Homemade Laundry Detergent–Dry and Liquid

by Daisy

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**Update 5/31/12**  Old recipe.  Liquid loses power over time.  See THIS post for new tutorial.

To make your own low-bubbling detergent for both high efficiency and traditional machines, you need four ingredients: Borax, Washing Soda, Soap, and Water

Borax and Washing soda can usually be found in the laundry aisle of any good grocery.

Pretty much any soap is suitable for laundry use, however, some soaps are so GOOD or so EXPENSIVE that it would silly to buy them for laundry. If you aren’t making your own lard or Crisco soap, or don’t have a bunch of old soap bits lying around, Ivory (25 cents a bar at Walmart for the 16 pack) is your best bet for versatility and price. Fels-naptha and Zote are also fine options. Zote may be as economical as Ivory or homemade since it comes in such a large bar, but I haven’t found it in my area.

Kirk’s Castille is JUST FINE for laundry, but at 1$ a bar, I would never buy it for that purpose. However, I did buy it to make shampoo, but because of the ADDED EVIL GLYCERIN, it makes my hair GREASY, so for our demonstration this afternoon, Kirks will be the LAUNDRY bar. (Grrrr.)

Powdered Laundry Soap:
2 cups finely grated soap (Ivory, Fels Naptha, Zote, homemade, or a combination)
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda

Mix and store in a coffee can or what have you. Use 1-2 T per load.**

If you intend to use this detergent DRY, then I highly recommend that you buzz it in the coffee grinder or food processor to get the soap really fine.

**NOTE: There is a great degree of debate about this laundry powder and others like it. Some find that the laundry comes out clean as a whistle using the usual 1-2T per load. Others find that their clothes come out smelly and dingy. Here is the MAGICAL solution. Because of water differences, soil differences, and washer sizes, it will take SOMEWHERE between 1TBSP and 1/2 cup of this detergent. (Mine is 6T for a super-size white load) BUT, once you find your magic amount, it will be the cleanest, whitest laundry you ever had.

Depending on WHY you are choosing to make your own, this may or may not discourage you from continuing to use it. If, for example, you are doing it to be better for the environment, more self-sufficient, reduce chemicals in the home, or because you hate shopping–it won’t affect you. However, if you are doing this solely for the purpose of being frugal, you may find that your perfect amount of powder exceeds the 5 cents a load that you can squeeze out of a wholesale club bulk buy.

Now, onto the liquid.

Liquid Laundry Soap— (*****EDIT 7/2012  This liquid version WILL lose power over time, so make smaller batches.*****)
2 cups finely grated soap
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
water and bucket (> 1 gallon)

1. If you tried the powder version and want to switch that batch to liquid, cook it all in the saucepan together over medium until the soap melts OR if your ingredients are still separate, melt the soap over medium in a few cups of water and add the rest right after you take it off the heat and stir to dissolve.

2. Pour in pail and add enough HOT water to equal one gallon. Stir well.

3. Let set up overnight.

4. Stir. It will be a soupy gel.

5. Use between 1/4c and 2 cups per load. (**See above note)

This stuff also works well as a pre-treater. I’ve found it especially effective with those phantom water drip looking circles that appear on my t-shirts. I’ve also used it to scrub the bathroom and in my dishwasher in a pinch.


Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 116 comments… read them below or add one }

angela June 14, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Greetings from Hartland, Michigan

I use it for the frugality! IMHO it cleans better than the .05 per load deal detergents. I have tried for years to find something that cleaned as well as Tide, and this does the trick.

Hanging items in the sun to dry also goes a long way stain removal.

ivorysoap76 June 14, 2009 at 5:48 pm

@ angela–AWESOME! I’m always glad to hear that something DIY works as well, or better, than the store version.

Margie June 29, 2009 at 2:28 pm

I ran out of detergent today, so i made this recipe. To tell you the I’ve never found anything to work this good. Zote was the soap we used when I was growing up and loved the way it clean. I add some lavender oil and it smells as good as any leading brand. Thanks, is it o.k. for me to pass this along to others. Margie

Ivory Soap June 29, 2009 at 8:18 pm

@Margie–Pass away! The world needs homemade laundry soap evangelists!!!

Sarah July 18, 2009 at 5:45 am

I LOVE your blog.

I have an infant with somewhat sensitive skin. Can I use this to launder her clothes? What about her diapers? The labels on them all say to use additive free detergent. Do I just need to pick a soap that is free of dye and perfume to make this comparable to store-bought free & clear?

Ivory Soap July 24, 2009 at 8:19 am

Yep. Just get some ivory and you’re good to go. It’s even freer and cleaner than anything you can get in the store. Only three ingredients.

Adica July 27, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Do you know if the liquid version be ok to store in an old laundry detergent bottle, or would it be hard to pour? Would I just be better off keeping it in a wide-mouth plastic container?

P.S.: Thanks for the recipe, by the way! I boughtmy Ivory, washing soda, and borax, and I’m just about to start grating!

Chelle August 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I have been wanting to make this for a while now and finally did so last night. When I woke up with my baby in the middle of the night I stirred it. Wow did it get super thick! I was comparing this to another recipe that called for the exact same meassurements, but you use a 5g bucket and almost 4 g of water. So there was a huge difference. Now this morning I opened my ice cream pail (my container of choice) and it was in almost a solid form. You think this will affect how much I should be using? I used Fels Naptha if that matters. Next time I think I want to use something more ‘free and clear/green’ because I wash for a baby. And yes I totally agree about the soap not dissloving. First made this in powder form a couple of months back and had to use really scalding hot water to disslove it and was still left with little bits of soap. My goal was to use cold water to wash my clothes. And this might be a goal out of reach due to my VERY hard water. I have the same prob while attempting to make dishwasher detergent. So I hope that my goop works because it’s more the consistency of mashed potatoes…..anyone else have this happen? I used more than a gallon of water too. (Ice cream pail holds about 4.75 quarts) I’m going to go give it a try right now. 🙂

Jennifer August 7, 2009 at 7:26 pm

I have been looking for Washing Soda for over a week. I finally called arm and hammer and they said my local Kroger had it, I guess I missed it when I went. I called to verify because I went to 3 different wal-marts with no luck. They had it, I don’t think I have ever been so excited about any thing in my life (that might be sad). I cannot wait to use this!

lorrwill August 8, 2009 at 12:25 am

Well I couldn’t find washing soda locally but Meijer sells it online for way, way less than I would have paid at the store anyway (but you have to buy a case of 12 boxes). So once it gets here I will have oh I guess a couple of years worth of washing so. I am looking forward to making this!!!
(to use with my hand washers)

lorrwill August 15, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Things I have learned since my last comment:

The commercial liquid I was using was costing me about $0.30 a load (YIKES)
AND it doesn’t rinse worth a darn (GRRRR). This costs about $0.05/load. $0.15/load since I used distilled water for the liquid version.

