Lately I’ve been digging into the world of DIY natural cleaning products. I’ve known about the magical cleaning power of vinegar and baking soda for a long time, but making my own laundry soap was a little more adventurous. My friend Steph has been making her own powdered laundry soap for years. She started making it because one of her daughters has very sensitive skin and all other commercial detergents cause irritation. I loved the idea of making my own laundry soap, but if you recall from my post I’m in love with a laundry soap . . . I still have this fondness for patchouli scented laundry soap. I still have yet to try any other scent of the Zum Clean Aromatherapy Natural Laundry Soap because my husband and I love the patchouli so much. Yes, I’ve converted him to a hippy! Well, not really, but the warm, spicy, subtle smell is nice. He gets asked all the time what cologne he is wearing, but he doesn’t wear any. He rode with a coworker to a meeting out of town and when the coworker returned home to his wife a few days later and she got in the car, she wanted to know who had been riding in the car! Hopefully she believed that the scent was from my husband and not another woman 🙂 We’ve become kind of immune to the scent. Kind of like a crazy cat lady who doesn’t seem to notice the eye watering smell of cat urine in her house. Not that patchouli and cat pee are anything alike! But hopefully you see my point. I don’t even really smell the patchouli on my clothes, but I still get compliments all the time so I guess the scent is still there. The local shop where I buy that laundry soap is no longer carrying it. I can order it online, but it’s sometimes more expensive. So I decided to go ahead and give this homemade laundry soap thing a go! I’m just a teeny bit stubborn and kind of like to prove it to myself and others (the HUSBAND!!!!) that I can do something I set my mind to. I can make my own laundry soap just as natural and awesome as the stuff I’ve been buying and I can make it smell all patchouli-ish and wonderful for waaaaay cheaper! I know I can! I know I can! So my conundrum was how was I going to make my own natural laundry soap, but still enjoy that added patchouli scent. A friend of mine suggested using a few drops of the patchouli oil on dryer balls to distribute the scent as the clothes fluffed around. The problem there is my husband and I air dry at least half of our clothes. Am I the only one that freaks out when I find out a beloved shirt or a favorite pair of jeans was dried and now the shirt is too short or the jeans are just a bit too snug from all that ice cream and I have to begin the process of breaking them in all over again? If I made the powdered laundry soap like Steph, I don’t think I could add the oil to the powder without it clumping up and not being evenly distributed and I have a front loader washer so I really wanted to stick with liquid laundry soap. So I began researching different recipes for liquid laundry soap. A lot of them call for Borax. If I was going to go to the trouble of making my own laundry soap, I really wanted to try to keep it as safe as possible, so I looked for recipes that did not include Borax. The recipe I decided to use includes natural liquid castile soap, baking soda, washing soda, and optional essential oil.
I came across a few ideas that used a glass beverage dispenser with a spout and I really liked that idea. I decided to make two batches, one patchouli and one orange scented since the girls aren’t all into patchouli like I am. So I ordered all my supplies online and bought other items and got started on the soap. The first batch seemed too thin and the scent was not strong enough. I tested the grossest smelling workout clothes and after they went through the wash and dryer, I didn’t smell patchouli but instead I could still smell sweaty grossness! Well, that’s not good. Back to the drawing board. I didn’t just toss out the batch, instead I just added more of the natural soap, baking soda, washing soda and more patchouli oil. This time decided to use my trusty old immersion blender to really blend it all up. Immediately I could see a big difference. Instead of a liquid consistency, the soap formed a gel. I loved it! However when I went to use it, there were a few issues. First it seemed to clog the spout of the beverage dispenser and I knew this would cause issues. So I unscrewed the lid and just scooped out a bit of the gel and put it in the washing machine soap dispenser. After the load ran through, the clothes smelled clean, but didn’t have any scent of the orange essential oil like I wanted (this was a load of my girls’ clothes). And when I checked the soap dispenser of the washer, the glob of gel was still there. So it was too thick to be used for my stupid front loader washer. That’s just no good either! So I adjusted the amounts again, mixed it up with the immersion blender and tried again. I added more drops of patchouli oil since the scent was not strong enough for my taste, either! This time it flows out of the spout beautifully and it’s still a gel form right after mixing, but is not as thick as the second go around and goes through the washer fine. A comment from a lady in the dairy section of the grocery store affirmed that the scent is indeed strong enough, too. This was post workout, all sweaty and gross smelling in my opinion too. She stopped me and said with a big smile, “Oh, you are the one with the lovely patchouli scent, I’ve smelled in different isles. Brings me right back to my college days! Ahhhh!” I think I’ve found a winner formula! The clothes are smelling lovely, getting clean and I can just hear all that money that we’re saving staying tucked inside our piggy bank.
