Saturday, January 24, 2015

How to Make Liquid Laundry Soap

We had been making our own powdered laundry soap for a number of years now which has worked well for us, yet not quite as well as we would like (our hard water certainly doesn't help!) And I wondered . . . would a liquid version work better?

The answer to that was 'yes!' I don't know why I had not tried making a liquid version earlier. :) It is so easy to make, easy to use, works well, and smells good, too! It uses the same ingredients as the powdered version only with the addition of water and optional essential oil . . .

The three basic ingredients

Let's get started! First grate a bar of Fels-Naptha (we use a cheese grater for this) . . .

Next, put four cups of hot water into a saucepan. Add your grated soap, heat over medium-high heat, and stir until all of the soap melts (approximately 10 minutes) . . .

Set mixture aside. Fill a five gallon bucket half full with hot water (the bathtub works great for this!)

Add in your melted soap mixture and give it a quick stir. Stir in 1 cup of the Borax and 1 cup of the Washing Soda.

Add 1/2 to 1 oz of desired essential oil (I didn't measure mine so I am not sure how much I used. I would guess it to be around 1/2 an ounce.) I chose sweet orange essential oil for our soap because not only is it one of the less expensive oils, citrus scents also smell so clean!

Stir again. Fill up the bucket with warm water within an inch or two of the top . . .

Stir together. If you do not have something long enough to stir with, simply put on waterproof gloves of some type (I used nitrile gloves which I have for soap making) and stir that way.

Next, put on the lid and let it set for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, mine looked like this . . .

A quick stir incorporated it all together. I had read that sometimes it gels and sometimes it doesn't, but either way it works just as well!

I put our bucket next to our washer and then use a cup per regular load. Mine tends to separate a bit after it sets so I just give it a quick swirl with the measuring cup prior to measuring out what I need.

It's pretty simple, isn't it?

And better yet, is the approximate cost breakdown per 5 gallon batch:

- Borax: $0.33
- Washing Soda: $0.54
- Bar of Fels Naptha: $0.97
- Orange Essential Oil: $0.39
TOTAL: $2.23

As the recipe makes enough for approximately 72 regular loads, the total per load is around $0.03 which is much less than commercial detergents and much safer and better for your skin as well!

If you try the recipe, have fun making it, and I hope it works as well for you as it has for us!


  1. I have been making this recipe for the last couple of years. I add tea tree oil instead of orange oil as it's the cheapest essential oil I could find:) I also add liquid oxyclean. This does raise the price, but it is still cheaper than buying liquid detergent at retail price. My husband works outside and his clothes get a bit grimy. I found that the liquid oxyclean gives the detergent just the boost in cleaning power that I need. I love reading your blog and really enjoy your photos! Thanks so much for your postings and the sharing of your faith in our Saviour. God Bless You, Jeannette

  2. I use almost the same recipe and find that it does a good job. I have never added any essential oils to my detergent. How much of the washing soda and borax is in your recipe? I use 1 1/2 cups of each in my version. I use 1/2 cup in each load. Sometimes I do have to pretreat items and add ammonia or some other laundry boaster to the load when the clothes are particularly soiled.
    Thanks for the post!

  3. I have been too scared to use this as our water is very hard. We have mineral scum everywhere and I am often cleaning the stuff off shower screens and other places. We also have a front loader and I wonder how that would work.

  4. I was wondering the same thing.
    Do you have any idea if this is ok to use in the newer HE washers? I would love to make and use it!

  5. I've been making it too! I just use ordinary pure soap - I haven't seen any Fels Naptha in Australia. It works just fine. Sarah, maybe you'd save even more if you used a batch of plain homemade soap!

    I so far haven't thought of adding essential oils though… I'm thinking this might be a good use for my grapefruit essential oil :)

  6. I blogged about my experience with homemade laundry detergent at in October of 2014. I am sorry that I don't know how to link to my blog for you, here. I, too, made the powdered version. I wanted to respond to those who commented on having really hard water, as I do, as well. For some reason, perhaps a chemical reaction, our laundry began stinking badly. I was never able to find the answer to this and have been disappointed to have to buy detergent, again. If anyone has a solution, please comment!

  7. We have been making this exact recipe for years. The only difference is I now add a few Purex Crystals to the washer before running. It makes our clothes come out smelling better and is still way cheaper than buying laundry soap. One bottle goes a long way as we only add a few crystals to each load.

  8. Goodness! I have all the stuff for this recipe setting around me house -- I just haven't had the time to put it together yet!!
    This looks great though. :) I like your idea of adding essential oils.

    I've heard from some sources that this recipe sometimes leaves white residue on cloths. (I think they might have used bathsoap instead of the Fels-Naptha.)

    Have you ever encountered anything like that? (I have hard water too. . .)

    Thanks for posting! I love your photos!

