Vol.2, No.1

Make your own laundry soap

Even though laundry soap is commonly available in any grocery store, you might wish to make your own and save money.

Commercial laundry soap
Photo Credit: Jaimie D. Travis
Even though laundry soap is commonly available in any grocery store, you might wish to make your own. Perhaps you are allergic to a perfume or other additive in commercial laundry soap. Or perhaps you wish to save money. Whatever your motivation, here is how to make your own laundry soap.

Make sure that you have a large pot, bowl, or other container in which to mix the laundry soap. You will also need a wooden spoon with which to stir the mixture, measuring cups and spoons, rubber gloves, and for some recipes, a grater. You will need a large plastic container with a tight-fitting lid to store the laundry soap.

The simplest recipe for laundry soap is to grate a bar of soap and add washing soda. The soap must be pure soap, with no added fragrances or other chemicals. Do not use deodorant soap. The washing soda can be obtained in the laundry section of a grocery store. Use two to four tablespoons of washing soda per cup of soap flakes. The harder your water is, the more washing soda you should use. Use one cup or a little less of this mixture per load of laundry.

You can also make liquid laundry soap. Grate one bar of pure soap into a pan of hot water. You only need enough water to dissolve the soap. Heat the mixture, but don't let it come to a boil. Stir until the soap is dissolved. Once the soap is dissolved, add the mixture to three gallons of water. Add a cup of washing soda and stir well. Once the mixture has cooled, store it in the plastic container. Use one-half to one cup of the mixture per load of clothes.

You can also make a laundry soap that is suitable for delicate hand washable items. Take one-quarter cup grated soap flakes, one cup of water, and one-quarter cup borax. Borax is available in the laundry section of your grocery store. Mix the ingredients together in a saucepan. Heat to a simmer and stir constantly until the mixture is smooth and blended. Strain the mixture into a storage container. Use two tablespoons of the soap per sinkful of hot water for most items. For wool items, use the same amount of soap, but use cool water so that the wool does not shrink.

More complicated laundry soap is made by combining fat and lye. Be cautious when making this soap, as lye is very caustic. Always wear goggles, rubber gloves, and old clothes when handling lye. You will need 11 cups of water, 13 ounces of lye, 9 cups of a fat such as beef or pork fat, and 2 cups of borax. The fat must be rendered, or melted, and strained through cheesecloth before use. Ask the butcher at your grocery store for fat. He will probably be glad to give you leftover fat from trimming meat. Make sure all meat and sinews are trimmed away from the fat before you render it.

Put the water in a large stainless steel container. Carefully add the lye to the water, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the lye is completely dissolved. The water will heat up as the lye dissolves. Put the mixture aside until it is approximately 95 degrees.

While the lye is cooling, heat the rendered fat until it is approximately 95 degrees. When both the lye mixture and the fat are at the same temperature, pour the lye into the fat, mixing well. Set the mixture aside for several hours. Be sure that the mixture is in a place safe from pets and children. Stir it thoroughly every half hour. Chunks will start to form. Break the chunks up with a potato masher or wooden mallet. Let the mixture sit for two or three days. Stir it from time to time and break up any large pieces of soap. After three days, you may store the soap in a plastic container.