Introduction: Homemade Gel Laundry Detergent

Picture of Homemade Gel Laundry Detergent
This is a great recipe. I have been using it for a while now and absolutely love it! It leaves your laundry smelling clean and soft without any fragrance. You can add fragrance if you would like. But it is great as is. It cost about $1.25 for 2 gallons of this detergent of the amount used in this recipe. Of course all ingredients cost about $7.50. You will have alot left. Probably enough for the entire year (with the exception of the zote).

Step 1:

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Measure 2 cups of this arm & hammer super washing soda and put it in a large bucket. 5 gallon bucket with lid works good.

Step 2:

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Measure 2 cups of this borax and add to the bucket of washing soda.

Step 3:

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Take the Zote and grate it into a powder, about the consistancy of instant mashed potatoes. You will need 2 cups of this powder. In a large pot, put the 2 cups of powdered zote into pot. Add 4 cups of cold water. Heat mixture till boiling while stirring. Be careful, the foam may overflow so make sure you use a large pot. Once it is melted, carefully add the mixture to your bucket. Mix all ingredients well.

Step 4: Add 2 Gallons of Tap Water.

Now add 2 gallons of tap water to your bucket. I use it room temperature. Mix altogether. That's it!

When you are ready to wash your first load, just mix it with a large spoon. I use 1/2 cup in my LG "he" washer. Yes I use it in my high efficiency washer. As far as I can tell there are no problems. Hardly any suds at all. Try using more in top loaders. Maybe 1 cup.

Others have been using a downy ball full of white vinegar as a rinse aid and fabric softener. It helps rinse out any soap residue. I use it in my "he" washer in the tray to the full mark.

If you are wondering if the clothes have a vinegar smell, they don't. While we're on the subject of vinegar, it works awesome as a rinse aid in your dishwasher!


SamanthaL100 (author)2017-03-15

I make my own homemade laundry soap....I bought a paint stirrer for my drill and stir everything up and don't have to worry about stirring before every use or gel clumps

ladylissa (author)2009-04-09

I make this all the time. I cut the recipe in half and make just 1 gallon at a time. Sometimes I just use it in powder form (1 Tbsp. Per load). It's pretty awesome. I use cold process lye soap, but zote is good too!

Hippy Nerd (author)ladylissa2015-07-17

@ladylissa How much soap do you use? Thanks :)

kar1m (author)Hippy Nerd2016-09-11

Use 1 bar the whole bar soap.

kar1m (author)ladylissa2016-09-11

Glad to see you are using this so much!

Thejesterqueen (author)2016-04-10

I know this is old, but for those reading, some people use Yardley soaps instead of Zone or Fels Naptha. The Yardley soaps come in fragrances like English Lavender and Oatmeal. Just an F.Y.I. for those who can't find the others.

kar1m (author)Thejesterqueen2016-09-11

Sounds like a great idea!

Laura198 (author)2016-09-09

just wondering does this make 5 gallons

kar1m (author)Laura1982016-09-11

It makes about 2.5 gallons

Thejesterqueen (author)2016-04-10

I meant Zote. lol My spell check thinks it's smarter than I am.

chantellepolson (author)2010-03-11

hear  in canada   they sell 2  bars  of  laundery  soap  for  a dollar a t the  dollar store

@chantellepoison Where in Canada? Which Dollar Store? And what is the name of the soap? Please and thank you

SparkySolar made it! (author)2014-10-16

this is a 5 gallon bucket, thick , when you stir it, its like "Chicken soup"

SparkySolar made it! (author)2014-10-16

this is a 5 gallon bucket, thick , when you stir it, its like "Chicken soup"

SparkySolar made it! (author)2014-10-16

this is a 5 gallon bucket, thick , when you stir it, its like "Chicken soup"

SparkySolar made it! (author)2014-10-16

this is a 5 gallon bucket, thick , when you stir it, its like "Chicken soup"

SparkySolar (author)2014-10-16

i have a recipe somewhere and I make 5 gallons of liquid soap. It lasts 16 months.Rima

I love it


Charicola (author)2013-03-19

Thank you! I've been using soap I bought in a kit on the internet for about 6 months now. I have a family of 4 and it just now ran out! So, I went ahead and got the stuff for making the next 5 gallon bucket's worth, and I am so pleased to have found your Instructable, that mirrors the ingredients and gives me the basic know-how to make it on my own. I add a dropper-full of lavender essential oil to my own mixture and it makes our laundry smell really great too! Thanks again!

roboguy (author)2008-11-05

What is Zote? Could I use other soap, or is there something special about Zote? Also, why might there be a legal issue about what kind of washer you use?

creativity67 (author)roboguy2012-10-28

I've tried this with the Zote, which works great. I now make it using my homemade bar soap or my homemade liquid soap in place of the Zote. It all works really well. I use the homemade soap because my son is allergic to all store bought brand bar and body washes (although he did not have a negative reaction to the the Zote).

