Make a Year Supply of Laundry Soap for Less than $20

Written by Jonathan Dick

Making your own natural laundry soap is a great way to save money and become more self-reliant.

The great part is that it’s easy to do and doesn’t cost much! In fact, you can make a year supply of laundry soap for under $20 with a little bit of searching and 5 minutes of mixing time. Here are some things you’ll need:

Fels Naptha Soap. This brand of soap has been around for decades and has proven itself as a reliable cleaning agent. You can usually find it in your laundry aisle at most local grocery stores. You can also use Ivory soap if that’s more readily available.

The other great thing about Fels Naptha is that you can use it for other purposes like treating exposure to poison ivy, poison ivy or other skin-irritants. Washing the area with a very small amount of Fels Naptha will breakdown the oils that carry the toxin. However, using the soap has been known to cause irritation to people’s skin.

You can buy a typical bar of Fels Naptha soap online for $1.99 or so. Usually, you’ll be able to find it cheaper in the stores though.

Price: $1.99

Washing Soda. Not to be confused with baking soda, washing soda, or soda ash; is a white powder that is used to remove dirt and odors. Arm & Hammer makes a high-quality washing soda that can usually be found in your local laundry aisle.

You can also make your own washing soda. Pure baking soda has a chemical makeup of NaHCO3 (1 sodium, 1 hydrogen, 1 carbon and 3 oxygen molecules). When heated to high temperatures, it breaks down to become Na2CO3 (2 sodium, 1 carbon, and 3 oxygen molecules). All you have to do is spread baking soda on a pan and bake it at 400 degrees for about a half hour. Stir it occasionally until you can tell a change has occurred. Baking soda is more powdery and clumpy like small salt crystals. You’ll be able to tell it changed when it becomes dull in color, opaque and is separated into grains.

Price: $2.99

Borax. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral that is great for whitening and deodorizing. One of the most popular kinds of borax is made by 20 Mule Team and usually comes in 76 oz. boxes.

Borax is a little harder to come by compared to the other two ingredients. However, you can usually find it with a little searching.

Borax can also be used for cleaning pots and pans, cleaning carpets, bathrooms and more!

Price: $5.99

Total Cost: $10.97

Combining the Ingredients
After you collect the ingredients, combine all the ingredients in large resealable bucket. Combine:

• 3 Bars of Fels Naptha Soap (grated)
• 1 Box of Washing Soda
• 1 Box of Borax

You can also add essential oils like lavender to add a bit of good smell to the mixture.

The mixture will make a large amount of laundry soap that will last about a year. When you toss in your wash, throw in 1 tbsp of the mixture into the mix or 2 tbsp for large loads. From the breakdown of the costs above, that’s about $0.03 a day for your wash! That’s pretty good!

The soap works just as well as other laundry soaps for everyday laundry washing. If you have a particularly stinky or dirty piece of clothing, you might need to add some laundry boost. But we’ve found that using this recipe keeps our clothes clean and fresh!

You might also want to read:
20 Uses for Vinegar That You Never Knew
How to Make Your Own House Cleaners
Magical Uses of Hydrogen Peroxide

Updated May 17, 2013

47 Comments

  1. Pinks wrote:

    I only wash in cold water. In winter, it’s really, really cold.

    Will this dry powder dissolve and work well?

    May 18th, 2013 at 6:27 am
  2. Robin wrote:

    Is this safe for use in the newer machines that specify “he” soap for them. There is an energy efficient symbol on the detergent containers that indicate they are for use in the newer machines (he). These machines have more tumbling, use less water. Thanks.

    May 18th, 2013 at 6:34 am
  3. JW wrote:

    The recipe seems to be lacking.
    I am assuming you add water,,, how much?
    Do you melt the bar of soap, cook the mixture?

    May 18th, 2013 at 8:31 am
  4. Fermin Nevarez wrote:

    Thank you very much. I am going to try it. All our laundry is really just sweaty and dirty from kids playing outside.

