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Laundry Detergent Notes

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You’ve probably read this post about making homemade powder laundry detergent and this one about making your own liquid version but I’ve got a few more things to add. I’ve been making my own now for several months and I’ve come to a few conclusions. 1. I love it!!!! 2. I’ve changed it a bit. So, today let’s chat a little about laundry detergent and see if you would like to make some changes too. I’ve only been using the powder version because I like that it takes up so little space. I don’t really have much space to spare here……Annie takes up most of it and what’s left is Dottie’s. Sometimes I think Barry and I should just move out on the porch.

This is Octagon soap. Duh. I found this at Food City, but I’ve heard from several others that you can find it in many stores. However, this isn’t found in the laundry section like Fels Naptha. This particular type is found with the regular bar soaps in the Health and Beauty Care section of the store. I paid $.69 for this bar, where I would normally pay $1.25 for a bar of Fels Naptha. I got a bar just to try and see it how it went. When I opened it up, I was sorta surprised. It was greenish. I guess I expected it to be white, but I don’t know why. Funny how packaging does that to ya. Don’t judge a soap by its cover. It smells pretty good. I went about making the dry powder detergent like normal, subbing this for the Fels Naptha. I didn’t use my microplane grater this time, because I’ve been leary of it ever since I shaved off the side of my thumb. Yes, shaved it off. I still love my microplane, but we’re just admiring each other from a distance right now.

For this batch, I didn’t put the soda and Borax in the food processor. I just mixed it all up. You can see the little granules of soap in there. I did add the soap to the food processor to grind it up a bit and get rid of the flakes. I had one reader concerned about putting Borax in her food processor. It’s at this point I’ll stop and tell you to make sure and wash ALL the utensils and bowls that you use for this project in hot, soapy water. You need to get rid of all traces of borax and washing soda. The FDA says that Borax is safe and only harmful if ingested in large amounts. So, what have we learned? Don’t eat it for dinner. I know tons of stuff that’s harmful if ingested in LARGE amounts…..bleach, dirt, water, chocolate cake.  Just make sure you clean all your stuff. Thanks. I’m pretty sure most of you wouldn’t immediately use it to make your breadcrumbs but I just had to throw that in there.  You need to make sure you put soap in the water at the bottom of the machine before you add the clothing. It needs to dissolve. So, I turn my washer on, add the soap and then put my clothes in. For the Octagon you’re going to only use 2 tablespoons per load just like with the Fels Naptha.

I also wanted to try Ivory soap. I can get it pretty cheap when they put it on sale at Kroger and I have a coupon that doubles…and I like how it smells. It’s very good for those of you with sensitive skin. Fels Naptha is also  good for those with sensitive skin. It’s no surprise that this soap is also found in the Health and Beauty Care section with all the other bar soaps.

Ivory is a very soft soap. I grated it using my safe grater and then I threw it into the food processor to grind it up. It smelled really good when I opened the lid!

Because Ivory is so soft, you will find that when you really mix it up with the Borax and Washing Soda that it will combine very well. It looks just like powder that you’d buy at the store.

Verdict? I really, REALLY like the Ivory soap version. I think it’s going to be my “go-to” soap from here on out.  It works well at cleaning and gives the clothes a nice smell. The Octagon works very well too. It doesn’t leave a scent like the Ivory though. If you have extremely sensitive skin or a newborn, you might want to go with the Ivory. I will still stick with Fels Naptha for treating stains though. It works great! I love how it makes strawberry stains come right out! Now, I just have to figure out which of these soaps include Miracle Gro because my laundry pile seems to grow rapidly these days.


Comment Policy: I love hearing your thoughts and input on what I write. Since I write about what works at my house, what pleases my handsome hubby and darling children; I'm sure we'll disagree sometimes. In those cases, do what's right for you and yours. As with any form of communication, please only post comments that move the discussion in a positive direction.

About Stacy

Stacy is the author of Crock On: A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook and Keep Crockin': A Poorganic Slow Cooker Cookbook, and a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom to her three children, Annie (June 2009), Andy (August 2012) and Eli (September 2014). After an “awakening” in March 2011, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Her passion is teaching others how to save money and she tag teams with her husband in this endeavor. At Stacy Makes Cents you’ll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Her passion is teaching others how to live debt free. Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and more to keep up with her daily antics.


