Saving soap scum

Do you reuse the soap scum from your shower or bathtub? Great! Neither do I.

For some time now I have been keeping those slim bars of soap that are almost ready to turn into scum. You know the ones, the kind you set down into the soap tray that turn into a sloppy mess by the time you pick up your washcloth. I’ve been keeping the soap slivers in a container in the back of drawer that holds the new bars of soap. My thought was that I could turn them back into a bar and prevent soap scum (at least some of it).

This all stayed in the theoretical project stage until my favorite brand of bar soap has refused to go on sale. For quite some time too, since I have a whole drawer for hoarding soap in.

It was time to get serious and chop up those slivers of soap and make them useful!

After chopping, I got my hands wet and packed the soap together to form a ball. I needed to wet my hands after each layer and found that packing the soap too loosely would create a crumbling soap-scum-super-starter.

Ball of packed soap flakes

If you have any small plastic toys laying around, they can be covered with soap flakes for a shower surprise at a later date. I am fortunate enough that I can surprise myself these days.

Plastic snake waiting for a soap shell

Laundry Soap

You could come to the conclusion that “sampling it all” means “sampling all the food.” Which it does, but I do sample a few other things too.

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Laundry soap

1 c (or 2/3 of a bar) Fels Naptha soap
1 c washing soda
1 c borax powder
1-2 T essential oil (optional)
16 quarts of water
5 gallon pail with a cover

Chop or grate Fels Naptha and add to 3 quarts of water. Heat and stir until the soap has melted. Pour 2 quarts of hot water into your pail. To the Fels Naptha and water add washing soda, stir, and add borax powder, and stir. When all ingredients have dissolved, add to pail with hot water and stir. Add an additional 11 quarts of water and stir. This will likely look like soapy water with a few bubbles and possibly some globs of gel. Add essential oil if desired and stir. This is laundry soap! The laundry soap may gel more as the solution cools off.

Use 1/2 cup of laundry soap per load. It works in both vertical and horizontal (HE) washing machines.

I’ve used a mix of soaps in place of Fels Naptha with good success. It is especially pleasing to chop up marine-animal-shaped or heart-shaped decorative soap and use it. The little bits of bar soap that are hard to use work great. Homemade soap works. For chopping, it works best if the soap is dried out. The smaller the soap pieces are, the less time and energy it will take to melt them.

I don’t bother to stir the soap once I’ve made it. Some soap has more gel, some has less. I haven’t noticed a difference in the cleaning.

Some people, such as my mom, will find that using this soap makes them itchy.

Keep the soap covered and away from children and pets to avoid everything from drowning to messes.

My box of washing soda has become a hard mass, perhaps because it is stored above the washing machine. I should try put it in a moisture proof container next time.

You can find safety information for Fels Naptha, Borax, and washing soda from the US Dept of Health and Human Services.


Pride goeth before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 I don’t quote the bible often, however it seems fitting for my experiences with feeling smug.

This is a reminder to myself: If I feel smug, I should look around twice and figure out what is going to go wrong.

Remember: Smug can be a pleasant feeling, but it always leads to repercussions.

Remember: I have felt smug before and it never ends well.

The washing machine was moved into the house early in May. I requested and received one of those shallow plastic tubs that sits under the washing machine and catches leaks, should they occur. A day after installation, I heard a distinct drip, drip, drip sound. One of the water lines leading to the washing machine wasn’t seated firmly and water was dripping down, into the pan. I was smug. The tub saved time and trouble! Very smug. George and I tightened the fitting. Fixed. I started the first load of laundry the next day, when I could be at home to monitor for any other trouble.

I was smuggly sweeping the floor when I heard water gushing in the basement. Not dripping, but gushing. The smug plastic tub was overflowing because neither of us had thought to put the drain line back into place after tightening the fitting. Smug was flushed away and sopped up by hand, with many thanks to C.P. for her help and moral support.

Speaking of laundry, here is the recipe that I use for homemade laundry soap. I’m starting a new batch today, without any smug feelings.