BAR FIGHT – Fels Naptha vs Zote Laundry Bar Soap


May 29, 2014 | Posted in Laundry | By

20140525-193814.jpg White Zote, Pink Zote, and Fels Naptha

Battle of the bars!

In a battle of laundry bar soaps, which one is champ? Didn’t know there was a battle of laundry bar soaps? Or didn’t know there even where laundry bar soaps? I didn’t exactly know until recently either. And they don’t fight each other, but they do fight tough stains and dirt!

Both Fels Naptha and Zote are bar soaps made specifically for laundry, though you may find other uses. From washing dishes or treating poison ivy to catfish bait. I kid you not.

Because of its simple ingredients, amazing size, and low price, the winner in my court is Zote. Both Fels Naptha and Zote put up a good fight and cleaned extremely well. Using these for laundry has me questioning why other types of detergent were ever made in the first place. Expensive liquids and powders left behind several spots and stains that both bars have busted. I’m really impressed!

Zote is a HUGE bar — more than twice the size of Fels Naptha for the same price.

Zote is all natural with very few ingredients and no fillers. Check out the ingredient list, below. I find the fragrance to be fresh and pleasant. It’s citronella, but not like a patio candle. Fels Naptha doesn’t specify its fragrance.

Zote was easier for me to find in local stores, and I found the softer consistency was easier to work with. My arm muscles got a nice mini workout from grating Zote, but it doesn’t feel like they’re about to fall off. Fels Naptha is much harder like really hard parmesan cheese.

Both soaps can be used to spot-treat laundry stains, as a laundry detergent booster, or as a component of homemade laundry detergent itself. Find my recipe for Homemade Laundry Detergent here. Both bars do the job surprisingly well! Individual results may vary. You may find one bar works better for your needs or preferences. Details below.

You may have trouble finding one or more of these bars in a grocery store near you. If you don’t find them in the laundry section, check near the other bar soaps used for washing your body. You might also check hardware stores. Can’t find either, try regular ol’ Ivory soap. It actually works too. Or if you don’t want to use an animal-based** soap look for castile soap like Kirk’s Castile.

The details.

Fels Naptha:
SIZE: 5.5 oz, 165 g
COST: from $0.97 (at a Walmart, only price I found so far)
COLOR: yellowish, semi-transparent
CONSISTENCY/TEXTURE: hard, grates like a hard Parmesan cheese (mmm, cheese)
RESIDUE: none noticed when grated, pulverized, or powdered pieces are used. Larger slices may not dissolve all the way, but they’ll be transparentish. May depend on water temperature used and water conditions in your area.
FRAGRANCE: soapy, clean, similar to Dial soap
INGREDIENTS: “Soap (sodium tallowate*, sodium cocoate* (or) sodium palmate kernelate*, and sodium palmate*), water, talc, coconut acid*, palm acid*, tallow acid*, PEG-6 methyl ether, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate, titatium dioxide, fragrance, Acid Orange (CI 20170), Acid yellow 73 (ci43350)
*contains one or more of these ingredients”
VEGAN: probably not**
HOW IT WORKED: Useful for spot treating. You’ll need to either moisten the end of the bar or the area of the stain before you can rub much soap onto the stain. Rub firmly and thoroughly to cover the stain with a film of soap and let sit a bit before laundering. Since this bar is yellowish it will likewise leave a yellowish spot where you rubbed it. The stain will probably look worse, eeks, but at least you can easily see where you put the soap. Wash. Spot comes clean. Works especially well for oil-based stains like the greasy chicken I dropped down the front of my shirt.

To use in your laundry as actual laundry detergent you’ll need to grate it with a cheese grater or pulverize it in a blender or food processor (cut into medium small chunks first). You can also put smaller slices into the microwave and zap a couple minutes until the soap foams up. It will look a lot like shaving cream is growing out of the piece of soap. It’s way awesome fun to watch! (Maybe a little too much fun for some of us.) Let the foamy mound cool completely, then just crumble it to a powder with your fingers. Add to laundry per directions or use in an online recipe for homemade laundry detergent.

