Saturday, June 25, 2011

Homemade laundry soap

My battle with laundry soap has been life long. I am allergic to most brands to the point where I would sometimes get rashes after putting on clean clothes. My mom would struggle to find a detergent that would not give me or her an allergic reaction, and it seemed like as soon as we found one it would be discontinued. 

As we changed our household to being more environmentally friendly in every aspect, one of the first things to go was our laundry soap. All of the detergents, coloring, optical brighteners, bleach, and other chemicals are not only terrible for your clothing, but also for your health and your local environment. Wastewater treatment plants are unable to filter out all of the chemicals we put down our drains. These chemicals are pumped out with the grey water into our local environments. 

In my hometown the grey water is pumped into the ocean. This means that all of the chemicals in our cleaning products, including laundry soap, are being directly pumped into local habitats where animals absorb them or eat foods laced with these materials. This is especially dangerous in areas near the ocean or lakes where the local wildlife bioaccumulates or carries these chemicals until we eat them and absorb them as well. 

Instead of "cleaning" our clothes with a laundry list (pun intended) of chemicals, my family decided to start making our own soap. Although you can easily buy environmentally friendly soap, it is expensive, and often comes in wasteful, non-recyclable packaging. By making our own laundry soap we have ditched the dyes and other harmful chemicals. We also know exactly what is going in to it, its significantly cheaper, we are not allergic to it, and our clothes come out clean. 

1 (or more depending on how much you wish to make) bar Fels-Naptha or Ivory bar soap 
Washing Soda

The recipe is incredibly simple:
1. Grate the bar of soap (we used Fels-Naptha) with a fine cheese grater.

 2. For every 1 cup of grated bar soap, add 1/2 cup of Washing Soda

 3. and 1/2 cup Borax

4. Once you have measured mix it all together and pour into your container.  

5. Use 1 tablespoon for front-loading washer, and 2 for top-loading. We use a medicine cup to measure. 

One of the best things about this recipe is that you can choose how much soap you want to make. When I am at school I make a significantly smaller amount because of storage issues. At home we all pitch in to try to make as much as possible (your arms and hands get tired from grating the soap) so we do not have to do it again for a while. 

To make 6 months worth of soap (for a front-loading, European washer with about 6 loads of laundry per week) it only takes about 30 minutes and less than $10. For us, 6 months worth is 3 bars of soap (about 6 cups) and 3 cups of Washing Soda and Borax each.

You can find the ingredients at local grocery and drugstores (we have found it at CVS, Safeway, Target, or local grocery stores).


  1. Does this not foam up terribly in the wash? That would be my biggest concern of using regular bar soaps in a laundry machine.