Homemade Laundry Detergent

Many months ago, during some afternoon blog-hopping, I happened upon a recipe for homemade laundry detergent.  Now, I’m all about homemade food, but laundry detergent?  That was a new one to this frugal-minded mama.

Feeling adventurous, and inspired by the pennies-per-load cost, I added the few ingredients to my grocery list.

You know if you keep doing the same thing in the same way you’ll continue to get the same results, right?  I couldn’t find Arm & Hammer Washing Soda.  Could not. Anywhere! (in the same places that I kept looking over and over)  Guess what happened when I glanced at the other end of the detergent aisle in the store?  The end that I had not bothered with for six months because I just knew where that washing soda should be located?

Uh-huh.  I’ve got my soda.  And my stubbornness is still intact, minus my pride.

Today, with the help of my Twitter friends and a Swagbucks search or two, (spurred on by the empty bottle of All in the basement) I made my first batch of laundry detergent!  Here’s what I did:

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent (done mostly like Nissa, thanks!)

1. Grate Fels-Naptha bar. I cut it into chunks (very easy to cut – almost shredded) and then pulsed it in my food chopper.

2. Melt Fels-Naptha in 1 quart hot water. When I saw how powdery my bar soap had become with the food chopper, I almost decided to just make powdered laundry detergent. Maybe next time.

3. Add Borax, Oxi-Clean, and Washing soda. Combine. This gets very frothy!

4. Pour into a 5 gallon bucket. Add 2 1/2 gallons water.  Stir.  (I didn’t have a 5 gallon bucket.  I found two different ice cream-size buckets and am just using those with less water.)

** As it sits, soap gets very lumpy and gel-like.  I’ve been told that this is exactly how it’s supposed to look.

5.  For each load, measure out 1/4 to 1/2 cup of detergent. I’m shooting for 1/4 cup since mine is more concentrated, with less water.

First impressions:

  • Super easy to make.
  • Smells so… clean, I guess.  That’s a good thing!
  • The gel will have to be stirred each time I want to use it.  Seems like a hassle to me.  I like easy, and I’m thinking it would be easier to just combine the soap ingredients into a dry laundry powder and skip the water.  Donielle does it that way and then uses 2 Tbsp. powder for each load.
  • I’ve only washed sheets in this concoction so far.  Can’t wait to see what it does with my kids’ play clothes!
  • I’ve not done my own cost analysis yet, but Phoebe says it’s about a penny per load!

So, tell me.  Do you make your own laundry detergent?  Am I doing it right?  What do you think of it?  Will I like the liquid?  Should I try powdered?  I’m so curious!

Visit Life as Mom for more frugal tips and tricks, and Homemaker Barbi for more Family Friday.

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Comments

  1. Wow! I can’t wait to try your new recipe! Mine doesn’t look near as pretty! LoL Can laundry detg look pretty!?

  2. Cassondra says:

    Hi Amy!
    It sounds like you got it right. I’ve been making my own for over a year now and yes, I do have to stir it each time. It’s worth it though. I have also done the powder and it works just as well.

    Blessings,
    Cassondra

  3. Hmm. I’ve thought about making my own, but I guess I’ve been a little worried that my dishes (food processor, cooking pot) will taste like soap afterwards and I won’t be able to get the soap out, LOL! (In my mind it would have to be rinsed and rinsed and rinsed…) How was your cleanup experience? Maybe I’ll have to get my courage up to try this.

    • donna sylvester says:

      The cleanup is as easy as pie. and the end result is worth it. I take in laundry as a side job and boy it really has helped earn me extra money. My husband is a welder and it works really well on his clothes. I also use the same pan for soups as I do to make the detergent with no residual soap. I just wash it as soon as I am done. Hope this helps!

  4. I like powdered; I don’t have to deal with big jugs of liquids. It’s easier for me to make up small dry batches.

    I like to use Dr. Bronner’s castile bar soap instead of Fels-Naptha.

    Good job! :)
    Blessings,
    Michele

  5. I just put mine in an old liquid detergent bottle and shake it before each use! Much easier than stirring. And I keep the rest of my batch stored in other containers to just refill the primary container.

    • Lisa Hanson says:

      I also reused the old laundry containers. Tried liquid soap with dawn and it workes great. Only sugestion that helped me is to boil all water used. Towards the end of the last bottle it had a musty smell. (After HE-machine was cleaned.) Boiled water in next batch and let 2 gallons cool and it worked with out with freash smell to the end. Have noticed most stains come out better using warm or hot water. This is our 2nd year on home made laundry soap with a family of 9 and a daycare. Best decision ever!

  6. I debated between posting on my semi-homemade powdered version and line drying for Frugal Friday tomorrow. Since it was such a beautiful day to line dry, that won out! Maybe I’ll do my detergent method next week. Let us know how you like it after washing for a while!

  7. I have never made my own, but how about pouring it into your old laundry bottle, which would make it easy to shake up.

  8. Oh wow…I remember making laundry soap with my Grandma. She had to stir hers every time, too. It brings back lots of memories.

    Nice going on making your own! :)

  9. I made my own just a few weeks ago. I wash everything in it. If you stir it once, it should stay in the mixed up consistency, mine does. My proportions are just a bit differenct from yours, but very close. It also did not really froth up when I cooked it either, maybe that was the difference, My recipe uses 1/3 bar of the soap per batch. the recipe I used I got from http://grocerycartchallenge.blogspot.com/2008/10/homemade-laundry-soap-wfmw.html

    Isn’t it great when we realize that we can make something for pennies, rather than spend a fortune!! What a blessing!

