Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Let's Talk: Homemade laundry soap doesn't work?


I was wondering how to make homemade laundry detergent. Do you have a recipe you could share?



Interesting that you'd ask this question now. My Mom-in-law, Lark, started making the detergent for all of her kids (including me) two years ago. She has been using it non-stop for that entire time. I wish we'd kept track of how much money she has saved by not purchasing commercial detergents!

After a year of using the homemade laundry soap, I started having major problems. I wrote about it here. Until yesterday, I thought the only problem was hard water. So, what happened yesterday?

Lark called and said, "Becky, my husband's new shirts have deodorant stains in the arm pits. He's never had underarm stains! What should I do?" Immediately, my mind rushed back to my laundry soap issues. The body oils were only packing into the fabrics of my clothes instead of washing out. After a year, the issue had compounded so much that you could physically feel, see and smell the gunk. It was like the lipids in the homemade soap and the minerals in our hard water were basically sticking to our body oils.

So, I suggested that Lark soak the shirts in OxiClean to remove the pit stains. We talked about the homemade soap as a possible culprit. She decided to go back to commercial detergent for a while to see if her husband's shirts continue to get deodorant stains.

I'm betting the homemade detergent is to blame. Then, why, you may ask, did it take two years of use for her to begin having issues and only one year for me? She lives in a home with a water softener. Soft water cleans much more efficiently than the hard water which is in my home.

So, should you try the homemade soap? Sure, why not? I'll tell ya now that adding vinegar to the rinse isn't enough to prevent this problem, since that's what I always did. I also added extra Borax to all the white laundry washes. It wasn't enough. I wonder what others have done to prevent this problem? After all, Michelle Duggar, from 19 Kids and Counting uses her own variation of homemade detergent here. I'm sure she's been using it for decades!

Either way, here's the recipe we used. Lark found it here. It's a liquid laundry soap. You'll need to whisk it before each use. I loved it until the long-term issues appeared. The good news? You can now purchase most, if not all, of these ingredients at Walmart.

Homemade Laundry Soap
1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap
½ cup washing soda
½ cup borax powder
1 small bucket, about 2 gallon size

Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan (Lark grated it quickly using the grating attachment on her Bosch Mixer). Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts. Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket. Now add your soap mixture and stir. Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel. You use ½ cup per load.


  1. We've used homemade for about a year with hard water and love it and have no problems...however we use the powdered variety...I wonder if that makes a difference?

  2. @Anonymous Thanks for the tip! I wonder if the powder is better? I've talked with a few friends on Facebook and they all seem to prefer the powder. I'm going to give it a try! What's your recipe?

  3. I'm having the same issue with our powdered homemade .... thinking of going back to traditional detergent