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How Well Does Homemade Laundry Soap Really Work?

I enjoy using homemade laundry soap and love giving tips on making it.

Does homemade laundry soap work?

Does homemade laundry soap work?

Does Homemade Laundry Detergent Really Work?

I’ve seen many recipes for homemade laundry detergent. So many, in fact, that I decided to take the initiative myself and make a batch.

I whipped it up in less than an hour, and as I admired my five gallons of laundry detergent, I decided to text my accomplishment to a friend. His response was simple. “How much did it cost? And does it work?”

That stopped me in my tracks. Yes, I knew how much it cost, but I had no idea if it would work. This sweet, Southern, but clearly pragmatic friend of mine really got me thinking. Did I just waste my time and money? Would my laundry detergent work? Could it possibly work better than something I purchased at the store? For that matter, does store-bought laundry soap even work?

Surely, I’m not the only one who would have these questions. So, I took it upon myself to test it out so that others who had the same questions could see for themselves if homemade laundry soap really works.

My Testing Method

I decided to use common everyday stains on three cloth diapers. All three would be washed alone in cold water.

Diaper #1 would be thrown into the wash with no laundry detergent. This is the control diaper. It will show how clean the diaper gets just by agitation in the washer in a normal wash cycle.

Diaper #2 would be washed with store-bought laundry soap. I won’t disclose the brand of the laundry soap. Just that it is a name-brand detergent that can be purchased at any discount or grocery store. I used the amount of soap the manufacturer suggested for a small load.

Diaper three would be washed with laundry detergent I made using the Easy Laundry Detergent Recipe. I used a ¼ of the soap as suggested by the recipe.

Here's an image of one of the diapers before they were washed.

Here's an image of one of the diapers before they were washed.

The Stains

  • Assorted markers: I used some that touted the words “washable” and some that did not.
  • Make-up: I selected various eye shadow colors and some blush. The blush is in the center and is surrounded by eye shadows.
  • Spaghetti Dinner: The center of the circle is spaghetti sauce. I also added some margarine to the top and bottom of the circle to see how well the soaps get out oil-based stains.
  • Lipstick: I took the worst colors in my collection for this one making sure to use a variety of brands.
  • Grass Stains and Ground in Dirt: A parent’s worst nightmare, no laundry soap test would be complete without it.
  • Ink: Both blue and black ink were used in this circle.

Diaper #1

Diaper one was washed in no detergent at all.  Surprisingly, many of the stains were removed.

Diaper one was washed in no detergent at all. Surprisingly, many of the stains were removed.

Diaper #2

Here's the diaper that was washed in a store bought laundry detergent...Yeah, its still a mess.

Here's the diaper that was washed in a store bought laundry detergent...Yeah, its still a mess.

Diaper #3

This final diaper was washed with my homemade laundry soap.   Yep, still a mess.

This final diaper was washed with my homemade laundry soap. Yep, still a mess.

The Results

After washing all three diapers the next day, I was a little surprised at what I found. All three pretty much looked the same. There were a few differences, but nothing earth-shattering. In fact, in the pictures, you can barely tell the difference. Below, I’ll detail what small findings I did have.

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  • The diaper with no soap used had residual from the pink sharpie used to make my circles. In fact, the whole thing has a pink tint to it which the two washed in soap did not have.
  • All of the marker stains came out on all three except the purple. The homemade laundry soap took out the purple marker the best.
  • The homemade detergent got out the make-up completely, but there was very little left on the other two.
  • The store-bought detergent removed the spaghetti sauce the best, but the stain was still pretty bad.
  • All three of the diapers still had a massive amount of lipstick left on them.
  • The dirt came out on all three diapers.
  • The grass stains didn’t come out on any of them.
  • The ink was still very prominent on all three after the wash. It did fade a little. There was about the same amount of fading from the store-bought and the homemade detergent.

The Cost is the Biggest Difference

I honestly thought I would see more of a difference between the diapers washed in soap and the one that was not. I guess that just the agitation in the water goes a long way in cleaning clothing. As far as the two different soaps are concerned, they both cleaned different items better. In all honesty, if I saw any of the stains I used on my clothing before I washed it, I would use a pre-treatment product. Until now though, I never really realized their importance.

So, really, if you're looking to save a few bucks...might as well make your own homemade laundry detergent. Now...the quest is on to find a great recipe for a homemade laundry pre-treatment product....

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Anthony on July 25, 2019:

Bad comparison. The brand name detergent is important to know because there are many bad ones out there that don't work well. Was it Tide or some cheaper brand that doesn't clean well. This doesn't really prove anything.

Mr Baum on March 24, 2018:

Keeping tight reins on the houshold budget there has been those times where I had to use shaved bar soap to wash clothing, or dish soap, but my favorite is stuff called "tough guy" citrus scented through the internet fifty pounds for under thirty dollars.

Kathy Hull (author) from Bloomington, Illinois on January 28, 2013:

I've used it for almost a year now, and I haven't noticed any fading of my clothing. I actually think it would fade less since you really aren't using any harsh detergents in the homemade laundry soap...but that's just a guess.

Jennifer on January 28, 2013:

Very interesting! I want to make my own laundry soap, but my biggest question was if it would fade the colors in the clothes like the cheaper store bought brands do. Any idea?

Kathy Hull (author) from Bloomington, Illinois on November 09, 2012:

It would be interesting to see the results, that's for sure.

amyrechar on November 08, 2012:

Very interesting. I wonder what might be learned from testing different homemade detergents to see which one works the best (or even different store bought detergents).

William E Krill Jr from Hollidaysburg, PA on July 05, 2012:

Great proof that expensive is not always better! Voted up!

Kathy Hull (author) from Bloomington, Illinois on July 04, 2012:

Thanks so much for your kind words Faceless. I felt like I was back in school conducting a science experiment. I was also quite surprised by the results.

What a great idea to try a pre-treat test. Never know what I might learn. lol!

Kate P from The North Woods, USA on July 04, 2012:

Wow, I've never seen someone do this type of experiment on HubPages before--awesome job! It's a topic that I've often wondered about because natural solutions to everyday problems are great to find.

The results are not what I expected at all. I'm also surprised by how much the water alone accomplished. But the real surprise is how well the home made soap did, and how poorly the store bought soap did.

I think you're right about a pre-soak. Perhaps you could do another set of tests with a pre-soak first and see how things turn out?

Rated up, useful, and interesting.

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