Any store bought castile soap will work in place of homemade soaps.

kar1m (author)roboguy2008-11-05

You can use Ivory soap also. Zote is a laundry soap. Its probably found in a bigger store along with the detergents. I was being sarcastic about being against the law because it's results are like any other detergent I use. And it's so cheap.

roboguy (author)kar1m2008-11-05

ah, ok. I was wondering if it was a water quality law related to something about too much detergent in your grey-water, kind of like dumping chemicals down your sink!

seandog (author)roboguy2008-11-07

Would this 'awsome damn cheap elixer' by chance be biodegradable ??? Which would make it even more awsome!!!!! inquiring minds would like to know.

Thenicholas3 (author)seandog2009-01-01

I don't know about the Zote soap, but I make this recipe with fels naptha laundry soap and it's biodegradable. Both washing soda and borax are naturally occuring elements. I will also add lavendar oil to some to use on my sheets and towels, it's a nice touch.

seandog (author)Thenicholas32009-01-02

Thanks for the info...I am trying to convince my hubby to create a grey water system for our garden- Seandog

mangomerle (author)seandog2010-05-14

I know this is a response to a comment from a long time ago, but I'd hate for someone to have to learn the hard way. You don't want to use borax if you are going to be using a greywater system. Borax kills most everything; plants, insects, it's poisonous if ingested by mammals, birds, etc. Washing soda is also not recommended for use with greywater systems. I'm not sure about the washing soda in reference to greywater systems. Brad Lancaster has some books I've been meaning to read about rainwater collection and use of greywater. More info can probably be found there.

gfry (author)2012-05-10

OK...I'm gonna try making this stuff today. Has anyone ever used it in a dishwasher?? If it is low sudzing it might work well
Additionally, if you put organic thickening agents in the soap, like agar or cornstarch, won't the soap go moldy in storage?

Cheers, and thanks for the recipe.

FlatLinerMEDIC (author)2011-09-21

Just bought zote at 99 cent only store...for 79 cents. they have it at food city too for Az people

zidakano (author)2010-09-18

search amazon for zote and you get a few different options,

zote, fel naptha, octagon being the ones I remember off the top of my head.

I found all these products at Kmart if there is one close to you that could be an option.

Washing soda goes by a lot of names and you may be able to find it cheaper by one of the others.

washing soda, soda ash, sodium carbonate, PH up/+ (pool chemical), supposedly from farm supply stores such as atwoods too.
whatever you end up buying should have sodium carbonate as the only ingredient.

goodgnus (author)2008-11-05

Very cool, with the recent increase in price and decrease in quantity of arm & hammer detergent I may have to give this a try. Would be nice if someone with a chemistry background could chime in and come up with an ingredient that will allow this to really "gel" as in become like jello so that it does not settle and need to be mixed before using each time.

gloflyer (author)goodgnus2008-12-27

I make a similar soap. Sometimes it gels good, other times it doesn't. If it doesn't, I just put some of it back into the pan, heat it up, and then stir stir stir into the bucket. I don't think that you want to add any kind of thickener. This stuff works good, and the clothes come out feeling really soft. However, this soap does not have the optical brighteners that are in commercial laundry detergent. About every 3 loads, I use regular detergent. This stuff is actually preferred for high efficiency washers. I have had both kinds, and it works in either.

girrrlychild (author)gloflyer2010-05-02

if you want to stay away from the regular detergent but still whiten and brighten, you could add some OxiClean or similar product when you put the stuff in the wash.  DON'T MIX IT IN with the soap to store it unless you're doing a dry mix (powder) instead of the gel.  it will lose it's effectiveness if you mix it with water and let it set more than a few hours.  :)

dondangler (author)goodgnus2008-11-05

I'm not sure of sources outside of pharmacies, but there is a dietary thickener that uses a very small amount to thicken a great deal. It is a fine starch. I have been using this soap recipe for a few years with good success in both front loader and top loaders. The only caveat I would mention is that you will want to spend a some of your savings on a good pretreatment for stains as this recipe works poorly on food stains, but you will still save buckets of money.

