Monday, August 29, 2011

Make it from scratch Monday: Laundry Soap

For years I have been wanting to make my own laundry soap. I have always felt that store-bought detergents were full of unnecessary chemicals and over-priced. And probably bad for our septic system as well. 

And in my quest to explore the ways of housewives gone before me, I always wondered what was used back in the day. Seemed like everyone's clothes turned out OK before 100 oz. Tide.

So I found several online tutorials for making washing soap (since this is so mild, you can't call it detergent) that focused on two different ways- a dry powder method and a gel method. Being the lazy housekeeper I am, the powder method seemed less time-consuming so I went with that. (For info on the gel method, head over to my pal Mary Deluxe's blog! )

First you need to grate a plain old bar of soap with a cheese grater. I usually use Ivory (since Ivory flakes were probably part of the original ingredient list back in the 1930s.) But this time I lucked into a few bars of real homemade lye soap that I picked up at the Goschenhoppen Folk Fest a few weeks ago.

I know you are probably thinking that it looks an awful lot like grated parmeggiano, aren't you? So did my daughter- she tried to eat some and found out it was most definitely not cheese! Both the kids helped with grating as well, and there was only one scraped knuckle between the 3 of us. It was very hard and dry soap, hence the powdery consistency- fresh Ivory tends to look more like shredded cheese.

Once you get a cup of soap grated (or 1 bar) add a cup of Borax and a cup of Washing Soda. Both of these are commonly found in grocery stores and cost under $3 a box. 

I use an old sherbet tub, which is about the right size. Then I just put the lid on and shake it to mix.

You only need one tablespoon of powder per load. Add it directly to the soap compartment in your washer. This soap is ideal for HE front-loaders because it does not produce many suds. It's also odorless and colorless. If you want to you could use scented soap or a bit of essential oil, but I prefer not to, especially because I line-dry and adore the smell of line-dried wash.

But the key question is, does it work? (This is like my own little detergent commercial...)

What do you think?

It gets things clean. But the stain-lifting power is not great, so I use Shout to pre-treat anything tough. And I'm on the lookout for some bluing- the whites do get a bit dingy after a while. But all and all, it's very effective and I have been using this for almost a year now with no complaints from the rest of the household, especially the one managing the budget!


  1. I just did this yesterday! I make a liquid detergent but it's pretty much the same ingredients. Love it too, it smells so fresh and cleans very well! It saves a ton of money too

  2. Sounds so easy that I might have to try it. I have a HE front loader, and this might be just what I need.

  3. I decided to try this once and then gave up after I grated about 1/3 bar of Ivory! I'm so lazy! Of course, I don't have school work anymore, so I have more time to give it a try. Homemade laundry soap would be perfect for me because I have sensitive skin.

  4. I have always wanted to do this too! Thanks for the cool post! I'm trying it this weekend!

  5. Thanks Susie! I've been wanting to give the powdered version a try too...looks pretty simple.

    I've always had good results with the homemade laundry soap. For tough stains, I just soak it over night with a paste I make from the borax or arm and hammer, applied on the stain and it comes out!