Kitchn Love Letters

This Old-School Cleaning Solution Costs Less than $2 and Does So Many Things

updated Jan 13, 2021
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Someone holding bar of Fels-Naptha.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Like most of us, I’m a huge fan of cleaning multitools. Why not save space and money by choosing hard-working tools that you can use in multiple areas of your home? Better yet if the cleaning tool is ridiculously inexpensive — and even more effective than some of your go-to products. 

Fels Naptha, a laundry soap bar that dates back a century, is a fan favorite with more than 15,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. Many reviewers rave about Fels Naptha for its intended purpose — as a laundry soap and stain remover. But after I did some digging through reviews and lifestyle blogs, I discovered so many more uses for the old-school soap — and barely any of them took place in the laundry room!

At first, it was a bit overwhelming to parse through all the Fels Naptha uses I found. There are so many. People claim the soap is effective in erasing acne and staving off cold sores (I am dubious about both), that it can shine up sinks and shower doors, and that it can effectively clean everything from carpets to upholstery (I believe these last ones!). Where would I even begin?

I decided to work backwards, pinpointing the messes and problems that were bothering me the most and then find out how to use my Fels Naptha to tackle them. Here are the jobs I attempted, and how they worked. Spoiler alert: I might be in love.

Credit: Ashley Abramson

1. Removing gunk from the inside of the fridge

First, I wanted to address the most recent and glaring mess in my kitchen: a sticky spill from a creamer bottle that had leaked on a fridge shelf. To tackle this one, I used my grater on the Fels Naptha bar to form shavings that I added to warm water, forming a soapy solution. I then dipped a clean, dry sponge in the mixture and wiped down the affected area of the fridge shelf. A success! The sticky residue, which I’m sad to inform you had been there for a few days, disappeared after a couple of swipes. I also scrubbed down the side of my fridge while I was in there. To finish, I used a paper towel to dry off. Good as new!

Credit: Ashley Abramson

2. Removing an old stain from my couch

I’m not sure what I was thinking, buying a light grey sofa when I have two kids — but here I am. Normally I use a few drops of Amodex to get these stubborn food stains off my couch cushions. This time, Fels Neptha came to the rescue. I Frankensteined a few blog methods I came across and wet a corner of the soap bar, then rubbed it directly on the stain. After allowing the Fels Naptha to sit on the stain for about 10 minutes, I dabbed it with a wet towel to absorb the soap. It worked, and I’m hooked!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Deodorizing the trash can

I noticed when I was working on the fridge and couch stain that the Fels Naptha smelled really fresh (it might be too strong for some people, so use with caution). I’d read somewhere that cutting off a small corner of the bar is a great way to deodorize stinky places, so I tried it at the bottom of my garbage can, before I put a fresh bag in. I purposely disposed of old food from my fridge in the garbage yesterday, and today I couldn’t smell the food at all. What I could smell was the soap bar. I’m surprised by how strong the scent is and how well it cuts through gross stuff in the trash. It reminds me of a bar of Dial Soap — definitely a distinct, soapy smell.

Credit: Ashley Abramson

4. Erasing scuffs from a wall

I’d also heard that a sponge dipped in a Fels Naptha solution worked a lot like a Magic Eraser, so I couldn’t wait to try it on a section of my dining room wall that was covered in black marks and scuffs. I’ll admit that the Fels Naptha required a lot more elbow grease than melamine foam, but I was happier with the end results. Not only did the Fels Naptha solution remove the markings, but it also didn’t remove the top layer of paint like Magic Erasers sometimes do.

Credit: Ashley Abramson

5. Taking sticky labels off of a glass jar

I like to reuse jars for decanting, and I’d been sitting on a few of them for a while. Removing the label from the glass with Fels Naptha was super easy. First, I rubbed the corner of the bar over the label. Then, I boiled some water and, once it was hot, added a small corner of the Fels Naptha bar. Finally, I dipped a sponge in the solution and rubbed it all over the label. It came off magically, with barely any gunk left behind. Another plus: My entire kitchen smelled fresh from boiling the soapy mixture. I’ll definitely be doing this again!

6. Wiping down counters and other surfaces

Of course, I couldn’t let the Fels Naptha solution go to waste after I removed all those labels. Once it cooled, I used the sponge to wipe down my counters and dining room table. Because Fels Naptha contains soap and tallow, it’s touted for being good at removing oil and grease, and that’s the first thing I noticed when I wiped down the section of counter next to my stovetop. It definitely cut through the oily areas better than my usual all-purpose cleaner, so I’m considering whipping up a Fels Naptha-water solution in a spray bottle for convenience. Either way, I’m definitely keeping this old-school cleaner around!