Sunday, December 6, 2009

Homemade laundry soap, anyone?

I had to make up a batch of laundry soap today, so I borrowed the camera from work and I'm going to give you a step-by-step. This goes with the recipe I have linked in the sidebar on the right. I used a wooden spoon, but I do specify that you're to use a whisk for parts of it (you see, it helps if you actually follow your own recipe when you're doing stuff like this...oops).

So, here goes:

The bucket is for mixing. The detergent jugs are empty and rinsed, ready for new detergent. You'll need at least three of them. The rag is for cleanup (you might think you won't need it, but I'm here to tell you "Yes, you will. Take it out now and have it close by.").

Grate the soap, using the cheese grater.

Place the grated soap and 6 cups of water in a large pot to boil.

You might as well take another big pot and put 12 cups of water in IT and boil it as well (you'll need it in a minute). If you only have one big pot, just wait until the soap is boiled, rinse that one out, and boil more water. You could also use a kettle, if you have one.

While you're waiting for those two pots to boil, you can measure up the Borax...

...and the washing soda. See? I told you there'd be a mess. That's ok, more washing soda is not a bad thing - it increases the "strength" of the soap.

Your soap mixture will start to look like lemonade and a bubbly foam will build up at the top.

When it boils and all the soap is dissolved, add the Borax/washing soda blend and mix well until it is all dissolved (no more grit). Keep the heat on until this is done.

By now, that other pot of water should be boiling. Dump everything into the bucket and stir well. Add 8 cups of cold water and whisk (just imagine that wooden spoon is a whisk, will ya?).

This is where the nasty old Brita jug comes into play. I use it to pour the soap into the jugs, but you could use a regular jug or large measuring cup. You could use a funnel (like the type they sell to mechanics for use during oil changes) to minimize mess, but I don't have one that big, so I take my chances. Also, you should do this with the bucket and jugs on the floor - that mixture is still HOT and will heat up/soften the handles on the jugs, making them dangerous to hold! The reason I didn't is that my floor is disgustingly nasty and there was NO WAY I was taking any photographs of it.

**Speaking of photographs, if you ever attempt to take photos while doing this, please be careful. Cameras don't like water. Especially when they are borrowed and potentially very expensive to replace.**

Ok, so once you mop up all the spilled soap and water (if you don't have any spilled water to clean up, I hereby curse you), you can stand back and admire your beautiful bottles of homemade soap. I forgot to mention that you can also add essential oils to the mixture (refer to the recipe for the right time to do that). That's why I have one red jug - for the lavender soap.

So, you ready to try it? Come on, you can do it! It only takes about 20 minutes.


  1. I've tried this recipe and LOVE the soap! Thanks DW!

  2. When you are using this soap, what quantity do you use for a large load? To rephrase, is the strength of this laundry soap more like a non-concentrated soap or closer to the new concentrated formulas?

  3. Hi Jan,

    I would venture a guess that this is closer to the un-concentrated detergent than the new-fangled uber-super ones you can buy now. I live in the country, where we use well water, and I had to experiment a little to figure out the right amount to use. I guess you could also experiment to make yours more or less concentrated, if you'd like. Just add less water...

    Hope that helps!

  4. Just curious - why homemade soap? Is it biodegradable or does it work better? I'm trying to find eco-friendly soap that actually works...

  5. Hi Andrea,

    The reasons I make homemade soap are:

    1. I practice ashtanga yoga (the sweaty kind) and my teacher is extremely sensitive to fragrances of any kind. As a result, I can not use many commercial detergents. The lack of perfume in our house has now made me much more sensitive to it and I know find myself avoiding that detergent aisle like the plague. Seriously - when I have to go down the aisle, I hold my breath and run (with the shopping cart) to get it over with. The homemade soap is virtually scent-free.

    2. It is cheap, cheap, cheap. For the price of one bottle of regular liquid detergent, I think I'm getting something like 12 equivalent bottles of detergent, by making it myself. I live in the country with a very active, smelly husband who likes to chop wood in his spare time, and two active, smelly labrador retrievers. I do a lot of laundry.

    Now, the person who gave me this recipe is a woman who knows about these things and who helps out on an organic farm in HER spare time, so I'm inclined to say that it is likely very earth-friendly. However, I don't know for sure. You would have to research the individual ingredients yourself.

    Sorry, I wish I had more assurances for you, on that front.

  6. PS: Yes, it really works. It produces almost no suds, but it cleans very well and deodorizes all aforementioned smells.