A case of washing soda weighs like a ton! And after having made a batch and a half of soap, I can safely guesstimate that the case will last me at least 5 years.

You add hot water to the melty because room temp makes it go congeally in a weird way. But if you leave it on the heat and keep stirring, it gets nice and melty again. (I forgot the HOT water part even though you put it in caps and everything. My bad.)

Ivory soap is more than enough scent on its own for this girl.

ashley August 31, 2009 at 12:05 pm

If you add baking soda as well as washing soda for a more deodorant effect will that work too ?
Here’s what I was thinking of adding baking soda, washing soda, zote, borax…thanks in advance.

Ivory Soap September 1, 2009 at 11:51 am

I’ve heard of people putting in baking soda. There’s certainly nothing wrong with it.

Sarah September 2, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Ivory soap is smaller than Zote or Fels Naptha, isn’t it? Is it still just one bar per recipe?

Sarah September 2, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Okay, I just realized the recipe calls for 2 cups grated soap. Sorry about my last comment. Never mind!

jan September 13, 2009 at 6:32 am

Well, I got all my ingredients yesterday and I am ready to start grating soap this morning to make my first batch. I bought a tiny bottle of lemon scented essential oil to try a few drops for fragrance. I am so excited to try this! I might just become frugal and creative in other areas as well. I love reading your posts and trying new things. Just wish I could have some banty chickens. Oh well, will have to wait till we can move out of city limits.

Jenn October 3, 2009 at 12:27 pm

I just made my first ever batch of homemade liquid laundry soap! I’m new to reading this blog and I love it!! Ivory soap smells so good, I’m looking forward to washing some clothes when that soap sets up! Thanks for sharing your info!!!

Stephanie October 6, 2009 at 7:28 pm

I just TRIED to make the powder detergent. I obviously did it wrong because I left a mess in my kitchen! I grated the Ivory soap in my food processor and it came out in little balls. I then decided to make it liquid detergent. I measured out the dry ingredients and then measured 12 cups of water and boiled it on the stove. I poured the HOT water onto the dry ingredients and stirred and stirred and the Ivory soap was still little balls floating around. I then put it back on the stove to boil it down and it bubbled ALL OVER the place!!!! I am confused about the directions to: pour enough HOT water to equal one gallon. I figured that the 4 cups of ingredients and 12 cups of water equals one gallon?????? What am I doing wrong? HELP!

Sandra October 13, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Adding regular baking soda to your wash will help accomodate the hard water issue. As for boiling the soap, the recipes I have read say not to boil it just heat till melted. I make the powdered recipe, once I was out of the Fels Naptha and used the Ivory. I made no mention of that to my husband but he came to me and said his clothes smelled “sour” so I went back to Fels Naptha and have had no complaints. Ace Hardware sells the Washing Soda on their website and will deliver it to a store of your choice for no shipping. The price is reasonable also. I had my Mom buy out all her Kroger had in stock and bring it to me in NC. I shred the bar soap with a grater then use the blender to further pulverize the whole mixture, just make sure that the Fels doesn’t get clogged around the blades. I alread killed an old small food processor that way.
How do I know if my water is hard???

Toni October 15, 2009 at 5:42 am

Hi, wanted to thank you for this wonderful recipe. I learned a couple of tricks along the way in making this laundry soap. I live in Alaska and we have HARD water. The first time I made this, I ended up with a solid tub of laundry soap. I would scoop some out and mix with more water to get it back to liquid form. The next time I made it, well lets just say that you don’t put it on the stove and go work on something else around the house. However, I did learn that this laundry soap works great for cleaning the stove and cleans a kitchen floor like nobody’s business. The third time I made it, it came out just like in your pictures. While cooking your ingredients, scoop the suds off the top and make sure you don’t have any suds. When you pour it into your container to store it, scoop off the suds that come from pouring. Add the water to make a gallon and stir. It turns out Wonderfully! I just wanted to share some things that I found out from making this.
Thanks for sharing this it’s absolutely wonderful.

Toni October 15, 2009 at 7:56 am

Hi Sandra,
here’s a web site that gives you information on how to tell if you have hard or soft water.
I hope this helps. T

Darci November 4, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Is this detergent suitable only for whites, or can I use it for colors, too? I want to make sure I can use it for all of our laundry (of which there is a TON! Babies make EVERYTHING dirty 😀 ) before whipping up a big ol’ batch.

Ivory Soap November 5, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Darci, I use it on everything!

Chelle November 15, 2009 at 9:47 am

Well it’s been a couple of months now that I have been using this soap. I chose not to use it on my baby’s clothes. I felt that it didn’t dissolve (see above, due to the thick like butter consistencey) even when I ran it under scalding hot water and squished it through my fingers in the process of putting it in the washer. It might be due to the fact that I used Fels Naptha and it’s petroleum based. I’ve heard that if you use a veggie based soap this may help. Anyone know? I love this recipe and will definitely try it using a different brand of soap. I tell all sorts of people about it Ivory 🙂 Some roll their eyes and some are soo intrigued. I researched loads of recipes (no pun intended lol) and liked yours the best.

Toni- what do you think removing the suds does? I can live with the thickness as long as it will disslove in my water. Before adding my clothes you could just see it floating on top just like any other grease would in water. Thanx!

Tanya November 16, 2009 at 2:38 pm

I love this stuff! I have been making my own for over a year, and would never go back to store-bought. I have experimented with several soaps, and, although more expensive, Dove worked great and leaves clothes soft. Even after hanging out to dry, they aren’t stiff. So, during the summer, I use Dove, and in the winter, when most clothes go in the dryer, I use less costly varieties. Zote seems to work well, too, and the family likes the scent.