nachobobs (author)dondangler2008-11-06

I might sugest a thickener called "Agar Agar" it is used lots in asian food and is made from ocean algae. you would need to heat about a litre of water then add the agar agar to the water and "cook it out" for five or so minutes before tipping the hot liquid into the remaining ingredients. As a general rule for a hard, cuttable jelly, we use around 10 grams per litre of liquid. For a more "gel like" consistancy you could try 6 or 7. Agar Agar can be bought from good supermarkets over here in Australia or maybe try Asian supermarkets or grocers. As it sets at 80 degress agar agar is better suited to room temperatures than geletine, which we all know needs to set in the fridge. Hope this helps and good luck

hernanai (author)dondangler2008-11-05

Regarding that dietary thickener: (It is just very fine ground up corn) You may want to monitor how much you use though in your washer. My grandmother uses "Thick-It" liquid thickener and somehow she managed to clog the sink with that stuff when she rinsed her cup to mix some more. As far as I know it still needs to be stirred even after a few hours because it does start to settle. Have you tried a gelatin based solution?

laborspy (author)2010-04-25

 I looked all of my area in PA and couldn't find Zote.  I had to order it on the internet, bellow are the links that I can share with everyone as it took me a little but to find it.

-Amazon (case of 25 pink)
-Amazon (case of 25 for whites)

I also heard that the Fels Naptha has some bad ingredients in it, while Zote is a little less harsh.  My 2cents if your trying to stay more Eco friendly.

tahine (author)2009-11-21

no suds from the homemade this normal?

tigereye64 (author)tahine2010-03-30

Yes it's normal, the suds don't really do much of the cleaning anyway and make it harder to rinse clean. Another good soap to try if you can't find Zout is Fels Naptha.  Also, try adding 1 cup of baking soda to the mix for deodorizing.

yourtubemeera (author)2009-06-24

hello !! im from india.......and i dont find any of ZOTE or FELS kindly tell me wat r the ingredients of a detergent soap so that i can compare it with the soaps i find here..........washing powders are so costly here........and i must say this is a good recipe.........well i was wondering if we can use copper II sulphate (blue vitriol) that it disinfects d clothes as well and also works as a whitener.......watsay ??

autolycos (author)2008-11-05

You could probably add 1/2 cup of corn starch to help it gel more. Add it to the boiling water. Sorbitol (thick-its) is likely what is used in a commercial detergents.

kar1m (author)autolycos2009-06-13

Dont add corn starch. It works well just like it is.

dchall8 (author)2008-11-05

What is Zote and where do you buy it? Is it really a gel? It looks dimply in the picture. Do you have to mix it every time you use it?

kar1m (author)dchall82009-06-13

Zote is a laundry soap in bar form and is found in the laundry detergent area in the grocery store. It is a gel, but not as nice and smooth as name brand gels. The lumps are going to be there no matter what. The soap still works great, but not as pretty as a $15.00 bottle of Tide, etc.

kar1m (author)dchall82008-11-05

Laundry soap in bar form. Yes, it feels like a gel. I just pour some in a empty tide jug and git it a shake then pour it in.

kstrohpaul (author)2009-05-11

We use the same recipe. Washing Soda is kind of hard to come by at your local store, so, if you have a swimming pool, PH Plus is basically the same as washing soda and it works great. My wife also makes our hand/body soap, so she has alot a scented oils, if you put a little in your laundry soap i will make your clothes smell good along with being clean.

naturallydreadful (author)2009-01-27

Zote is a large, pink, laundry bar of soap. I buy mine for 80c a bar at Big Lots. I have heard that Fels Napa works better, but I can't find that in Arizona. Zote is easier for me to find living so close to the border, since it's made in Mexico. I make this recipe but only use 1 c of the washing soda, 1 c of the borax, and one grated bar of Zote. If the soap mixture and the water added aren't around the same temperature when adding them together then they like to separate and on top is this big sheet of soap and water at the bottom. The first time I made this I had to re-heat it up and then I just stirred it throughout the day and it made a wonderful jelly-like 4 gallon bucket of laundry soap that will last our family of 6 a while.

Gemmee (author)2008-12-28

Is there a substitute for this soap? don't think I can get it in my region

kar1m (author)Gemmee2008-12-29

Yes. You can use Ivory soap. I have also heard of people using other soaps as well but mainly ivory.

ballougal (author)2008-11-16

If you don't have Zote you can use Fels Naptha Soap
works just as well.
I make my own laundry soap..whether it be gel like this or powder type...I will never purchase laundry soap again...I love this stuff....
you can find the recipes here

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