Welcome to Colorado!

For those of you who followed our journey across the United States, we appreciate your support! If you've not seen The Zen of Ken and Jen click on that link to read all about the Just BeCauses TerraTrike Tour we just completed. 4500 miles of pedaling to raise awareness for Organ Donation!

We now live in beautiful South Fork, Colorado where we do a lot of skiing. We work at Foothills Lodge and Cabins so if you want to come see the stunning San Luis Valley for yourself, just let us know because we know of a great place to stay!

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to Make Your Own Liquid Laundry Soap (HE Washer Safe)

This is a REALLY easy and fun way to be more green and to save lots of cash.  When you make your own laundry soap at home, you can do 20 loads of laundry for the same price you pay for one load using Tide.  20 loads!  And it smells however you want it to smell since you add your own essential oils.

Since we started working as Innkeepers at Foothills Lodge and Cabins last October, we purchased our initial investment of supplies and haven't had to buy any additional ingredients since.  We still have LOTS left and that was over 6 months ago!  Running to the store because we've run out of laundry soap is a thing of the past around here. I will give you a list of the supplies you will need to purchase as well as links to websites for the stuff that isn't found at most stores, and I will provide pictures of each item as well as pictures of each step of the process.  We live 47 miles away from the nearest big box store or large grocery store so if we can find all the ingredients, I know you can too!  Okay, let's get started!

What you will need:
A Stove
One Large Stock Pot
A long spoon for stirring
A 5 Gallon Bucket
2 Cups of Washing Soda (Soda Ash)
2 Cups of Borax
1/4 Cup Dr Bronners Liquid Castille Soap
15-20 drops Essential Oil
Hot Water

You will need a big stock pot.
And some soda ash, also known as Washing Soda, which is baking soda's tougher big brother.  We got a 50lb bag of it for $38 and you can see how much we've used so far.  Buy Your Washing Soda HERE
This stuff is AMAZING.  Much of the same stuff we use to make our laundry soap can also be used to make all-purpose cleaner and bathroom cleaner.  A couple drops of  Dr Bronners goes a long, long way.  The heavily worded label and the history behind the soap are REALLY interesting, too.  
 We usually use lavender but one of the coolest things about making your own soap is that YOU get to decide how it smells.  And, added bonus, many of the oils available are antibacterial or antifungal which is great for getting your clothes even cleaner.  You can find these at most all health food stores.
Some recipes Ken found while researching how to make our own laundry soap call for vinegar to be added into the detergent, but he found it works better when he adds it to our fabric softener slot in the washer.  When we do this it rinses through after the soap has, and for whatever reason when we do this we don't need to use dryer sheets.  Even living at 8200 feet where it is VERY dry, we don't get shocked anymore.  I really hated that so this was one NICE discovery (thank you for the idea, Dad).

Okay, now that you have all of your supplies gathered, let's take a look at the actual process:
First fill the stock pot to about this full with hot water.  We don't filter ours but it's not a bad idea.
Then add two cups of Borax.
And two cups of Washing Soda (soda ash).
This looks HUGE for some reason, but it's really only 1/4 cup, I promise.  Dr Bronners liquid Castille Soap comes in lots different "flavors" including rose, hemp, citrus, and almond to name a few, but our favorite (right now) is the lavender.  They all smell absolutely fantastic so if you don't know which one to get, don't stress it too hard.  It's gonna smell and work great no matter what scent you get.  Go ahead and get the big one, too, since there are so many uses for Bronners Soap.  There is not a single health food store or pharmacy in the entire country that doesn't carry Dr Bronners (seriously, it's true) but if you want to get it online:
Buy Your Dr Bronner's Soap Here
Pour the Borax and Washing Soda in the water.
Give it a stir.  It's not boiling but it's getting pretty hot so be careful!
Add the 1/4 cup of Dr Bronners.
Add about 15-20 drops of oil.
Give it another quick stir.  I would suggest using a longer spoon that Ken is using here.  :)

 Right before your lovely smelling concoction comes to a boil, remove it from the burner and pour the contents into an empty 5 gallon bucket.  
Then fill up the stock pot again with HOT water and pour that into the bucket.  It will just about fill the bucket, and that's what you want.
See how it's almost full?  The size of your stock pot might make this a little different, so just remember that the recipe makes 5 gallons, so if you have to add a little more or a little less, that's okay, just as long as you end up with 5 gallons.  