Darci November 20, 2009 at 11:03 pm

I have all of my ingredients assembled, and as I read through the comments, and a few other websites, I have 2 questions.
1) Approximately how much baking soda should I use?
2) Would citric acid help with hard water? If so, how much should I use?
I’m thinking probably like, a Tbsp or so should work. Not sure. Any advice would be wonderful.

Ivory Soap November 21, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Darci, I don’t usually use baking soda and I have heard that citric acid helps something. You’ll have to google it.

Toni December 18, 2009 at 1:07 am

I’m not sure what removing the suds does. I’ve noticed that if I don’t remove the suds before storing the laundry soap, they all settle to the top and dry there and I have to break through the “crust” to try and mix it again. When I remove the soap suds before storing there is no “crust” left. I’ve had batches of this laundry soap come out exactly as is shown in the pictrues above (for liquid) and some batches come out as a solid and I just mix some up with a little bit of hot water at a time to return to a liquid, that works great. I’m not sure if the “suds crusting” over is from the extremely hard water we have here in Alaska or not.
I use Ivory soap and all the liquid laundry soap I make dissolves completely, even in cold water. I have noticed, since using this laundry soap, I use less bleach, and our laundry comes out brighter. I absolutely love this laundry soap!!

Keziah December 18, 2009 at 7:34 pm

does anyone know about a product called Boraxo? can it be used in place of the soap and borax to make the powder detergent? it says it is made of borax and soap only. i just don’t want to make the liquid if i don’t have to. i think i’ll try it with some old towels and see what happens.

K.N. July 14, 2010 at 10:00 am

I’ve been using homemade liquid detergent for a few weeks now. I noticed that you mentioned phantom water drip spots. I have something similar and it is getting so frustrating. Have you figured out what caused them? Did you see less when you switched detergents?

Sandra RN September 2, 2010 at 4:33 am

I use 1C Borax, 1C Arm n Hammer washing soda, 1C Baking soda, 1 bar of finely grated Fels Naptha. Mix well, place in any type container or zip bag. (I put any lumps through a strainer). I use 4T for a large load plus a half C of borax (the above recipe is the laundry detergent, not the additives like borax, so I still add the extra 1/2 C borax like when I used Tide) Clothes come out beautiful and smell so fresh. The trick with powdered detergent is to add it first, then the clothes on top. Never have a problem. I would never mess with the liquid gloppy stuff.

Shannon September 15, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Does anyone know if you can use the dry detergent with a HE washer? I was making and using this in my mom’s washer and loved the way it cleaned, but now I have a new HE washer where you are supposed to add liquid HE detergent. A friend of mine said her mom uses it but I am nervous about it not dissolving. I just don’t want to get involved with the “liquid” making” . Thanks

Marty October 5, 2010 at 3:45 pm

To avoid the goopy gel in the homemade liquid detergent, I add 3 full Gain lid/cups (What does that measure? 1/2 cup?) of store bought detergent (any brand will do) to my 5-gallon recipe. There is an anti-coagulant property in store bought detergent and this little bit seems to do the trick, plus it smells nice. Any less is not enough, any more is a waste. $5 for a 40-ounce bottle of liquid Gain lasts me through about 20-25 gallons of homemade detergent. When I am finished making and pouring into the detergent bottles I recycle over and over, I rinse out and dry the 5-gallon container, and put the remaining powders and Gain and my funnel into that bucket for next time. It’s nice to have it all handy for next time.

Marty October 5, 2010 at 4:15 pm

After reading Chelle’s comments, I am compelled to add my recipe. It works great and isn’t gloopy and thick. It’s actually thinner than regular liquid Gain or Tide and after critical comparisons, I find it works equally as well.

*1 bar Fels Naptha, grated fine, melted into a big pot of boiling hot water.
*1 cup Laundry Soda, melted into that pot of hot soapy water
*1 cup Borax laundry booster, melted into above.
*Stir well.
*Put 5-gallon bucket in one side of sink and fill halfway with hot water, using spray hose.
*Pour in pot of soap mixture, rinse with hot water and pour that soapy water into bucket.
*Add 8 ounces of store bought liquid laundry detergent (STOPS gloopiness)
*Add water until bucket is about 4 inches from the top.
Stir really well, then use a funnel and fill recycled detergent bottles in the other side of the sink. Filling bottles in the sink is the easiest and most tidy way to go about filling bottles. Using the detergent out of the 5-gallon container is sloppy and gets everywhere. This recipe fills three 210 ounce containers plus a gallon vinigar bottle about 3/4 full each (I stop when bubbles reach the top.

If you don’t have detergent bottles, watch your neighbors recycle bins! Look for the large Tide/Gain bottles, but avoid the giant push-button box/bottles, as they are messy.

Mystik December 21, 2010 at 9:59 pm

So far so good, my detergent is mixed up, poured into a gallon jug and waiting for tomorrow. That wasn’t hard at all! I’ll let y’all know how it turns out tomorrow.

Mystik December 22, 2010 at 11:45 am

UPDATE: UGH! My detergent is a solid mass? This started late last night, I added a couple lid/cups of store bought and a kettle of hot water and it looked great before I went to sleep, upon waking this morning it’s solid again. 🙁 I have to use it, somehow, I suppose mixing with hot water before putting it in the washer will work. I used Ivory soap and followed the recipe as written, I’m wondering if maybe the water should be increased by more than double? Anyone else solve this problem?

Ivory Soap December 23, 2010 at 11:06 am

Just add more water and hit it with your stick blender. I don’t know why it seized up on you. But dilution is never a problem. Mine turns to a solid-ish gel. Soft-serve ice cream. Is it a brick?

Ivory Soap December 23, 2010 at 11:07 am

I have also heard that Ivory soap has changed their formula. Maybe all my bars are still the old style.

Jared March 12, 2011 at 7:27 am

I have been a fan of this site for at least 3 years now and have been making a few of the products with outstanding results, every time. for some reason, the last two times I’ve made this detergent with Ivory(same as always) it turned into a solid-ish lump of soap, about the consistency of a slightly waxy Go-Jo or Goop hand cleaner (the later works as an excellent wallet and eco-friendly stain remover). The only thing i can think of that i have altered, is two detergent batches ago, I added some TTO to the batch while it was cooling, just for a fresh smell, that batch and the two since it have failed just like the Mystik?

