How To Use Laundry Bar Soap and Make Your Own Detergent

I’m going to describe how to use a natural laundry bar soap to do laundry, and, how to make your own laundry detergent with 3 natural ingredients.

You can make your own natural, non-toxic, homemade laundry soap and save money!

There are lots of laundry soap recipes online, many of them nearly identical with slight variations. I have found that for doing laundry, using just the following three basic ingredients will provide a good homemade recipe blend to get your clothes sparkling clean… for cheap!


We first made this laundry soap recipe years ago. The results were excellent. And as a bonus, it costs less than most store-bought laundry detergents.

Laundry Soap Recipe Ingredients


Borax is a natural mineral, sodium borate. There are many beneficial uses for Borax.

It’s in laundry booster, certain hand soaps, and in some toothpastes. It’s branded as ’20 Mule Team Borax’ (pure borax). Buried deep in the Mojave Desert is one of the biggest and richest deposits of borax on the planet located in Boron, California.

[ Read: What You Can Do With Borax ]

Washing Soda

Washing Soda is also known as sodium carbonate, or soda ash. It is produced in large quantities from common salt. In domestic use, it is used as a water softener during laundry, and it effectively removes oil and grease stains. It is not toxic, and does not contain harmful detergents or chemicals.

Laundry Bar Soap

Old fashioned laundry soap bars. You can still get it. Most common brands are ZOTE, Fels Naptha, or Octagon. All purpose bar soaps for laundry.

Homemade Laundry Soap Recipe Instructions

2 cups of shaved bar soap (Ivory, ZOTE, Fels-Naptha, Octagon)
1 cup of Borax
1 cup of Washing Soda

Do you want to set yourself up with laundry soap ingredients to last you a very long time for prepping & preparedness? That’s what we did (view on amzn).

Shave the bar soap with a hand shredder/grater. Then combine all ingredients into a food processor. Mix until well blended together into powder.

You can mix it in a bucket by hand, or in a food processor.

The Borax and Washing Soda will mix easily by hand. It is the shaved bar soap that will be more difficult to blend into fine particles. The more powdery, the better the blend. Grate the bar soap as fine as possible. Having said that, it will all dissolve into the laundry water regardless. It will dissolve more readily the finer it is. The formula is still the same.

About 1 minute in a food processor (ingredients will scuff the plastic – just saying…).

It seems too good to be true, but that’s it!


Use 1 tablespoon of this homemade laundry detergent per load. Up to 2 for a heavy load.

The cost is only pennies per load!

Tip: You can use white vinegar (1/4 cup) per load for softener.

How-to Use Laundry Bar Soap

You can use it as a spot treatment. use it “dry” and just rub it on the stained portion of clothing as a pre-stain treatment. Same way you would use the store-bought (more expensive) rub-on stain treatments.

Use it for delicates or hand washable items. Utilize a clean sink or laundry tub / bucket filled with warm water. Lather up the laundry bar soap in your hand (just like ordinary soap). Work the soap and suds into the fabric. Wash by hand.

Technically you don’t need the other two ingredients mentioned above (borax and washing soda) if you’re using specific made laundry bar soap such as Fels Naptha or Zote due to their formulation. However for best results, I do recommend it.

[ Read: Best Washboard For Laundry | How-to Wash Clothes ]

[ Read: 20+ Other Uses For Soap ]


  1. For years I have bought expensive blanket wash for horse blankets. The blankets get very dirty in general but this fall there was one that was particularly filthy and coated with manure on the the back end. I scraped that off and brought the blanket in to wash. I didn’t have any blanket wash and didn’t want to use regular detergent that ruins the water-repellency so I grated some Fels-Naptha soap into the machine with the blanket. I ran it through a pre-soak and full cycle and it came out cleaner than ever before! And it still sheds the rain! I got out of the habit of making laundry soap like Ken’s recipe because my kids complained about it but it really does a good job.

    1. Thanks for the real-world report regarding how well it did no horse blankets. Goes to show ya just how much marketing BS there is these days in “new and improved” soaps and such… Sometimes the old fashioned way works better.

      1. Yes and people have gotten so lazy they put soap in a colorful pod that has to be put in a child proof container and labeled as to Keep Away from Children…………….

      1. I think they wanted all the strongly scented stuff and thought their clothes would be whiter, brighter… They did all their own laundry so I didn’t really listen. My son is on his own and now thinks that Fels-Naptha is the best thing ever for stain removal! Imagine that!