    May 18th, 2013 at 8:36 am
  5. adrienne wrote:

    Have made this for many years. Grass stains etc. rubbed with the felsnaphtha disappear. It is not necessary to add the borax or soda. I now run the bar of soap over the fine side of a grater (8 times for small load, 16 times for a very dirty large load). Works just as well and saves on money and storage space.

    May 18th, 2013 at 9:07 am
  6. DD wrote:

    Hello: Wow, @Adrienne…interesting: just FelsNaptha!
    I made my own too, with all the goodies mentioned here, plus, fragrance crystals. I love it.
    The hard part was the grating of the bar, but once done….love.

    May 18th, 2013 at 9:20 am
  7. linda hargroves wrote:

    s this safe for h e machines and septic tanks?

    May 18th, 2013 at 9:38 am
  8. Linda wrote:

    can this be used in an he washer?

    May 18th, 2013 at 10:17 am
  9. ussboyd wrote:

    We have been using the liquid version for about 4 years. Just recently we moved to the powdered version.

    We have found that adding a cup of baking soda and Oxy Clean to the mixtue helps as well, personal preference.

    May 18th, 2013 at 10:35 am
  10. Rene' wrote:

    I have been making this laundry detergent for well over a year now, probably closer to 2 years. Have made it with both Naptha and Ivory . either works well. I have found that to pretreat trouble spots (grass stains, blood, ink, even that hard to remove notorious red clay!), laundry becomes clean. This is also great for those new front load, low suds machines, as the sudsing is now existent.

    Now that I have this down, I am moving on to home churned butters ( both regular & compound) and cheeses. Self reliance will be a necessity for most in the very near future, if it isn’t already for some. Home canning is also high on my list of “Things happening here”! I know I have traveled way off topic, but then again, not really when we are talking Self Reliance.

    May 18th, 2013 at 10:47 am
  11. Shelby wrote:

    I’ve made this with Zote (any color). We prefer the citronella smell over Fels Naptha. Other recipes I’ve seen say you can use any soap that does not irritate your skin when you bathe if you have very sensitive skin.

    May 18th, 2013 at 4:06 pm
  12. Jan Latimer wrote:

    Can this be used in the new front loading washers?

    May 18th, 2013 at 8:08 pm
  13. Alan wrote:

    Thanks for the article, but one key element is missing.

    You tell us how much Fels Naptha to use (3 bars) and how much borax to use (76 oz), but you don’t tell us what the size (quantity) of Washing Soda to use. You say ’1 box’ but unlike the specified 76 oz box size for the Boarx, we don’t know what quantity of washing soda to use. Especially if we go the oven route to make our own.

    Thanks.

    May 19th, 2013 at 10:43 am
  14. MountainMama wrote:

    I have been using this recipe for a few years and would note that you want to finely grate the Fels Naptha otherwise it doesn’t always dissolve, especially if you have hard water. I have experimented with other laundry soaps in the mix instead of the Fels Naptha and have found that Zote brand works as well or better in my hard water and our cotton clothes stay newer longer. We noticed with the Fels Naptha that our all cotton clothes like Tee Shirts and jeans were fading and breaking down more quickly than we remembered before using “home made” laundry detergent. I am sure it is all preference, I liked the smell that Fels Naptha imparted, the Zote I use is unscented so I add a few drops of my favorite essential oils. Again a tip on this is add it to your powder, I have a front loader machine and found that adding it in the rinse cycle left an oily residue in the dispenser and may have left an oil spot on some clothes, adding it to the powder totally eliminated that problem. I use a Tablespoon or two of white distilled vinegar instead of fabric softener, it rinses all the soap residue from our clothes and the inside of the machine. We could definitely tell the difference in how our clothes felt and they were cleaner than ever before. One last tip, if you don’t want to put essential oil in the washer, but want to add scent you can use a coffee filter spritzed with any scent you want, I find it easiest to use lavender water or my own mix of purified distilled water and essential oils that I use as a room freshener. You just spritz the coffee filter and toss into the dryer to add a light scent to your clothes. I have not tried Ivory soap although I know a lot of people that use that in their recipes, I just don’t like the smell of Ivory, so I would not use it.