SIZE: 14.1 oz , 400 g
COST: $1.99, $1.27, $0.97 (prices from Home Depot, H Mart international grocery, and a Walmart respectively )
COLOR: comes in white and pink, both semi-translucent (The two colors have identical formulas with the exception of non-staining color added to pink. The white is natural and free of added color.)
CONSISTENCY/TEXTURE: firm but pliable, like slightly warmed candle wax
RESIDUE: None noticed when used grated, pulverized, or powdered. Larger slices may not dissolve all the way. May depend on water temperature used and water conditions in your area.
FRAGRANCE: clean, soapy, citronella***
INGREDIENTS: for white: “sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate, fragrance, optical brightener.” (And that’s it. Which is pretty cool if you ask me.)
For Pink, all the above plus “violet 10.” And that’s it.
OTHER INFO: 66% fatty acid. Alkalinity of 0.04% (bath soap is 0.02%) Website claims some folks use it to bathe. Everything but the optical brightener is just soap, right? Maybe it will impart a bright, glowing complexion. Who can say?
VEGAN: no **
HOW IT WORKED: Useful for spot treating. Fresh out of the wrapper you can squish it with your hands like firm clay. It was soft enough to rub directly onto the spot or stain with no water. It leaves a wax-like film. But the bar seems to get a little firmer once opened for a while so you may find it helpful to either moisten the end of the bar or the area of the stain. Rub firmly and thoroughly to cover the stain with a film of soap and let sit a bit before laundering. White Zote leaves a cloudy colorless film, while pink Zote leaves a pinkish film where you rubbed it. Let sit a bit. Wash. Spot comes clean. Like Fels Naptha, it works especially well for oil-based stains.

I was able to remove some exceptionally tough stains by adding a little hydrogen peroxide to the stain along with the Zote treatment. There were some really hideous stains at the underarm area of a cream-color, short sleeve sweater I rather like. How did I sweat that much? Maybe it was some icky brand of deodorant that left the stain? Anyway, I tried several commercial spot removers as well as pre-treating with conventional laundry detergent and adding a small amount of bleach to the laundry. But those stains did not budge until I rubbed liberally with Zote and added a little peroxide. Then I let it sit a bit and laundered with a homemade laundry soap (made with Zote, washing soda, and borax). The stain was darn near 100% gone except a small streak right at the seam which probably didn’t get as much Zote.

To use in your laundry as actual laundry detergent you’ll need to grate Zote with a cheese grater. A blender or food processor might work, but because it’s softer it may also clump unless you let the bar cure and firm up first. You can also put slices into the microwave. Cutting into manageable slices is especially important with Zote since the bars are HUGE. So, really, cut maybe 1/16 off and then zap that. It would take forever to heat the entire bar all the way and even if you managed without destroying your microwave, the resulting foam would take up more cubic inches than can fit in a microwave. Maybe more than a whole kitchen! This might be amusing for some, but it would be bad. Just bad. So smallish pieces, okay? Zap a few minutes and it will also look like shaving cream is growing out of the piece of soap. It’s also way awesome fun to watch! Who needs a TV? And it leaves a fresh scent in the microwave for a little while. Let the foamy mounds cool completely — they’ll deflate some. Then crumble. Add to laundry per directions or use in an online recipe for homemade laundry detergent. Zote’s website also offers a recipe for making liquid Zote by cooking it with water on your stove until it dissolves. You can let it cool to a gel for future use. Check out the list of other uses for Zote! Wacky. Use per directions.

***OF NOTE: Neither Fels Naptha nor Zote is fragrance free. I thought they were before I purchased them. Lots of recipes for homemade laundry detergent for sensitive skin call for one of these bars. Perhaps the bars are already more skin-friendly as they’re really just classic soap and not not a blend of strong detergents. I find that the scent in these bars is not overwhelming and doesn’t stay with my laundry for long. Neither bar irritates my skin or causes itching. If you have very sensitive skin you may find that one works better than the other for you. On their website Zote specifies citronella oil as the ingredient used to fragrance their bars. It’s natural and diluted citronella oil is skin friendly for most people. Plus it can keep mosquitoes away! Though I don’t find that the fragrance stays on the clothing for very long. Fels Naptha does not specify anything other than “fragrance” as far as I can tell, but it smells more like a blend of somethings to me. I’ll update if I find out.

Can be good at removing the oil of plants like poison ivy. Use before rash shows up for best results.

**Neither bar is vegan — both do or probably* do contain tallow / tallowate which is usually derived from cow fat. Presumably the tallow is a secondary product of the meat industry and cows aren’t actually slaughtered for the exclusive purpose of making laundry soap. Because yeah. The same could be said about most commercial body bar soaps on the market. Which is pretty creepy if you ask me. I’m glad they use as much of the animal as they can if they’re going to slaughter at all. But it kind of gives new meaning to body bar soap, no? Ack. I’ll probably get over it for laundry purposes for now …

Looking for a vegan suitable bar? Kirk’s Castile Soap is made of mostly coconut oil. Castile soaps are, by definition, vegetable-oil based soaps. Other tallow-free soaps include Dr. Bronner’s, Kiss My Face, Burt’s Bees, and Zum Bar. Amazingly you should be able to use any of these on laundry, but A.) They usually cost way more, though I found Kirk’s Castille soap for only $1.29/4oz bar at MOM’s Organic Market — not too bad, really. B.) Be careful to use a lighter-color bar as darker ones may have clay, charcoal, or other ingredients mixed in. Those could potentially stain your laundry.

Reprinted from used with permission.
Copyright 2014 Debora Kapke

Updated 8/10/2014 to add a link to a recipe for homemade laundry detergent (above).