Homemade Laundry Soap

Another way to save money, be a bit more self-sufficient, and decrease your exposure to toxic chemicals is to make your own laundry soap.  Our family has been using this recipe for years and has been pleased with the results.  It uses shelf-stable ingredients that are easy to store so this is a great recipe to use any time or to just have on hand...

We have made the following recipe with Fels-Naptha, Zote, and Irish Spring.  When I first started making my own laundry detergent, I used Fels-Naptha because it was the only laundry bar I could find in local stores at the time.  It works well, but I really wanted to find a better option with fewer and more natural ingredients.  

After doing a bit more research, we now make this recipe with white Zote laundry bars. Why?  Of the three soaps we have tried, the white Zote bar has the fewest ingredients and no dyes. The ingredients are: Sodium tallowate (derived from tallow), sodium cocoate (derived from coconut oil), water, glycerin, fragrance (everything I found online says this is citronella oil), and optical brightener. (1) The optical brightener is the biggest questionable ingredient for me. I would rather not have it included, but it is one questionable ingredient compared to several questionable ingredients in the Fels-Naptha. I also have to say that when I lived in Mexico, my whites were never brighter than when I used Zote. Since we have hard water, this is a nice help to keep our whites white.  My favorite feature is that Zote uses citronella for fragrance. You probably know that citronella is used to deter mosquitos. What you might not know is that it also has been shown to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties (2)-- an added bonus for your laundry detergent!

A couple of years ago I tried the recipe using an Irish Spring bath bar. While we no longer use commercial bath bars, I read that they will also work for this recipe. I was curious to know how it would turn out if this was all we had to use. Since we had a couple of bars left in storage I thought it would be a good time to experiment. I did not like the consistency of the final product. It turned out very watery. Using two bars might have helped, but given that we don't use this kind of soap anymore anyway, I haven't pursued any further experimentation with it.  I would be interested in trying it with homemade soap at some point in the future.  If I do, I will update this article and let you know how it turns out. 



1/2 bar of white Zote (400 g. bar) soap or 1 bar Fels-Naptha, grated

1 cup washing soda

1/2 cup borax

3 gallons of water

30 drops of essential oils, such a tea tree (optional)


Pour the borax and washing soda into the bottom of a 3 to 5 gallon bucket. 

Boil three quarts of water in a stainless steel pot (do not use cast iron as it will ruin the coating).  Reduce to a simmer and slowly stir in the grated soap.  Use a long handled stainless steel spoon to stir.  Avoid plastic spoons to keep the plastic from leeching into your water.  I do not use wooden spoons because I don't want the soap absorbing into the wood or drying them out. When the soap has dissolved, pour the mixture into the bucket with the borax and washing soda. Stir well until all the ingredients are dissolved.  Add enough hot water to bring the amount up to three gallons and stir well.  Close the lid and let sit overnight.

The soap will gel overnight.  The next day, take a long handled steel spoon to break up the gel and stir well. I sometimes use a wire whisk to help with this.  If you wish to add an essential oil, this is the time to mix it in. At this point, you can pour the laundry soap into containers or you can leave it in the bucket and scoop it out from there.  We have done both. It takes 1 cup of detergent for an average load in a top loading washing machine.

Note: This article contains affiliate links for your convenience.  As an affiliate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.

(1)  https://www.amazon.com/Jabon-Zote-Blanco-Laundry-White/dp/B008XLJLPI/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=zote+white&qid=1686334455&sr=8-3

(2)  https://www.netmeds.com/health-library/post/citronella-essential-oil-5-astonishing-health-benefits-of-this-herbal-tincture

Items needed for this recipe:

Borax, Washing Soda, Zote

A hand grater, a measuring cup

Not pictured - a metal spoon a stainless steel pot, and water