Friday, March 12, 2010

Homemade Laundry Soap

Today's post is a reprint from my old blog. (Some of you may recognize it! I made some slight edits.) I'm pleased to say that we are still making all our own laundry soap and it has worked fabulous! This recipe is for a dry soap mix because it works more efficiently with soft water and our HE washer. Let me know if any of you use it and how you like it!


In order to try and reduce some of my grocery costs, I'm giving this homemade laundry detergent recipe a try. Today, my seven year old helped me make a batch in about 15 minutes. 


The recipe I used was as follows:

1 1/2 cup Borax
1 1/2 cup Washing Soda
1 bar Zote Laundry Soap, grated (14.1 ounce bar)

Zote is a very mild product and contains fragrance which may or may not appeal to everyone. For a stronger soap, try Fels Naptha, however, if you wish to use Fels Naptha Laundry Soap, you will need to adjust the recipe to: 

1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1 cup Fels Naptha Laundry Soap, grated


Update (5/22/10): The Fels Naptha was much harder to grate and the dust from it kept getting into my lungs. Since it grated into a fine powder, it didn't need processing in my VitaMix. However, after a couple of weeks, it is still getting into my lungs each time I use it. Also, it is much stronger and only a very small amount is needed. I can't tell yet if it is dulling the whites as some have reported, but at least it seems to clean okay.


The recipe makes a powdered laundry detergent, which I prefer (See Tip Nut for more recipes including liquid versions). Since we have a Kenmore water softener, I stay away from liquid detergents that can cause soap and grease build up in my washer and dishwasher. Also, with a water softener, I use a LOT less detergent. I just pick up a bag of salt pellets at Costco or Home Depot and pour them in when we are running low.

Back to the recipe...  
Grate the soap using a hand grater or if you have a food processor, you can just grate this up in a second... 


Add your Borax and Washing Soda (try not to breathe in too much of the powdery stuff!)...


Mix it up (this is fun, especially since it is pink!)...



At this point, I wanted the soap to mix in better and to have a finer powder. I used my Vita-Mix, adding small batches to chop it up even better. The Vita-Mix cleaned up in a breeze...



The end results... A half gallon mason jar of detergent. We immediately gave it a try and the results are... well, the same as the store bought stuff. It works! Just not as many suds. But as difficult as it is for our brains to grasp, suds don't do the cleaning. I should tell you that I also have a front load HE washer. So apparently you can use this in any washer. 


Now for the cost breakdown. I purchased all three (Borax, Washing Soda, Laundry Soap) for $9.13. While I used all the Zote bar, I have plenty of the other two items left to make more detergent. I measured it all out and calculated that the batch in the jar cost me just $3.04 to make and if I use the little scoop you see in front, I can get 115 loads from this one jar. That's $.03 per load! Even if I double that for a really dirty load of laundry, it still is only six cents per load.  Compare that to Biokleen, a great environmentally safe detergent which sells for $6.99 for a 5 pound box that will clean about 50 loads (that is cheap for this product - it usually costs closer to $9.50). Let's just say for argument's sake that it will do 100 loads in my front load washer with a water softener. That would be about $.06 a load; nearly double the price. 

You may think that it isn't that much of a savings, but if you have a large family with plenty of laundry and you are looking to cut corners, this just may be one of several things you can do to start cutting back. I'm going to give a whirl for a while and see how it pans out. It certainly seems promising.

Update: Works great! I've been using this for almost a year now and only needed to make about 6 batches total!


72 comments:

  1. I've been making our own detergent and we are very happy with it. It is a little time consuming to grate the soap ( I use the smaller holes on the box grater) but it is well worth it.

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    Replies
    1. It seems to help wearing a filterd face mask to prevent sneezing and breathing the fine soap dust;)

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  2. I may finally have to try this! I was concerned about how well it would clean in a front loading HE, so I'm happy to hear it cleans just as well.

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  3. We have a regular old washing machine and HARD water, so we use the liquid version. I also use Kirk's Castille soap for the sensitive skin issues in our family. It is just wonderful! It cleans quite well. The only complaint is that John's undershirts seem to get dingy.... any ideas about why that happens and how to remedy it? Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Zote makes a bar for your whites. .96 at walmart maybe try making a jar for whites?