Jared March 12, 2011 at 7:29 am

o and it totally separates from the water, no dillution whatsoever, just re-solidified soap

Lori March 25, 2011 at 8:19 am

Great site! I was reading all the posts and thought that maybe I have an idea for those who are having a problem with the bar soap not melting or re-solidifying. I don’t know if Ivory soap makes this, but if you use the liquid hand soap instead of the solid bar, would that make a difference? Just a suggestion.

Theresa April 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Is anyone else making a Concentrated Paste/gel Detergent?

I’ve been making this detergent for about 4 months now. I love it. Last week I tried making a Concentrate of it, using the same amount of Soap (1 bar Fels), Borax (1 cup), Washing Soda (1 cup), and only 1 gallon total of water. I made it the same way, making sure to use a container that had a large mouth on it, so I could stir it easier since it would be thicker. It is somewhere between a gel & a paste. I only use a little less than 1 1/2 tablespoons per load (I have a top load washer). It seems to be doing the job as well as the regular recipe, but now I only have to have 1 gallon container of detergent sitting around instead of 5.

I’m not a fan of powdered detergents, so that is why I went with the liquid in the first place. I put the Paste version in the washer with the clothing, and it dissolves easily. My niece just made her first batch ever, using the Paste version, and has an HE washer. She said it all dissolved for her also and things seemed to come out just fine.

Just thought I would pass it along to see if someone else has tried making a concentrate also.

Theresa April 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Oops, it should say I LOVE making liquid detergent & have been making the liquid for 4 months now, but I just started making a Paste/gel Detergent last week.

Tonya May 2, 2011 at 8:36 am

Remember the old hand-held graters with the barrels and the handles? You can find them on e-bay, if nowhere else. I have two that came from my grandfather’s house. Those are the best thing in the world to grate your soap with!!

suzie May 6, 2011 at 10:24 pm

I use the Fels Naptha, Laundry Soda, and Borax laundry booster. Once the mixture has completely dissolved on the stove I pour it in a 5 gallon bucket and add water almost to the top. I let it sit overnight and stir it again. Then I used old laundry detergent bottles to store it in. For the smoothest consistency simply push the laundry detergent bottle’s pour spout back into the bottle so it rattles around. Then pour the soap in the bottle. (use a small pitcher to scoop and pour) Just give the bottle a good shake before measuring it out and the loose spot agitates the soap and makes it super smooth.

jessica May 15, 2011 at 10:33 pm

I tried making this last night, melting Fels Naphtha soap in water on medium heat. It melted, but it was melted together in big clumps floating in water, not a smooth melt like a creamy soup. Is that normal? I was afraid to continue the process with big clumps of soap in the water.

jessica May 15, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Is it okay if the water boils when you’re melting the soap?

Ivory Soap May 16, 2011 at 7:12 pm

totally fine

Solomon May 31, 2011 at 6:12 am

I have read the process how to make the liquid soap but i need to change it to bar (solid) of soap not liquid b/c here in my country the demand is in bar of soaps, can u pleas tell me easy way to change this liquid to bar or solid soap.
Thank u solomon

Ivory Soap May 31, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I have no idea how to do that. sorry.

Marlee August 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm

I made this use the liquid gel way, grated the soap and boiled it 25% of the water and then when it was fully melted (cream soup consistancy) and then added another 25% of the water (hot tap) to the washing soda and borax mixture…then half of the melted soap, 25% more hot water, the rest of the melted soap and then I added the last 25% of the water to the empty pot, swished it around and then added it to the mixture, added 1/2 cup 3x All laundry soap and it is perfect! The consistancy is like gravy that has cooled in fridge. Love it! Double batch as follows:

1. Grate 2 Fels Naptha, add to 2 quarts hot tap water in a sauce pan, heating over medium low heat until all soap is melted
2. In a 2 gallon container add 2 cups Washing Soda and 2 cups Borax
to 2 quarts hot tap water
3. add half of melted Fels Naptha & water mixture
3 then add 2 quarts hot tap water
4. then add rest of melted Fels Naptha mix
5. then rinse pot with final 2 quarts of hot tap water
6. add 1 cup of 3X All and mix everything together.
7. Let mixture rest, mixing once at the 2 hour point and then again at 4 hours.
8. Let set up for 8 hours -Perfection! Thank you so much for the inspiration!

Kristin October 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm

“Phantom water drop circles”- yes! I have those and have never been able to figure out what is causing them. Do you know? No one else that I’ve talked to has had this problem. I picked up some Zote at Big Lots today and I’m going to make some laundry detergent this weekend. Thanks so much!

Kathy November 19, 2011 at 10:16 am

I have those circles too.
I may try this. I always buy the no prefume detergent, but this sounds better.

Susan November 26, 2011 at 8:00 am

I was using a similar liquid recipe for about 6 months. At first, we were really happy with it, and our clothes seemed clean and white. But after several months, everything seemed to have a film on it and things like towels were no longer absorbent. Has anyone else had this problem?

Jami November 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm

To get my soap “finely grated,” and to avoid having to use my coffee grinder after grating it, I just used my microplane to grate the soap. It grated the soap into super fine powder! Like parmesan cheese out of the green topped can fine powder 🙂 I had initially planned to do the dry recipe – so this would have worked great as the soap was the same consistency as the washing powder. It would have mixed nicely, and melted wonderfully in the washer. However, I decided at the last minute to do the liquid version, and melting it in the water took hardly any time at all. Microplane for the win!

Emelda Dunston Galarneau December 2, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Am interested in and looking for ways to save money as well as improve on ways to get laundry cleaner I’m definitely ‘in’ – seems when I go to the store to buy soap for laundry, liquid soap for washing hands, etc., all of it has significantly increased in price each time I buy it!!!

I’ve started adding vinegar to the towels and white clothes and occasionally to the coloreds…it gets stains out and makes the clothes softer…an inexpensive way to get laundry cleaner if you don’t want to use bleach. I also clean bathroom fixtures, the floor, etc., with vinegar…however, it cannot be used on wood floors.