  1. Thank you for sharing excited to start making detergent. I am a mom of 2 and well needless to say, anyway to save money is great. I was wondering if I could add scent to the powder detergent if I wanted to (like you mentioned in the liquid)?

    Thanks so much

    • I’m not sure how it would react…..but you could try it. I would use a very small amount. Essential oils are VERY strong, so you won’t need much. I’ve been using Ivory and the scent is very nice – so if you use that you might not need a scent. Also, if you use dryer sheets or fabric softener then you will get nice pretty smells there. :-) Here are some articles on fabric softener and dryer sheets.
      Thanks for your comment! :-)

      • I just started getting your emails, and *LOVE* them. My frineds here in NYC think I’m nuts, but I don’t care.
        How do we use this powdered detergent for a front loading machine?


        • I’ve had people tell me they use it but only use 1 tablespoon. I will caution you though – if your manufacturer finds out you use it and something happens to the washer, they’ll cancel your warranty.
          You’re from NYC? THAT’S AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-)

  2. yes… you might be my hero. LOL Love the idea. I think I might use an old wipes container to hold the fabric “sheets”. Always looking for ways to reuse those…marker and crayon box, first aid kit in car. The list is endless but they seem to keep piling up around my house.

    Would it be okay if I mention you in my blog. I will link it to yours. LOVE THESE ideas!

    Thanks again!

  3. Hey Stacy! Today I’m going to use the ivory soap in my detergent and I have the 3oz bars. How much of that bar do I use? Thanks!

  4. Question: So do you do up one batch with the Fels-Naptha and another with the Ivory? And then, depending on what you are washing, if it needs stain treatment, you use the batch with the Fels-naptha?

    • Nope. I just make it from Ivory now. I leave a bar of soap (Fels Naptha) on the washer to treat stains with. I make 3 batches at a time. Ivory is cheaper than Fels Naptha and I like the scent. :-)

  5. Oh ok – so if you need to treat a stain, you literally just rub the bar of FN on it?

  6. So I have been using this with Fels-Naptha for over 6 months now. Fels-Naptha has a good smell but recently I have noticed many of my clothes smelling very strong of a chemical smell. Anyone else experience this? I am not sure what is causing this. I will try a different soap in the next batch but I am not convinced that is the problem.

  7. I’m getting ready to make my first batch of homemade laundry detergent after trying a sample that my sister-in-law gave me. I went to Food City today intending to get Ivory Soap and the other ingredients but they had Octagon on clearance for 38 cents a bar!

  8. Does this work for all or most fabrics? I thought I read somewhere over the years that homemade laundry soap was only good for 100% cotton because it’s soap based and not a detergent? I want to try making it this week but am wondering if I should not use it on certain things. We are pretty casual here though and don’t have many delicate fabrics.

    • Kelli – I’ve used it for a long time now and it goes in all my loads….and I know I have some things that aren’t cotton – but I don’t know if we have many “delicate items.” :-)

  9. I’ve made this with Fels Naptha, with no problems. But today I used the cheese grater to shred the Ivory soap and tried using both my mini chopper and food processor and the Ivory is still in little chunky balls. Is that how it’s supposed to be? I’m not sure if I should just scrap it and not use the Ivory or if it’ll be fine that way.

    • I always use Ivory now, so I’m not sure what happened. I’ve never had mine turn into little balls? I would try processing it for a bit in the food processor – longer than usual to see if they would eventually combine.
      IF they don’t, before you throw it out you could try a load or two and see if the soap would dissolve. Add it to the water and then put the clothes in.
      Keep me posted. :-)

  10. Ok, so I decided to go ahead and add the washing powder and borax to the processor and that did the trick! The Ivory looked like little balls before I added the other stuff, and I thought that was not right…but maybe it was? Anyway, I’m so glad it worked out! :-) Thanks!

    • The borax and washing soda are coarse, so they work on the soft Ivory to grind it up. I am sorry that I misunderstood you – I thought you had mixed it all together and the Ivory had clumped then. I’m glad you got a great batch! :-)

  11. I noticed you said to add the laundry soap to the washer when it was filling with water then add the clothes. What about use with an HE front loader? Thank you.

