Kirk’s Laundry Detergent For SHTF

I have not bought pre-made laundry detergent in over a year, and I couldn’t be happier about it!

Making your own laundry soap is very inexpensive, and I have to say that our clothing and linens smell better for longer and are easier to get clean.

Matt and I have 1,600 grape vines to tend, a herd of sheep, dogs, cats, chickens, and geese. On top of that, we grow gourmet mushrooms and put back firewood for two houses. All those outdoor activities mean we have a bit of laundry to do, and it can be pretty dirty.

In the past, I used Fels-Naptha Laundry bars to make detergent, but after using that for most of a year, I decided that we should try something that had a less noticeable smell. Kirk’s Coconut Castille Soap is a great cleaning choice because it is mild yet effective. Some people are sensitive to soaps like Fels-Naptha. I have to say that when I used to grate Fels-Naptha to make a really big batch of soap, the smell would start to be a bit overwhelming.

I have a 3-gallon bucket of laundry detergent put back for a very long emergency. I never get into that stash. For this post, I am making laundry detergent to get us all the way through this coming summer or maybe beyond. Grape growing season means a lot of dirty clothes.

If you want to make your own laundry soap, I recommend having a container of soap for regular use, and one put back that you don’t get into so if SHTF you have something to keep your clothes clean. The recipe I am using makes a lot so you could easily put back half and still have a good amount for household use.

A lot of preppers and survivalists ignore the importance of hygiene and do not think about the link between dirty clothing and infections.

Hygiene is overlooked too often in an SHTF scenario, and it can be the difference between life and death. If your clothing is too dirty, it can contribute to fungal and bacterial infections that can be hard or impossible to treat in a long emergency. In the Biggers’ household, we keep enough laundry soap put back to do a year or two depending on how intent we are on conserving. Also, we keep antifungals and antibiotics in both pill and topical form.

At the same time, you don’t have to wear 100% clean clothes every day to have a decent level of cleanliness. Jeans can be worn for 1-3 days at least depending on the type of activities you have to do during SHTF. Someone that is largely housebound may be able to go longer. How much you sweat and a variety of factors come into play.

Socks should be changed at least once a day. Keeping your feet dry is critical during SHTF. Check out the post I wrote over at Backdoor Survival for more information on how to take care of your feet and shoes during SHTF.

Let’s get started!

What you need:

Cheese grater to grate the soap. The finer you grate it, the better. I have an old food fashioned food mill I have considered trying.

12 bars Kirk’s Castille Soap

2 Boxes Arm & Hammer Washing Soda

2 Boxes 20 Mule Team Borax or the equivalent. Each box is 65 oz

Grate your soap and mix the washing soda and borax in until it is somewhat consistent. If soap seems to fall to the bottom over time, you can always give your container a shake or stir.


Smaller Batches

You can make less of course, but I like to make enough to do for many months at a time. Grating 12 bars of soap takes a bit of work but it only needs to be done every so often, and you can always take breaks. Simply halve the recipe and use 6 bars of soap, one box of borax, and one box of washing soda.


It only takes 1-2 tbsps to do a full load of clothing. Sometimes I add a little extra if I have a particularly dirty load of jeans or similar.



You can use any Castille soap for laundry soap if you don’t like the Kirk’s. I chose this brand because it is inexpensive, coconut oil based, hypoallergenic, and it has been a trusted name since the mid-1800s.

The recipe I use works well for hard water. Some people use more or less washing soda or borax, but this is laundry soap, not rocket science so play around a bit if you are not quite happy with the results.

Adding scent

Some people like to add essential oils or other fragrance to their soap. I don’t do it because I don’t care that much about having a particular aroma on my clothes. Just be careful about what you add and how much because someone in your home may be sensitive to fragrances and some essential oils.

For extra tough stains and grease, I recommend keeping the following products on hand:

Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds


This is some really strong soap. It is excellent for tough household cleaning jobs, but I do not recommend regularly using it for hardwood floors! It is that strong! A quart will go a long way.  The link above is for two bottles so you can put one back for SHTF.



This is great for getting out tough stains and brightening clothes. I use Oxi-Clean for a variety of household cleaning needs because it is a lot better to use than smelly old bleach! If you don’t like the scent, there is a version that is fragrance-free.


Do you have a favorite laundry soap recipe? Please share in the comments below.


Samantha Biggers can be reached at