Homemade Laundry Detergent

Note to reader:  I have changed how I make my detergent.  That post can be seen here with detailed instructions and a cost breakdown: Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent Gets and Upgrade

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I pretty much love all things homemade!  I love the feeling of industry and resourcefulness that comes from making something myself for cheaper than I could have bought it at the store.

Many years ago, my mom bought me the Reader’s Digest Homemade book (mine is the older version of the one in the link).  That’s where my homemade hand soap recipe came from.  There is a laundry detergent recipe in there as well, but it tells you to use 1/2 a cup per load which just doesn’t seem economical to me.

After searching for a more economical laundry soap, I came across a recipe from TheFamilyHomestead.com. (she has an excellent cost breakdown on there too!) For years this was the recipe I used:
1/3 bar of pure soap
1/2 c. washing soda
1/2 c. borax
(& sometimes I added a few drops of essential oil as well)
1.5 – 2 gallon container with lid (I used a plastic tub)

Grate the soap. (I use my Bosch Slicer/Shredder and do the entire bar or more on a fine shred.)

Put 1/3 of a bar into a saucepan.  Add 6 c. of water and heat on low until soap melts.

Add washing soda & borax.  Stir until dissolved.  Remove from heat.

Add your essential oil here if you like.

Pour 4 c. hot water into the 2 gallon container, add soap mixture, and stir.  Now add 1 gallon + 6 cups (22 cups) of water and stir.

Let sit for 24 hours to gel.  Can be poured into an old liquid detergent container and used the same way you would your usual liquid detergent.

**However, there are some drawbacks to this recipe**

1. It’s not ready right away.
2. It can get messy because it is liquid.
3. I often didn’t feel like my clothes were really getting clean. (not that they weren’t, but I often felt like the soap had too much water in it.)

So, recently via Twitter, I came across the Dugger family’s recipe for powder laundry detergent and decided to give that a go.  So far, I am quite pleased!  Here’s that recipe:

1 bar pure soap (Fels-Naptha, castille, etc)
1 c. washing soda
1/2 c. borax
medium-sized container with lid

Grate soap (as shown in previous recipe).

Place soap in container.  Add washing soda & borax.  Mix well.

Use 1 Tbsp per load or 2 Tbsp per load for heavily soiled clothing.

**Things I like about this recipe**

1. No wait time.  I ran out of soap this morning.  I made some up and could use it right away.
2. No mess.
3. Psychologically, *I* feel as though my clothes are really getting clean. ;)

Looking for more laundry detergent recipes?  Head over to MamasLaundryTalk.com (she’s hosting a link up on Friday…don’t miss it!)

Enjoyed this tutorial?  Perhaps you’d like to make your own Baby Wipes Solution?  Or maybe some Playdough for the kiddos?  Or maybe you just want to know more about Laundry in a larger-than-average family!  Whatever you’re looking for, enjoy your visit!

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75 thoughts on “Homemade Laundry Detergent

  1. Ok, got a silly question… your shredder chopper thing.. do you wash it out and use it for other things? or do you save this for soap only? I know it’s soap and all, but can it be rinsed out enough to use for food again? or do I need to check out some yard sales.

  2. Dear Amy,
    I also found the first recipe and wa not sure the clothes were clean too!!!!
    Looking at your grated sop though I am wondering if my bar is too small. What size in oz or grams is it? We don’t have that brand here in Australia o i have been using a laundry soap that is 125grams.
    I am keen to find out and try this recipe as I have just bought more ingredients .
    So your post is very timely.
    I would also be interested how you find it after using it for a time.
    Blessing

  3. Lisa,
    You can easily use a regular cheese grater too. And yes, it’s soap…I use the slicer/shredder for lots of other things. :)

    Gae,
    Fels Naptha is 5.5 oz or 155g. I try to base my calculations off of that because, as you can tell from the pics, I’m using up the last of my homemade castille soap and it is much smaller than the other bars.

  4. I make my own laundry detergent too, the powdered version. Love it! Do you know if I could use it to wash diapers? It gets my husbands filthy work clothes clean, so I was figuring it would be ok.

  5. You know, Emily, I have asked this many times on forums and such and everyone seems to think you can, just in a smaller amount (you almost always reduce the amount of soap you are using when you wash diapers). I’m definitely going to try it. :)

  6. I was just thinking of making my own laundry soap today! Thanks for sharing:) The only problem is that I’ve been looking for “washing soda” for years, and none of my local grocery stores carries it.

    Blessings,
    Michelle

      • After ordering the washing soda online through Amazon.com, when I went grocery shopping yesterday, at Walmart, the Arm and Hammer Washing Soda was on the bottom shelf – side by side with 20 Mule Team Borax and one shelf away from the Fels Naptha. Sometimes you might have to hunt for these products, but Walmart does carry them. However, I ordered the castile soap, and would prefer to use that rather than the Fels Naptha after reading some of the comments further on. I can get liquid castile soap at the health food store, but want to make a powdered product rather than liquid.

