Homemade laundry soap

OK, I’ve gone back and forth with this particular money-saver.  Making my own soap took a bit of my time, but it worked great with my old clothes washer, and I did it off and on for years.   But when we got the new front load washer that I love so much, I chickened out.  After all, the HE washers require special HE soap and who knows what will happen if you grace that expensive washer with your own homemade concoctions, right?

Well, today a reader pointed me to a laundry soap recipe at DIY Natural.  It is almost identical to the one I used for years except you don’t have to add water and cook it up on the stove.   (Can you say easy??) And because this soap is low-suds, it is also safe to use in HE washing machines.

All it takes is a tablespoon of powder per load, for a savings of $0.15/load.  For the 3-4 loads of laundry a day that I do, that’s a $15/month savings.   I think I can find something to do with that money.


Homemade Laundry Soap (from DIY Natural)

Thoroughly stir together for 5 minutes.   Store in an airtight container.




  1. Katherine says:

    This is the recipe I just decided to try, I also have an HE machine I love and am scared to gum up but I am excited to see how this works, we spend a ridiculous amount on laundry detergent. I only have 6 kids and I do at least 2 or 3 loads a day so this will really help us alot. Thanks so much for all the money saving ideas, they really help! (I made the tomato soup from your cookbook today and it was great, way better than canned, so thanks for that too!)

  2. That’s the recipe I’ve used for about a year and a half and I just love it. I’ve tried different types of soap but the fels-naphta is just awesome for stain removing.

  3. I made this for a while too. I used my mini food processor to ‘shred’ the soap into powder. So that it wouldn’t clump up into a gooey soap ball, I dumped some powdered borax in there as well.

  4. This is the recipe I have been using for a little while now. The ease of it is wonderful. I had heard that you can add a half cup of baking soda along with the washing soda and cut the amount of bar soap in half to save a little more money. I tried it, and it works great and saves me a few extra cents.

  5. Can you use this in cold water? This has me thinking.

  6. When I was making homemade soap, I used a cheese grater to make the Zote small enough to melt well.
    Nowadays, my front-load washer is too precious for me to experiment.

  7. How much of a batch do you make up? I used the other recipe you were talking about, but we have hard water and my husband felt like it didn’t get our clothes clean enough? Anyone else with that problem.

  8. This is the recipe that I use, but I don’t have a front loading washer. I am not a huge fan of the citronella scent, and I couldn’t find the Fels Naptha locally, so I ended up using Kirk’s castile soap. I actually love the scent of it, and it works just as well as the good detergents on our grubby little boy clothes.

  9. I use this recipe in my HE washer and it works great. The only thing is some of my husband work jeans has a oily smell and sometimes his jeans comes out of the washer smelling oily still. Any suggestions to the problem. Thanks

    • Try Dawn Dishwashing Liquid. It really cuts grease and you don’t need very much. Sometimes when my husband’s dress pants came out with a greasy residue and chicken smell (he managed a Chick-fil-A)
      I would soak them in a dawn and water bath before washing. Try it, it works!

  10. My grandpap worked in a mill, so his overalls were very smelly/oily. Grandma had a wringer washer. After she drained the tub, she would refill with rinse water with vinegar in it, give the overalls a good swishing, then wring them through to a rinse tub with fresh water in it, then out into the basket. Then hang on a clothesline.

    Sometimes I put vinegar in the Liquid Bleach dispenser of my front load while washing my kitchen dishcloths.

    • We mostly clean with vinegar, so when I do a load of towls there are rags already in the load that have vinagar all over them. I’m sure it helps them come out cleaner.

  11. I have been making this recipe for over a year now and love it! I make a quadruple batch each time.

  12. I have made this recipie, and it works great for regular laundry, and sheets and towels. And saves a lot of money! I admit, I do still buy ‘regular’ laundry detergent (when it goes on sale!) and keep a box around for extra tough stains or when everyone has been sick, and I want to make sure I am really killing the germs. I am probably just being paranoid, but it makes me feel better!

  13. Because of skin issues, I use the ‘clear’ liquid laundry detergent. If I use a bar of Dove unscented soap in this recipe, do you think it will aggravate our skin? I’m not familiar with the other products in the recipe to know if they are scented. Thanks! 🙂

  14. Is this safe to use with cloth diapers?

  15. I’ve been using a variation of this recipe in my front load machine for about a year now. I have had absolutely no problem with the machine or the laundry. I shred Ivory soap in the food processor and dump it all in a bowl. Then I put the blade in and process 1 cup of shredded soap, 1/2 cup borax, 1/2 cup washing soda, 1/4 cup baking soda and 20 drops of grapefruit essential oil. I make about 4 batches at a time and that lasts me many, many months. I always add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the rinse dispenser.

