26 June 2009

Homemade Laundry Soap with Fels Naptha

There are recipes all over the web for this laundry detergent, but I haven't been very happy with the process these recommend. I've been using this almost exclusively for about 5 years now, and think the method of assembly I've developed is vastly superiour to others I have seen. The only ingredients are:

Fels Naptha (a bar-type stain-remover, in the laundry aisle. Probably on the top or bottom shelf)
Washing Soda (This is hard to find. You can call Arm&Hammer, or look at the web-site, for a list of stores in your area that carry it. In the Lafayette, IN area, you can find it at Meijer)

Making laundry soap at home is an easy way to pinch pennies. I pay about $1.50/bar for the Fels Naptha, $3/box for Washing Soda, and just a few dollars for a big box of Borax. Both the Washing Soda and the Borax make many many batches from just one box, though I confess I've never actually done the math. I'm certain that it's cheaper than my second favourite option, which is All Free & Clear. I can't stand scented laundry soap. If you like a scent, I've read that you can add a rag with a few drops of your favourite essential oil to the dryer.

Important note: You need to get Washing Soda for this, NOT Baking Soda. That is, Sodium Carbonate, and NOT Sodium BIcarbonate. This is an important disctinction. You will also need:

A 2 gallon bucket (get one from the bakery at your grocery store; they are usually free. Ask for a small frosting bucket)
A whisk
A long stirrer. I use a wooden spoon.
A four-sided grater
Optional: an electric hand-blender. This gives a nice smooth consistency to the final product.
A measuring cup, roughly between 1/2 and 2/3 cup.

Set all these things aside to be used ONLY for laundry soap-making. You will also need a teakettle, or just a pot, with roughly 4 cups of water. (I just fill my teakettle all the way. It's more than four cups) Set it on the stove on high, then take out your four-sided grater. Use this side:

You want to grate the Fels Naptha into a fine powder, like this:

I use half the bar per batch. Some recipes only call for 1/3. How hard do you want to pinch those pennies? Now, other recipes will tell you to use the shredder side, or simply chop up the bar. That is easier, but then you have to put the results in a pot on the stove, add water, and stir at a boil 'til everything is dissolved. It takes forever! My way is much easier. Once you have the powder in the bucket, get the teakettle. Pour the boiling water over the powder, whisking to blend:

Be careful not to pour the water over your hand!! Try not to beat in a ton of air. Air makes it foamy, and you don't want that. Some foam, however, is almost impossible to avoid:

You do have to whisk AS the water goes in, or it will be lumpy. Once all the boiling water is in, get your measuring cup and your other two ingredients. Whatever size cup you chose, you are going to put in that amount of both Borax and Washing Soda. Pour each one in slowly, blending with the whisk. I've seen varying amounts of these in different recipes. I think the important thing is to put in the same amount of each. Like I said above, anything between 1/2 and 2/3 cup is fine. I use the same scoop that I use to measure the finished soap into the wash. Mine is actually closer to 3/4 cup. It's the lid from an old laundry soap container.

Once the Borax and Washing Soda have been blended with the Fels Naptha, take your bucket to the sink. Get your long stirrer. Fill the bucket the rest of the way with cold water, stirring as it fills:

You will probably see the laundry soap develop a jelly-like consistency. I tried to capture that in the picture below. I hope you can see, that the surface tension of the liquid is much higher than just water - the spoon has actually pushed down the surface, before breaking through:

Once the bucket is full, set it somewhere to sit overnight. In the morning it will be super thick:

Now, at this point you can just stir it really well, and it's ready to go. I found that it was a bit lumpy, however. I found a handblender at a yard sale, so I use that to just smooth it out and get rid of the lumps:

With good water, 3/4 cup/load should be plenty. I have SUPER hard water, so I use double that - two of my scoops. For stains, just rub some of this into the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before you put it in the wash. This soap only takes 15 minutes or so to make. The most difficult thing about it is remembering to make it in the evening, so it can sit overnight. I usually keep a bottle of regular detergent on hand, for emergencies when I've forgotten to make this and HAVE to do a load of laundry. If someone wants to do the math and figure out how much this costs per load, I'd love to see it.

1 comment:

  1. I think I may give homemade laundry soap a try. I am always looking for ways to save money. A friend of mine posted this link for homemade laundry soap on her facebook page yesterday.
    It has a similar recipe at a cost of 1 cent per load. She shows a cost breakdown. Yours may be slightly higher especially since you double the amount used per load.


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