    May 19th, 2013 at 12:27 pm
  15. Michael wrote:

    I first tried this last year. It didn’t quite last a year, BUT I used my batch to clean carpets, furniture and general purpose cleaning. It is AMAZING. I am getting ready to mix another batch. As far as laundry goes, we wash for 2 adults, 4 kids, plus sheets, bed spreads, etc…This recipe is a no-brainer. Check out my website.

    May 20th, 2013 at 9:18 am
  16. Debbie wrote:

    Is this safe for HE washers?

    May 20th, 2013 at 10:40 am
  17. Rene' wrote:

    This is safe for the new front load washers. Very little to no sudsing action. Hard to believe it can (and does) work. I have actually over used ( too much) but it doesn’t matter, except your product won’t stretch as far.

    The Washing Soda A&H, as far as I know, only comes in 55oz. boxes. This is the amount I use in my mix.

    May 26th, 2013 at 9:36 am
  18. Heather wrote:

    Can’t wait to try this!

    June 6th, 2013 at 12:09 pm
  19. Robin wrote:

    I made a batch of this and love it!! I also made a liquid batch in a 5 gallon bucket!:)

    June 12th, 2013 at 8:21 am
  20. Melissa wrote:

    What do you add to powder to make it a liquid formula? With that I assume you could add your essential oil for fragrance?

    June 23rd, 2013 at 3:03 pm
  21. Cora wrote:

    Is this used as a laundry detergent or as a detergent additive? If used as a laundry detergent use only 1 or 2 tbsp?

    July 2nd, 2013 at 9:59 am
  22. Diana wrote:

    I was very interested in this information. I am interested enough to try the process of making my own laundry soap. However, I am wondering how we can do this without an answer to the many quest- ions above. They seem like very good and appropriate questions that we all would benefit from. Thanks.

    July 8th, 2013 at 12:28 am
  23. Vijayakumar K wrote:

    Ofcourse, it seems quite cheap…what is the total weight of powder that we can get output?

    August 9th, 2013 at 3:36 am
  24. Katrein wrote:

    Thank you for this. I just picked up all the ingredients for this today at the store.

    I live in Colorado and I managed to find all the ingredients at Walmart in the laundry aisle.

    I should note that the Washing soda, Borax and Fels Naptha was on one side of the aisle on the very bottom shelf and the Zote was on the top shelf at the other end of the aisle. Just in case someone else finds one, but not the other right away.

    As Rene pointed out it seems that the Arm&Hammer washing soda comes in a standard 55 oz box.

    Walmart had both the Fels Naptha Soap, which comes in bars of 5.5 oz and Zote, which comes in 14.1 oz sizes and each was 97cents a bar.

    I went with the Zote, because you get one Zote bar for 1/3 less the cost for the 3 Fels Naptha. I picked up 3 Zote bars because when I went shopping all I remember were 3 bars of soap and figured that I would be safe and pick up just in case. 3 bars of Fels Naptha is 16.5 oz, so I may just use the 14.1 oz of Zote or grate up some of the 2nd bar to make it match.

    Total cost as of 8/23/2013: = $7.59
    Zote – 14.1 oz = 97 cents (x2 if you want to grate part of the 2nd bar to get the full 16oz)
    20 Mule Team Borax – 76oz = $3.38
    A&H Washing Soda – 55oz = $3.24

    Cora: I believe that you use 1Tbsp for small loads and 2Tbsp for large loads

    Melissa: I would do an internet search for making your own liquid detergent and find a recipe that you think you would like to use. There are many out there.

    Diana: What questions specifically are you wondering about? It seems that most of them have been answered in the various posts.