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  4. I too have been using homemade soap (I do the liquid version) for about a year, and I think some things are dingy looking too. I think I am going to pick up some oxi-clean and start using that in every load. Maybe that will make a difference.

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  5. I have used this recipe for many years. I have learned to make 1 very large batch and divide it in 1/2.
    The large batch: 2 boxes Borax
    3 boxes washing soda
    8 cups bar soap
    Mix and divide in 1/2. In the 2nd 1/2 I add 1/2 a box of Clorox II and mix it in. This is for the work clothes that just seem to need extra to get clean and less dingy. This also lasts for about a year (depending if the kids come home to borrow some)! Cat

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  6. Oh glad to hear the powder works in HE. I've been making the liquid because I was told that was what I needed to use on the HE. But having the big pot of 'goo' isn't really preferably to me. I'd much rather have a pretty jar of powder!!

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  7. I don't much care for Borax in my laundry soap, or home for that matter, so I use this recipe: http://blessedmomma05.blogspot.com/2009/09/borax-free-laundry-detergent.html

    For dingy clothes, add 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle (Or put it in one of those fabric softener balls), And that should help. You can also add about 1/2 cup of straight baking soda to brighten things up. :-)

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  8. Thanks for the input ladies! Obviously adding oxiclean increases your costs, but you can pick it up fairly cheap. I have not noticed our clothes getting any more dingy than normal. Our whites over a long period of time have always started to loose their brightness. I don't use the oxiclean often, but I do use it once in a while when I notice that it's needed.

    On Homesteading Today's forum several ladies who use the Zote rather than the Fels Naptha say that teh Zote prevents the whites from being dingy much more than the Fels Naptha, so this may be why we aren't getting dingy whites at our house (because I usually use the Zote).

    In the old days they used to use bluing, but most of this is made synthetically now from what I understand. I also read recently that manufacturers use bluing on items before they are sold to make them extra white. Eventually washing causes this bluing to loose it's effect and therefore, they start to look dingy. If you are going to use the bluing, you shouldn't need to do it every wash, but rather only on occasion.

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  9. Where do you buy Zote? I really want to try this!

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    Replies
    1. Most local grocery stores carry it in the laundry soap Isle :)

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    2. Walmart and most grocery stores. Also I keep a little jar of the Zote grated to add to just my white 1tb. it brings them so white, and it is a great stain remover if you need to rub it on a stain.

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  10. I buy it at my local KMart, but you can get it through Amazon in various quantities and from different vendors.

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  11. i made my own detergent too...just that we have very hard well water and nothing seems to get them clean unless i add oxy clean -- $$$. any suggestions?

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  12. Janean, sorry I don't have a better solution for you other than possibly getting a water softener from Sears. We have had one for years and it is the most reliable and economical one on the market in my opinion. Plus, no need for a service contract - you can always locate a sears repairmen if you REALLY need one. We did not have the soft water go to all our faucets, only those we selected (we had that option because we built our house ourselves with some friends.) I wonder if they make small units that hook up to a certain water source so that you could have it just to your washer if you only wanted it there? The initial cost would be a few $$$, but might be worth it in the long run as it would extend the life of your washer, too.

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  13. I have been making my own laundry detergent for quite a while now & LOVE it! I'll never go back. I use your 2nd recipe except that I only use 1/2 of the Fels bar AND I add 20-30 drops of lavender essential oil. Just enough to add a lovely fragrance w/o the man of the house smelling too girlie. '-)

    I'm a new-comer to your blog & have enjoyed it very much. I hope to return often.

    Blessings from Ohio...Kim<><

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  14. Marmee's Pantry, I LOVE that idea to use the essential oil to the mix! I have a bar of Fels Naptha and some oil so I'm going to give this a try next go around. Thanks for sharing! And I'm so glad you like the blog. Do come back! We'd love to have you.

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  15. Curious, how big of a scoop is that in the last picture?

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  16. Mrs. Teasley, that is actually a coffee scoop and it holds 4 tsp. I fill it to only about 3 tsp. or the equivalent of one tablespoon.