  9. I am using a warm washing soda solution to soak laundry separately before it goes into the washing machine. It helps removing residual skin grease from the fabrics especially if done regularly. Ironed blouses feel somehow crisper now and those that aren't going to be taken out of the wardrobe for a while are smelling better when eventually used. However according to the manufacturer of our brand of washing soda the product is not recommended for use in the washing machine, the reason being that soda removes minerals (limescale) from the water (which makes hard water much softer). According to the washing soda manufacturer, these minerals can then collect inside the washing machine (in the space under the drum) and over time harm the functionality of your washing machine (it gets somehow clogged up).

  10. @doehrmannfarms:
    I had white residue, too - that was when I was using the soda in the washing machine, on garments worn directly on the skin like indoors trousers which were not washed every week. This happened especially if the machine was loaded to capacity.
    I have been told that this substance is a kind of soap made in a chemical reaction of the alkaline soda with the grease from the soiled garments. Now I'm soaking those garments separately in a large tub or pot, then drain them in a colander in the sink before putting them into the washing machine for a rinse cycle, and then wash normally. I have done so for a few months now so the garments are less greasy to begin with, and I'm pleased to say that I don't get that annoying residue anymore.

  11. I like the liquid recipe better too.:-)
    Enjoy your day! ♥

  12. Hello there! We have hard water too and I found the powder just wasn't dissolving well enough. The liquid is a better choice (and I have used it in the front loader with no problem because it isn't high in suds which is the only danger in that). Thanks for sharing your recipe with us on the Art of Home-Making Mondays! :) Lemon and lavender oil would smell heavenly too without being too expensive...

  13. Thank you for your sweet comment, Jeanette! Tea tree would be another good oil to use. And that's a great idea to add liquid oxyclean! I have been adding powdered oxyclean to some of the loads (mainly lights and whites), but had not thought to add it to the actual laundry soap.

    I am so glad to hear that you have enjoyed your visits here and the blog has been a blessing to you!

  14. I am very glad that you asked about how much washing soda and borax to use, Sister in the Mid-west, as I had completely forgotten to put in the amounts in the post! As soon as I saw your comment, I went and corrected it. :) I use 1 cup of each, so you would be using a little more than I do. Sometimes I pre-treat items, too, and also add oxyclean to some loads and vinegar to every load.

    You're welcome, and thank you!

  15. Your hard water situation sounds a lot like ours, Suze! Sorry you have to deal with that as well. We have to regularly clean with vinegar everything that has water contact (sinks, shower, washing machine, etc.) If you haven't tried vinegar, you may want to give it a try for cleaning as it works really well to get rid of the mineral deposits!

    I don't have experience with front loaders, but I have read and heard that this works with them, but only ½ cup is supposed to be used per load.

  16. I am sorry it has taken me so long to reply to your question, Lexi! As I shared in my comment above, while I do not have experience with using this in a HE washer, I have read and heard that it works. Though with them, only ½ cup of soap is to be used. If you try this recipe, I hope it works well for you!

  17. That's great that you have also been making this, Rena! I had thought about using regular soap, but then wasn't sure if it would suds to much. I probably could use my soap with it, but it would cost a little more per load . . . and I am not sure if it would end up being too sudsy or not!

    Grapefruit would be a great oil to add to the soap! The citrusy scents all smell so fresh and clean.

  18. Thank you for your comment, BeautifulThrift! I am sorry to hear that you have such hard water and also have had a problem with smelly laundry when using this recipe. When we were using the powdered version, there was an odor sometimes which is one of the reasons we switched. Since switching, though, the clothes have always come out smelling nice and clean so I am not sure what advice to give. Sorry! I hope you are able to figure it out!

  19. It's always great to hear from those who have successfully used a recipe like this for so long, Nikki! Thank you for sharing! Would Purex Crystals be similar to Oxyclean? I have been adding the latter to some of our loads as well as adding vinegar to every load's rinse cycle and to the washing water on white and light loads. Doing these things has seemed to help!

  20. Isn't it nice, Christina, to see a recipe you would like to make and then discover you already have everything for it? :) If you try this, I hope it works well for you!

    Hmm . . . I hadn't heard before about white residue being left on the clothes with this recipe. We haven't experienced anything like that so far either in all the years we used the powdered version or now with the liquid version. So I don't have any advice on that one!

    You're welcome for sharing! And thank you. :)

  21. That's great that soaking the laundry in a warm washing soda solution works so well, Agnes! I hadn't heard of doing that before. Thank you for sharing!

    That is really interesting about the limescale/minerals/buildup/etc. We haven't had a difficulty with that yet in all the years we have used washing soda in our machine so maybe yours is a different kind? I'm not sure about that one!

    Thank you also for sharing from your experience in reply to doehrmannfarms!

  22. I can see why, Mrs. Anne! It works really well. I hope you enjoy your day as well!

  23. It sounds like we noticed the same thing with our hard water and laundry soap, JES! Thank you for sharing your experience using this recipe with your front loader. I didn't know for sure if it could be used or not!

    Mmm . . . lavender and lemon would be another great scent combination. Thank you for mentioning that!

  24. Sarah, you made a cool experiment!


Thanks so much for your comment! Each one is read and enjoyed. :)