I decided to make homemade laundry soap after seeing a post at Money Saving Mom. When I learned about the prices and how easy it was, I figured I wouldn't be out much if it was a bust and it will save a lot of money in the long run if it works well.
There were a lot of recipes for the washing soap. I chose:
1 bar Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap
1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Washing Soda.
I purchased the Fels-Naptha (.97/bar), Borax (3.74) and Washing Soda (2.77) from Walmart. I purchased 5 bars of the washing soap in hopes that this washing detergent will work for our family. In total, I spent $11.36 on washing ingredients. You can find the ingredients online as well. Amazon has packs of 2 Fels-Naptha Bars for $1.99. The Borax and Washing Soda I could not find for a good deal anywhere on line. Check your local grocery store's laundry aisle. Personally, I had to walk the aisle twice before I spotted the ingredients. Luckily for me, they were stocked next to each other.
I do feel I should note that you do not have to use Fels-Naptha. You can use any bar of soap you have laying around. I chose to use Fels-Naptha because I wanted to stay as true to the recipe as possible as I am trying it out. Another reason to use Fels instead of another bar is to minimize extra ingredients. Some bars of soap have lotion in them. Other bars of soap have strong scents. Since I was making a batch for my parents to try as well, I didn't want additives since my father has sensitive skin.
Finally, I needed something to put the mixture in so I bought a 5 gallon paint bucket and lid from Lowes. Those two were less than $5.00 and I'll be able to reuse it for years. Hopefully, you have one lying around to use.
Once you have the ingredients, you can choose one of two paths. You can make dry laundry soap or liquid soap. Initially, I was going to make dry laundry soap because it is easier to store, takes up less space and is easier to put in the machine. I made a slight error so I changed my plans.
The first step in making homemade laundry soap is to grate the laundry bar. I used my Pampered Chef Mandolin (yes, I'm a Pampered Chef addict) and grated all 5 bars of Fels-Naptha. I do not recommend you try grating more than one bar at a time. My arm was sore for two days afterwards. This is the step that I made the small mistake. My mandolin only has the large grating attachment. To make dry laundry soap, you need to finely grate the bar of soap. I had long strings of soap that were too big for use in a dry washing recipe. So, once I discovered my error, I jumped on the liquid bandwagon!
I grabbed a large saucepan and filled it with approximately 8 cups of water. I then added 1 bar's worth of grated soap and heated it to just under boiling. The picture to the side is near the beginning of the heating process. The soap is clumpy and falling to the bottom.
As the water heats, the soap disperses into the water. Stir regularly to assist the dispersion and prevent any burning. The mixture is done when all the pieces are melted. There will not be any strings or clumps of soap remaining. The water also turned a consistent yellow throughout. Of course, if you do not use Fels-Naptha, the water will turn whatever color of soap you use.
While making the second batch, I discovered why you should not let the mixture boil. It is because boiling makes bubbles. In half a second the mixture was up and over the sides, flooding my oven top. Thank goodness for a range with burners under a glass sheet! This would have been really messy if I had coils.
When the mixture was almost ready, I put the 5 gallon bucket in the sink and started filling. We have poor water pressure (that we will fix in the next couple of years I hope) so it takes a while to fill anything. I poured in 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of washing soda and stirred as the bucket was filling. By then the soap was completely dissolved so I brought it to the sink and poured it in the bucket as well. I stirred thoroughly then threw the lid on top.
The first batch I filled the bucket to approximately an inch from the rim. The second batch pictured here is the one that boiled over. Not knowing how much I lost to boil-over, I filled the bucket to approximately 2/3 to keep the concentration higher. I figured there isn't anything wrong with using slightly less detergent if it was too potent.
I gave the smaller tub to my parents since they do not do much laundry and the have a high efficiency washer. I told them to use 1/2 cup per load. I have a regular top loading washing machine so I have been using my store bought detergent bottle's measuring cup. I don't fill it to the top so I use between 3/4 and 1 cup per load. I use a little extra because my kids love mud. It never hurts to have a little extra soap to grab onto the dirt and carry it way.
All in all, I feel it was a fun project. We've washed a few loads and so far we don't see or feel a difference in cleanliness from the store bought detergent we were using before. The best part is the savings! I am used to buying cheap detergent for $3.00+ for 64 oz. Now I have 640 oz. that cost me $2.50! I have enough materials to make 3 more batches but I won't need to make any more for 3-6 months. (I haven't figured out how long it will take me to use it all. I am going to check back once it's gone and we'll see how long it took.
I know high efficiency (he) washing machine owners are always worried about using the right detergent. As I was researching different websites to find recipes for laundry detergent, they all mentioned the same thing. You can't use regular washing detergents in a high efficiency washing machine because the detergent creates too many suds. In a high efficiency washer less water is used and they do not rinse away excessive suds. This recipe does not create a lot of suds (unless you boil it) so feel free to try it.