap.

THE GOOD:

  1. It is really really cheap. I did loads of math and, at the price for which I got the ingredients on Drugstore.com. each gallon of soap costs about 50 cents. We were previously paying between $8 and $10 for a gallon of laundry soap. This really will save my family hundreds of dollars each year.
  2. The ingredients are honest. This is the stuff folks have been washing their clothes with for the last hundred years. If anyone knows that ingredients are particularly environmentally damaging, please let me know. But from what I could tell, they seem to be equally or less harmful than mainstream laundry detergent.
  3. No strong perfumes or scents. This is important to us, especially my husband.

THE BAD:

  1. It’s a chore to make. Sure, it is easier to just pick up a jug of detergent off the shelf at the store. It is time consuming to grate and melt the soap, etc. etc. But considering that you will likely only have to do this (at most) a few times a year, it isn’t too bad.
  2. It’s disgusting. Unless snot really doesn’t bother you, the gross factor is something to consider. Once the soap is in the container it isn’t too bad, but stirring that vat of soap and putting it into the containers is kinda revolting.
  3. It’s not the best at lifting stains. My 1 year-old daughter gets a lot of food on her clothes. I have noticed that some stains are remaining. I don’t know if they would be there with store-bought detergent or not, but I have started adding a small scoop of Power Oxygen (generic Oxiclean that can be found at the Dollar Tree for a fraction of the price of the real stuff) to some loads and it seems to help.

In the end, this soap makes sense for my family and we will be using it exclusively. Please let me know if you have ever tried a different recipe that you liked or have any suggestions. Happy washing…

Want to learn how to do Disney on a budget? Check out my Disney-only site, The Budget Mouse here!

4 Comments

  • Erin Schneider

    I have been using it since A was still in diapers. I do dilute it and use it as a pretreatment too. I typically make it once a year and keep it in a 5 gal bucket, diluting as I need to refill. 🙂 it worked for her diapers (sunning dry too). One thing I have had luck doing is I got a 5gal. paint stirring bit for the drill and it stirs the blob of slime really well 🙂

    December 3, 2014 at 4:47 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Erin, what a brilliant idea to use the paint stirring attachment for the drill! I never would have thought of that. I’ve been using a metal whisk but that is slow going. Thanks for reading!

      December 4, 2014 at 2:46 am Reply
  • Stan Dean

    For whiter whites just add a little more borax in the load you want bright. Works great.

    November 29, 2014 at 12:58 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Thanks Stan! I haven’t tried this but I will soon!

      November 30, 2014 at 1:33 am Reply

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