To say my family does a lot of laundry is an understatement. With six kids, our poor washing machine has been working overtime for most of its existence.

Our family has sensitive skin, with a few of us experiencing eczema at times, requiring us to purchase brands of laundry soap that are gentle enough for our whole family. If you’ve been down a laundry detergent aisle lately, you’ll know that while there are plenty of great options for natural soaps, their prices seem to keep going higher and higher.

I’ve heard about people making their own detergent for quite some time, and have often wondered if I was up to the task. I most likely wouldn’t have ventured further down the “granola” (a term given to people who might once have been called part of the “hippie” persuasion) slope, had I not been led to the edge by a friend of mine. We were visiting their little home on the Iron Range this summer, and while there I assisted her in making her recipe for laundry detergent. It included a couple of ingredients I had never heard of, washing soda and Fels Naptha, and one that I’ve been using for years as a laundry additive, Borax.

The process was so easy and the ingredients so cheap, I had to give it a try!

Here are the necessary ingredients:

1 bar of Fels Naptha

½ cup of Borax

1 cup of washing soda (NOT baking soda)

and the necessary supplies:

cheese grater

5 gallon bucket


So I started my search for the necessary items. I already knew I could purchase the Borax ($4) at any store that sells laundry detergent, because I’ve been buying it at Target for years. But I went to several stores before finding the Fels Naptha ($1.50) and washing soda ($3) at Cub Foods. I also found them both at (but not in the store) and on, however the price at Cub Foods was less than half of the online stores.

I decided to purchase a cheese grater and pot specifically for the project to save my cookware from any foul, lingering taste. I found the grater at a dollar store and the pot at Goodwill for $4.

I knew I could get a bucket at a hardware store, but I didn’t want to travel out of my way to get to one. I tried Wal-Mart and was surprised to learn that you can purchase emptied frosting buckets from their bakery department for $1 each.

With everything purchased I got started making the soap.

1. I grated the Fels Naptha bar into the pot.

2. I added two cups of warm water and stirred the pot on the stove over medium low heat until the Fels Naptha was completely dissolved.

3. I filled my bucket halfway with warm water. I stirred in the dissolved Fals Naptha and added the ½ cup of Borax and 1 cup of washing soda.

4. I stirred until all of the ingredients were dissolved and then filled the bucket to the top with more warm water.

5. I then let the bucket sit over night, letting the detergent firm to a gel consistency. The solution still needed to be thinned out, so I filled another five gallon bucket half-way with water, and then after stirring first I poured half of the detergent into the other bucket. Then I added water to the top of the first bucket.

6. At this point I was able to put it in recycled detergent containers or just leave in the buckets to be scooped into the washing machine.

This recipe makes 10 gallons of laundry detergent. With an overall cost of less than $3!

Top Loading Machines = ½ cup per load (320 loads!)

Front Loading Machines = ¼ cup per load (640 loads!)

I’m looking forward to the hundreds of dollars I’ll be saving on laundry detergent over the years. I might even be able to replace my work weary washing machine with all the savings!