Eco Living on the Range: Making My Own Laundry Soap

Our house is on a septic system and has its own well, something entirely new to this city girl.

I’ve been told by a plumber that it’s fine to throw toxic cleaning products down the drain, but I think of all the cute creatures around here (like this bull moose we saw, just down the road), and I shudder at the thought of poisoning their environment.

I’ve always tried to make my own cleaning products using vinegar, lemon juice and water, and only rely on the hard stuff occasionally, when things are really dirty.

But making homemade laundry soap was something I’d never considered until I came across this terrific Suddenly Frugal blog. It seemed hippy dippy, and I wasn’t sure it would work. But it was so cheap to make I thought I’d at least give it a try.

This is all you need to make your own Homemade Laundry Soap:

  • Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
  • 20 Mule Team Borax
  • Bar of Fels-Naptha Soap

It’s not easy to find these standard ingredients. These proven cleaners of yesteryear are being shoved onto the bottom aisles at the grocery store. HelMart doesn’t carry them (figures), but King Soopers here in Colorado (a Kroger store) does carry all three.

The recipe is so simple it’s ridiculous:

  1. Get a large bucket or tote.
  2. Combine 2 cups washing soda and 2 cups Borax.
  3. Grate 1 bar of Fels Naptha Soap
  4. Mix into powder
  5. Measure 1/4 cup per load.

Wear a dust mask when mixing, or be prepared to inhale a lot of powder. Ick.

It took me maybe 10 minutes to do all of this, and one batch lasts about 4 weeks for us (I only do wash once a week). Total cost of purchasing the ingredients was, $10.84, about the same as a box of Tide, and I’m going to get at least 3 months out of the ingredients (I bought 3 bars of soap). Don’t hold me to that though; I’m innumerate.

DIY Laundry Soap really does work! There’s a reason this stuff has been around forever. But if you try it, keep these tips in mind:

  • Let your washer fill up at least halfway with water, to dillute the powder.
  • You won’t see bubbles in the water, but bubbles aren’t what cleans your clothes, detergent does.
  • For stains, try spot cleaning first by rubbing a bar of Fels Naptha on the stain.
  • There are recipes for liquid laundry soap out there, but they look like a pain, and they’re messy to make. I like this recipe the best.

I would love to keep making this laundry soap while we’re on the road this winter, but I’m not sure I’ll have the space in the RV to store the ingredients. Time will tell when I get to packing again in a few weeks. That’ll be fun.

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6 Responses to “Eco Living on the Range: Making My Own Laundry Soap”

  1. Hi! Thanks for the detergent recipe! I am going to try it! We have lived with a septic tank for years and we have always been conscious of what goes down the drain! We also have heard about how important it is to maintain the leach field too. If the next house we buy has a septic tank, we will probably buy a filter for the washing machine. As a dog owner, have you ever noticed how much dog hair is mixed in with the lint from the dryer? According to our plumber, a lot of that dog hair and lint also drains into the septic tank with the washing machine water and can build up (over the years) in the leach field. It can ruin the field!
    Theresa

  2. Wow Rene, that is really cool. So glad you care enough about the local wildlife to go through this extra step. Most folks could give a shit what they flush down the septic system (pun intended) .

    Here’s an Idea, on your way to see the fam you can pass through Death Valley and mine your own Borax 😉

  3. We just started using this very “recipe” and you’re right it works well. You’re also right that you’ll have to go to a smaller chain or local grocery to get the stuff in most cases. Worth it though.

    • Hey Scott, yeah, I’m really impressed with it. A friend told me she had trouble with the powder recipe, but she used Ivory soap, not Fels, which could’ve been the problem. Do you make dishwashing soap? I have a recipe but haven’t tried it yet.

  4. The plumber who gave you the advise is looking for some business down the road. We are on septic and are very careful what we put into the system and have it pumped every 5 years to be safe. The big danger is having your leach lines clog up. They plug up when your tank is not digesting organic material properly because it has been killed by chemicals. It also needs to be pumped to keep non-organic materials that make their way into the tank from building up and overflowing into the leach lines.

    We almost had that problem a few years ago. I asked the guy that pumped it how much it would cost to replace the leach lines and he said about $20,000 in our area.

    • Henry, great advice as always, I didn’t know anything about “leach lines.” Thanks for teaching us, yet again!

      Yeah, he did say it would be a good idea to throw some yeast down the toilet every now and then.

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