  16. What about whiteness/brightness? I tried Charlie’s soap for a while and felt like it didn’t get my whites very white. It also left a dirty-looking gummy “ring” around the water line in my top loading washer. I would love to make the soap, but I’m a little worried about these two things…

  17. I had a hard time finding washing soda where I live (Israel) until I found out you can VERY easily make it yourself by cooking baking soda. Problem solved.

  18. Does anyone have a recipe for a homemade stain remover to go with this?

  19. afamilieslove says:

    for a nice homemade stain remover I use the last bit of the bar of Fels Naptha soap,and just wet the stain, scrub the bar on a bit and it works great, without waste. My mom is sensitive to smells and perfumes, and she never complains of the kids clothes being too “perfumey” when the visit, so the smell is not overpowering, and gentle on my kids skin too.
    for extra whitening you can add a bit of extra borax to the mix, works great for whitening and brightening, and especially nice for front loaders, it helps to clean and scrub the gasket ring, which is where the “oily and ucky” smells in a front loader ten to live. You should run a bit of this, by itself every month or two, just to clean the gaskets and get out the gunk that collects, works the same for top loaders too.

  20. I use this recipe also. I don’t have a FL but I love this recipe because you don’t have to cook anything. My friend add oxyclean and says it works even better. I may try that too. I run my powder through a blender to make it into a fine powder.

  21. laura h. says:

    If you find these products in your area, stock up. Two of local Walmart and one Target (only ones within 100 miles) no longer selling Borax because people are not buying and not worth the space to keep in stock. Also the washing soda they hadn’t even heard of. So depending on what part of the US you live in, these products may be harder to find than you would think.

    • In my area Fred Meyers and Winco carry them. Some grocery stores let you request products– that might be a good way to get a product if you happen to live in an area where no stores currently carry them. And there’s always the internet.


      Not the cheapest, but amazon does free shipping on orders over $25.

      • laura h. says:

        Thanks for the heads up. Don’t even know what those two stores are you named, never seen.
        My grocery store has gotten me gluten free flour and King Vitamin cereal and AlphaBits (Post quit shipping to our area) so maybe I will ask about those two products for making soap.
        I do not use the internet for anything other than this blog, emailing my children who live out of state, and my paying job; not a fan of computers and want to do as much without them as possible.

  22. mamaoftwins says:

    I have a question regarding where to put the soap in the HE machine. I always used liquid detergent. Wouldn’t the powder clog up the dispenser part? If it needs to go into the machine with the clothes do you put it in there with the water to dissolve before throwing the clothes in? I always use cold water and Our water tends to be on the hard side.

    Thank all 🙂

    • I just sprinkle it in on top of the clothes in the washer itself.

      • mamaoftwins says:

        Thanks you. So far its working great 🙂 My 6’6″ hubby has a sensitive side (his skin) and so far so good. He hasent mentioned any irritations.

        Do you grate the soap to be a smaller texture? I dont own a food processor and Im not sure my blender will work. Any suggestions? Might have to go yard saling soon 🙂

  23. Katherine says:

    I have always used HE powder detergent before I started making this so I just put it in the dispenser and it has been fine. I figure if the Tide powder didn’t clog it up this kind is okay.

  24. Thanks so much for the soap recipe! I made the gel version on the page you referenced about 18 months ago, and while I liked it, I really prefer powder detergent to liquids or gels.

    I found this page today, and after grating down two bars of soap, I have quite a respectable amount of laundry soap. I added some orange oil and it smells great, too. The first load is in the washer. I can’t wait to see how it goes!

    Thanks again,


  25. Carrie Tucker says:

    I have had trouble with odor/sweat stains when using this detergent. I used it for almost 6 months, but the hubs kept complaining about his undershirts and socks… Any suggestions?

  26. Erwin Purtell says:

    This is actually quite an excellent little money saver that has become somewhat legendary online over the past few years. Grating the bar of soap is of course the most labor intensive part of the process, but if you have a food processor to spare (like Melissa) it obviously is a lot easier. I have a video tutorial with a variation of this recipe on my blog, in case someone is interested.

    Best regards,
    My blog – Natural soap zone


  1. […] Also plan to go back to making my own laundry soaps, liked it better, the smell was fresher, and the colors stayed sharper, less harsh chemicals, and cheap too, plus again, kids can help out, ‘nother bonus!!: Mary had a simple recipe here if you wanna try it too!! […]