Here is my recipe for homemade laundry detergent. I started making it as my husband suffers severely from eczema and the highly scented washing products sold at the supermarket cause him real problems. Even the ones designed to be hypoallergenic. You can’t beat some basic old-fashioned soap combined with some extra added ingredients to improve cleaning power.
First you need some old fashioned soap. I made my own soap specifically for laundry purposes, but you can buy a bar of hard soap from the supermarket if you prefer. Something like wright’s coal tar or imperial leather would probably work.
The soap I made was 100% coconut oil soap with no superfat to make sure there weren’t any free oils to stick onto my clothes.
I made soap with 920g of oils as that is the amount that fits nicely into my silicone mold. You can adjust the recipe accordingly for the mold size you have.
168.5g Sodium Hydroxide
920g Coconut oil
Use the basic method for making soap from any of my other posts to create your laundry bars using the ingredients above.
Then combine the following extra ingredients to create your laundry powder :-
300g grated bar soap
150g bicarbonate of soda
150g washing soda
100 drops of essential oil (I used sweet orange oil but you can use anything you have around, peppermint or lavender are also quite popular)
Use the grating attachment on a food processor or a hand grater to grate your soap bar. Then use the chopping blade of a food processor to add the additional ingredients to your grated soap which will break it up into powder form. Keep mixing and add your chosen essential oil for fragrance. You won’t get a strong scent from the clothes once the washing is done, just a slight citrusy smell but the clothes mainly just smell clean. You won’t need fabric softener with this either so it is drastically cheaper than buying detergent off the shelf.
I only put around two tablespoons into the washing machine drawer and wash clothes as usual. I have found this works really well, towels come out lovely and soft and most stains are removed fairly well without pre-treating. For particularly difficult stains like tomato, I keep a solid chunk of my laundry bar to rub into the stain before washing.
Borax is widely used in the US, but it is banned in the EU due to issues about it’s safety so I prefer not to use it and I think the detergent works fine without it.
I have heard that some people use 100% lard instead of coconut for their laundry soap so I am planning to give this a try with my next batch. Have you made your own laundry soap? What type of soap do you use and what have you found works best for you? I’d love to hear your experiences.
Choosing the right combination of oils in your soap bar recipe is very important, they all provide different qualities to your bar of soap. You need some that provide hardness as you don’t want your soap bar to turn to mush as soon as it gets wet. Then depending upon the purpose of your soap you need to put in oils that provide cleansing power. Shampoo bars need to be quite powerful cleansers to remove oils from the hair, but facial soap needs to be very mild to protect the delicate skin of your face. You also want to add oils which will moisturise the skin, leaving it feeling soft and comfortable after cleansing.
The qualities of soaping oils depend upon the fatty acids they contain, each different oil has a completely different profile of fatty acids. There is a wonderful table on the SoapCalc website highlighting the different fatty acids and showing which qualities they will bring to your soap.
If you are having a problem with a recipe and you want to increase any of the properties listed in the table, then look at which fatty acids will provide these qualities in your soap bar.
For example if I wanted to increase the cleansing values of my bar I would need to add lauric or myristic acid.
SoapCalc also has another really useful page which then tells you which soaping oils contain the highest percentages of these fatty acids.
To find oils high in lauric acid, click the lauric acid button and it will sort the oils in order of % lauric acid content. Common oils like palm kernel oil and coconut oil come high on this list with 49 and 48% lauric acid. Therefore these are the oils I would look to add to my bar to increase cleansing.
I hope this explanation is useful, If you have any questions then feel free to drop me a comment and I will do my best to help.
This produces a wonderful smelling soap and the pastel colours compliment the fragrance beautifully. The goat’s milk yoghurt produces a lovely bubbly bar of soap and the silk adds extra smoothness. You can leave out the soap and the colouring if you don’t have those ingredients available to you.