    August 23rd, 2013 at 6:30 pm
  25. Name Dolly wrote:

    go to pinterest.com
    put in the search bar,
    Home Made Liquid Laundry Detergent.
    you will see the recipe for the liguid version of this recipe……….

    October 2nd, 2013 at 12:59 pm
  26. Name Dolly wrote:

    Oh by the way…..I really like the liquid……..
    does a fine job………….

    October 2nd, 2013 at 1:02 pm
  27. Glenna wrote:

    Great article. My family has been using this for a year. We use the liquid version but still it is so much cheaper than a bottle of store soap. We also make our own fabric softener with hair conditoner and vinegar. We have two 5 year old boys and a newborn baby and this soap gets all the clothes clean.

    November 14th, 2013 at 6:03 am
  28. Bonnie wrote:

    I have used this recipe to make the powdered laundry soap for over 6 months now. I have extremely sensitive skin so I do not use the Fels Naptha. I purchase a very hard packed soap like a “French Milled” kind. You can also use Ivory or Pure & Natural. When I make up my batch I make it in smaller amounts so I do not have to store it in a huge bin.

    I take the bar of soap and grate it in my food processor with the grating blade then I take it and continue to chop it finer into smaller granules with the double blade. Do this in smaller amounts till all of it is done. (I take about 2-3 Tablespoons at a time then when I have it to the right consistency I pour it out of the food processor and do the next amount so I do not have it starting to melt from all the weight).

    When I have all the bar of soap finished grated into fine granules, I add 1 cup of Washing Soda and 1 cup of Borax into a large mixing bowl. Mix till all ingredients are well blended. Then I store in an old fashioned jar that has the clamp with rubber washer seal.

    I have a HE washing machine and I’ve tried using the powder where you are supposed to pour the liquid laundry soap and it only clumps up and doesn’t dissolve completely. So I’ve learn to take and sprinkle (I use about 1-2 Tablespoons) of it all around the bottom of the washer along with my powdered Oxy Clean clothes come out really clean and soft.

    I also use my homemade fabric softener made with hair conditioner. I also stopped using store bought bleach and color bleach, and made my own of lemon juice, white vinegar and water mixture. It not only get any excess soap residue out of clothes but it also helps keep the washing machine clean from excess built up as well. Clothes when dried in the dryer feel super soft and smell wonderful.

    I also use about 2-3 (depending on the size of load) balls of crumpled up foil in the dryer instead of dryer sheets this also helps to fluff up everything (especially towels).

    Hope any of you out there who have the HE brand of washers give these a try. You will never go back to using store bought laundry stuff ever again!!!!

    My only regret is that I didn’t start doing this when my kids were little. I would’ve saved myself so much time and hassle avoiding getting medication for my kid’s skin since they are just as sensitive as I am to the harsh chemicals in the store bought brands.

    November 14th, 2013 at 8:16 am
  29. CTWalter wrote:

    This is a really cool experiment in reusing stuff that you buy. I like the idea of the cost being so low. For a short term situation or crisis, maybe a year or less, enough laundry ‘soap’ can be set aside to cover the need. For long term, learning to make lye soap from resources on hand might be a skill set to learn before the need shows up. And learning skills from the past means they can be passed down to another generation so they won’t have to learn every thing from books, web sites, and experiments. :)

    For our situation, we use Ecos brand laundry soap purchased at one of those ultra big box stores. We live in the mountains in the SW desert and water is extremely precious. So we have a grey water system that feeds a large pond that waters chicken and ducks, supports an aquaponics system for growing fodder, grows fish, and the out flow goes to water our garden and orchard; getting four separate uses on less than eighty gallons a day for a family of four. Adding the sodiaum (Na) and other chemicals in not an option. Besides, we are what we eat. Just something to think about in terms of getting the most return on what we use. For those who are curious, after reading almost hundreds of books and web sites, the best, most scientific method we have found for keeping salt our of our system is letting the family dogs lick the plates and pots before washing them. I know, that probably bothers some of you, but washing with soap and hot water will remove, not kill, any germs you might be afraid of.