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  17. Oh I wish I had read your blog just 7 days earlier! I did not know that there is a powder version of the homemade laundry soap! I just made a big batch of the liquid goo! Instead of having a big tub of the liquid, I put it in the regular bottle of purchased soap. It seems to be working but has to be shaken up. I love your powdered version and will do that next time. I think the presentation is more appealing in the jar as well! Thanks so much! I've enjoyed your blog today. I started my first blog just this week. Yours is inspiring to say the least! Have a blessed day! Sheri

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  18. I'm new to the blog and also a bit late to the commenting here. I've been trying in vain to find washing soda. It used to be in the grocery store, but now I can't get it anywhere - tried Costco, Walmart, Target, Orchard Supply Hardware, several grocery stores and keep coming up empty. You'd think in the SF Bay Area I could find it somewhere - I'm getting very discouraged. Anyone have additional tips on where to look? I'd prefer not to order online and have it shipped unless I have to.

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    Replies
    1. Or you can make your own. Spread baking soda on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 mins at 350 F.:)

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    2. make sure you are looking on the correct location. It is at Walmart on the laundry detergent row.

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  19. I followed this powder recipe. I love it. I have front load HE and I really like how easy the powder is to make. I always have large loads so I use 2tbls each time. I got just over 40loads out of my first batch. I am finding that some of the babies clothes are coming out still stained. But I"m adjusting my formula;)

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  20. Amy, I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know I made my first batch of laundry powder this weekend using 1c washing soda, 1c Borax, 1/2c baking soda and 1c grated and blended (in the blender to make it powdery) Fels Naptha (I couldn't find Zote). I washed a load of my husbands work clothes, a load of towels and my bed sheets with it. I used vinegar in a Downy ball for my fabric softener instead of the fragrence free Downy I usually use. The towels and sheets are really soft and smelled clean instead of perfumey and everything came out nice and clean. Since there were no suds, I didn't have to worry about rinsing twice to make sure the suds were out of the clothes (which I often do). I have an old Kenmore toploader and well water. Haven't done a load of whites yet, so I'll see how those do, but I'm really encouraged. I'll do a cost breakdown when I slow down. Thanks for being such an inspiration and a wealth of knowledge. Blessings.

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  21. Kathy, I'm s glad to hear that it has worked so well for you. Keep your eye out for the Zote, though. I think it does even better and keeps the clothes whiter.

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  22. I've just made my first batch using Fels Naptha as it was the bar soap I could find. I am curious to know how it works.

    I didn't have the same problem with it grating though I do feel a bit like it has gotten into my lungs now. That would have to be the borax or washing soda though because the soap wasn't fine enough to do that.

    For the soap - I grated the soap in my food processor using the grater blade. I then pulsed it with the steel blade to get it to a finer consistency.

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  23. I know this might be a dumb question, but do the front load machines use different amounts of detergent than a top loader? Mine is a top load machine. If I make the big batch as someone suggested, how much do I need per load? Thanks.Charley

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  24. Anonymous, I think your water is more of a determining factor. If the water is hard, you will need more soap. If the water is soft, you'll need less. The best way is to use the amount you would normally use and then check at the end of the cycle - if it's soapy, you know you need to cut back. I would also cut back if it's more than 1/2 cup and see if your clothes come clean. I've been using this recipe for over a year - closer to 2 - and it works great. I only use less than one coffee scoop - I think that's about 2 tsp. BUT, I have a water softener and front load.

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  25. Hi there. I just wanted to share with you that I have tried this recipe and am using the hommade soap. I really like it! I made the process part of my own blog and linked to yours for the recipe. Thanks for the wonderful information that you share with all of us!

    http://littlewifeontheprairie.blogspot.com/2011/03/its-pink-good-smelling-and-hard-working.html

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  26. I have used ivory soap bars as well in a recipe very similar to this. Ivory is nice because my daughter has eczema and the ivory is safe on her skin. You can make your own Fabric Softener as well with baking soda and vinegar, plus some essential oil for smelliness. Throw some in a Downey ball and nice static free great smelling laundry with no chemicals.

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    Replies
    1. Does the downy seem to be clean enough vs the "laundry bar" options because this was exactly my concern for my 17 month old son and 3 1/2 year old daughter who have minor exzema

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  27. Top loader washer, my problem with the powder is that I wash in cold water and it tends to clump together and it leaves little bleach looking stains on my darks. Help I enjoy making the powder.