This batch fills a mold size of 25x7x7.5cm and is superfatted at 5%
Olive oil 414g
Sunflower Oil 92g
Coconut oil 46g
Palm oil 92g
Sodium hydroxide 122.485g
170g Goat’s milk yoghurt
179.6g Distilled water
Large pinch of tussah silk
Green mica 1/4tsp mixed into 2ml olive oil
Blue Mica 1/4 tsp mixed into 2ml olive oil
Titanium dioxide 1/2 tsp mixed with 2ml olive oil
Spearmint Essential oil 10ml
Peppermint Essential oil 10ml
Aniseed essential oil 10ml
Prepare your mold, either line it with waxed paper or petroleum jelly to help release the soap when it has hardened. Use plastic or cardboard sheets to make 4 divisions in your mold, I am lucky and my mold comes with acrylic sheets that slot into place. Now you are ready to start soaping. Heat the oils until melted, mix the sodium hydroxide and water together. Wait until the two portions cool down to 35C then mix the two parts together. Blend with a stick blender until the mixture reaches light trace. Add the titanium dioxide and yoghurt to the whole batch and mix thoroughly. (You will have to work fast from now on as the sugars in the goats milk will heat up the batter and you don’t want brown soap!) Separate the batter into three containers, two with 1/4 batter in each and one with the remaining 1/2 of the batter. Add the green and blue mica to the two 1/4 batch containers. Fill up two of the mold sections with white mix and the other two with the coloured batter. Then gently remove the separating sheets. You should now have a mold filled with 4 stripes of differently coloured soap. Take a stainless steel skewer or piece of wire coat hanger and swirl it through the soap in a figure of eight pattern wich will produce a mantra swirl pattern on the top of your soap.
Quickly move your mold into the fridge to make sure the soap doesn’t overheat, and leave overnight to saponify. I took my soap out of the fridge the following morning but the soap was still too soft to unmold and cut so it needed to be left another two days to dry out before it was hard enough to cut.
I thought this was going to be a failure half way through but it all turned out ok in the end, I don’t seem to have much luck with fragrance oils. Every one I have tried so far has caused my soap to set up really quickly. I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences with this.
I fancied something that was a bit indulgent for my shower. I had recently purchased some sweet fragrance oils so I thought I would have a go at a chocolate soap with added cocoa butter and cocoa powder. I didn’t want the soap to have horrible brown lather so I am only used a small amount of cocoa powder and make the colour look a bit darker with some chestnut coloured mica.
Here is the Chocolate Soap Recipe :
Coconut oil 150g
Palm oil 100g
Cocoa Butter 50g
Olive oil 125g
Sunflower oil 75g
Distilled water 190g
Sodium hydroxide 71.85g
10mls Dark Chocolate Fragrance oil
5mls Almond Fragrance oil
5mls Vanilla Fragrance oil
1/2 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp chestnut coloured mica
Slowly mix the sodium hydroxide with the water until it has dissolved completely and set aside.
Melt the oils over a gentle heat until they have dissolved completely then add the cocoa powder and mica.
Wait for both parts to cool to 40C, add the fragrance oils to the other dissolved oils and then combine with the sodium hydroxide. Mix with a hand blender until the mixture thickens. My fragrance oils caused my mixture to trace really really quickly, it only took a couple of bursts and my mixture had begun to set!!! I quickly plopped it into the mold and hoped for the best.
After about half an hour the surface of the soap started to form tiny beads of liquid and the soap started to really heat up in the mold. After doing some research it appears that the soap may have got too hot due to the fragrance oil speeding up the chemical reaction so much. I put it in the fridge to cool it down a bit.
I unmolded the soap the next day and it is fine, no separation and it smells lovely. A kind of chocolatey amaretto smell, almost good enough to eat.
Unfortunately I forgot to take any photos while making this so the post is going to look a bit boring. This soap started out as a disaster for me but I managed to remedy the situation and ended up with a really nice bar of soap in the end. I have outlined below what went wrong, how I remedied it and what to do to prevent this happening to you.
This soap contains lots of really rich oils to provide lots of moisture for sensitive facial skin, along with kaolin clay to cleanse and gently exfoliate dead skin cells.
Please read the health and safety instructions, and the whole post before attempting this recipe.