    November 14th, 2013 at 11:33 am
  30. Arnold wrote:

    The recipe is lacking. First, a box is not a standard unit of measure. Second, the soap does not dissolve readily in any but hot water. The recipe I have used for several years consists of two parts each of baking soda & washing soda with 3 parts borax. If mixed thoroughly and granulated, it dissolves well. I liquify the soap separately – one ounce wt in enough h2o to make 1/4cup. That with 2 Tbs. of powder is plenty. I use warm h2o to prevent residue on clothing.

    November 14th, 2013 at 11:38 am
  31. Regina wrote:

    This is safe for septics and HE washers. You can make a liquid version of this recipe. If you do, dissolve grated soap into a couple of quarts of hot (close to boiling) water. Dissolve the borax and washing soda in another couple of quarts of hot water. Be sure not to combine until both are completely dissolved. Use a five gallon bucket, and add more hot water until you have three gallons. Stir like crazy. Let cool overnight. When you catch it in the morning, it will be a mixture of watery stuff and gooey stuff. The best way to combine it is to use a hand-held immersion blender (hence the additional space in the bucket). Two tablespoons of this stuff works fine in a HE washer. I prefer to use Ivory soap rather than Fels Naphtha. It’s great for cleaning my induction cooktop, all manner of greasy surfaces, and I also found it works great on the precious metals we have in church. I would not use Fels Naphtha for those things.

    November 14th, 2013 at 1:02 pm
  32. kaytee wrote:

    You can get “washing soda” (sal soda) at the hardware store with the pool maintenance supplies; I got a 15# bucket at the end of summer “clearance” sale for ~ $17 (reg price was $22).

    November 15th, 2013 at 9:49 am
  33. kaytee wrote:

    sorry– hit the wrong key…

    “Washing soda” is no longer available at local markets, and even when it was, it was about $5/box, not “$2.99″. Not sure where (or when??) the author got that price info.

    November 15th, 2013 at 9:53 am
  34. Linda wrote:

    Arm and Hammer Washing Soda is still available in my part of the country. I saw it displayed, along with Borax and Fels Naptha, in Walmart, as if they were catering to people making this DIY soap, just this week. I just don’t remember the price.

    November 15th, 2013 at 11:53 pm
  35. jess t wrote:

    Borax is extremely bad for the environment. (It gets an “F” rating from EWG). (Fels rates a “C”)
    This will pollute your water table.
    There are much safer options out there.

    November 16th, 2013 at 6:28 am
  36. Rene' wrote:

    jess t, borax is a natural product that is mined from the ground. Would you please elaborate on how it is bad? And what is EWG?

    November 19th, 2013 at 7:02 am
  37. Greer wrote:

    Okay, I patiently read all the way down the list and can’t figure out what H E washers are. could someone please enlighten me?

    February 5th, 2014 at 7:26 pm
  38. Sunny wrote:

    I made a batch of this soap using Ivory bar soap, that is the only bar soap my husband can use.

    While it works really well, I don’t know how it could last 12 months. Even with only 3 people in my family it only lasted 3-4 months. I am using only 2 tablespoons per large load.

    The only way it lasts a whole year is if you hardly do any laundry.

    The laundry soap I buy is $20 per 220 loads. Say its costs me $120 per year. It cost me around $10 for the batch. So I would save $60?

    I bet most people would save more money by looking at how much they spend on cell phones and cable. Switching from a contract phone to a pay as you go and downgrading cable service will save way more than $60 per year.

    March 17th, 2014 at 9:07 am
  39. Akita Diva wrote:

    I LOVE this soap! The clothes smell so fresh and clean. Also I accidently found out that some bugs, such as ants and silver fish hate Fels Naptha – so I take a bar and draw a line around the back of my counters and cabinets. Seems it’s especially toxic to silver fish.
    The soap does bother my skin when I handle it full strength, but in the wash it causes no problem. I found an old food chopper and use it to shred the soap very fine. Works lovely!