  2. I have used this recipe for years with great results. My husband decided to work on my car in his everyday clothes. Well, he ended up laying under the car in the middle of a big grease spot. I was sure that shirt was a goner and thought the best thing I could do is throw it away. I used your soap recipe, ran the shirt through two washings and all of the oil stain came out. He wore the shirt for years.
    Some of my family members think their clothes are not clean because the homemade solution does not leave a scent. I explained their clothes are cleaner with this recipe than the store bought detergents.

    1. Thanks for sharing your example! For even more cleaning power, you can treat the grease stain by rubbing some Fels Naptha on it, and then launder it (using the laundry soap recipe above). Glad it worked!

    2. T in TX,
      pore a CAN of coca cola in the wash with the clothes for grease. we have used this for years. maybe the acid in it ?
      in my before life i had a VERY dirty job ( Mike Rowe would have proud of me ! ) and it always worked well for us.
      hope this helps.

        1. Ya want to have some fun with Coke Cola, open a can and punch a very small hole in the bottom so it will slowly drip, set the can on a stool or chair whereas it will drip on concrete.
          It WILL burn a hole through the concrete overnight.
          BUT Coke is safe to drink…. Right?

        2. Don’t know about now, but phosphoric acid used to be printed in the contents label on the bottle. Yeeeoowzah!

  3. I was just getting ready to make some laundry soap. I have all the ingredients and have done this several times. I use my mini food processor to grind up the bar of soap. It works well. I used the old grater a few times (I call it the knuckle scraper) and it doesn’t get as fine granules. I let the soap dry out, too. That way its easier to grind down. In my opinion. Thanks for the recipe..

  4. Thanks for re-posting this, Ken. I’ve been collecting the three ingredients for a while, just never stopped to make the detergent. Do you have any idea how long this will store, or the best way to package it for long term storage? I would assume keeping it sealed from moisture is helpful, and wondered if making up a bucket’s worth in fs pouches would be good long term.

    1. I just keep the raw ingredients on hand rather than making huge batches of mix. With that said, the biggest enemy in this case will be moisture and heat (melt/clump the bar soap powder). If you can overcome that, I would say it would keep forever :=)

  5. Ken, We have used this recipe for years. Only difference is the wife likes liquid laundry soap so we dissolve it in 5 gallons of warm water and use a paint stirrer on an electric drill to mix and then put it in empty vinegar jugs. Wait two days and stir often before putting it into the jugs as it will jell.

    Shake well and use 1/3rd cup per load. The empty vinegar jugs come from using it for softener. Win Win! :)

    1. Andy,
      In my view, yes, safe. I’m on septic. No problems. There’s no harmful chemicals (such as bleach, etc.) that would stunt the natural bacterial action within the septic tank.

  6. I used this recipe for washing clothes for a few years but I found my whites had a slightly gray color after a while. And the colors were dull. Maybe I needed an extra boost of washing soda or borax?

    1. The wife uses a commercial non chlorine bleach every so often (only occasionally when her eye says it needs it) on whites and “dress” clothes. Everything else is straight home made.

      1. Deep South,
        a non chlorine bleach? that would be great for septic systems. what brand is it?

        1. nyscout:
          Clorox 2 and Clorox Colorload.
          Both are non- chlorine and work well.

        2. nyscout, ANY Generic powdered non chlorine bleach.will work , all are peroxide based
          I add same portion of it as the soap i’ve grated/powdered to laundry detergent and LEAVE it all as powder. i use 2 tbsp per load.
          ALSO some ppl are allergic to Borax- just using washing soda for all measures will work for those ppl.making an acceptable product. Just be sure to use a soap they can use already.

        3. The Original Just Sayin,
          thanks to all for the info on the non chlorine bleach, i didn’t know. i’ll start using that.
          we have always used the old Clorox bleach, and i know it’s not good for our septic system.
          i have always used rid ex in our septic system religiously to keep ahead of the bleach and the phosphates in our laundry soap.
          bleach and phosphates will kill the bacteria that breaks down all of the poo poo in a septic system forcing a person to “call the man”.
          thanks again !

    2. Old Lady, I add borax when I want to whiten clothes in wash. Works for me. And we frequently get brown and yellow water from our municipal water. Makes me wonder what everyone is drinking. Our well water is not like that.

  7. Wouldn’t use anything else in the wringer washer.
    Doesn’t make all those suds that you would have to deal with.

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