And that's it!  Wasn't that simple??  Cover the bucket and let it stand over night.  In the morning when you take the lid off it will be ready to use.  Don't worry if there are little clumps of stuff in it.  That is perfectly normal and those dissolve easily when you start the load.  It might look kinda funky compared to that thick, pretty stuff you're probably used to, but it's not about how it looks, it's about how your clothes look, and they will look (and smell) FANTASTIC!
We put our finished product in recycled bleach bottles. 
And we tie a ribbon on them so we know which ones have detergent in them and which ones contain that nasty old bleach.  Honestly, we do still use some bleach here at the Lodge because people are really tough on our all-white linens and we have yet to find anything tough enough to remove the really bad stains.  Peroxide works on a lot of things, but not everything!  Do you have any suggestions for what to use instead of bleach?

Leave a comment if you have any questions.  And I'd love to hear about if you try this yourself!


  1. Cherryl HuffenbergerApril 21, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    Pretty simple! How much do you use per load?

  2. Our washers have a FULL line in them but I only fill it up to about half and it works just fine.

  3. Well written article! It seems easy to make. Good idea! Dad & Mom

  4. Thanks! :) This article will appear soon on Bonzai Aphrodite. I will post a link when it does.

  5. Thank you for the recipe!

  6. Is it suppose to be really thin, like water??

  7. Can it be used in a high-efficiency washing machine without damaging it?

  8. Absolutely. It's EXCELLENT for HE. :-)

  9. I am very interested in trying the recipe you posted. There are four things I need to know before using your recipe. First, can you please tell me specifically how many cups of water you use in this recipe? Next, what grade of essential oil do you use and where do you get them so cheap? Lastly, specifically how many ounces of this homemade liquid laundry soap is needed for a large load of laundry? Thank you for your post and help with this recipe. I can't wait to make this!

  10. I'm not sure how many cups of water are in our big pot, but since you are adding a lot more water to it later it's really not necessary to measure precisely. You can use less water for a stronger final product, or you can use more water to be more economical. Play around with it and see what works best for you.

    We use Organic Aura Cacia brand oil and it is 100% pure essential oil. We just get it at our local health food store but there are online sources as well.

    To do a regular load of laundry I'd use about the same amount as with the store-bought kind, maybe a bit more if you have tough stains. Now days I store our laundry soap in an Arm and Hammer Laundry Soap bottle and just use the lid as my measurer.

    Results may vary in different machines. Give it a spin and see how your machine responds the best and make some adjustments if need be.

    Have fun with it!

  11. I live in a small apartment and having five 1 gallon jugs around is just too much as I have very little storage. Can this recipe be used concentrated into one gallon and just use about 1/5 less?? Or can I make a concentrate in one gallon and then mix 1/5 into a gallon of water when I need another gallon?? OR, should I just 1/5 the recipe all together? LOVE this idea and can't wait to make some!! :) THANKS!!

    Amanda Rose

  12. Great question, Amanda! I think I would just 1/5 the recipe all together, but you could try it both ways and see. It's really not imperative that this recipe be precise. Results vary according to water hardness and washing machine efficiency, etc, so I suggest you play around with it and see what works best for you. Let us know when you find the right recipe for smaller batches and I will post it here. Thanks!

  13. I have a grandson that is allergic to chemicals and fragrances. If I omit the oil would it be safe for his eczema?

  14. My grandson has eczema and therefore we cannot use most laundry detergents for his laundry. They must be fragrance free. If we were to omit the oil would this be suitable for him, or do you know?

  15. Hi Deb,

    My first response to this was that essential oils may actually help your grandson's eczema since they are 100% natural, which is very different from chemical fragrances.

    Read this interesting article about using oils to ease the irritation of eczema: http://www.dailyglow.com/make-your-own-eczema-lotion-using-essential-oils.html

    If you omitted the oils from this detergent recipe, it would still work great, but it would be missing some anti-bacterial/anti-fungal properties. I would still use it over store bought stuff, though.

    Happy washing!

  16. If I may add, Deb, you really need to look into using essential oils. Preferably therapeutic grade. I have helped several kids, including one of my own with eczema. (Also check for allergies. Blood serum test, not skin prick. That found the culprit for my daughter!)
    Good luck. (For general essential oil info you can check my site at rayna.idoterra.com)

    I can't wait to try this recipe!! I think I even have everything on hand. I make a dry version with a hard castille bar. I assume this would have about the same results, but I like the liquid form. :) Thanks for posting!

  17. I made this yesterday. Cut the recipe in half so that I could store it, used lavender castille soap along with eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils- WOW! This smells so amazing. Definitely more natural and fresh smelling than any store brand. I am so excited to have better smelling laundry AND save money. You guys rock! Thank you!

