This $4 Soap Is the Only Stain Eliminator You'll Ever Need

Zote soap has a cult following for its magical stain-fighting abilities, as well as an infinite and bizarre list of other uses that fans swear by — from mosquito repellant to catfish bait.

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July 14, 2023

This butter block-sized bar of laundry soap is like a magic eraser for fabric.

This butter block-sized bar of laundry soap is like a magic eraser for fabric.

The dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding has his Windex, but I have my Shout Wipe & Go. Truly, there’s not much these towelettes can’t fix. I keep a couple in my bag at all times. I buy them in bulk on Amazon. I am a devotee. But, inevitably, I met my stain match. I got a stain on one of my favorite Stoney Clover Lane pouches, and the Shout wipes did nothing. I then went on a stain-fighting odyssey online, which included a lengthy discussion in a Stoney Clover Lane fan group about a $4 solution that I’m shocked more people don’t know about or talk about — Zote soap. This cheap bar of laundry soap is worth gold for its stain-eliminating powers. Here’s everything you need to know about laundry soap and why you should keep a Zote bar in your cleaning arsenal.

What is Zote soap?

Zote soap is laundry soap, which is different than laundry detergent. (Though, you can turn laundry soap into laundry detergent with borax and washing soda.) Laundry bars are best for hand washing. The ingredients are gentle and safe for the skin, so it's kind of like hand soap that also washes clothes, except Zote is much larger than a regular bar of soap at a whopping 14 ounces. It's basically a small brick.

The Zote company was founded in the 1970s in Mexico, and you can find these laundry bars in Latinx grocery stores for as little as $2 or you can order online from Walmart or Amazon. The most iconic Zote soap bar is bright pink, but I recommend using the non-dyed version. However, both have the same main ingredients: tallow, citronella oil, glycerin and sodium cocoate, which is a coconut oil-based cleaning agent. Zote is intended for all kinds of stains, from food to markers, but I'm most impressed with how it handles makeup and other oily stains. I have a powder blue Stoney Clover Lane nylon scrunchie that had foundation all over, and the soap cut through that with no problem at all. My Shout wipes just smeared the stain around.

It's important to note that for all its magical abilities, Zote soap is not vegan-friendly. While more brands are shifting toward plant-based tallow in soap, Zote uses traditional beef fat for its animal tallow. This might be why the soap itself is buttery soft and so easy to rub on fabric compared to other laundry bars I've tried.

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How do you use Zote soap?

To use Zote soap for stains, you have two options: hand wash or regular wash. You can use a bar of Zote soap as a pre-wash treatment for stains. Just rub the block on the stained area like a big eraser. Then, let the item sit for five to 10 minutes. After that, just toss the item into the washing machine and wash it like normal.

For hand-washing stains, lather the bar and wash the stained item in the sink. (You can buy a soap bar lather tray to speed up the process.) Just remember to rinse the item thoroughly so there's no residue left behind. I recommend hand-washing with Zote soap, especially if you're dealing with a stain you've never encountered before and you're not sure if it would come out in the wash. Because you can always rinse and repeat, and some stubborn stains take an extra pass.

If you're hand-washing a larger load of laundry and not just stain-treating one item, you can prepare a batch of Zote soap by shaving about a tablespoon of flakes with a cheese grater and dissolving the flakes into a gallon of water. But this solution is only for hand washing and should not be used as a liquid detergent for a washing machine. For homemade detergent, we recommend this recipe.

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The World of Zote Soap

While Zote soap is a laundry bar, fans swear by other uses for this soap. Because of its natural ingredients, some use it to clean makeup brushes and sponges though here at HGTV we recommend this DIY paste instead. And because of its citronella oil, many insist that it's a great mosquito repellant and will sprinkle shavings of Zote soap all around their yard as citronella oil is safe for dogs, too. Some avid fishers believe that little chunks of Zote soap make the best catfish bait. This is likely because of the tallow fat. Recommended uses for Zote soap online include:

  • Paint brush cleaner
  • Fabric softener
  • Stove cleaner
  • Oven cleaner
  • Dish cleaner
  • Shoe deodorizer
  • Car cleaner
  • Showerhead cleaner
  • Floor cleaner
  • Jewelry cleaner

There are several other claims online about what Zote soap can do, from skin condition treatments to gas leak fixes, but I can't, in good faith, recommend things like that. While the ingredients in Zote soap are safe for your skin and some claim that it can soothe irritated skin from poison ivy or mosquito bites, you should always talk to a dermatologist about any skin conditions before treating them with something you read on the internet. And, y'all, if you have a gas leak, that's an emergency and not a time to make a soap paste, which is only going to temporarily slow down the leak. And if you truly have a gas leak, you don't need to be sitting around making a soap paste. You need to get out of the house and call the gas company.

Best $4 Ever Spent

Bottom line: Zote soap is $4 well spent. It's less expensive than other fancy laundry bars. However, I don't love that it contains beef tallow when other more fancy laundry bars use plant-based tallows. But, unlike those, it actually works. So, it's a necessary evil that, in the long run, helps me save clothing and accessories for continued use.

My Shout wipes are still my first line of defense for stains, and I won't use Zote soap for everyday laundry or stains that I know will come out in the wash, but for delicates such as heirloom linens or my coveted Stoney Clover Lane collection, this is now my go-to for hand-washing laundry.

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