Just another point – if you want to “set” the color of a pair of new jeans, add vinegar to the load – it prevents fading with future washings.

Will appreciate all tips, suggestions, ideas, thoughts, PLUS instructions for “how to do” all of it.

Thank you – Emelda Dunston Galarneau

Melissa December 27, 2011 at 8:30 pm

I have a couple of bottles of bodywash that smell good but make my skin feel a little dry. Could I use it for the liquid version of this instead of grated soap?

Ivory Soap December 28, 2011 at 11:34 am

Probably, but I’ve never tried it.

Sarah Krogmeier January 23, 2012 at 9:16 am

Emelda ~ I’ve used vinegar on my wood floors for the past 2 years. 1/4 cup to 2 gallons of water, works great! I have found it to not only work great, but leave my floors looking great also.

Malinda Lovett February 28, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I made this exactly as the directions said but all of my ingredients are just sitting on the top and it’s just yellow liquid on the bottom. Could you tell me what you think I done wrong or how I can fix it. Thank you.

Lori March 5, 2012 at 11:42 am

Hello, I’ve got a question for you! I’ve been to several grocery stores in my town and cannot find Arm & Hammer washing soda. Next to the Borax, there’s always a big box of Arm & Hammer baking soda, in every store I’ve been to. What happens if I use the baking soda? Or, where can I find washing soda?? I found it on amazon.com, but it’d be really nice to buy it locally. Any help or advice would be so appreciated, thanks in advance!!

Betsy March 6, 2012 at 9:30 am

I discovered, by accident, that using fresh soap (Ivory) yields coarser chunks when grating. Having used the “liquid” homemade laundry soap recipe for the past couple of years, I decided to try the dry version because I love the idea of a quart Mason jar versus the 5 gallon pail recipe I’ve used. When grating my 9+ months old (and sat through a dry Minnesota winter) soap, I found I easily achieved the desired fine texture! It’s been working great, even in cold water washes.

Ivory Soap March 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

It’s just not the same thing. Washing soda will burn your hand if you hold it too long, but not baking soda, so it’s not as strong of a cleaner.

Ivory Soap March 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Heat it all back up until it melts and hit it with a stick blender ever half hour until it cools.

Denise Pettengill March 14, 2012 at 7:22 pm

I have been making detergent for over a year now using a similar recipe. It says to let the mixture sit overnight. The next day when I open the cover of the bucket the whole thing looks like one big gob of jello. I just take a big spoon and start mixing and then use my hand mixer and dissolve all the globs in the bucket. I add a little more hot water to help mix it better and then I put it into an old detergent bottle to use it. I know that if I left it in the bucket I would use too much, the bottle’s cover is a good measurement for our the type of water we have here in Maine.

Janette March 15, 2012 at 8:16 am

For the people that have problems with the detergent not working after a few months. You most likely have buildup. I would suggest using Fels-Naptha as the bar soap. It dissolves & rinses clean much better than other bar soap. But using vinegar in the liquid softener cup of your washing machine (or Downey ball) should take care of that. You could use 1:1 white vinegar:water, but I am lazy and use straight white vinegar. It “cuts” through any soap residue. Also, wash in warm every once in a while if you only wash in cold. Or take a break every few months or so and use Tide for a week. But I never had build-up issues so maybe your water is harder? If so, I’m not sure which ingredient to increase in the recipe… or add. I hope this helps some. If you make the dry recipe, I suggest opening a few bars at a time of your bar soap for a few weeks or months. It grates MUCH better and Fels-Naptha crumbles into a fine powder when grated on the small part of a box grater when dried out. I use 2T of my dry detergent per load but I have a 4yr old boy that gets into dirt, paint, grass, flour, worms, rocks, etc. 🙂 I also rub the bar of Fels-Naptha on stains as a pre-treater by wetting the bar as the washer fills up.

Sarah March 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm

I’ve been making my own liquid detergent for a couple of years now – love the savings, the simplicity of making it, etc. Except…I too have those phantom “water drip” type spots on some of our clothing! Anyone have ANY ideas? I’ve been using Dial Basics body soap (buy it 3/$1 at Dollar Tree and it’s fragrance free/hypoallergenic), so thought it might be better to switch to an actual laundry soap. Was put off by the price of Fels-Naptha on Amazon, but, by pure chance, found some bars of Zote at a local Asian market for 99 cents a bar!!!

Jessica March 24, 2012 at 8:12 am

How much water should I use to make my already powdered detergent to liquid?

Mick April 27, 2012 at 8:41 am

Found A&H Washing Soda and Borax at Ace Hardware in our small town (4000 pop.) These 2, alone came to over $11, soap (castile hemp from Trader Joes) was over $3 (I know I could go cheaper, but I’m already over spending w/soda and borax). So, total was about $15, which is close to what I pay for A&H, 200 load laundry detergent. Probably could find cheaper @ Amazon, but won’t need to buy for a loooong time. I could find Fels nap, but don’t trust it isn’t petro based.

Sarah May 4, 2012 at 11:22 am

On the subject of the “water drip” type spots on clothing… I haven’t independently verified this, but my friend (who has much more chemistry knowledge than I) claims that it’s b/c the formula of the detergent has a fabric softener effect. She claims that these spots should be able to be removed by wetting the fabric and rubbing laundry bar soap on the stain (which is the recommended treatment for fabric softener stains, according to several sources I found through google).

Evie June 2, 2012 at 5:55 pm

I found a website by googling “washing soda” that said you can bake baking soda to make washing soda. Just a thought.
Also, I have found Zote and Fels Naptha at a few stores now.. haven’t decided which will be better. I had Ivory on hand and so my first batch was with Ivory. A few loads later and things seem pretty clean and fresh. I’ll be impressed if it works well on my cloth diapers!

Barb June 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm

We found fels nap at Walmart for 97 cents a bar. Our doctor told my husband to was with it and rinse good after he’s been in the woods for poison ivy. It was one soap that would was the oil from the poison ivy off his skin.

Barb June 16, 2012 at 10:39 am

I made some laundry soap last night, and poured it into a bottle of laundry soap I had used up and washed. The whole thing is really thick. I tried to stir it up but it will not pour out. I know it will be good for other things. Is there anything I can do to make this batch pourable? What did I do wrong!!

