The Homemade Laundry Soap Experiment

I am not super frugal, but I do like reading about all of the interesting things people do to save money.  To me it all boils down to prioritizing the things in your life that you truly enjoy.  For some the appeal of increasing their savings rate trumps everything else.  For me, I still leave room for some things that cost money.

That being said, I have read a few times about people making their own laundry soap.  It seems pretty easy, so why not give it a shot right?  I found a fairly simple homemade laundry detergent recipe online and decided to go with it.  Warning: if you are trying to save money avoid using Amazon for this stuff, it is way overpriced.  Even Target was twice as much as Wal-Mart for the baking soda.

I am not sure what prompted me to do it, but with 2 kids and grandma at home, we do a lot more laundry than in the past.  Even buying it on sale at Costco seems to cost $12-$15 a month.  I think it was really an experiment to see if it would be cheaper and still get good results.  Betting $20 for a chance to save $60 or so doesn’t seem like a bad idea to me.


All the ingredients for homemade laundry soap!

Buying the Ingredients for Homemade Laundry Soap

I ended up buying some of it at Target and then went to Wal-Mart because Target did not have all of the items like washing soda and Fels Naptha soap.  Wal-Mart had all of the items right next to each other on the laundry soap aisle!  For example, Target only had 2 pound boxes of Baking Soda at a cost of $1.90 each.  Wal-Mart had a 4 pound box for $2.24!  Needless to say I took back the Target baking soda on my next trip there.

Here was my total spent for each ingredient (I added in 8.25% tax where applicable):

soap costs

I next went and bought a $5 bucket at Home Depot (on the way home for me).  I could have used any container, but I wanted to make sure I could have something sturdy and secure to prevent our two small boys from dumping it all out.

It is worth point out that the bucket was obviously a one-time startup cost and won’t be purchased again.  Also, the Oxy Clean drove up the cash price, but I could use it for 4 more batches or other uses, so my first batch looks more expensive when you look at just the receipts.  I only allocated the cost of what was actually used for Oxy Clean even though it was a much larger size.

Making the Soap- Not so bad!

Once I had everything together it was just a matter of grating the soap and combing the rest of the ingredients.  For the baking soda, washing soda, borax, and scent crystals the entire package would be used, so no measuring was necessary.  For the Oxy Clean, I only needed 1.33 lbs, but the box I got on sale was 7 lbs.  At least Oxy Clean has other uses around the house.

grating soap

Grating 3 bars of soap took the longest.

In reality, the hardest part was using a cheese grater to turn the Fels Naptha soap into what looked like an enormous amount of grated white cheddar!  It took me close to 10 minutes per bar, so about 30 minutes total for the grating.

Mixing everything else together and making sure it was sufficiently mixed up took less than 10 minutes.  I even had some help from my 18 month old.  Too bad he ended up flicking a couple loads worth of soap onto the kitchen floor!  That took another 5 minutes to clean up.

For the amount of savings this should generate, I would say the hourly rate was pretty good.  If I had just bought the ingredients on a regular grocery run, it would have been even better.  In the future these items will just be added to the grocery list.

Results and What I Learned

I think the results have been good so far.  The clothes don’t come out with a strong lavender scent, but that fresh smell of laundry doesn’t really last anyway.  We still use some softener anyway and that adds scent, too.  I think laundry soap is really another example of convenience versus cost.  People just assume it is difficult, but it was actually pretty easy.  We have been using it for over a month and have not had any issues with our High Efficiency (HE) Washer or the detergent.

I think a bullet point list will better display my thoughts than a bunch of paragraphs:

  • Use Wal-Mart to get the lowest prices
  • Add a second batch of scent crystals. For another $3 it would not blow the budget
  • Or you could not use scent crystals at all and make it even cheaper!
  • Yes, you can use this in high efficiency washers. We have a very nice GE front-load that is HE and the soap works fine.
  • Make sure to put the soap directly on the drum before loading clothes, that makes it dissolve better
  • Finding a substitute for Oxy Clean would be nice. At least I have enough for quite some time now
    homemade laundry soap

    the final result. it is heavy!

    homemade laundry soap maker help

    My helper was pretty good until he spilled all over the floor.








I think I will count this experiment as a success.  Savings $10 or so a month on laundry detergent doesn’t sound like a big deal, but I think it was worth it.  It is a simple solution that took very little time and is 1 less thing we have to buy at the store each month.  Also, I will be able to make it much more quickly and even cheaper the second time around.  This batch should last us a couple of months, so that won’t be for a while!