  7. Amy – Thanks so much for linking your post to the Laundry Detergent Recipe Round-Up!

    I’ve heard such good things about the Duggar’s recipe. I might just have to break down and try it!

    I agree – I love all things homemade too. :)

    -Lauren

  8. Michelle,
    You are right…washing soda can be hard to find. Our local Kroger sells it, but I think that is it. I know the Duggers buy theirs in bulk through Meijer.com.

    Anyone know of any other place to get it???

  9. I have all the ingredients for making both kinds. I have been considering making it for MONTHS now, however, my wonderful husband got me a front loader recently that calls for high efficiency only detergent. Can I use homemade soap in it?

  10. Audra,
    The Dugger’s have a liquid soap that is safe for front loaders on their site (same link as in this post)…check it out! :)

  11. Pingback: How NOT to make homemade laundry detergent. « Chaos Appreciation

  12. Hi Amy,
    I have to order my washing soda and soap online (unless I can use Ivory) so I can’t help but wonder if I’m costing myself more in the long run when I can just buy a huge thing at Sams of all and use it for regular clothes and my cloth daipers, what do you think?

    • you can actually use any kind of soap mixed with the washing soda and borax. Ivory soap works great. i use whatever i find on sale or with coupons. have you tried walmart or your local supermarket? ask them if they dont and they may order it for you which will save you on shipping.

  13. I have tried the liquid detergent recipe before and for me, I prefer the powder mixture. I almost use this exact recipe but a couple minor differences. I use 1 cup of the borax and 1 cup of washing soda. The soap that I find best use is called Yardleys. Its $0.97 a bar at Wal-Mart. It already has essential oils in the bar (they have two scents.) It grates really well and blends in really well.

    • Jessica,
      I’m actually going to be trying a new (more concentrated of the same ingredients) recipe for this – it really smells like nothing in my opinion. For softener, simply make a solution of vinegar with a favorite essential oil in it if you would like a smell (lavender is nice :) ) and put in 1/2 a cup during the rinse cycle.

  14. Going to give this a try…What type of machine do you have? Mine is an HE model and I know the manufacturer’s tell you to only use HE detergent. Personally, I think just running a cleaner or vinegar through on occassion should do the trick, but I thought I’d ask what you have. Thanks for sharing.

  15. I am interested to try the powder laundry detergent, but have a silly question. Am I able to add a few drops of essential oil to this recipe and evenly distribute it? Or will it just clump up the dry detergent where it lands?

    • It might clump, but you can just break it up with fork before adding it to the washer. (and definitely evenly distribute it w/ a fork after you’ve added it too.) :)

  16. I’ve been using this recipe for about 9 months now except that I use 1 bar soap, 1 cup washing soda and. cup Borax. I only use tablespoon of this mix per batch and really love the results. Sometimes I add a heaping tablespoon if it is an extra large or dirty batch. I will also occasionally add some oxiclean but have had great results regardless. I keep a bar of the soap to use as a pretreater for stains that need a little boost. It’s cheap and effe rive laundry detergent. And the dry state of this recipe makes it easy to use and to store.

    • 1cup Borax.

      I also have an HE machine and it works better than the commercial soaps. Less filler = less build up.

  17. My recipe:
    1 bar of soap (I used nature clean), finely grated
    1 c. washing soda
    1 c. borax
    1/2 c. OxyClean

    No melting, no waiting, just powdered detergent.

  18. Just want to check, what are the ingredients in the pure soap. Have been looking for palm oil free products, it is disguised under the name surfactants in many products. Practically all detergents and household cleaners contain palm oil or a derivative. Would be very interested to know of any that do not.

    Will certainly try this recipe though.

  19. I was happy to find this. I’ve been making cold process bar soap and use it for most everything including washing my hair. Would basic cold process soap work for the laundry detergent recipe? It’s made from lye and vegetable shortening.

  20. I have tried both and they both have their ups and downs. I have a front loader and I like the liquid for large loads because I feel it dissolves better. That being said, it is lumpy (like egg drop soup) and sometimes it gets real thick and I have to add water to thing it out. I have also found that you can use much less than you think because when you use a lot, there is build up and your machine can start stinking. I now always double rinse. Either one gets stuff clean (I have some very stinky boy feet in my family…lol).

  21. I also used the liquid type over a period of 9 months. I was excited to be able to make my own laundry soap but after a while our clothes seemed to become a little…for lack of a better word…”slimey”, especially jeans and towels. I even went so far as to put a cup of white vinager in the rinse cycle. I like the idea of the dry soap and will give that a go! Thanks for the recipe.

