Waste or mistakes never happen in a farm kitchen.....only future animal or plant food.

August 19, 2010

Gone off the deep end.....homemade laundry soap

I haven't purchased laundry detergent in YEARS.  I am just now reaching the bottom of 2 boxes of commercial size laundry detergent.  Yeah, that's a lot of loads.

I have read about people making their own soap for a while now, but have just not been interested.  I didn't see the point and didn't quite realize just how significant the savings really was.  I like my current brand, it is biodegradeable, it works, it's cheaper than store bought.  Most "natural" cleaning products I had experience with in the past were...disappointing...to put it nicely.  However, this year is different...cash flow is a challenge, so my priorities have undergone some readjustment.

After doing some research, it turns out I already had all the ingredients I needed to try it...no "flow" necessary....a good thing!

Grating by hand...about 15 minutes

1 or 2 parts soap 
1 part baking soda
1 part Borax (optional)

That's it.  
I used 1/2 cup of hand grated Kirk's castille soap about 1 quarter of the bar or 1 oz, because that's what I had in the cupboard.  I would have used more, but I got tired of grating.  You can use a food processor if you have one, just cut or slice it into smaller pieces first.  The soap is the most expensive ingredient here, so use what is available in your area and is compatible with your skin/nose needs....or homemade, if you've got it.  Avoid soaps with added moisturizers and such as they can leave spots on clothing.

I added about a 1/2 cup of Arm & Hammer "Rumen Buffer" (larger granule baking soda) and 1/2 cup of  20 Mule Team Borax that I had on hand as a supplemental fertilizer.  I decided that there wasn't enough difference between washing soda and baking soda to warrant buying it special.  Apparently, you can convert baking soda to washing soda by heating the baking soda.  Maybe it would make a difference if I only washed in cold water?

Finished product...24-48 loads!
I estimated the cost of the baking soda (50 lb bag from the feed store) at $.05, the borax at less than $.25 and the soap at $.32 for the batch.  I don't remember how much I paid for the borax and soap, so I guessed and rounded up.  The recommended dose is 1-2 tablespoons per load, so a 1 1/2 cup batch is $.62 for 24 or 48 loads or $.013-$.026 per load.

I wanted something that actually WORKED, not just something cheap or "natural," so I tested this on my toughest stuff first...the barn clothes!  I loaded my front loader with 2 pair of overalls (one dirty stiff and one with buck stink) plus my barn washcloths and other assorted rags.  I washed in warm water with a cold water rinse.  I used 1 rounded TBS of soap and my "softener" dispenser holds about 2 TBS of vinegar.  I used a rounded TBS because I didn't have anything to scrap the top with...since it didn't come out of a box.

The laundry came out at least as clean as my other stuff, so definitely takes the dirt out.  I will have to pay attention if I wash anything with blood or milk....since there no "enzyme" action.  Who knows, maybe that's just marketing?

If you want to make liquid soap, you can use the same ingredients plus heated water.  This blog has great step by step pictures.

UPDATE: I was at the local grocery store today and checked pricing on Washing Soda and Fels Naptha soap. Washing soda was 5x the price of the baking soda and the Fels Naptha was the same as the Kirk's but was a slightly bigger bar and had a VERY strong odor.

This post part of
Simple Lives Thursday 
Make It From Scratch


  1. I've been making my own laundry soap for a while. I do use washing soda and I add some lavender oil, but essentially it is the same recipe. Kirk's is pretty expensive; I bet you could get the price down a lot by using different soap.

  2. I make my own but I make the liquid.. The only problem I had was it not getting greasy stains out. So I added a 1/2 to full bottle of Original Dawn dish soap. Its biodegradable still and works great!

  3. I too make my own laundry soap, it works great except for oil or grease stains. I just put a little dish soap on the grease spot before washing.

  4. I love this idea! I've been buying Charlie's Soap which I love because you only need to use 1 tbl per load. However, I've always wanted to make my own to. I'll have to try this once I'm out. Thanks so much for linking up to Simple Lives Thursday :)