Do It Yourself » Fels Naptha vs Zote

Fels Naptha vs Zote

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Fels Naptha vs Zote– the true laundry challenge! For years we’ve offered a multitude of homemade laundry detergent recipes and then we created our Original Super Laundry Sauce recipe… which works wonders on the laundry.

The issue? Many folks didn’t have access to Fels Naptha, one of our original ingredients, and wanted to know whether or not they could use Zote in its place. So we accepted the challenge, and we made both, side by side to test. Here are our results . . .

Fels Naptha vs Zote

To begin with, you’re probably wondering what the difference is between Fels Naptha and Zote:

Fels Naptha:

Fels main ingredients are Soap, water, talc. It’s has a light fresh scent, the smell does not stay in the clothing for a day or so. It is most effective on oil-based stains such as body soil (aka accidents!), chocolate, make-up/sunscreen, etc.

It is quite effective at dispersing and removing urushiol oil (aka poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac oils) from clothing and skin. Fels Naptha has been around for over 100 years.


Zote is 66% Fat- derived from animals- the main ingredients are beef tallow and coconut oil, contains citronella essential oil & therefore smells like citronella, Zote is much softer and has a lighter/more airy consistency, the smell of Zote will linger in clothing for days, Zote contains optical brighteners.

Since Zote contains Citronella – it helps repel mosquitoes from anyone wearing clothing washed in it. Zote comes in 2 different options: regular white Zote- more whitening power and pink Zote- for delicates, kids clothing, those with skin allergies/sensitivities, etc.

Fels Naptha vs Zote Cleaning Power Challenge

In this challenge we’re using our Super Laundry Sauce for Dummies Recipe– this is the NO Cook Version that takes about 5 minutes of actual effort in all.

A regular sized bar of Fels Naptha is 5.05 oz, whereas a regular sized bar of Zote is 14 oz. They’re both around $1 to purchase (actually a little less than that at Walmart) In order to make a single jar of Laundry Sauce, you need a half bar of Fels, about 2.5 oz.

So we used a half bar of Zote in this recipe. Rather than try to match it ounce for ounce. The Zote has a lighter, whipped, airy texture to it, much like a bar of Ivory soap, so to be fair, we decided to go with half a bar, 7 ounces.
fels naptha vs zote moms super laundry sauce
Since they are the same price, it doesn’t change the expense of the homemade detergent.

In following the Super Laundry Sauce directions, we put our half a bar of Fels and Zote in jars and added hot water.

fels naptha and zote in jars with hot water

We waited patiently overnight. This is how they appeared the next morning:

gelled fels naptha and gelled zote ready to blend

Note that the Zote also gels like the Fels. They are very similar in texture and consistency at this point.

Next, we added our remaining ingredients as per the Laundry Sauce recipe.

We screwed on the blender blade on the top of the jar and whipped the contents of each jar:

moms super laundry sauce for dummies made with fels and super laundry sauce with zote

Now comes the real test… washing our son’s work clothes… you see, he works at a fast-food restaurant as a cook, so his clothes are rather saturated in nasty fast food grease smell when he comes home.

Lucky for us, he had to work the morning shift today, and his clothes are especially grimy from preparing onion ring batter and pan after pan of bacon!

We washed the soiled clothes in warm water with a cold water rinse. Disclaimer, we use city water, NOT well water, to wash our clothing, so the mineral content is neither high nor low. Your results may vary based on the type of water you have, well, Artesian well, city water, hard water, etc.

How we washed the clothing in both tests:

  1. Add the clothing to a top-loading machine.
  2. Add 1 level tablespoon of Laundry Sauce on top of the clothes.
  3. Shut the lid and select warm wash/cold rinse.
  4. Start the machine.

The results: Fels Naptha vs Zote Super Laundry Sauce

Fels Naptha
: Fantastic, only a tablespoon was needed to get out the offending smells and stains in the fabric.

We like that the smell doesn’t linger after washing so we can use perfumes/colognes or essential oils without smelling like we got maced when we walked by the perfume counter at Macy’s. It dissolves fine in cold, warm, or hot water, making it useful for most laundry.

Zote: Failed, miserably. The Zote did NOT dissolve in warm water, it left considerable streaks of white on the clothing and gobbed up into a ball in the machine.

moms super laundry sauce with zote clumped in the washer

It would appear that it is great for hand-washing delicate clothes in very HOT water and is effective at removing body oils and light soil.

In our experience, it is not an effective stain remover for heavily soiled clothing or for use in cold or warm water temperatures.


What it comes down to is a personal preference and what you’re using it for. If our children were still little and just playing outside with regular sand/dirt/grass stains, I’d probably go with Super Laundry Sauce made with Zote.

fels vs zote challenge

Since our kids are now teens that go paintballing, work in fast-food restaurants, mudding/4-wheeling, etc and my spouse is a contractor that frequently gets tar, spackle, caulking, glue, etc all over his clothes when he works, we’ll have to stick with the Fels Naptha Super Laundry Sauce, which seems to get out the majority of the stains with minimal effort.

Where To Buy Ingredients

Buy Ingredients Now:


Fels Naptha is currently $1.29
with free shipping if you’re a Prime Member


Zote Prices start at .98 + Shipping  on amazon, and around the $1 mark at Walmart.

Our Most Popular Laundry Detergent Recipes:

Fels vs Zote, ounce for ounce

Since the Zote failed so miserably the first time going in with a half bar we decided to put it to the test ounce for ounce, weighing both the Zote and the Fels for the same amount before making a new batch.

The results were similar, while the Zote did (mostly) dissolve, the clothes just didn’t come clean. Since Zote contains brighteners that Fels does not, we’ll be making a batch of Fels Zote soap combinations to see if we can achieve the best of both worlds (a detergent that works AND brightens clothes!)

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