    • Are you using more soap than needed? or possibly the loads aren’t rinsing well enough (too many clothes and not enough rinse water per load?). I have never had that problem. Are the clothes slimey when they are wet or dry? I assume when wet? I would think the soap isn’t rinsing or something like that. Try smaller loads and less soap. Good luck!!!

  22. Just a question about this soap, the wet one. I used to make this all the time but noticed spots all over the dark clothes. They almost looked like wet spots but they weren’t wet obviously. They would come out of the dryer looking stained and I didn’t notice. Not sure what was causing it. The felsnaptha? Wondering if this has happened to anyone else? The stains do wash out after using regular Tide. But always more would appear if I went back to it. I could never use it on our dark clothes. Loved it on the towels, sheets, blankets though. Such a fresh clean smell, not perfumey. Thats what I loved. The clothes felt clean. Want to go back to using it again, but not until I figure out what could be causing the stains, only on the darks. Anyone else with this problem appearing?
    thx – jean

    • Audrey,
      I’m sorry that was so long ago, I do not remember what it was that made the soap purple. I know the people who were at our house for the soapmaking party were using a castille soap recipe and I know we didn’t have any dyes, but I cannot remember why the soap was purple. Sorry.
      Amy

  23. I found grating the soap and cooking it to be a real pain. Now I take an empty laundry soap container, add 1/3 cup Borax, 1/3 cup Washing Soda and 2 cups boiling water. Be careful, it will be HOT!!!…swish it around until the powder has dissolved, then add 1/4 cup dish soap. Fill to the top with cold water, shake and it’s ready to use. Some people swear by Dawn Dish Soap, but I use what ever I have on hand with the same results. :) Shake before using and you only need to use a cap full for clean and very soft clothes.

  24. i use zote soap bars which are very big, and mix with 3 cups cheap soap powder, and 3 cups borax. works great. doesnt suds up much, but gets clothes clean.

  25. I’m with you. I’ve made my own for years. The liquid version had my clothes starting to look dingy and grey. I have been using the powder combo you list, plus 1 cup of oxyclean (store brand) and all our clothes stay nice and bright. I do pour 1 cup of vinegar on top of the teenage boy clothes and was those separate from the little girl clothes. The vinegar helps strip their body oils from the clothing. I also do this for my husband’s PT uniforms. (army physical training)

  26. Grating the bar of soap really made my hands hurt (I have fibromyalgia). I read somewhere to place the Fels-Naptha Soap in the microwave for 1 minute. The bar will “meringue” and soften (it will be warm). I then cut the bar into small chunks, and whizz it in my food processor with a cup of Borax (pulsing) until it is a very fine powder. I usually do 2 or 3 bars to save time (and so I don’t have to clean my food processor again). In about a half an hour I have a huge amount of laundry detergent that lasts me quite a while.

  27. I love this even if someone didn’t think it was such a big cost reduction to their bill, I love knowing that I now have the knowlege to make my own, things are getting so expensive and I have been trying to do as much homemade as possible, such as canning and homemade biscuit mix etc. Thank you so much, love the dry and the liquid. I will be mixing this weekend.

  28. I love this Idea of making my own laundry detergent. Even if someone doesn’t think this is such a big savings a year the thought that I can make my own is amazing. I am so glad I found this post. I have been trying to do as much as possible to make things on my own with the way prices are today, I’ve been doing more canning, making my own biscuit mix, etc. So thank you very much for this, I will be making this, this weekend. Love the powder and the liquid recipes. Will prob do the powder first.

    • I just recently saw in in WalMart (which was a first for me). If you can’t find it there, Amazon sells it as do some of the smaller local chains of supermarkets.

  29. How much should I use per load? I have a large capacity washer.
    Love your blog!!! We “planned” our first two daughters, and were “surprised” with the second two. Love our life!

  30. I was wondering do you know how that borax is for people with sentivty skin? I haven’t used it before because I didn’t know if it would bother my skin and my kids skin

  31. Hi Amy ,
    I make my own laundry detergent, it is the same recipe as the Duggars. Didn’t know that they made their own until tonight..
    Anyway I wanted to tell you how to make washing soda instead of buying it.
    Go to a SAMs wholesale club and buy the large bag of baking soda. Empty the soda on a baking tray and bake at 250 degrees till the b soda looks like baking powder. That’s it you have washing soda at a price of 7.00 and you can make much more detergent with this tha a box of washing soda purchased at Walmart or other store.
    The baking of the soda causes a chemical reaction in the product with makes it washing soda!! I was so stoaked when I found tis on the Internet.
    I also use Zote bar soap instead of the felsnaphta . It has 5 ingredients its made in Mexico cost about 90 cents a bar I find its less toxic because its more natural. Felsnaphta has over 17 chemicals in the bar.
    Let me know if you have any questions or need help finding the soap.
    Nina Reno