Nana's Homemade Laundry Detergent
As the price of nearly everything climbs, it is comforting to know there are a few things we can make at home that will save a significant amount of money over time. Laundry detergent is one of those things. Making laundry soap at home is easy and inexpensive. Yes, it works, and works well.
Ingredients & Supplies
Large pot (I have a dedicated pot just for soap making)
Cheese grater or sharp kitchen knife
2 quarts Water (boiling)
1 bar Fels-Naptha® or Zote® soap
¾ - 1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax®
2 cups Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda®
4 gallons hot water
5 gallon bucket or other container(s) of choice*
1. Put 2 quarts of water in pot on stovetop with temperature set to high.
2. While waiting for water to boil, grate the bar soap into small pieces - the smaller the better. A cheese grater comes in handy for this step but you can also shave the pieces off the bar with a kitchen knife.
3. When the water begins to boil, stir the soap pieces in using a long handled spoon. Set the burner to low or medium-low. Slowly stir soap pieces in pot until all have melted.
4. Pour melted soap into the large container. Add borax & washing soda, stir. Add approximately four gallons of very hot water and stir until all the powder has dissolved. Cover and let your detergent sit a few hours before using. This will allow it to gel.
You will need to stir the detergent again when you are ready to use it. You will probably have to wash several loads before settling on just how much to use per load. I tend toward ½ - ¾ cup per load for my laundry, which includes my gardening clothes. I am happy to say that I have not had to rewash a single thing since I started using this detergent.
The detergent will turn into a very thick gel. That is great! It should be like that. The first time I made it, I thought I had done something terribly wrong and would have to start over.
I do keep a piece of PVC pipe near my washing machine to stir the detergent around as often as it needs to be stirred/remixed. This piece of pipe has also come in handy to push rugs into bleach water in the washtub.
I use a large cat litter bucket for my detergent. It is a good size and takes up less room by sitting flat against a wall (unlike a round five-gallon bucket) because it is more of a rectangular shape.
I also like that the lid is attached; only opening on one side. I do not have to chase down the lid that rolled across the room or clean up the mess where the lid fell soap side down on the floor.
*A warning about the bucket - If you have small children living or visiting in your home, you will want to make certain these large buckets are locked away to prevent children from falling over into them where they could drown. If this is a concern in your home, mix your detergent in the larger container but store it in smaller containers such as recycled store-bought laundry detergent jugs. Ask family and friends to save theirs for you and you will have enough in no time.
- I personally love the scent of the Fels-Naptha® soap but some people do not. You may also use other bar soaps. I have had good success with Zote® pink bar soap. I know others who use Ivory® and Sunlight® soaps. It is really a matter of personal preference. I simply prefer Fels-Naptha® or Zote®.
- You may also wish to add a few drops of your choice of essential oil for a uniquely scented detergent.
- If you feel you have a buildup of detergent on your clothing, you can add ¼ - ½ cup of white vinegar to the rinse water. (I have never had this problem)