I've been making my own laundry soap for about 2 years now. A friend sent me an e-mail about it and I gave it a whirl. It's cheap, gentle on my clothes, leaves them fresh and clean and I can make 5 gallons worth in about 5 minutes or less. Here's how I did it today...
There are only four basic ingredients. Borax, washing soda, soap and water. I also add a little fragrance oil, but that's optional. It's smells nice the way it is, and the fragrance doesn't carry over to the finished laundry anyway.
Heat up approximately a quart of water in a saucepan on the stove. Grate a half bar of Fels Naptha soap on your cheese grater. It grates very easily and only takes a minute.
Add the shredded soap to the saucepan and continue to heat, stirring. I use an old beat up plastic "wooden spoon." The soap has a strong fragrance at this point, and I don't want it to absorb into a real wooden spoon.
At this point, I carry the hot saucepan full of water down to my laundry tubs in the basement. It's a lot easier to do that than carry a heavy 5 gallon bucket downstairs. I use an old leftover 5 gallon bucket with a lid. We had it and it needed a purpose. I saw a new bucket in Lowe's the other day for $2.50, lid included.
Pour the hot soapy water into the bucket and slowly start to fill it with hot tap water. Add 3/4 cup each of borax and washing soda. Yes, I know that's a liquid measuring cup, but this isn't hard science here. It's the cup I keep at the washing machine for measuring out the soap into the laundry and it's handy.
I added about 20 drops of fragrance, but that's no big deal. I used the last of it up today and probably won't buy more. It can be purchased in any craft store.
Fill the bucket full of water, stirring.
I keep the bucket on the floor, next to my washing machine. Let the soap sit overnight. The next day it will be congealed, much like homemade turkey or chicken stock. Give it a good stirring up and it will be like a goopy gel.
I use 3/4 to 1 cup of soap for a large load, depending on the soil. I'll add a little Oxy Clean to whites or towels to give a boost, but that's not necessary. I still keep a bottle of commercially made detergent on hand, in case I run out of ingredients, or don't get around to making it.
Some people have a hard time finding washing soda and Fels Naptha soap. I've found luck at a small independent grocery store. You can often find these items at a store where older people shop. They are old fashioned cleaning ingredients (compared to those of the Swiffer generation) and have a market there. One box of each lasts me a loooong time. I buy several bars of soap at a time. When I need it, I cut a bar of soap in half with the wrapper on and put the unused half in a sandwich bag for next time. Once I used Kirk's Castille Soap, but didn't like it nearly as much.
Your frugal cleaning tip of the day for homemade laundry soap!