Sarah June 16, 2012 at 10:52 am

Barb – mine is always really thick the first day or two after I make it too and then it seems to start “relaxing” and gets much easier to pour. If I really NEED to use it before it gets that way, I do the best I can to stir it with the end of a spatula or wooden spoon.

Barb June 16, 2012 at 10:59 am

Thank you for getting back to me so fast!

Joy June 21, 2012 at 11:10 am

Fels naptha works great, and I’m trying Zote for the first time today (I moved and they don’t have Fels naptha at the store I went to). I tried to use Ivory to make liquid soap and it was really, really horrible. It made a cakey crust on the top of the mixture that wouldn’t go away.

PHYLLIS June 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm

This is what I read. After it is made and you pour it into a soap container to use, you only pour half in it, and fill up the rest with water. That is the reason it is not so thick any more.

Colleen Allison June 26, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I noticed I had whitish marks on some of my colored clothes and I believe it is because I am mixing vinegar with the soda. I’m sure most of you know adding vinegar to soda causes a caustic reaction? Well, I recently noticed some discoloration and I think it is because I poured vinegar straight on the clothes after I had added the soda./borax/fels naptha mix. I have been adding Dr. Brommers Tea Tree or Eucalyptis castille soap in my softener dispenser–just a squirt–and it has kept the clothes smelling fresh without returning to “Tide”. I ran out of Brommers and my clothes got that stale smell. So, I will see if I can rectify it with the Eucaplyptus or if I need to use Tide for a week. I have 6 kids and my youngest is 7 and has Down syndrome and is not potty trained—soooo, we get some stinky clothes. I have been using all clear/borax/Dr. Brommers and then switched to Felsnaptha/borax/soda and Dr. Brommers. My 17 year old loves the smell of little brothers laundry! The tea tree or eucalyptus scent of the brommers and also loves the Fels Naptha scent. Adding the Brommers castille soap to the softener dispenser really makes my little boys clothes smell great and disinfects them as well!

Joyce June 27, 2012 at 11:33 am

I add oxiclean to the mixture to make dry and liquid laundry soap. I also use white vinegar in the downy ball as fabric softner. Sometimes I add a few drops of lavender essential oil to the vinegar for scent.

Ivory Soap June 28, 2012 at 7:49 am

Joyce, NICE. I like those additions.

Ivory Soap June 28, 2012 at 8:18 am

Okay, Colleen. That was a lot of great information and I’m not sure if there was a question in there for me, but I’m going to go for it anyway. Do not add the vinegar at the same time as the detergent. It just deactivates the soda. If you really want the properties of vinegar in the wash, you will have to add a lot more soda to overcome the deactivation. It’s the same thing I talk about with citric acid. I just use vinegar in the rinse.

Pat Asher July 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Colleen Allison – Try using vinegar in your rinse cycle, white or apple – doesn’t matter much. A little trial and error may be needed to get the amount right for your loads. We always use vinegar to cut the smell of urine in baby clothes, also in the cats litter box. It works!

Pat Asher July 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Joyce, if you are making liquid soap with oxyclean, DO NOT store it in a glass container. It will explode! I do not put the oxyclean in the liquid recipe at all. Just add it in at wash time.

Teri July 16, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I use oxyclean as part of my liquid recipe and its works great. I have six kids and we have a large garden so we get plenty dirty. I make 5 gallons of liquid laundry soap at a time. I use 5 gallon plastic bucket with a lid. You can find them at most hardware stores. I at mine at Homedepot.

Heather July 27, 2012 at 2:26 pm

At my Walmart here in Ohio the Fels-Naptha bars are 97 cents each, and the cereal sized boxes of A&H washing soda and Borax are a little over $3 each. I am having a hard time finding essential oils for a decent price, but maybe that is just because I have never bought them before and don’t know what a good price is. For the 1/2 ounce bottles I found sweet orange for about $5 a bottle, but some of the scents were $15 or $20 each!!! If this is the normal cost, is there a more frugal option to add scent?

Ivory Soap July 28, 2012 at 7:02 am

I use Ivory in my wash and it is WAY cheaper than fels. Also, I don’t recommend using a scent until you have your detergent recipe nailed anyway. It’s hard to tell if those towels are REALLY clean if there’s a scent in there. So, I would skip that for now.

Dinah August 5, 2012 at 8:36 pm

I once had colored chalk on a shirt that washing did not remove, and a fellow teacher told me to pretreat it with a wet bar of white (has to be white) Dial soap. It worked! That’s why I use a bar of white Dial soap in my homemade laundry soap. It gets clothes clean!

NWFLDeaconsWife August 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Here’s a tip for you all of us who use the five-gallon bucket for this. I used a plastic-paddled paint stirrer rod attached to my husband’s electric drill to stir the bucket. His drill has a variable speed option so I can do it slow enough to not get all sorts of foam. Takes a few moments and it’s done. No more tired arm!

Also, I have Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and must be very careful of ANY chemicals or additives used on my skin, clothes, or in my food. Of the options you mentioned, the Fels-Naptha is the one I can use. It’s basic, and the fragrance is gentle enough that after it is diluted to 10 gallons of liquid (I make the 5 gallons in the bucket, and add 1:1 water in the soap bottle) that it doesn’t effect my skin nor does it react to any of my meds. (remember that whatever you put IN your body comes out in your sweat onto you skin and reacts with whatever you put ON your body, and whatever you put ON your body gets absorbed by your skin and reacts with what is IN your body.) This is something to think about if you need a very mild laundry soap for sensitive skin or for infant clothes.

Lauren August 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Have you really been able to use the Kirk’s castile for laundry detergent? I had to pour out a batch because the soap DID NOT get my laundry clean – this was especially noticeable with kitchen rags which came out still smelling like food – and also, presumably because of the glycerin that also made your hair greasy, it was leaving small greasy marks on my clothing. I ruined a few perfectly good shirts this way, so I’m making a batch with Zote now and hoping for the best. I just wonder how my batch made with Kirk’s could have been so horrible.

Ivory Soap August 11, 2012 at 10:38 am

I haven’t use kirks in years. I don’t know why it’s so mean. It’s drying and oily at the same time.