    • Hi Ginny! I don’t have an HE washer, so I don’t know anything about them. I do know this detergent has been used successfully in them – or so I’ve heard from other people. I asked my friend Cynthia, who has one, and this is what she said:
      “The front loader that we had, had a place for the soap where water would run thru and wash it down into the clothes. I guess she would just put the soap in the same place…..I’m guessing that all front loaders have similar system. As far as HE, I was told by my manufacture that if I used anything not HE approved it would no longer be under warranty. I still use the HE Tide, just a whole lot less. The borax is safe for HE, and I figured that the vinegar would not hurt anything. You may just want to advise her to contact the manufacture. “

  12. K Lunsford says:

    If the Fels Naptha can be substituted, I wonder if you could use a bar that was home made?

  13. I have been wanting to try making my own laundry detergent, and I have some of the ingredients, but what stops me is the soap part. The Fels Naptha has fragrance and pretty much all soaps like Ivory are made with chemicals. What types of soaps can you use and not use for this? Could I use Tom’s of Maine or another natural bar or are there too much natural oils in them?


    • One other question. Is there anything about this that will harm an HE machine?

      • Linda…HE customer service will tell you not to use it or your warranty will be cancelled. I don’t have one, so I don’t have experience with it. All I know is that several people have stated they use it in their HE washer. :-) If you have a warranty, you will want to proceed with caution.

      • I have an HE machine and have been using home made soap with it for years. The only reason I tried it is because my SIL uses home made soap and it didn’t suds at all. Thanks for letting me know about the warranty bit. If I have to have it repaired, I’ll be sure to buy a bottle of HE soap to show the repairman.

    • I always use Fels Naptha or Ivory – I like the cleaning power of Fels Naptha. BUT, I’ve had several friends who use the bar castile soap instead. :-)

  14. I just found your website (on The Keeper of the Home Blog) and want to try your powder laundry detergent. But, I did not see any specific measurements for the ingrediants…could you point me in the right direction?

    Thanks for all your help!!

  15. Hi Stacy!

    How does this work in cold water? I tried to read all the comments in both posts so I would not ask a question that has already been answered, but I did not see this one yet.

    Most of our clothing (especially in colder months) is black/dark–including my husband’s work wear. I’m just worried about buildup or the possibility the soap will not dissolve in cold water.

    Thank you!

    • I’ve used it in cold water with no problems. I always add the powder to the water BEFORE I put the clothes in..and sorta look to make sure it’s dissolving. For the most part, I use warm water to wash but I have used cold a few times with this. :-)

      • To make sure I don’t have any dissolving problems, I keep a mason jar with a measuring spoon by my container of laundry detergent. When I’m ready to wash, I measure out two scoops in the mason jar, run some hot water in the jar, and stir to dissolve and then add to the washer. :) It works for me!

    • Philomena says:

      you can start the washer empty using warm or hot water (just enough to dissolve the mix) and add the soap to it and let it dissolve a bit.. once you feel it’s dissolved enough then you can finish filling it with cold.. by the time it’s full, the warm or hot water you started with will be cold anyhow.

  16. if you use ivory, an easy way to save your food processor is to put the soap in the microwave first (i cut mine in half, then hit it for 30-45 seconds) it foams up a LOT, but give it a bit to cool, and put it in the food processor, what comes out is a wonderfull powder that mixes great!!

  17. Here is one more thing you can do to assist in the grating of “soft” soaps such as Ivory (and eliminate clumping that may occur.

    Unwrap the soft soap bar and leave it exposed to the air – for 2 weeks or more. This exposure appears to allow the soap bar to “dry out”. When I have grated them after 2 or more weeks of being unwrapped, the Ivory soap bar literally crumbles when grated. It makes a much finer white powdery substance and facilitates the mixing with Borax and washing soda.

  18. I have been making my own laundry detergent for a year or so. I started out using Fels Naptha, but now use Dr. Bonner’s Pure Castile Soap from the health food store. It costs a bit more, but it has all natural ingedients. It smells WONDERFUL too!!!

  19. Don Hardie says:

    just wanted you to know. Octogon is being discontinued. Fels Napha has a data sheet on it. Pls read carefully.

    I zote for my soap.

    Just wanted you to know

  20. Can you use a blender instead of the food processor? Much more convenient for me. Also, where have you found the lowest price for castile soap?

