Homemade laundry detergent, aka Laundry Lube!

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My inner domestic goddess (a much nicer, more elegant way to name my “inner hippie”) is taking over, y’all. After a long, hidden hibernation, she re-appeared quite without warning last year, and has been dancing barefoot around my house ever since.

Around the same time I started taking a more active role in my health care, I also enrolled in a series of classes at The Institute of Domestic Technology to learn various and sundry food preservation techniques – from cheese making, to jam making, bread baking, and beyond. And as if by magic, some kind of past-life spirit was ignited inside me that has a fervent need to make things. Like, from scratch. And grow things that we can eat, and know the sources of the food I buy. To eliminate as many unnecessary chemicals from our home as possible, and embrace a more natural, wholesome lifestyle. My teachers dealt in the alchemical arts of home economics, and I was hooked.

If you knew me before, this is when you’d laugh uncontrollably and fall out of your chair. But it’s true! And it’s a rabbit hole of endless possibilities that are actually fun to play with, as well as eco-conscious and health-conscious… but most of them are insanely cost-conscious, too. Me likey.

I’ve already shared my recipe for homemade, natural deodorant. And today, I’m happy to pass along my latest endeavor…

Homemade Laundry Soap (aka: Laundry Lube)!

(because, don’t get it twisted, living a cleaner lifestyle doesn’t put an end to my filthy mind.)
homemade diy laundry soap

You’ll need:
1 bar Fels Naptha (5.5 ounces)
1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
plenty of hot water
2 one-quart Mason Jars (or 1 half-gallon mason jar)

make your own laundry detergent

Fels Naptha (aside from being incredibly fun to say) has been around for over 100 years, and is by far, the most efficient, affordable and versatile laundry soap on the market. It’s also one of the least chemically-laden. It’s widely known as a great stain-fighter, and can stop the spread of poison ivy in clothes that have been exposed. For this recipe, you can either hand-grate it, or do like I did, and cube it before sticking it in ye ole Cuisinart for some hot pulsing action until it resembles chopped nuts. Bonus: your food processor bowl will be polished beautifully once you wash it out!

Divide the gratings equally between each of your quart-sized mason jars, and add 1.5 cups of near-boiling water to that (between 180-212°). Hint: if you have a keurig, just run water through that to heat it up. It’ll do ya just fine. No need to mix or jostle it around too much. Just put the lids on the jars and let it cool for about 12-24 hours. Or longer, if you’re busy. I actually waited around 3 days, cuz life got busy.

When you come back to it, the Fels Naptha will have sort of jelled up at the base of the jar. Take a butter knife to it and slice around until you can stir it into a consistency like a mucous-y, lumpy, gooey vanilla pudding. It really doesn’t have to be exact. You can’t do this wrong. Just mush it around.

Then add your 1/2 cup each of Borax and Washing Soda, to each jar. Note: this isn’t the same thing as Baking Soda. It’s just not.

borax and washing soda

Now add enough hot water to reach just where the curve of the mason jar starts to narrow, an inch and a half below the lippy top of the jar.

If you have an immersion hand blender, great! You can stick that baby right down into the jar and turn it into a lovely mayonnaise of laundry cleaning power! No immersion blender, you say? Well, do you have a regular blender? Because you can use this amazing hack to screw your mason jar directly into your blender blade housing and mix it that way! Don’t have a blender, either? Well, you might be amish. But that’s ok! Break out a whisk, and some elbow grease, and make like you’re going for a stiff meringue.

The photo on the left, below, is what the gelled Fels Naptha looks like when after it soaks up all the hot water and you come back to it (top), and after you stir it up a bit (bottom). The photo on the right is what it looks like after the Borax and Soda are blended in. Looks pretty delicious, actually! But don’t eat it, yo. Basically, when you’ve got something between a mayonnaise and a smooth silky pudding, you’re done!

diy laundry soap step

The end result is a highly-concentrated laundry lube that will leave your clothes bright and clean and fresh, without all the creepy chemicals and high price tags of store-bought products.

(Now, I think that it smells pretty darn lovely all on it’s own. The Fels Naptha gives it a slightly lemony freshness that is particularly well-suited to laundering. But, in theory, you could add 10-20 drops of your preferred essential oils to the washing soda before mixing it in, to personalize your scent. I might try this later, and will update with results then. If you try it before then, just be sure to choose a scent or blend that will play nice with the lemony scent that it naturally carries.)

To use it: just plop 1 Tablespoon on top of your clothes before starting the load. I find it simplest to use a cookie dough scoop, which is exactly 1 Tbs and has a handy release lever built-in. For super duper dirty loads, you can add another 1/2 or full Tablespoon. But here’s the catch: don’t put it into your soap tray. Just plop in directly into your washing tub with all your dirty duds.

I know what you’re thinking – can it possibly work in High Efficiency (HE) washers? YES! It does! That’s what we have. It works in both, regular or HE washers, whether they load from the top or front. Does it really clean your laundry – like really clean it? YES! It does! Believe you me, my hippie aspirations will never stand between me and a well-cleaned load of clothes. This stuff works. And, according to the general consensus of people who’ve used it for a while, it won’t fade your colors, either.

But how much does it make, and what does it cost? Well, let me break it down for ya:

The most amazing part? This recipe makes enough laundry soap for 128 loads. That’s, like, a year’s worth of laundry! And the cost breakdown comes out to about $7 for a YEAR OF LAUNDRY. But, guess what? You can make it even cheaper. I shopped at Amazon for these prices (because I’m lazy), but word on the street is there are lower prices out there that can reduce this whole shebang to as low as $2 for the whole recipe if you shop super smart.

My price breakdown – through Amazon
Fels Naptha Bar: $4.40
Borax (76oz box) contains 9.5 cups. At $11.74 box, it costs $1.23 per cup
Washing Soda (55oz box) contains 6 7/8 cups. At $9.68 box, it costs $1.40 per cup
Total Cost for 128 loads of soap: $7.03

So there you have it! My homemade laundry lube. Saving the world, and my wallet, and making my inner domestic goddess do a happy dance… one load at a time.

Go forth, friends… and be clean!


Comments

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5 thoughts on “Homemade laundry detergent, aka Laundry Lube!

  1. I mustn’t follow directions well as mine didn’t turn out quite like yours! Are these measurements per jar? 1 bar of Fels Naptha divided by two mason jars, then 1.5 cups water, 1/2 cup borax, and 1/2 cup washing soda per jar?

    • Yes, but then don’t forget to fill it up to the rounded top of the jar with water again after that! just 1.5 inches below the top lip… right where it starts to narrow again. Does that make sense/help?

  2. Ok, so I just finished making this, and because I am five years old and can’t wait to try out a new toy, I just put in a load of laundry. There are literally no suds. Is this normal? My final product looked just like yours, so I think I did it correctly. Thoughts?

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