Rose and Kaolin Facial Bar
Olive oil 100g
Coconut oil 100g
Shea Butter 25g
Rapeseed oil 75g
Palm oil 25g
Cocoa Butter 25g
Distilled water 190g
Sodium hydroxide 68.9g
Pink mica 1tsp
Rose fragrance oil 20mls
- Place the water into a plastic container and slowly add the sodium hydroxide bit by bit until it has completely dissolved.
- Gently heat the oils in a pan until they have completely dissolved.
- Wait until both the lye mixture and the oils have cooled to 45C then combine them in a plastic container.
- Blend the two together until the soap mixture reaches trace.
- Add in the kaolin, mica (you may want to add more than 1tsp, I wanted a really pale shade of pink for my soap so this is why I used such a small amount).
- Then I added the fragrance oil and about two seconds later the mixture started to resemble curdled milk with lots of the liquid oils separating out (apparently this is common when dealing with certain fragrance oils especially floral ones)
- I spooned it into the mold in one big glob and hoped that the soap would sort itself out when it reached gel phase.
- The next morning I checked on it and it was still an oily mess.
- My plan was to heat it up in a pan to rebatch it but I know you can’t make soap in an aluminium pan so I tried all the pans we have with a magnet to find a steel one and no luck!
- As a last resort, I set our big soup pan on the stove and filled it with boiling water.
- I spooned the dodgy soap mix into a zip lock plastic bag and the put another bag around it to keep out the water.
- I boiled the soap mixture in the bag until it had completely melted, at this point the soap turned from a curdled mess into a nice smooth soap mix which I squeezed out of the bag back into the mold and allowed to set.
- I left the soap for two weeks to dry out, then it was ready to use. I’m really pleased with it as it moisturises my dry facial skin really well and has a lovely light smell of roses.
I have done some research and there are several things you can do to prevent the soap seizing so badly when you add certain fragrance oils. I will give these methods a go next time I work with fragrance oil.
1. Add your fragrance oil to the melted oils before adding the sodium hydroxide as the effects of the fragrance oil will be diluted by the other oils.
2. Mix the oil and sodium hydroxide together at a lower temperature to prevent the mixture reaching trace as quickly.
3. Make your soap base with a higher amount of liquid oils as this will also slow down trace.
Chef’s Coffee Soap
This is designed to be used in the kitchen, the coffee grounds are great at absorbing odours and the rosemary and patchouli essential oils give it a wonderful smell that appeals to both men and women.
This soap smells amazing and the exfoliating coffee grounds are great for removing stubborn dirt. My husband used this soap after boxing with some really stinky gloves on. Usually the smell won’t go away even if you wash your hands several times with regular hand soap, but his hands were left smelling great after just one wash. He also liked the smell as it isn’t feminine at all.
Please read the safety information and make sure you are confident in handling sodium hydroxide before you attempt this recipe.
225g Olive oil
125g Coconut oil
50g Rapeseed oil
190g strong freshly brewed coffee cooled to room temperature (I used espresso)
68.55g Sodium hydroxide
2 tbsp. Coffee grounds
10g Rosemary essential oil
10g Patchouli essential oil
A soap mold (I used a plastic box lined with cling film)
Start by weighting out all of your ingredients so they are ready when you need them.
Slowly mix the brewed coffee with the sodium hydroxide little by little until it is completely dissolved and set aside to cool.
Heat the oils on a low heat until they have completely dissolved, once more set aside to cool.
When the sodium hydroxide mixture and the oils have both cooled to 35C you can mix them together. This may require cooling one of them at a faster rate in cold water to get them to the same temperature.
Mix with a hand blender until the mixture thickens and reaches ‘trace’. This is the stage where you can see a mark left behind on the surface for a couple of seconds after you have removed the blender. My mixture reached trace after about six minutes of blending. You can see from the picture what this should look like.
I’m being brave and attempting an orange scented soap, I’m going to add milk powder to add extra creaminess hence the name ‘orange smoothie’.
I know that it is hard to get citrus scents to stay in soap and have no idea how successful this will be but I’ve done some research and adding certain complimentary essential oils is supposed to help the scent hold. That’s why I have included patchouli, bergamot and lemongrass to the mix. Also adding fresh zest is another method of trying to help the scent to hold.