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  28. Sorry, I have a front load washer and I don't have that problem. However, I always select the extra rinse cycle when I wash darks, even in cold water. And sometimes adding a bit of vinegar can help set the color, but I don't know if it will help stop the clumping. I suggest trying a little less laundry soap; it usually takes less than most people think, especially if you have soft water.

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  29. How can you get the soap so fine if you don't have a Vitamix or blender? Thanks for the recipe!

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    Replies
    1. Daisy,
      I'm not sure. Do you have a food processor? That would work. And it probably doesn't have to be AS fine, so something close would probably work. You just need it to dissolve quickly before the rinse cycle begins. As a last resort, if you can't get it broken down small enough, google a liquid laundry soap recipe and give that a try.

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    2. I found that if you put the bar soap in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, it puffs up like a marshmallow, then you can pulverize that with your hands once it cools. It saves me a lot of time with the 'grating' process. I usually have to take it out of the microwave, take the puffed up part out and put in a bowl to cool, then pop the unpuffed part back in.

      I love using this and can't wait to try the handsoap!!!

      Delete
  30. Hello Amy
    I just made my first batch of soap using the 1/2c. of borax, 1/2c. of washing soda with 1c of grated fels-naptha. I'm going to see what this is all about. Thanks for all the info and I will keep an eye out for the zote soap. Maybe I will try the zote one next time.
    Tiffany, Phoenix AZ

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  31. Hello Amy
    I just made my first batch of laundry soap this morning. Can't wait to use it. Made the dishwasher soap last week and it works great. I feel blessed to have found your site. Thank you for all the information. I also had a hard time finding Zote. I could only find it at Kmart.
    Karen,Apex NC

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    Replies
    1. do you use the whole 7oz zote bar or the 41.1 oz bar of zote?

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  32. Just found your blog today and have been perusing it for hours! It's perfect, and honestly, is exactly the type of blog I plan to start in the next few months - looking forward to linking up with you!

    I do have a question - I, too, have an HE washer, but after my mom had to have a service tech come out and service hers due to the "liquid" homemade detergent we'd made getting clogged in the detergent port, I've been scared to use anymore homemade detergents. I'm glad to see this has worked for you - I'm guessing that since its a fine powder, it's helped. Anyway, on to my actual question - we have rerouted some of our gray water (from showers & washer only) to our garden, and since have been very careful about what we use in those areas. Do you think the borax is safe enough to allow it to drain there? I guess the same could be asked of the washing soda. Any thoughts? We opted to do this for several reasons - the government has gone insane with threats to limit even privately owned well water consumption, and here in east Texas we're still experiencing a drought, so we're trying to come up with ways to still water the garden (also collecting rainwater - thank God for the recent rains this winter!).

    Ok, sorry for rambling, but I'd love your thoughts on this!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Toni! Glad you found your way here!

      I've used the homemade powder soap for over a year or more and no problems what-so-ever. Can't promise everyone will have the same results, but so far so good for our front load.

      As far as the Borax and Washing Soda, I can't imagine they'd be any worse than commercial laundry detergent but I read on one site that borax is toxic to most plants. Not sure if this is correct information, but unfortunately, I'm not an expert in chemistry to give a definitive answer - sorry! I'd love to know if you find out the answer though.

      Hopefully all this rain will help your drought situation, but best to have a plan in place because another drought will happen sooner or later. At least in TX you can use your grey water - I believe it's illegal here in CA! Can you imagine??!!

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    2. Well, we live far enough out in the country that no one even knows....I'm sure if the EPA knew, they'd stop us....even though its OUR house! Government....don't get me started! ;-)

      I'll have to check into the Borax though....currently, we use Melapower and Melabright from Melaleuca. I know its safe, and feel confident watering my plants with it, but would rather put that money I spend each month with them toward vitamins and supplements instead of laundry detergent. Glad to know I can once again make a homemade detergent and feel good about it!

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  33. I just wanted to add a comment for those who cloth diaper their babies. I've tried several recipes, and found out that I like your recipe, but sub-ing out fels naptha for Goat Milk Laundry soap. It leaves no residue, which is very essential with cloth diapers. I get mine at the "Goat Milk Stuff" website. It's a bit more pricey, but when saving this much money, I feel it's worth the "luxury."

