Thursday, May 27, 2010

Powdered Laundry Detergent Tutorial

I've been thinking about making my own soap, shampoo, and detergents for awhile, and so far have only managed to do shampoo, at least until now. Hannah at A Handmade Childhood (I don't know how to do the cool little text link yet, so here's a good old fashioned link: ) inspired me to stop procrastinating, and just do it, so I did! I got my recipe from Tipnut (who has tons of great tips, tricks, and recipes by the way), and adjusted it slightly. Here's the original recipe:

Powdered Laundry Detergent #4

2 cups Fels Naptha laundry bar- finely grated
1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda

Mix well and store in a sealed container out of reach of kids and pets
Use 2 Tablespoons per load.

Easy enough, right? Here we go!

First, your "mise en place" as my husband would say. Aka, get your things out that you'll need. Note: I let my Fels Naptha dry out for 2 days to make it grate easier. Turns out, I didn't need to.

Ok, so the only "work" you really need to do for the recipe is to grate the soap. Yeah...that was a pain. See that little cheese grater? See that big bar of soap? Ugh! Nap time only lasts so long, so I cheated after about 10 minutes of hand grating.

No, those aren't cheese puffs, and they aren't sweet and sour chicken either. Those, dear friends, are chunks of fels naptha soap after being microwaved for a minute. Yes!

Forget about all that hand grating or food processing. Cut up your soap in about 1 inch squares, nuke for a minute, let them cool completely, then put in a zip lock bag and crush with a rolling pin. At first they seem to just flatten, but then they crumble into a powder. Ha! Take that cheese grater!

Now, the only problem is that the recipe calls for 2 cups of finely grated soap, and we have made powder instead, which is much finer, so it measures out as less than it would if it were grated. No worries, luckily this isn't an exact science. I used the whole bar, which was about a cup and a half of powder. On the bright side, smaller soap pieces means they dissolve easier. Woohoo!

Moving right along, dump your soap powder into whatever container you intend to use (I recruited a recycled formula canister for the job), then measure out the borax and washing soda, and mix.

Hmm. For being 50% yellow soap and 50% borax and washing soda, it looked awfully soap heavy. My solution? Add more washing soda and borax. I wasn't sure how much of the bar of soap was equal to 2 cups grated, but after seeing the soap to white powder ratio, I was guessing it was roughly half a bar. That being the case, I doubled the other ingredients, mixed again, and voila!

finished powder laundry detergent! I haven't used it to wash our cloth diapers yet, but so far it's worked great on our regular laundry. Yay!

Here's my adjusted powder laundry detergent recipe:

1 bar fels naptha soap, powdered

2 c. Borax

2. c. Washing Soda

In case you're wondering, this is enough to wash about 45 loads, and it cost about $8.50 for all of the ingredients, with tons of Borax and washing soda left over for more batches. FYI, we use this in our HE front loader washing machine without issue since it is a low sudsing detergent.

Note: If you are concerned about the presence of that yucky naphthalene in the fels naptha, good news! Fels Naptha does not contain naphthalene any longer. If I'm not mistaken, I think it even says so on the package. Whew, Good thing!

Added to:

Look What I Made! @ Creations by Kara

Hookin' Up at

Show off Your Stuff @

DIY Day @

A Penny Pinching Party @


  1. Lyndsey- I love your blog. I just wanted to leave a word of warning in regards to your use of Naptha. This is a derivitive of Napthalene -a petroleum product. This is the same derivitive that they use to treat lumber; the same stuff that has been proven to be very harmful to young children and even adults.

    1. Oh Allie, a quick bit of research would have eliminated your fears about this altogether. There is no napthalene in Fels Naptha.

  2. Great post! I found you via Hoking up with the HOH, and myself hooked up with an all natural sink scrubber!

    I'm a new follower, looking forward to more back to basics!

  3. Good news Allie! They stopped putting naphthalene in fels naptha soap, yipee! Thanks for the heads-up though. The goal is for LESS chemicals, not more! :)

  4. Very cool and green! Great job! :)

  5. this is great! i've been using this formula for about a year now, only i use Ivory soap. :)

  6. Yay! That's great! I will definitely giv it a try! Thanks for the info!

  7. This is awesome, thanks! I hope you'll stop by my blog and say hello! (P.S. I am following you through google)

  8. I followed your tip and cut up only 1/2 the bar of soap and nuked it. Worked great. Course the dear hubby thought I had lost my mind when he saw me cooking the soap! :)

  9. Lol mine would have thought I was nuts too Buckeyegal, luckily he wasn't home at the time.