That Laundry Soap

I’m calling this post “That Laundry Soap,” because after I mentioned on Facebook that I was making a batch of homemade laundry soap about a year ago, I was forever after asked by people, “Are you the one who makes that laundry soap?” Why, yes I am! 🙂 But I’m not alone. A ton of people are making this laundry soap. I can’t speak for why the rest of them are doing it, but I do it because I can make a 5 gallon bucket of laundry soap for less than $2 and it lasts me for just over 6 months. Crazy, huh?

I’m down to just a few scoopfuls from the last batch I made, so it’s time to get crackin’ again. Here are pictures (and an explanation) from the last time I made the soap:

You start with a bar of Fels Naptha soap, which I believe you can find at most major grocery stores. I could be wrong about that. I’ve heard you can also use Ivory or Zote if you can’t find the Fels Naptha.  Using a plain old cheese grater, grate the bar of soap into little slivers. Doesn’t this look like a big, beautiful pile of cheddar cheese? Yeah … not so much. Cheese would be MUCH easier to melt, let me tellya. Take all those beautiful curls and put them in a saucepan. Add just enough water to cover and turn the heat on low. Start stirring. Try to be patient … it won’t be easy. I kept thinking, “If I leave a bar of soap in the shower overnight, it melts into a gooey mess by morning. What’s wrong with THIS soap?” I don’t know if it’s the Fels Naptha or just the fact that you so desperately want it to melt, but it takes forEVER. At least 45 minutes. Just keep stirring, and thinking about all the money you’re saving.

(***Note: Just before posting, I looked online at another recipe and saw that they added 6 cups of water to 1/3 bar of soap while melting. Hmm. I wonder if more water would make this melt faster? Let’s both try that.)

When it begins to look like thick, delicious, creamy, yellow cheese soup, it’s done. Don’t you think you could throw some crackers in this and call it good? Maybe we’ve been standing too long over that hot stove … You’re almost ready to take all that yellow goodness and pour it into a clean 5 gallon bucket. (I got mine at Home Depot, which is why it’s Home Depot Orange.) But before you can pour in the soap, you need to first pour in some boiling water. Just a kettleful will do for now. Now you’re ready to add the melted soap. Stir that around till the water and soap are combined, and then you’re ready for your next two magic ingredients: I don’t know if it’s just Fred Meyers–which is a large department/grocery store in our area–or if other stores do this as well, but these three ingredients–Borax, Fels Naptha, and the Super Washing Soda–were stored right next to each other in the cleaning aisle. It’s almost as if they sensed I was coming with my list in hand. That Freddy … so thoughtful. 🙂

You want to add 1 cup of washing soda and 1/2 cup Borax to the water/soap combo in the bucket and stir until dissolved. ***Note: some recipes call for one cup of each of these. I’ve tried it both ways and haven’t seen much of a difference.

Now, if you want to, you could add a little fragrance at this point. When I first made this, my kids complained that it didn’t smell good. That doesn’t mean it smelled bad, just that it didn’t smell good. It really has no scent at all, and they wanted to smell something. So I started adding 15-20 drops of essential Lavender oil. I think the difference is negligible, but it makes them happy.

Now stir it all together and add more boiling water until it’s about 2/3 full. Stir, stir, stir. Then finish off by adding hot (not boiling) water almost to the top of the bucket. Stir again and let stand.

It’s going to get thick and gelatinous within a few hours. I think the first recipe I tried said it would happen overnight, but mine thickened up in about two hours. The ONLY thing you may not like about this laundry soap is the texture. My son described the first batch I made as being like toilet paper that had been left to dissolve in water. Nice, huh? 🙂 Others have said it resembles egg noodle soup. It really can be kind of stringy and weird, but I’ve fixed that for the most part. I stir it like crazy with a wire whisk after it thickens up, and again every time I open the bucket to dip out more into my smaller container (I store mine in empty Folgers coffee canisters from Costco … have you read my post on “Free Storage?”) I’ve found that this helps the consistency a lot.

I know someone out there will ask about High Efficiency washers. I have one and have been using this soap in it for about six months with no problem at all. It could be because I only use 1/4 cup per load. I’ve also checked several sites and have read that others are using this soap with good results in their HE washers. As to cost break-down, people with a lot more time on their hands than me have calculated this to be about a penny a load. I believe it, because my less-than-$2 bucket lasts me just over six months, and my washer is going all the time. So … there you go! If you try it, please come back and let me know what you think.


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20 Comments on "That Laundry Soap"

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Kathy Olson
Shannon: I loved hearing you speak at Calvary Vista’s retreat! You shared such great words of encouragement and wisdom, and with such humor. I’ll remember so many of our stories! And your encouragement to stay Under His Shadow. My first batch of laundry using your soap recipe is in the dryer- can’t wait to see how it comes out! I also loved your workshop on journaling. As an art teacher and journal/sketchbook keeper, I loved your easy idea of starting with the magazine photo for your inspiration. Thank you so much for serving women! I’ll be following you on your… Read more »
Ruth Morita

Hi Shannon,
Tried making the laundry detergent but didn’t and couldn’t find the website before I did it and tried to do it with my half recipe I copied online.. So my soap is still very liquidy. like soup..????? I didn’t boil the soap with water and mixed the borax, soda, and soap together and whisked it till it looked like egg white and I kept adding water and now it is soup..Do you think, this is selvageable? Ruth

Cindy Scott

Shannon, this soap is awesome! We have hard water where I live and this soap makes my laundry so soft, not to mention it cleans very well! I used hot water in with the grated soap flakes and it only took about 5 minutes for it to melt and look like cheese soup. I also used my drill and a paint stirrer thingy (sorry, not sure what it is really called) attached to it to mix up the whole batch! Thank you so much for sharing with us!

Bri of cc Nevada

Shannaniah twang! Hey I was wondering about the essential oil. I have some oils for candle incense burners. Would those work or stain my clothes???

Bri of cc Nevada

That twang thing had no reflection of your voice. I have never heard you sing 🙂

Cindy Scott

Hi Shannon, just wanted to share with everyone out there who likes to use color safe bleach laundry soap….I added a small box of purex color safe bleach to the last batch of soap that I made. I added it to the bucket with the melted soap flakes. I don’t see to much a difference…lol…but some people prefer it this way and that is why I tried it. It gives it a pretty light blue color and it smells clean and fresh and you don’t have to add essential oil. =)


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In case someone hasn’t already commented on this or you’ve not already tried it, melting the soap in more water is a LOT faster. I use 2/3 bar in 6 cups of water, and it doesn’t take anywhere near 45 minutes to melt. Speaking of, I’m about out of my last batch too…


Hi Shannon! I so want to try this, but I’m having a hard time finding the Fels Naptha soap! I’ve tried Safeway, Target, the base commissary, Dollar Tree, and SaveMart. Where do you shop? I’m in Lakewood, WA.

ruth Morita

I found when I made my laundry soup that if you soaked the grated soap in water the night before you had to stir only about 6 minutes until the soap is melted. thank you for this recipe.

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