Six years ago, we decided to try our hand at making our own laundry detergent. It started as an experiment in saving some money, but then something happened – we never stopped. It’s cost effective and we like that this mixture leaves our clothes clean without the heavy scent of ‘mountains’ or ‘fields of flowers,’ but most importantly, it works! The lack of perfumes and dyes is friendly for the allergy prone (aka, us and every single animal that lives in this house!), and we’ve used it in both a standard washer and, most recently, our H/E machine, too.
There are just 3 ingredients to the recipe – borax, washing soda and a bar of Fels Naptha soap – and all of these items can usually be found in the grocery store, in the same aisle where you’d buy the big name detergent brands (often times, you’ll find them tucked on the lowest shelf). The longest part of the process has always been grating the bar of soap to make the dry mix, but many of you recommended the microwave method, claiming that it saves your arms a workout. (I’ll take that!) A few months ago, I tried this new-to-me method for the first time and shared the process in an Instagram Story, and we received so many questions, I thought I’d share over here just how easy it is to replicate.
I always make a double batch at once, but whether you’re making two batches or five, the math is simple: 1 bar of Fels Naptha + 1 cup borax + 1 cup washing soda = DIY laundry detergent. In the past, I used a cheese grater to whittle down my soap, but the microwave method nixes that step altogether!
Cut up the bars into thirds or fourths, and put them on a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 2-3 minutes, and allow them to cool for up to one hour in the microwave. It’s so important to leave them be, because not only will the soap be extremely hot, but the strong smell of Fels Naptha will dissipate the longer it’s left untouched.
In the meantime, mix equal parts borax and washing soda in a large bowl. If you used a single bar of soap, you’ll use 1 cup of each. If you used two bars of soap, you’ll use 2 cups of each – and so on.
Once the soap has cooled, take it out of the microwave. Each chunk should have ballooned into twice its original size. (It’s weirdly magical. Science!) Toss them into a quart bag, and pound with a fist. The soap will easily crumble into a fine powder, and it can then be whisked together with the borax and washing soda mix:
Only 1 tablespoon is needed for a regular load, but toss in a small amount more for larger loads. We currently have a H/E washing machine, and we’ve had great success putting the soap mix right into the detergent tray, although others swear by adding the detergent right into the drum along with the clothes. Tip: Resist the urge to use more than you need, as too much can dull your clothes!
Since completing the laundry room renovation, we also keep a wedge of Fels out by the sink. It has been an absolute miracle as a stain pre-treater; simply run it under water and rub it into anything stubborn. Before washing any of our dog bed covers, I’ll take a moment to pre-treat the worn down areas, and they always come out of the wash looking great.
Some of our readers have swapped in Kirk’s Castile, Zote or Ivory in place of the Fels Naptha, and we’ve even heard of using OxiClean as an additional whitening boost! For anyone who may be having trouble finding the ingredients at your local grocer, you can get a starter pack right here. One box of both borax and washing soda will yield you many, many batches of detergent (we only buy these two ingredients maybe once a year), so we’re always sure to stock up on bars of the Fels Naptha soap.