    April 20th, 2014 at 7:30 am
  40. Star wrote:

    Is there any other washing soda? I rather not use Arm and Hammer since they are halal and refuse to support terrorists.

    May 15th, 2014 at 3:03 pm
  41. Marcia wrote:

    To answer Greer, HE = high efficiency. These are the front loading washing machines.

    July 7th, 2014 at 4:08 am
  42. Josh wrote:

    HE washers are high efficiency washers andcome in both front loading and top loading. They dont have the tower agitator like older washers. They have a plate style agitator and use less water. This detergent would be perfect for he washers because they use non-sudsing detergents.

    July 7th, 2014 at 7:23 am
  43. Karen wrote:

    Liquid Laundry Soap
    This is my best version so far.

    Recipe can be cut in half to make 5 gallons

    1 Bar Of Fels-Naptha Soap, Shredded, plus any leftover soap slivers you have saved
    1 Cup Washing Soda
    1 Cup Borax Powder
    3 Tablespoons Essential Oil (Optional)
    1 Five Gallon Bucket
    10 (One Gallon) Recycled Vinegar Or Other Jugs, such as leftover liquid laundry jugs you have saved. (Do not use milk jugs)

    Grate soaps and pour into a large stainless steel saucepan, along with some hot water; bring to a gentle boil, then turn down to a simmer and whisk until completely dissolved;. Let cool slightly. Blend soap mixture in increments with hot water in the blender; or skip blend step and use an immersion blender right in the pan. Pour into a five gallon bucket, rinsing blender and pan., and add choice of essential oil, if using. Add the washing soda and the borax, mixing well. Whisk or use the immersion blender again until all is dissolved. Add enough hot water to equal five gallons (make a mark to indicate the 5-gallon level for future use). Use the bucket in-between times to mop with if you don’t have little kids around.

    Stir well, then allow to sit, covered, for 24 hours; the soap will gel up and look like egg whites. Stir well again, or use immersion blender. Decant into jugs, filling each jug half full with water (8 cup mark), then finishing with liquid soap to 16-cup (1 gallon) mark. Use 1/2, 3/4 or 1 cup per load, depending on size of load, (small, medium or large), cool or hot water, and amount of soiling. Shake well before each use This solution will not suds up, but cleans great and makes the clothes smell fresh.

    Using 1/2 cup for each load, this recipe will make about 320 loads.

    July 7th, 2014 at 9:38 am
  44. Sarah wrote:

    I’ve been using this for a year. I usually grate a bar of fels naptha and then add it to a food processor with a cup each of borax and washing soda. It helps blend them all together, and makes it a nice fine powder. I use just a tablespoon in my he washer, and my clothes are always clean.

    July 7th, 2014 at 11:24 am
  45. Linda wrote:

    Yes, this is save for HE washers. I have one and use this each week to do my laundry.

    You can make a liquid version which works as well:

    1/4 cup washing soda
    1/4 cup borax
    1/4 cup dawn dish detergent (any color or scent)

    Pour ingredients into a bowl. Add 2 cups of boiling water and stir until powder disolves. Pour into a gallon jug or old laundry detergent bottle. Fill to equal 1 gallon. This will seem to be little more than water but that’s the way it is supposed to look.

    I use the old laundry detergent bottle for my soap and when I do a load, I just use the measuring cup on top to measure for a load like I would store bought soap.

    July 7th, 2014 at 12:57 pm
  46. Lori wrote:

    Fels Naptha is too harsh for our skin. I buy fragrance free castile soap bars online. It works great. I grate 2 3oz bars to equal the larger fels naptha.

    July 8th, 2014 at 5:14 am
  47. NameKINGSLEY ONUOMA wrote:

    I WANT TO LEARN MORE

    November 26th, 2014 at 1:45 pm

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