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  34. How much is your little scoop for your front loader? I guesstimated that it is less than a tablespoon? Is that right? Please email me back and let me know. Thanks! alandnikki@gmail.com

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  35. Is this safe for septic tanks?

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    Replies
    1. I can only verify that in the year and a half or more that I've used it we've not had septic trouble, but can't guarantee it. This would be something good to research further...

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  36. Amy, can you replace half the borax with baking soda or will mixing them cause problems? BTW found your blog yesterday and totally love it!--Eva

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    1. Eva,
      Welcome! So glad to have you here and that you like the blog! As far as substituting some of the borax with baking soda, I would just give it a try and see how it works. Some people don't use the borax at all, but you might notice a difference in now it cleans. Try making a small batch to test this and perhaps compare the two.
      Hope this helps!

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  37. Ok This is a great blog! I just stumbled upon it and have been here for way too long. I love that everything you blog is totally what I love to do every day in my life! By the way I started using this recipe back in February and we love it. We have the worst hard water! So I added an some Purex laundry crystals and some oxy clean. As far as some oof the questions go above, my TL machine takes about 2 to 3 TBS per load. And for extra dirty- I just let the clothes soak real good in the washer when needed.
    My recipe is almost identical! It makes quite a bit. With a family of 7 (2 construction workers)it has lasted so far 4 1/2 months so far and we still have 1/3 or more left! I spent only $20. I am considering using calgon water softener powder in the next batch.

    1 4 lb 12 oz box Borax (2.15 kg or 76 oz)
    1 4 lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (1.81 kg)
    1 box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda 55 oz (3 lb 7 oz)
    3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap or 2 Zote bars instead
    2 small containers of Oxy Clean or 1 4lb box

    Machine 1-2 Tablespoons. 2T for a big load and I sometimes use 3 for extra dirty loads.

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  38. Mine is similar to the one above with one extra product

    1 4 lb 12 oz box Borax (2.15 kg or 76 oz)
    1 4 lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (1.81 kg)
    1 box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda 55 oz (3 lb 7 oz)
    3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap or 2 Zote bars instead
    2 small containers of Oxy Clean or 1 4lb box
    2 bottles Downey Unstoppables

    2 Tablespoons usually does the job :)

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  39. I have found a liquid laundry soap recipe that works great for my family and costs almost nothing.

    3 Tablespoons Washing Soda
    3 Tablespoons Borax
    2 Tablespoons blue Dawn dish soap

    In a 1 gallon container (I use and old juice bottle) add the Washing Soda and Borax and a small amount of hot water. Cap the bottle and shake to dissolve powders. Fill bottle almost to top with cold water, then add Dawn (adding it last keeps the suds down). Cap and gently agitate bottle to mix. Use 1/2 cup per load. Works great in my front load HE machine.

    This soap resembles light blue water when done, and I'll admit I wasn't sure it would work since it wasn't thick like my store bought soap. I have been using it for months now for my family of 6 and it works great. Being super fast and easy to make is a huge plus.

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  40. Amy, do you put your detergent in the detergent port at the top of your HE machine, or directly into the wash basin. Our local country chronicle has an article on this recently and the suggested putting it directly into the wash basin. Thanks! Have all my ingredients, just have to get it all together! Thanks!!!

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    Replies
    1. Christy, I put it in the dispenser. Because we have a water softener, I have to be very careful not to use too much, especially with dark clothes or it will leave small bits of detergent (user error, not a soap error!). So sometimes if I'm doing dark delicates, I select an extra rinse. But most of the time it's not necessary.

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  41. We have a water softener as well. Thanks for all the wonderful information! Can't wait to try this!

