Thursday, October 25, 2007 in country living, crafty things, House stuff

The great homemade laundry soap experiment

I was actually pretty excited to make my own laundry soap. Especially when I found a recipe to make the dry powdered stuff. Laundry soap goop looks fun and all, but I was going for speed & ease of preparation. I prefer the poweder and it has become harder to find the scent-free stuff without paying a fortune. My local grocery store had somehow stopped making their name-brand.

Making my own laundry soap

Pretty much every site I saw replicated the same recipe:
2 cups grated soap
1 cup washing soda (No substitutions! Washing soda is nowhere near the same thing as baking soda.)
1 cup borax* (see note below)
Mix well in a container, like a large empty coffe can. The amount suggested per load was 2 tablespoons.

My brain kicked in. Two tablespoons was not much, even for concentrated laundry powder and I have never been one to put in the full amount. I checked both boxes of borax and washing soap and they recommended from 1/3 to 1/2 cup of each per load, just to boost your regular laundry soap.

I decided to err on the side of caution and put in one rather heaping half-cup scoop of my new powdered laundry soap. It worked! Mostly. My clothes were indeed clean, and better yet, scent-free. Static free too, but that could have been from the splash of vinegar I sometimes put in (about a cup). From a random sampling of an unsorted load, regular clothing was fine, dishclothes were actually great, but socks and undies I was unsure of. A big “eh” there.

I have read about other alternative laundry washing things and they talk about soap residue in your clothes and machine. I never use the required amounts anyway, and I’ve even run my machine with no soap in a load before (accidentally, duh) so I know how a load looks with no soap.

I am not a laundry goddess. I want to be able to toss everything in, all at the same temps, and have it come out reasonably okay. I use scent-free products as I have allergy and asthma issues with them. I don’t use dryer sheets or fabric softener. No fuss, no muss, wash-n-wear fabrics only. So you see I like to keep it simple.

Now, I was all over this like a hippie in a hayfield until I got down to calculating the cost. The ingredients are cheap, as I can get bars of laundry soap two-for-a-dollah at the local Dollarama. It’s a bit of work to grate the soap on the backend of a regular cheese grater and it creates quite a bit of lung-hurting dust if you’re sensitive to that. But I was *willing* for the greater good. The washing soda is over $5 a box here and the borax a bit over $4. I can get quite a few loads from that, but it still worked out to around 25 cents a load – less if you use less. Maybe 20 cents. Sure, if you use the recipe’s amount of TWO TABLESPOONS it will be cheaper, but it won’t clean all your clothes. At least not to my satisfaction.

I compared this to two different kinds of laundry detergent. One a super-sized bulk box of name-brand powdered detergent, and the other a store brand concentrated liquid. The bulk box was slightly cheaper and the liquid around the same. This even accounts for more or less how many loads the manufacturer figured you’d get from their container. Sometimes I get less, sometimes more.

Bottom line is I’ll only do this again for times when I run out or when I have to pay substantionally more than $6 for 32 loads. It would also be worth it if your family had scent allergies and you had a hard time buying or finding those products. It would also be good if you needed a travel-sized batch.

(Note: while borax is a naturally occuring substance, it is *not* considered non-toxic. It is actually pretty toxic in any ingested amount, especially children. Then again, so is ammonia or bleach. But fair warning and all.)


  1. I just re-wrote about what we discovered for laundry soap for our family. It’s pretty far out there, but we have severe (read bleeding like lepers) skin allergies at our house. We can do 150 loads for 21$, most of those loads are preschooler who loves mud dirty too.:)

  2. Those ingredient prices would change the equation in our house as well. At the moment I can make soap pretty cheap with around $2 per box of both borax & washing soda. But even at those prices I sometimes wonder at the irritating soap dust I create when making it.