This soap turned out really well, it was nice and hard so it works really well as a shower soap as it doesn’t dissolve in your hands. It has just the right combination of cleansing and moisturising properties for washing your body. The smell is wonderful and has not faded much after curing, the smell really fills the shower cubicle in a morning and it is a great scent to wake up to.
Be sure to read the heath and safety section before attempting to make soap with sodium hydroxide. It is extremely caustic and can cause serious injury if handled incorrectly.
So here goes :
100g Distilled Water (bottled water will do)
70.19g Sodium Hydroxide
250g Olive Oil
150g Coconut Oil
90g Distilled Water mixed with three dessertspoons of milk powder with a few strands of saffron for yellow colouring
Zest of two oranges
20g Sweet orange essential oil
20 drops of bergamot essential oil
30 drops lemongrass essential oil
10 drops patchouli essential oil
Carefully weigh out the sodium hydroxide and the distilled water in two separate containers. Slowly add the sodium hydroxide bit by bit until it is completely dissolved, stirring with a wooden or plastic spoon. Set aside to cool as it will get quite warm. You can barely see it in the bottom of the jug there is such a small amount.
Melt the oils together over a low heat and also set aside to cool. I also added the orange zest at this point as I wanted the mixture to be as smooth as possible, you can add it when you reach trace if you prefer larger chunks of zest in the soap bars.
Heat up the remaining 90g distilled water and add the strands of saffron, mix until the liquid is a nice shade of yellow then strain out the saffron through a sieve. Add the milk powder to the yellow water and stir until mixed.
At this point I also measure out my essential oils into a glass container, large volumes can take a long time to get out of the bottles drop by drop so I make sure I have everything ready in one place to pour straight into the soap, this will avoid it setting too quickly before getting it into the mold. I then cover the glass container with cling film to keep the strong smell at bay.
Wait until both the sodium hydroxide and oils have cooled to around 35C. You may have to use a bit of cold water in the sink to get one or the other to cool at a faster rate so they both reach the same temperature at the same time.
Combine the oils, sodium hydroxide mix and the milk powder mix.
Start to blend with a hand blender and the oil and water will emulsify and go a creamy colour.
The mixture will quickly heat up due to the sugars in the milk, keep blending and eventually the mixture will start to thicken. I blended for just over 10 minutes before the mixture reached trace. When you pull the blender out the mixture should be thick enough that the drips are visible on the surface of the mixture for a few seconds before disappearing, this is trace. (I couldn’t get a good picture of this unfortunately) You must reach this point before putting your mixture into a mold. If you do it too soon then the sodium hydroxide and oils are not sufficiently mixed and your soap will not set properly. At this point I added my essential oils and blended for a few more seconds to make sure the oils were mixed in thoroughly.
Line your soap mold with cling film to make removal much easier. Then pour your soap into the mold, I used a cheap plastic box with a lid from the pound shop. Cover the soap mix with another piece of cling film to prevent soda ash from appearing on the surface. I then put the box lid on to act as a safety measure and prevent spillages.
Your soap mixture should be an opaque creamy yellow colour at this point. Normally you would insulate your soap to make sure the chemical reaction completes fully, but the sugars in the milk react and produce huge amounts of heat so insulation isn’t necessary. The soap will change to a dark orange colour and go translucent, this is called gel phase and shows that the reaction is occurring properly.
Leave the soap in the mold for at least 15 hours to ensure the reaction is complete. The soap can then be removed from the mold and cut into bar sized slices. It should be pretty soft but firm enough to handle. If it is still too soft remove any surface coverings and leave to air dry for a bit and hopefully it will harden enough to remove and cut. The soap then needs to be left to air dry or cure for six weeks, during this time it will dry out and become a nice firm bar of soap. I leave mine in my spare bedroom as it is away from my pets and the environment is cool and dry, perfect conditions for curing soap.
I will update this post after the soap has cured and let you know if I was successful in keeping the orange scent from disappearing.