Homemade Laundry Detergent and Softener

Just what does this girl do with all her new-found time?

She cleans up good, that’s what. And, in the process, participates in a Pinterest Challenge thrown out by Sherry at Young House Love and her cohorts.

Like a kid at Christmas who just got a new chemistry set (okay, okay, so I’m a geek at heart, what can I say?) I have been giddy for the past 48 hours over the prospect of making my own home cleaning supplies out of natural and/or inexpensive ingredients. For the past few months, I’ve been thinking about making this lovely little recipe I found at the Yellow Brick Home blog (I’m an avid reader, so I read it first, pinned it second–that still counts for the challenge, right?):

Looks so pretty and cheerful, doesn’t it? Well, it was calling my name. Kim found it via That’s Church, who in turn found it on Tall Tales. But believe it or not, the ingredient list is no longer than the attribution list.

(For even gentler laundry, use 1 bar of solid castile oil soap, such as Dr. Brommer’s … I’m trying that version next, but I bought the Fels-Naptha first.)

Here’s the step-by-step:

1) Grate the bar soap as finely as possible into a container. Despite the fact that the majority of Fels-Naptha ingredients are plant-derived, it is still an irritant in large quantities, so I wore a rubber kitchen glove for a little extra protection during the process. There was a small stub left at the end which I threw out rather than grating my fingertips down to a pulp.

2) Measure the Borax and Washing Soda into the container. If you like, you may add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to add fragrance.

3) Mix it all up. I used a plastic spoon to break up the large Borax pieces and then put the lid on the Tupperware container and shook it to combine the mixture.

Then I stuck a mini (roughly 1 Tbsp) aluminum scoop in it and tried it out.

The recipe says to use 1 tablespoon for small loads of laundry, 2 for large, and 3 for extra-large. I opted for 1 tablespoon, but I added a couple of extra steps at the end. First, I added 1/2 cup of vinegar into the fabric softener compartment of the washer. I stole this from another pin:

Then, I added a squished and rolled-up ball of cheap aluminum foil into the dryer with my guinea pig towel load, to reduce static cling. Yet another pin!

The result? Oh. My. Goodness. Where has this wonderful detergent and its cheap assistants been all my adult life? Daniel had done a load of towels our old way earlier in the day, so I had the ability to compare the two loads.

I’m sensitive to many fragrances and cleaning agents, so we don’t use fabric softeners or dryer sheets. The first load with our normal detergent had the typical clean, but rough towels. However, the homemade method produced soft, unwrinkled, nearly static-free towels that didn’t bowl me over with a heavy-handed perfume. If my sensitive skin doesn’t react to this soap over the next few weeks, I think I may have found “The One.” Of the soap, variety, of course.

Fingers crossed!


Linked up at:

Young House Love

Bower Power

House of Earnest


Filed under Cleaning, DIY, Home Improvement, Laundry, Products

14 responses to “Homemade Laundry Detergent and Softener

  1. Love this. I need to try the aluminum ball trick! I hadn’t heard of that one!

    • Thanks, Kim! I hadn’t heard of the aluminum foil ball trick either until recently. Since we just moved I’ve been doing a ton of laundry with it in the dryer and so far it has been a champ. Only a few synthetic items of clothing have had static.

  2. Be sure to post how it reacts with your skin and how it does with your clothes too! I have sensitive skin too and would love to hear how you like it.

    • I definitely will, Erin. So far, my skin has been just fine with it. I have heard that the Fels-Naptha can cause some fading with clothing and I may have seen that on a couple of black shirts, but then, they were old anyway, so that could be the culprit. I’m keeping a close eye on it and will try again next time with a bar of solid castile soap and see if I notice a difference.

    • Hi Erin! After using it for awhile now, I can say that my skin has done just fine using the soap. I made a new batch with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile soap (the solid bar type) and gave it to friends over Christmas and one friend with sensitive skin that reacts to most commercial powder type laundry cleaners said it was kind to her skin.

      As for the clothing, it may have faded some t-shirts, but I can’t be sure if that is just washing in general or the soap specifically. I am keeping a close eye on it.

      • Thanks for remembering to get back to me! I might have to try it now!

      • You’re welcome! Glad to help. I know how important that is. I have so many allergies and I’m sensitive to even more, so that’s definitely something I look for in any product I use or make.

  3. I’ve never heard of putting an aluminum ball in the dryer, I’ll have to try that! Great blog 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Andrea! I hope you’ll have a chance to read more of the blog and find some helpful organizational and cleaning tips! It’s all from a year of getting my act together so far.

      The aluminum foil ball has been working very well so far and I’ve just re-used the same one over and over. It is now a very shiny and smooth ball. I just leave it in there for every load.

  4. Oh great tips! I’d never heard of either of those, but I’ve been thinking about going the homemade soap route for some time. Thanks for the inspiration!

    PS – and thanks for your sweet comment on my blog today! 🙂

  5. Jae

    I saw this online too and want to try it. Where did you find the bar of soap?

  6. I’m visiting from the House of Earnest Pinterest Challenge! I just made my own laundry soap as well, using almost the same recipe. I just added some oxy clean due to having two messy little boys. I’m glad that it worked out well for you!

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