Teri August 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm

My daughter came by to make her first batch of liquid of washing detergent. I told her just follow the recipe. We make 5 gallons at a time (large family). While I played with the grandbaby my daughter was busy away making detergent. We use a little oxyclean to the recipe and works great but please note: My daughter put 1 cup of oxyclean to her mixture when 1/4 or 1/2 would have been just fine. Thank goodness we use a 5 gallon plastic bucket because during the night this mixture blow the plastic lid off. After a scare and must laughter we were able to salvage this batch and the 5 gallons quickly became 10 gallons. The orginal recipe doesn’t call for oxyclean but my husband farms and it really helps clean his work clothes.

Becky August 12, 2012 at 7:31 am

To keep buildup from becoming a problem, use white vinegar in your fabric softener ball during rinse cycle. It works amazingly. I had buildup and this was recommended to me and I was amazed at the difference!! My dh has sensitive skin so I try and use everything unscented. I never use fabric softener at all yet I have NO static! Vinegar is a miracle!!! (is it the PH?)

I use the 5 gallon bucket method, here is what I found…me and my 9 yr old daughter were making a batch, heated up my water and melted my Fels, added my soda and borax, dumped it in my bucket and added really hot water, stirred it all up good and put on the lid. All the normal stuff…

Took the bucket out to the garage to sit overnight, but after an hour I decided to check on it, for no reason other than I was curious…when I took of the lid of the bucket, the mixture was BOILING!! It was cool! It was some chemical process happening that I didn’t know would be happening! LOL…but the moment I took the lid off it stopped! I think its a combo of the ingredients and the heat…I am not chemist 🙂

The Oxiclean probably added too much “umph” to that chemical process and it blew up. ROFL…so so so happy nobody was injured by the lid 🙂 Cool science stuff here right?

Ivory Soap August 12, 2012 at 7:43 am

Vinegar is a miracle in the rinse for a couple of reasons: 1) The pH removes the skin irritating alkaline pH of the soda. Most professional cleaners “sour” their laundry with vinegar to keep it from irritating skin, which likes a lower pH. 2) It binds up the crunchy, clothes-hardening, hard water and soap scum molecules, suspends them, and sends them down the drain.

And though I still post the liquid detergent recipe, just remember that it “expires.” Oxiclean and soda both deteriorate in liquid form as they are exposed to air. You have to keep it AIR TIGHT if you want it to last.

Muzhik September 7, 2012 at 8:56 pm

A couple of things to remember:

1) Don’t use tap water. The stuff in tap water will react with the stuff in your soap and will cause some of the problems described.

2) You’re using a solid soap to make your liquid laundry soap. Your soap is gelling or forming a crust because it’s trying to turn back into a solid state. As others have suggested, try mixing it up then using hot water to dilute the result, but remember to use distilled water.

Kendra | Our Homemade Happiness September 9, 2012 at 9:36 pm

The “water drop” circles are probably oily spots left from the soap. It’s happened with all the soaps I’ve used so far, a homemade soap I bought on Etsy, Fels Naptha, Kirk’s….I’m going to try Zote next and see what happens.

Oxiclean is hydrogen peroxide and washing soda so I just add some hydrogen peroxide to my loads since the homemade detergent already contains washing soda.

Kendra | Our Homemade Happiness September 9, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Ha ha, when I posted my last comment I didn’t realize I was leaving a comment on Little House in the Suburbs! (I had a bunch of internet windows open.) Your site is where I learned about what Oxiclean is made of. I don’t need to tell you, you’re the expert! 🙂 I’ve been using your original dry laundry soap recipe, but tonight I made a batch of 1/2 washing soda, 1/2 grated soap. I’m excited to see how it compares. Thanks for all your great info!

Jan September 12, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I found Zote soap at Dollar General in our area. Love it!

Jane September 23, 2012 at 10:09 pm

I’ve been making the liquid laundry detergent for several years now. I use the standard, 1 bar of grated Fels Naptha or Zote (I’ve never tried any other bar soap), 1 C. Washing Soda and 1 C. Borax – it makes about 2 gallons which lasts us a really long time. I’ve never had a problem with it breaking down. I think that sounds a little wonky to me but I don’t know – it’s never happened and mine has gone 6 months before I finished it. When my son was a baby – some 44 years ago, I always, always, always added 1 C. white Vinegar to the final rinse for his diapers. He never had diaper rash. I swear by vinegar for so many things. I love this blog – I can’t wait to try the crisco soap – I have a couple cans just sitting around so I may as well experiment – I can use it for laundry if nothing else. However, I just can’t imagine using Ivory soap for laundry – it doesn’t seem, hmmm – substantial – that’s the word – substantial enough. Just me, though. Gotta make that bacon soap, too. LOL = guess you can teach an old dog new tricks!!

Busy Mommy September 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm

How much soap to use in either liquid or powder recipes? Fels is 5.5 oz, Zote is 140z…and basically every other bar varies. With Fels and Zote, both are laundry bars, but each are very different in texture…Zote is much softer. What is your take on this? Is there a certain ratio to follow? How did this formula originate for homemade laundry soap anyway? Do you know? How do we know the amounts of each ingredient are proper? (I like the science you put in all of this by the way. Thanks for sharing all of your research with us.)

Busy Mommy September 26, 2012 at 5:34 pm

P.S. I realize that your recipe calls for 2 cups, but other recipes out there call for one bar…that’s what I was talking about. Have you done the research to figure out how much grated soap is necessary? I’m new to all of this and curious how this all works….I wanted to pick your brain! Haha! The 10 gallon of water liquid laundry recipe I’ve seen out there seems WAY to weak to me. How can that even work? I’ve made only one powder batch so far…it was before I found your site. I made it with one 140z bar of Zote, 3 cups washing soda and 3 cups Borax. I guessed on my measurements…that big bar of Zote made me think I should add more of the powders. Have no idea if that was a good call or not. Seems to work ok. I’m using 2T per load in my HE machine…maybe I need more? I read your comments on removing the Borax. I’d like to try that next time.

Ivory Soap September 27, 2012 at 8:34 pm

check out our category DIY, cleaning products. I’ve done LOTS of research on this. I’ve worked up the chemistry for the soda, but I haven’t made a firm decision on the optimum amount of surfactant. I know what I use and like, but I don’t have research to back up the soap amount. I haven’t found anyone who does.