    • I can find the Kirks Castile soap at my grocery store for a little over $1. Other types are easily found at Vitacost.
      A blender MIGHT work. I’ve never used it, but I’m not sure it would get everything ground up. :-)

  21. Stacy, when you use Ivory, did you still mix in the food processor? Thank you!

  22. Sorry. Just re-read post and saw that you did process it. Sorry. Pregnancy brain.: )

  23. Stacy,
    I was wondering for the powder laundry detergent if you had to use hot water to wash clothes or if cold is fine?

  24. Cold should be fine as long as the powder is fine enough…and I would make sure to add it to the water before you put the clothes in. :-)

  25. Tami Montgomery says:

    I use Fels Naptha too, and sometimes shave pieces of my fingers or fingernails off with my microplane grater. ACK! But, I still use the microplane because I don’t like the large pieces of soap that the regular grater makes. And, I don’t prefer to use my food processor because it turns my 1-1/2 quart batch of soap into less than a quart! It grinds the soap up so it makes a smaller batch. I don’t know if that really matters, but I feel like if I have a bigger batch, I won’t have to make it as often! :)
    The other day I made a triple batch, so hopefully it will be a while before I need to make it again. :)
    Thanks for the comparisons. I’ll have to try Ivory one of these days and see how I like it!


  26. Hi everybody, is it safe to assume that in any version, any soap is good and some are better then others because of secondairy parameters: smell, weight of the soap and so on… I use a homemade soap bar, made from palmfat (sold in Holland as solid deep fry fat) I too tested the liquid and dry version. It works amazingly well.

    I didn’t use any scents or colors but I guess I could try a small batch with a smell of sage or lavander…

    I am working to make my own deodorant, dishsoap, laundry softner, the assorted household cleaners and I hope to be able to kick proctor and gamble out my house for good.

    My inspiration comes from the fact that most diy soap/cleaner/cosmetics projects produce no toxic waste (water).

    Regards, Sander

    • You can always give it a shot. :-)

    • Shelley Hallman says:

      Sander Tel, Have you ever seen the crystal deodrant rocks? Very inexpensive ,works well, I’ve been using it for years. , only ingredient listed is Ammonium Alum (Natural Mineral Salts) and it is endorsed by Cancer Treatment Centers. Number on product is 1 800-829 rock. I am not affilated with this company in any way, just use the product.

  27. Crazy question, but do you think we could use BOTH Fels Naptha for cleaning power and Ivory for fresh scent in the same batch? I use 1 cup each of borax and washing soda and a whole Fels Naptha bar. I’d love to add a nice scent to the detergent. Should I adjust the measurements of the borax and washing soda?

  28. Stacy, so do you use soap nuts now? What do you do to scent your load? I started with soap nuts, then switch to basking soda/borax/essential oil mix. The only complain I get is from hubby saying the laundry doesn’t have a nice scent anymore. No scent. I also use woolen laundry balls, even after I put essential oils on it, I can’t smell any of it. Any suggestions?

  29. Have you heard about putting the bar soap in the microwave for 20-30 seconds at a time? It’s suppose to puff up like a marshmallow and crumble, so no grating or food processing rrequired!

    • I have heard that – but we don’t have a microwave so I’ve never tried it. :-)

      • twinboys says:

        Aside from a few others in my immediate family, you and I are the last 2 on earth who don’t have a microwave and don’t want one!! My husband’s work partners call me Wilma. I’ll call you Betty !!

  30. Sorry but fels naphtha is NOT a gentle soap by any stretch of the imagination….please hear me from my sensitive skin world here…neither is borax. Just google it’s ingredients n google borax controversy. Sometimes wat sounds so good is not especially!

    • I’ve been told by several people with sensitive skin that Fels Naptha works great for them. So it must be an individual thing.

      • Entire family has super sensitive skin and have been making a liquid soap with fels nafta, borax and washing soda for years. The only soap we do not break out in rashes.

  31. Tiffany Albert says:

    I wonder if Dove soap would work for this too!?!?

  32. I noticed that your instructions are to place in the bottom of your washer and start the water than add your clothes. I have a top loader HE. Does this soap still work well if you se the detergent dispenser in my washer?

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