After rebelling against mothers and grandmothers who lived “homemade” and embracing the consumer lifestyle, we’re returning to the simple life.

AmandaBut I didn’t expect this hip young career woman to be a DIYer, especially for something as mundane as homemade laundry soap.  (Jewelry, maybe, or yard art.)

Amanda Grochowalski, a mid-20s recruiter for high-tech companies, said she not only makes her own laundry detergent, but also makes sure she cleans her place without toxic chemicals.

“I just can’t stand smelling all those chemicals after cleaning the shower with mysterious stuff in plastic bottles.  Just the thought of breathing them in makes me nervous,” Grochowalski said.

Some history

Grochowalski got the inspiration (and the recipes) from her mother.  And fortunately, the culture of today supports this notion of natural products and DIYism.  It was not always so.

According to Stephanie Coontz in A Strange Stirring, in the 1950s business interests saw a “tremendous opportunity to expand the consumer goods sector of the postwar boom economy” by targeting women with household products.  Coontz proved her point by emphasizing Betty Friedan’s research on advertising.  It showed “manufacturers explicitly defined the ideal consumer as a homemaker….”  Hence all these household products – the parade of “new and improved” plus stronger and stronger that bombard us in media and in the grocery store.

Coontz also points out a huge shift in what we call women –  women in the 1950s used to be called housewives and homemakers – and now they are called working women or stay-at-home moms.  That’s a huge shift in emphasis, from keeping house to caring for careers, friends, and kids.  That language supports a move away from using the strongest commercial products to using the purest and most natural ones.

Not everyone is on this bandwagon, but it’s a growing one.  And you can join Grocholwalski (and now me).

Grocholwalski’s Homemade Laundry Soap

Making homemade laundry detergent is amazingly simple.  It takes three ingredients and about 15 minutes.  I tried it to see how it worked. My mascara-stained towel came out clean, my coffee-stained napkin came out clean.  I’m hooked.

Use only 2 to 3 tablespoons per wash.  Very important – be prepared to see no suds.  You have to believe it is working.  And it does.

Cutting the Fells Naptha before putting it in the food processor. The soap was quite soft so it was easy to cut up.

Cutting the Fells Naptha before putting it in the food processor. The soap was quite soft and easy to cut.

1 box borax (20 Mule Team) – 76 oz. (about $4.50)

1 box washing soda  –  55 oz. (about $4.50)

3 or 4 bars of Fells Naptha soap (5.5 oz each) ($1.49 each)

The ground up soap.

The ground-up soap.

How to

Grate the soap by hand or cut it up and put the pieces in a food processor (depending on the size of your processor, do several batches.)

Mix the borax, washing soda, and ground-up soap together. Voila! You have made your own laundry soap.


The detergent


This recipe makes lots – I stored about 2 more cans worth in a plastic bag.

Then put the detergent powder in a container or containers.  After doing some research on the web, I found that many recipes called for putting the detergent in an air-tight container.  I put mine in old tennis ball cans.

My research also turned up many recipes  (see below) using different proportions of the ingredients. For example, 1 cup of borax, 1 cup of washing soda to 1 bar of soap – and some noted you could use many different types of soap – castile, even Ivory.  Because Fells Naptha is sold as a stain remover, I liked its use here, plus I like the smell of Fells Naptha (kind of citrusy in its dried form, but that doesn’t stay after washing with it.)  Some recipes suggested adding a drop of oil for fragrance.

Why do this?

Those who recommend homemade laundry soap do so for several reasons – to stay away from the chemicals in commercial soaps that can cause harm to (perhaps you) and the environment, because you can save some money this way, for the satisfaction of creating something – and the feeling of self reliance.

Some of the following sites even give recipes for liquid detergent.  (But I say, why? – Powder works great.)  Some good sites for homemade cleaning products are

What are these ingredients?

By now you many be wondering what borax is – it’s a natural mineral – sodium tetraborate decahydrate – but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless.  Make sure you rinse your hands and keep it away from food in its pure form.  It was discovered 4,000 years ago and has many uses as a cleaning booster, etc.

And it turns out you can make washing soda yourself!   By heating baking soda in a 400 degree oven.  See the  instructions here.

What about that shower?

Grochowalski says she uses borax to clean her shower – says the natural grit really gets it clean.

Microwave oven cleaning tips

Grochowalski recommends a natural cleaning tip for your microwave oven.  Halve a lemon, put the pieces in a bowl of water, and place it in the microwave.  Heat for 1 minute.  Check – if you still see guck in there, heat another minute.  Let it sit.  Wipe and you’ve got a clean microwave.

Don’t forget the super cleaning power of white vinegar – dilute it 5 to 1 and you can use it to clean your wood and ceramic floors, and, of course, your windows.

Why go natural?  It feels good! And it’s good for the environment.

For more recipes for home made laundry detergents, go to

And for lots of natural cleaning ideas, visit

Story by Bojinka Bishop

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Comment(s) on Some people surprise you – she makes homemade laundry soap. Here’s how

  1. Patricia says:

    Sounds very nice! Thank you for sharing! I will try it definitely! 🙂

  2. Louise says:

    Awesome you should think of soeihtmng like that