In my research on this whole make your own laundry soap thing, I found that essential oils can react to plastic so it’s best to keep them and any concoctions you make with them in glass containers for long term storage. I guess that’s why they are always in glass bottles. So even though I was tempted to just use the empty Costco giant size plastic laundry detergent container with a spout, I decided to go ahead and do this right and use glass. Adding essential oil is optional so if you are not going to use it, I would recommend for money savings and for safety, just use plastic. I went ahead and ordered two gallon glass beverage dispensers with spouts. The spout is also optional. With this recipe and about all the liquid laundry soap ones I’ve found, there is going to be some separation. The thicker gel floats up to the top and the bottom is a thinner liquid. You will have to give the soap a stir or little shake before each use, or at least once a day if doing a bunch of loads in a day. I use a wooden spoon that I just keep near the soap. So I’m constantly carefully taking their screw lids off, stirring them and placing lids on. So do you see where the spout is kind of silly? You can just as easily scoop out what you need since the lid is going to be coming off all the time for stirring anyway. Save your money and just get a glass jar with lid since the ones with the spouts are more expensive. I hope my husband doesn’t read that. 😉
I don’t have a pretty laundry room. Our washer and dryer is in the basement so as I worked on the recipe, I hauled the glass jars up and down the stairs, luckily the two gallons (one patchouli and one orange) should last for a while and since I like the consistency, cleaning power and scent – I’ll deal with the stirring issue.
So if you are interested in making your own liquid laundry soap, first decide if you want to add in essential oil to your recipe. If you are not using essential oil, then I’d just stick with a plastic container. An old gallon water jug would be perfect and you could give it a good shake before using, or even more of a canister type container with a removable lid that you can get into for stirring, or scooping out the soap.
Choose if you want to use a container with a spout, or use a ladle, or some sort of scoop to get the soap out of the container. The first batch of soap with thin and just didn’t seem strong enough. I guess I could have just left it alone and just used twice as much of it per load to achieve the results, but my washer only allows a very small amount (1/3 C) of liquid soap to be used in the soap dispenser. I guess I could put 1/3 C in the dispenser and throw the other 1/3 C into the washer before adding the clothes and hope for the best.
If you do make your own liquid laundry soap, be ready to stir. Even the first thin batch would have needed to be shaken or stirred since the soap tends to separate. This is definitely an advantage of the dry powder laundry soap like my friend makes. Again, it’s going to come down to your machine type, soap preference and if you want to use essential oils in the soap.
The cost up front is obviously going to be a little expensive, but I tried to crunch the numbers in my tired brain and figured the average cost per load using 1/3 C of my laundry soap is $0.08. That’s pretty good compared to the price of the Zum Clean I was using being around $20 for a 64 oz bottle or average of $0.31 per load. The essential oils in my homemade laundry soap make the cost higher, but for me the scent is worth it and I’ve already found all kinds of uses for the baking soda and essential oil. Stay tuned!
Here’s a breakdown of the supplies needed and what I paid.
Gallon Glass Beverage Dispenser with spout $16.99 Amazon.com (I bought two of them).
Dr Bronner’s Unscented Castile Liquid Soap 32 oz $16.89 Amazon.com. I also bought the citrus scent for my orange laundry soap and I use the citrus for all kinds of cleaning projects.
Washing Soda – Arm and Hammer Washing Soda – $4.00 or so for 55 oz Meijer
Baking Soda – Arm and Hammer Baking Soda $6.00 for 13 pound bag Costco. Endless uses for this!
Patchouli Essential Oil by Plant Therapy- $7.93 Amazon.com. I also bought Sweet Orange Essential oil for around the same price from Amazon. I’m using the orange oil for all kinds of cleaning!
All Natural Liquid Laundry Soap – makes one gallon
1/2 C Washing Soda
1/2 C Baking Soda
1/2 C liquid Castile Soap – unscented or any scent you like
Optional – Essential oil in whatever scent you like. I used about 30 drops of the patchouli in my gallon. For the orange, I only used about 20 drops since I used the citrus scented castile soap.
In a large clean bucket or pot, combine the baking soda, washing soda and just enough Hot water so that you can whisk it or use an immersion blender until the powder is dissolved. This will form a gel consistency.
Pour this into your laundry soap container.
Fill the rest of the container with more hot water until just about 2 inches from the top.
Add in the liquid castile soap and slowly stir.
Add in drops of essential oil if using and stir or use immersion blender.
Give the laundry soap a little stir before using as it will separate.
Use 1/3 C of laundry soap per load.