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  42. Hi, I use the Duggar's recipe for laundry detergent. I used Ivory bar soap instead of Fels-Naptha. All my white colored clothes are coming out with a yellow tint. I think it is because they are not getting clean. The stains are not coming out either. Is this because I used Ivory instead of Fels-Naptha? Also, I have a HE washer, is it normal for it not to fill up with a lot of water? How are my clothes getting clean if they are not completely covered in water? Thank you for any help. http://www.duggarfamily.com/content/duggar_recipes/30455/Homemade%20Liquid%20Laundry%20Soap-%20Front%20or%20top%20load%20machine-%20best%20value

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    Replies
    1. Jennifer, a HE washer conserves water, so it will not fill up like a top loading washer. As long as some water works the soap into and through the fibers and then rinses the dirt out, it should do the job. I've not had a problem with my HE front load washer not cleaning.

      As for the Duggar's recipe and the different soaps, I really can't answer that. I've only use the Fels-Naptha and I did not like it as much as the Zote, but I can't remember why... seems like it didn't clean as well. Sorry I couldn't be more help.

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  43. do you think ivory soap would work as well? Can't remember seeing any laundry soap in years.

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    Replies
    1. Not sure about the Ivory... have you looked at your grocery store? I never saw it until I started looking. There it was, way down low. One store actually keeps their Zote in with the bath soap.

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  44. I used this recipe below and my clothes always smell dirty, the stains do not come out, and the whites do not stay white. We have a HE washer could that be the problem? Can someone suggest why this is? Thank you!

    http://www.duggarfamily.com/content/duggar_recipes/30455/Homemade%20Liquid%20Laundry%20Soap-%20Front%20or%20top%20load%20machine-%20best%20value

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    Replies
    1. Jennifer,
      Are you using the Dugger's Liquid recipe? If so, it probably won't work as well in a HE Front Load washer. You need to use a powder instead. And if you have a water softener, even more so (and it will only take about 2 tsp).

      Also, with front load washers you typically need to leave the door ajar between uses or it will develop a mildew smell. AND... also check under the rubber gasket (that big wide rubber piece just inside the door) and pull it back to see if socks or rags or other small items are in there. That will cause a smell as well after a while.

      I suggest giving your washer a good cleaning and then switch to a powder recipe and see if that makes a difference. This link is for cleaning a dishwasher, but it's about the same: http://homesteadrevival.blogspot.com/2010/04/keeping-your-dishwasher-clean.html

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  45. Hi there. Just found your site. In doing research to make this laundry soap, I discovered Zote comes in two sizes- 7 oz bars and 14.1 oz bars. Which size do you use for this recipe? Thank you!

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    1. 14.1 size. I need to add that above. Thank you.

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  46. My wash is a HE, but not front loading. Thank you Amy.

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  47. I just made the laundry soap tonight. I am so sick of spending money on different laundry soaps that doesn't all give the same result. I was told at check out when buying everything I needed for this afternoon, that this actually works out better then Tide. I hope that is true. I am also making my fabric softener. A few months ago I started out making my own shaving cream as well. I had great results with that may I add. Store bought shaving cream will be no more! I love all this resourceful stuff that I can make myself and not to mention safe some dollars. :)

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  48. Hi, Stumbled on your site via Penterist...just wanted to put my 2-cents in. As a wife of a Appliance Repair Man (30 years). The craze in "homemade detergent" isn't anything new. What may be new to new users is that these homemade detergents all seem to use either Fels Neptha or Zote. Both of which use Tallow as the base for these soaps. Tallow is an animal fat gelitan which accumulates over time in the inner workings of the washers. BELIEVE me...the savings you save in making your homemade soaps IS NOT worth the costs that your washer will someday undergo as a result of repeated use of TALLOW based soaps. Just thought you-all would like to hear from an Appliance Repair man's wife

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  49. Well hello! I found your site via pinterest and i am interested but I have a few questions. One will it work in cold water only? I only have a cold water hookup and do you have a liquid one you like? I guess I am just worried about the soaps not breaking up and doing what it needs to do. I have a top loader....I just made some fabric softener today and it works great! I still have a whole thing of all free and clear so I am not in a big rush right now...but I was just wondering if you had any pointers?

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    Replies
    1. I have been using this soap and wash with cold water only and have not had any problems.

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  50. Love the blog, hun!

    I've used your homemade detergent recipie for about 5 months now in a top loading HE washer. This recipie removes grease oil stains from my boyfriend's jeans! (BTW he is a mechanic/farmer)

    I use about a tablespoon and put in in the dispenser. No problems so far!

    Hope that helps your readers!

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