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Does anyone have any other easy ideas for me to try?  I think the next one might be a household cleaner to replace the ones we buy.

You may also like...

29 Responses

  1. Nice results! We’ve had success with dishwasher detergent as well. I tried body wash but it was a complete disaster. 🙂

  2. SavvyJames says:

    “I am not super frugal, but I do like reading about all of the interesting things people do to save money.” That describes me and the wife perfectly. We have tried a couple home solutions with mixed results. The homemade laundry soap worked reasonably well; however, the homemade air freshener – meant to mimic Fabreze – was a fail.

  3. Taz Bright says:

    I’m a firm believer in making your own laundry soap, dish soap, etc. It’s very cost effective. Personally I mix half Borax and half Arm n Hammer Washing Soap, done. It works SO well.

  4. Kyle says:

    Thought you were grating a block of cheddar cheese, dash of salt and this laundry detergent is delicious.
    I might give Taz’s borax/arm n hammer a shot. I haven’t tried a lot of stuff like this to save money, but I also make a decent amount. I think if you’re struggling to get your savings rate up, stuff like this can really become important.

    • vawt says:

      I make good money too, but got tired of spending so much money on detergent (with two kids and grandma in the house with us). The saved money can increase the savings rate, go to home improvement projects, or even in the fun money bucket!

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience with making laundry soap! We make tons of our own products, regardless of whether they actually save us money, just because we like knowing exactly what’s in them. Laundry soap is definitely on our list, we just haven’t gotten to it yet. We’ve seen a recipe that is (I think) Dr Bronners soap, or another simple castille soap, plus washing soda and baking soda. Borax is pretty irritating, so we like the idea of a recipe with gentler ingredients, and we’ve heard that this other mix still cleans well. We’ll let you know!

  6. Interesting experiment. We’ll have to try that. We rarely do the more hard-core frugal stuff. Just not worth the time at this point.

    • vawt says:

      I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it or not, but based on the time spent to make it I will continue doing it in the future.

  7. I’ve been tempted to try that in the past, but I just don’t have the energy to do the grating and such. We do a lot of laundry for two people. For health reasons, my husband doesn’t reuse towels or wear jeans more than once.

    Even so, the Costco size All lasts us a good 4-5 months. And we don’t use softener (irritates my husband’s skin) so we save there as well.

    If you’re looking to save money, you could also look into those dryer balls that take the place of softeners. You’d only save a couple of cents per load, but if you’re doing as much laundry as you say…

  8. Chella says:

    Your results are encouraging. I tried making my one detergent once and but it completely horrible. The home-made detergent almost corroded my hands. Perhaps, the recipe I used was wrong. I will try and use the recipe you have set out in your article. I hope it will be a success.

    • vawt says:

      That’s not good! I made some more yesterday and it only took about 20 minutes. I think my wife and mother in law have been using larger scoops than needed!

  9. Every cent adds up. Even $10 a month is $120 a year. Although I think you could find store bought laundry soap very cheap.

    It’s a great lesson for the kids no matter what. Now they know how soap is made.

    • vawt says:

      Yep. I enjoy the savings, but it was also fun to try something new. It’s also easier than carrying a giant container out of Costco!

  10. I’ve been meaning to try this. I think an added benefit besides the savings is that you actually know what’s in your homemade laundry detergent. Some of those cleaners that we use in our homes have some crazy sounding chemicals…

  11. This is awesome! I’m about to start making my own laundry soap too, so thanks for putting together the whole process. I’ve noticed too that Wal-Mart has the best prices for the ingredients. Unfortunately not all Costcos have borax 🙁 and I don’t want to spend $5 extra in gas to find it.
    Hey, $10 is pretty good. When I think of my retirement, I always think 20 years, which in this case means $2400 🙂

  12. Chella says:

    That is amazing! The way you make your home laundry soap fascinates me. I will try using your recipe. However, I hope that the soap that you have made is gentle on ones hands since most home made detergents can easily peel off your skin. If it doesn’t hurt my son, I will consider making that soap as a strategy to save more.

  1. October 3, 2015

    […] I am not a super frugal finance blogger, so some may say its about time, not congrats.  Yes, I make my own laundry soap, but I also have a brand new car (well its 1 year old now).  I am much more increase your income […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *