Sunday, October 31, 2010

Laundry Soap

{Note:  I recently added the recipes for both the paste and powdered versions of this soap to the Recipes tab at the top of this blog. There is a print feature at the end of each recipe that makes it easy to print a copy without all the blog blather included :) }

I became interested in making my own laundry soap as a creative/cooking/money-saving plan and found I quite enjoyed the result.  I began by doing a little research, recipe reading, and experimentation and came up with something that works really well for me. 

I wanted something easy to make and easy to store. Most of the recipes I read called for a lot of water (for liquid soap) and, therefore, a lot of storage containers. The dry soap recipes all seemed too complex and cumbersome. {UPDATE:  See the Recipes tab above for my SIMPLE dry version!}

I keep my soap in quart-size canning jars with plastic lids and I have a long handled tablespoon I use to put the soap in the washer. I add the laundry soap as the washer is filling and rinse the soap into the washer from the spoon. (One quart of this soap will clean 64 loads of laundry!)

As with the soap I purchase (or formerly purchased) at the store I sometimes use bleach or oxyclean for extra whitening.  I don’t find I do this any more or less often than before.  If I have a tough stain I rub in a little of the concentrate and it seems to take out everything I’ve tried it on.

All of the ingredients are available in the laundry aisle at the grocery store.  If your store doesn’t carry one of the products, look online.  All of them are available at

It costs about 1.7 cents per load (Tablespoon) of this laundry soap.

The following is my highly concentrated recipe.  One tablespoon of soap does a whole load of wash! (I have a high capacity washer.)

White Silk Purse Laundry Soap
~ makes 4 quarts {one gallon} of concentrate ~
~  that's 256 loads of laundry! ~

2 bars Fels Naptha
2 cups 20 Mule Team Borax
2 cups Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
6 cups of hot water (+ more water as needed)

Put 6 cups of water on to heat. It will almost boil by the time you are done.  While the water is heating, grate the Fels Naptha.  I cut the bars in half the long way and run them through my food processor with the grater attachment, but it could be grated by hand. Add the soap to the water that is heating, and stir frequently.  This part takes 10 – 15 minutes.  Keep stirring until the soap is completely melted. Don’t let this boil or you’ll have soap all over the place. (Don’t ask!)

When the soap has melted turn off the heat and add the Borax and the Washing Soda. (Do not confuse Washing Soda with baking soda.  They are NOT the same.  Washing Soda is in the laundry aisle.) Stir and stir and stir. You will stir for about three minutes.  The powders will dissolve into the liquid.

Pour the liquid equally into 4 quart jars. Now, add just enough water to bring the contents up to the “shoulders” of the jar.  This will leave about 1 ½ inches of headspace.  Put lids on the jars and let them sit overnight (about 8 hours).

The soap in the jars will separate while it is standing. This is OK. There will be firm soap on top and kind of gel-like soap on the bottom. Sometimes "crystals" form at the bottom of the jar, don't worry.

This next part is really quite fun.  Take one of the jars and cut up the firm soap.  I just stick a knife down into the jar and cut it up like a pie. Next, pour all of this into your blender of mixing bowl I have a BOSCH. Now, because I am frugal I pour about 3 tablespoons of water into the quart jar and swish it around to get all the rest of the soap out.  If there are crystals, I use HOT water and stir a bit. I add this to the blender too.

 Start on the lowest speed of your blender or mixer and increase  the speed gradually.  Your result will be something that looks like really thick, pale yellow whipped cream. You may need to scrape the sides down with a spatula a few times to get it all the way blended/mixed. It's like creaming the butter, sugar and eggs when you make cookies. (I can blend/mix two jars at a time in my Bosch bowl.) 

Pour/spoon the now blended soap back into the quart jar(s).  Your jar(s) will be all the way full now and you may even have a little more for another jar. Pop a lid onto the jar(s) and your soap will keep indefinitely. It gets a little firmer in the jar when it sits, but it stays spoonable.

Just a few notes: The following makes 12 quart jars of laundry soap--

ª     •  6 bars of Fels Naptha (.99 each), 1 box of 20 Mule Team Borax ($4.15), and 1 box Arm & Hammer Washing Soda ($2.79) {then there was a little tax - .86 cents}

ª     • I made 12 quarts of concentrate for $13.74.  That means it costs 1.7cents per load J. That also nearly uses up the above ingredients. (Sometimes I find the products on sale for even less, then I buy more!)

ª     • I had a little Borax left over… It’s good for lots of stuff. Read the box.

ª      • 12 quarts of soap would do just over 14 loads of wash a week for a year!

ª     • I thought I’d need about 18 quarts for a year’s supply at my house.

ª      • The supplies for the soap are easy to store.  I don’t feel compelled to make it all at once.

ª      • I use a Bounce Bar in my dryer.  I think it is the best anti-static and smell good invention of all time.
 June, 2011 -- I've tried the recipe dry this summer and have been happy with the result; especially happy that it only takes about 5 minutes to make and then does the job just as well.  Here is the recipe: Grate two bars of Fels Naptha, then run the blade in your food processor that turns it into "powder."  It won't be quite as fine as real powdered soap, but very close.  Then add two cups of Borax and two cups of washing soda.  It only takes TWO TEASPOONS to do a large load.  I have a soup spoon that holds two teaspoons that I use to measure. -- The hardest part is thinking that two teaspoons will do the job, but it does! -- I do keep a jar of the paste kind on hand to rub into tough stains.  I live in a farming area and have a friend who says it even gets ground in cow plop out of her husbands jeans (apparently that is her toughest stain to conquer).