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DIY Suds

Update: If using a HE washer, our readers have suggested throwing the mix directly into the wash load, rather than the soap dispenser. Please read through the comments for more Q&As, as you have all been so wonderful to share your experiences!

And if you’re looking for even more information on our DIY suds, see our sudsy update to this post, right here.

The last time I purchased laundry soap, I threw a fit in the cleaning aisle and spent the drive home moaning over the high coast of detergent. I always knew I was thrifty, but even that took me by surprise. Since then, Scott buys the suds. Did I score in the man department or what?

First mentioned here (whew, I was on a rant that day), I decided to heck with it all, and I went and did something about it. Four months later, winter happened and all those loose to-do projects started getting done. Found on That’s Church via Tall Tales, the three ingredients were purchased at our local grocery store for a total of $10 (of course, I discovered this after first trying Ace and then Target – but only finding 1 ingredient of each in both), and it was so dang easy. You’ll need Borax, Fels Naptha soap, and washing soda:

I kid you not, the steps are even easier than getting in your car, driving to the store, and buying the 3 ingredients. Especially if you’re like us and spend an afternoon in every carry-all store in the city until you find what you needed at the first place you should have stopped. In fact, it’s so easy, I can sum up the steps in a sentence (hey, there’s a first for me!): Grate an entire bar of Fels Naptha with a cheese grater into a bowl (we used a Rubbermaid container, same diff), then add 1 cup of Borax, followed by 1 cup of the washing soda, and mix.

While we could’ve left the mixture in the tupperware, I spruced up the display by using an on-hand Ball jar instead. One regular load of laundry only needs one tablespoon of this mix, so I put an old, mini coffee scoop in the jar to use for measuring.

Here’s the kicker – there’s enough Borax and washing soda to make something like 5 batches of this, uh, stuff. And the bar of Fels Naptha was only a buck and each batch equates to 40+ loads. I’m totally fascinated by this, oddly enough. (Dork alert – I even found this nifty site for other Borax uses.) Of course the best part is that it actually works, and it works well – even with a boy in the house and all his boy clothes. No more temper tantrums in the cleaning aisle; not even for Scott.

Ooh, and here are some random mentionables. The laundry smells like heaven during the wash cycle – lemon-y and clean, but in some bizarre twist, your clothes come out smelling scent free, but fresh. I guess that could be good or bad, depending on what you’re into. And (like any well meaning geek), I even excitedly emailed Tiffany of Tall Tales beforehand, and she mentioned that Dove soap works, too.

So there you have it. Three ingredients and three steps – plus one more if you count the mixing part. But three and three sounds better. If this was Facebook, I would totally “like” this project.

  • [...] 8: DIY Laundry Soap (we use Dr. Bronner’s instead of Fels [...]ReplyCancel

  • Dawn - February 17, 2014 - 2:25 PM

    just stopping by to let you know I just made the DIY laundry soap! Thanks for the great tutorial!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - February 17, 2014 - 3:40 PM

    Dawn, happy to hear! No problem!ReplyCancel

  • Robert - February 20, 2014 - 12:39 AM

    Just to add to what others have said, borax has a long history of safe use in commercial bath salts, and eye drops have commonly been formulated with boric acid, so how toxic could it be?

    However, these recipes for homemade laundry detergent here and elsewhere usually call for more alkali (borax and/or washing soda) than is optimal. In the days when commercial laundry powders were made using soap and either of those, these home recipes would’ve been understood as cheap AND INFERIOR formulas that degrade fabrics prematurely. The better soap-based laundry detergents were mostly soap, with only a small amount of alkali, and rarely would BOTH borax and washing soda be used together in one product. And baking soda does practically nothing unless you’re also using chlorine bleach.

    Really you should be adding the soap and builder to the wash water separately, adjusting the builder to the amount and “hardness” of your water. Making a dry product from such mixtures stay uniform would be very difficult unless you spray-dried the mixture after wetting them together; otherwise they’ll tend to sift & separate. You can add water and make the goop as some have, but it’s difficult to make that stay uniform too.

    There are better builders with soap for laundry detergent than borax or sodium carbonate, but they’re not grocery items these days: sodium silicates and phosphates. Clay-derived aluminosilicates can be used too, as can some non-mineral water “softeners”. You may be seeing adequate cleaning results with these high-alkali recipes, but you’ll probably notice eventually that your clothes aren’t lasting thru as many washes. That’s always been the trick with formulating clothes-washing detergents for machines: making them clean well while being friendly to the textiles. One of the developmental formulas that eventually led to Tide was said to leave shirts feeling like sandpaper!

    As to the person who wanted to make enzyme detergent, good luck. No theoretic reason you shouldn’t be able to with the like of meat tenderizer or pineapple juice, but your product will be unstable; you’ll have to make it up fresh each use, because the enzymes will destroy themselves if they aren’t inactivated by the other ingredients. Powdered meat tenderizer might be stable in a dry product, but be rather expensive. It’s more the sort of thing you’d want to apply selectively to spots.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - February 20, 2014 - 8:42 AM

    Rob, thank you so much for the input!ReplyCancel

  • - March 17, 2014 - 9:07 PM

    Saved as ɑ favorite, I love ƴouг website!ReplyCancel

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