  18. Isn't it wonderful? We just love it. And we are glad you do, too! Thank you for sharing your experience with us. :-)

  19. Dear Ken and Jen thank you for the recipe! I wrote you on August 5th with several question. I finally got to make the soap last week. The soap smells wonderful and strong. I made mine with almond castille soap, bergamot, sweet basil, and clary sage. Like Amanda Rose, I too have little space to work with. I made two small one gallon batches. One is 1/5 the ingredients and one is a concentrated batch that has all of the ingredients in one gallon of water. I'm still trying to figure how much to use with my washer. I got to use the soap this week and tried the concentrated one in 1.6 ounce increments (1/5 of a cup). The clothes seems clean, but there was little to no fragrance. I will keep testing and let you know what works for me. Glad to have an eco-friendly way to clean up!

  20. Keep playing around with it until you get the fragrance you like. That's one of the best parts of making your own. You can customize it! Let us know if you perfect your formula. Thanks!

  21. Is it possible to use too much essential oil?

  22. Is it possible to use too much essential oil(peppermint) and tea tree?

  23. Yes, it's possible, but you could use ALOT more than this recipe calls for and still be okay. The only real danger in using too much is that your clothes will not rinse out as well.

  24. will the washing soda damage clothes over time (elastic)as it is pH of 10-11?

  25. That is a good question. One I do not have an answer to, unfortunately. I have used this recipe for years and have not noticed any breakdown of any materials. I will try to find out for you.

  26. I made a trial batch this this afternoon and can't wait to test it out. I really didn't like grating the bar soap. Hope for good results :-)
    For a 32 oz batch
    1 Tbls + 2 tsp washing soda
    1 Tbls + 2 tsp Borax
    2 1/2 tsp Dr. B's
    28 oz water to start -followed your directions up to here
    allowed to cooled
    added 3-4 drops of tea tree oil(adding once cooled I believe helps the sent to remain a bit "stronger"
    added to my jug and topped off with additional water

    Thanks for sharing this.

  27. This is great! Thank you for sharing your recipe for a smaller batch. And yeah, grating the bar soap is a drag. This way is so much easier. Let us know how your clothes turn out!


  28. For a bleach substiute bc it irritates my skin, I use a half cup of lemon juice and a cup of white brite! It is not harsh onyour skin, it dosen't thin your clothes like bleach resulting in longer use of them and it dosen't leave a strong smell like bleach! Also....where can you get soda ash?

  29. Would the lemon juice and white brite be replacing the borax? If not, what would a good alternative be to borax. It makes me itch.

  30. Is the lemon juice and white brite replacing the borax? If not, what is a good alternative to borax? It makes me itch.

  31. Essential beauty soap is almost naturally. To get more information visit http://www.vegantreeowl.com.au

  32. soap makes body healthy. it also gives us a beautifully fressness.To get more information visit http://www.vegantreeowl.com.au

  33. Oh, my dear ladies... NEVER grate bars of soap! A food processor is worth its weight in gold for this one reason, if for no other! If I had to grate by hand, that would be my excuse for not doing it. I love homemade laundry detergent too much for that so I figured out another way. Life is too short & knuckles too tender to hand-grate! :)

  34. Soda ash: baking soda in a 400 degree oven on a cookie sheet 1\4 inch thick layer for an hour...stir three times in that hour for even cooking...it is soda ash when it is grainy feeling...I buy off brand baking soda and make my ash...much cheaper...but I have also seen soda ash at walmart in the laundry isle.
    Grating soap annoying????
    Microwave the bar for 1.5 minutes and add 30 sec intervals until it looks like a fluffy science experiment...seriously it makes the disolving of the soap much easier. Use a container that you will no longer put food in...after 3 washes my container still smells strongly of soap.

  35. I made this recipe in september and I'm very happy with the results, the money we are saving is fantastic, I love the idea of using an eco-friendly material. But I have to say that I still need to use a stain remover for my 2.5 years old boy clothes. I can't remove very well food or dirt stains. I'm looking for a ecological recipe for stains remover.
    An other thing that came up 4 weeks ago, is that at the bottom of the bottle of detergent I'm using are some kind of cristal chunks. I belive is the washing soda or borax, but i dont know what is the cause of that. Could you give me some advice? I thought to warm it all againg to get ride of the chunks. would be that a good thing to do? I will have to add more essential iol to the mixture? thanks.

  36. I made this recipe in september and I'm very happy with the results, the money we are saving is fantastic, I love the idea of using an eco-friendly material. But I have to say that I still need to use a stain remover for my 2.5 years old boy clothes. I can't remove very well food or dirt stains. I'm looking for a ecological recipe for stains remover.
    An other thing that came up 4 weeks ago, is that at the bottom of the bottle of detergent I'm using are some kind of cristal chunks. I belive is the washing soda or borax, but i dont know what is the cause of that. Could you give me some advice? I thought to warm it all againg to get ride of the chunks. would be that a good thing to do? I will have to add more essential iol to the mixture? thanks.