I realize there are probably a million of these recipes for homemade laundry soap online now. But I want to share what I do. I am highly allergic to a lot of soaps and chemicals so most nearly all commercial detergents set me to itching like a crazy lady. Fabric softener(liquid and dryer sheets) were the worst offenders of all.
Years ago I started doing homemade. I initially learned from my dear friend Angie at Shepherds Hill. Eventually I started doing a little twist on it. Just to boost the cleaning power I add in the one and only commercially made laundry detergent that does not make me itch. The one at Aldi in the blue bottle I can safely use. You can completely leave this out and it is NOT necessary. By diluting it with homemade, it is still very cheap and cost effective.
Some folks like to add OxyClean too. (sodium percarbonate) That is possible, I did it once. I don't now because I find OxyClean works better via a long overnight soak when needed. It seems to require time to do it's job. If you have white coverings, it is a gentle way to clean them without using bleach. Anyway...back to the homemade laundry soap....
You will need a large bucket with a lid. These can be found at Walmart in the painting area for less than $5 if you don't have one. Some people prefer the powder recipes so they don't have to store lots of liquid soap. I didn't like the cleaning power of the homemade powder version. I didn't feel like it done as well. If you do use a powder version, be sure to start your washer and let some water run, then add your powder to dissolve before adding clothing. That helps significantly.
I prefer liquid and I feel like it is also much longer lasting and more cost effective. There is one MAJOR point of homemade laundry soap you need to know. Soaps leave residue and are inherently different than detergent. If you don't use and acid rinse to change the PH of your rinse water, you will get greying and buildup over time. It will make you hate homemade laundry soap. So if you don't use an acid rinse, please don't blame me if it fails miserably.
The same can be said if you use too much soap and not enough acid. You have to balance it well. Most people use vinegar for the acid as it is cheap. Lemon juice would work as well. I know some fear their laundry will come out smelling like vinegar. It won't, unless you use a megaton of it, your laundry will smell very fresh.
Please, if you bother to make homemade laundry soap, please don't skip the acid rinse. Ever wash your hair with a bar of soap? It will leave it feeling quite nasty, right? However, if you rinse your hair with vinegar, followed by plain water, it will feel awesome. It will be soft, shiny, and do a better job than any commercial shampoo and conditioner could do. My point is, the acid rinse really is vital to getting that residue off, just as with your hair.
If your machine doesn't have a special compartment for rinse aid or fabric softener, there is a cheap solution. Buy a Downey Ball (a couple bucks) and use about the same amount of vinegar in the ball as you use in laundry soap. For me that is about a 1/4 cup or so, if the load is terrible I use a bit more. Just be sure to do more vinegar accordingly.
If you commit to using homemade laundry soap, you will need to get over the idea of the strongly perfumed laundry. I admit, I miss that too sometimes. The huge amount of chemicals aren't good for us. Fabric softener especially since it is in your rinse water and stays on your clothing. I know it isn't great that I do add in a little of the commercial laundry detergent. I reckon it is diluted with my homemade stuff, and the vinegar rinse takes away most of the residue. Not perfect, but it is what I do. You can absolutely leave that out and stick with the natural stuff only.
Many say these homemade recipes are totally fine in HE machines. Some just use a little less.
Anyway....enough blabbing...onto the "how to"
My recipe is:
1 bar of Fels Naptha (you can use whatever bar soap you want, Ivory, homemade plain, etc)
2 cups borax
2 cups Washing Soda (not Baking Soda, You are looking for Sodium Carbonate not Sodium BiCarbonate)
1 quart boiling water
2 gallons cold water
1 container your favorite brand laundry detergent (totally optional)
Use anywhere from 2 T to 1 cup per load, in proportion to the vinegar/acid you use.
I use 1/4 -1/2 cup, depending on how soiled.
Your water hardness, may increase or decrease the amount you need, experiment accordingly.
First grate the bar soap on a regular box grater. This is hard on your arm, but think of the cost savings. :-) You could get around this by slow melting a bar in a crockpot with the quart of water, but it would take quite a while.
Next, boil a quart of water and pour over the grated Fels Naptha to melt it. The point is to turn the bar to a liquid soap.
I should say here, don't use a liquid high sudsing soap like shampoo or something. The machine would overflow with bubbles probably. You need low sudsing like bar soaps or homemade soaps for this.
After you melt your bar soap, put it in the bucket and add in the other ingredients, plus 2 gallons of cold water.
Stir well. It will be a tiny bit lumpy but mostly very watery. You will be very unsure this will work.
The next day or two, it will gel and be more like what you are used to seeing. It will need stirred a bit before each use as the borax tends to rise. It may not be "pretty" but it works and works well. You don't have to wait for it to gel to start using it.
Now some folks are uncomfortable with Borax. I am not. I use it and have no issues. Once I was out and I left it out completely. I kept all of the other ratios the same and it still worked perfectly. In fact, "looks wise", it was better and gelled much nicer. It seemed to clean okay. So it is up to you if you want to use or skip the borax. I don't think the Washing Soda is optional though. You really need it and some type of soap.
Initially you might miss fabric softener, but it really is a terrible product. It kills the absorbency of towels and cloth diapers too. Between that and the strong chemicals, the horrid itching, it isn't worth it for me.
Final tip, if you really miss the perfumes, some people like to add essential oils like lavender to their soap mix or even to the acid rinse. I do once in a while, but I often don't bother. If you really love a wonderful scented laundry....nothing makes it smell better than hanging it outside if you are able to.