GracieB October 10, 2012 at 10:34 am

I followed the instructions for the liquid detergent; I used Dr. Bronner’s pure castille (baby mild, unscented) All-One! bar soap. My detergent is more of a solid gel (similar consistency to Crisco), and when I peek in the washing machine, there are NO SUDS. Are my clothes actually getting clean? I read on the label that the soap is some kind of organic oil soap.. is this the reason for the lack of suds? I’m very confused and concerned that my things aren’t getting clean..

sherry October 13, 2012 at 7:04 pm

We all are made to think that SUDS means CLEAN.. well it is not the case. It is an additive to make suds which is not needed. laura sulfate is what makes suds and you don’t need it to be clean. Homemade laundry det. is not going to suds like we expect and it really is cleaning your cloths. I have been learning how to make all my items i clean with and wash with and even bath with free of chemicals and lake of suds is in all of it.. but i feel great and my house and self are clean and happy…

Kri5tle October 27, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I am interested in making my own laundry soap, but is it as effective in cold water? I do not use warm water for laundry. Thanks!

Sarah November 1, 2012 at 8:30 am

I wash everything except whites and towels in cold water, have been using this homemade detergent for over 3 years and think that it works great!

Amber November 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I used some dial bars from the dollar store, plus a container from there and just shook it up (with some essential oils). Smells awesome and my grater has never been so clean!

Joyce December 14, 2012 at 10:31 pm

I am wondering if this will work with my hard water, / well water. I also have a rust problem with my water.

Joyce December 14, 2012 at 10:39 pm

I have well water that has rust in it. Any suggestions as to something I could add to the dry recipie to help with the rust? Will my well water make it so the soap does not clean as efficiently?

Wanda Jones February 16, 2013 at 10:31 pm

I am considering on making my own laundry detergent. One of my problems is trying to determine what type of essential oils I should be using and where to get them. I don’t want to stain my clothes. I is it found with the candles or in health and beauty aid( bath oil).?

ANA MOLINA February 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Well it be ok to add a few drops of any fragrance oil for a good smell in the liquid detergent?

christine April 11, 2013 at 8:53 am

i used 2 cups zote, 1 cup washing soda, and 1 cup borax. I made 1 gallon and let it sit over night. Now it’s 1 gallon of solid soap. Granted, it’s softer and more malleable than the original bar of zote. What did I do wrong? Is there a way to fix it?

sat March 11, 2015 at 3:03 pm

I found that the original liquid recipe with washing soda and baking soda and soap did not get all my laundry clean if-body odors-some people are more potent than others, some dirt(stains, heavy soil, cuffs, collars, socks imbedded with dirt from walking around with no shoes can be removed by pre-scrubbing with lots of water and direct application of an extra soap bar or a special soap paste/sun technique).

My improved homemade recipe uses baking soda instead of washing soda, and adds 1/3 cup of Kosher salt per cup of borax to soften water and improve greatly the surfactant property( decreases surface tension and improves wetting quality-so clothes are able to absorb more water and dirt gets pushed out-it is water that cleans not the soap-but you must be able to push the water in and out the material to clean by later rinsing out the dirt well. this is the science of cleaning-soap, detergent is needed because most dirt is bound by oil which is hydrophobic-does not release in water-soap takes care of this problem. Without the oil you could clean with water alone. As for suds- an unhealthy chemical sodium lauryl sulfate or its counterpart SLES(cancer, neurotoxic) creates suds which is simply for your viewing pleasure.

I actually hand wash some items-white socks, kitchen linen-cannot stand that greasy smell that remains after washing even with traditional detergents-that also cover up odors with all that heavy perfume which makes me sick now that I have not used it for 5 years or more. simply scrub with bar soap, rub material against itself and rinse twice. For stubborn stains or other types-expose soaped item(can make a paste and apply to stain) to sunlight, a great stain remover, whitener and disinfectant-scrape off soap paste and stain is gone. rinsing well imperative.

Clothes last longer-environment is protected and I am exposed to far fewer toxins. think of doing laundry as exercise-burning calories.

My dry recipe:
600 gm or 21 oz of grated soap: Zote, Tepeyac, Lirio, Fels Naptha-I generally use 2 types of
soap(bath soaps or other scented soaps can contain fragrances which stain due to the oil)
2 cups of Borax
2 cups of baking soda-bicarbonate of soda (not washing soda) at Costco you can get 11 lbs
2/3 cup of Kosher salt

Use 1-2 heaping tablespoons depending on size, water conditions, and dirtiness of load-experiment. Keep an unused bar of soap for stain removal, pre-washing instead of those awful chemical sticks and sprays. for cold water, dissolve soap in jar of hot water before adding to load

essential oil optional-they do not stain because they are not oily-they are the volatile distillates of plant materials. make sure you have pure essential oil and not infused ones that are mixed in carrier or fragrance oils-these are cheaper and will stain-personally the smell of clean is enough for me. caution with lavender especially and possibly tea tree oil-question of hormone disruption causing breast dev in prepubescent boys and problem with pregnant women-estrogen like effect and anti-androgen(male hormone) so I would not use if you have family members in this category until facts better known

Rebecca May 31, 2015 at 5:56 pm

So I have your book and love to go thru your website. Something conflicting on the liquid laundry soap recipe…..in the book it calls for a total of 2 gallons of water but on your website it says a total of 1 gallon. Which is it?? I know the liquid laundry recipe is said to be obsolete on the website but I really still prefer liquid. Thanks! You book is great!

Newbie August 19, 2015 at 12:51 am

I’ve mixed the grated soap, washing soda and borax. And now I feel like the soap should be ground up more. It’s not a powder. I tried to use a sieve to make sure there are no chunks and noticed that the soap was having a hard time going through the sieve. Is it OK if I put it back in the grinder even though there is borax in the mix note?

Daisy August 19, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Newbie–I can’t see how it would hurt.

Sherri January 8, 2016 at 12:57 pm

I grate my Zote or Fels Naptha in an old food processor that also has the blade in the bowl. I add the washing soda to the bowl to keep the oily soap from clinging to itself and this allows the soap to form a fine powder.

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