  10. Thank you for this. I am gonna put making my own on my list :) I hope it turns out okay! And so much cheaper and I would say family safe. There are a lot of detergents out there that have a lot of “stuff” in it.

  11. I use basically the same recipe and I’ve been using it since November. I even got a new front loader in February so now I just use less detergent. It’s soooo much cheaper and our clothes come a very clean. The only thing I would say about using dry is that the borax and soda can be hard on fabric if it is put directly on it so make sure to put it in the washer first and fill will water part way before adding your clothes.

    I’ve also noticed that you don’t really have to mix it every time you use it, just give a really good mixing after it gels up the first night and it should last a while. Hope that helps.

  12. Yes, I absolute make my own laundry soap. I use the same ingredients you use with a few changes. I have not used Oxi Clean (although I know some that do). I use 1 cup of Borax and 2 cups of Washing Soda because I found it worked better. I drop several drops of lavender oil in mine to make it smell better, otherwise it doesn’t really have much of a smell.

    I do not stir mine every time. I used to just scoop it out of a 5 gallon bucket, but now I take a plastic coffee can and scoop some out and keep the rest in the 5 gallon bucket. I get the soap from the coffee can so sometimes I will shake that up.

    I use this and then I pour vinegar into the fabric softener dispenser and this is all I do.

    I have found that my kitchen and cleaning towels weren’t smelling the best so I throw in extra Borax when I am washing those.

    Otherwise, I use this everyday and have for almost a year and it is easy and wonderful – just my opinion. I have a homemade fabric softener posted on my “DIY” section of my blog. My stepmom uses this and loves it, but again, I just use vinegar.

    I think you will like it. I find it much better to be able to make your own rather than running to the store!

  13. Hmmm, never thought abt this one….HMMMM

  14. I make my own laundry soap also but I make my own soap from lye first. I often use my “oops” bars for the laundry. It often has many different ingredients (as all natural as I can get). I also do a batch with lard and lye just for laundry with almost no super fat percent. I shred the bars with an electric grinder/shredder that is about 35 years old. It make neat little curls– picture moz. cheese! I fill a pan 2/3 full, add water bring to a boil and dump in washing soda and sometimes borax. Whatever I have on hand. I pour the whole thing into my lard buckets that I save from soap making. It cools in my basement and turns to a jell or paste. Usually an old ice cream scoop is just right to scoop and measure the soap. I also use the shreds for dish washing. Soft water helps. I use my bars of soap for everything, face, hair and body. No more itchy skin.

  15. Oh, and if you start to miss that nice detergent smell…

    These are what I use: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=23967907&ref=null :)

    Blessings,
    Michele

  16. Wow, glad you had good luck with making a super cheap homemade detergent. I have a front load washer and it is so tempermental with different soaps. I finally found good luck with HE soap.

    :)

  17. I make powdered laundry detergent; it was my Frugal Friday post, a few weeks ago, in fact. I use Octagon bar soap, which costs less in my store than Fels Naptha. I’ve read that you can use any bar soap, except for “beauty bars” with lotion. I keep saving slivers of soap, so someday I can try making detergent with the slivers of soap that are too small to use.

  18. I have never tried making detergent, but have thought about it often.
    Thanks for sharing!
    ~Liz

  19. Catherine says:

    Hi Amy – this is my first comment, but I’ve been lurking for a while. :)

    I used the recipe from the Duggar book, but couldn’t find Fels Naptha soap in my store, so used Ivory instead, but it really didn’t do as well as I hoped. Thanks for the Amazon link to the Fels Naptha – I’m going to order some and try this recipe. Another question for everyone – does anyone use a recipe like this and also wash cloth diapers ? I wouldn’t use it on the dipes because of the soap, but wondering if the residue would linger in the washtub and affect other diapers.

  20. I have been making my own soap for a while and appreciate all of the comments here! I do a dry version–cooking liquid seems to much work for me, but I love the idea of reusing a Tide container and just shaking it.

    I do miss the fragrance, and am going to look into some of the ideas mentioned here. Thanks!

  21. I made one batch of the liquid. It lasted a long time. The next time I was in a hurry so I just did the powder and it is so much easier for me. My laundry room isn’t very big so having a 5 gal bucket in there was just in the way. I now have a large dollar store plastic canister that sits on my dryer with the powder detergent. My family never noticed that I switched. It’s easy, cheap and lasts a long time. I make up enough to last 6 months. As far as the person that was concerned about using her food processor…I just throw it in the dishwasher and it’s fine.

  22. I love my homemade detergent. I personally prefer the liquid, as somehow with the cost breakdown it ends up being cheaper. I’ve never used OxyClean in mine, either.

    My recipe is a bit different from yours as well. I store mine in a small white trash can that I had around (I’m wanting to say that it is an 8 gallon size). I use a small plastic canister to store it in next to the washing mashine and an old ½ c measuring cup to “dish” it out. If it needs stirred up, I just swish around the measuring cup.

    Also, I just recently found the Fels Naptha soap around me. Before that I was just using a a regular ol’ bar of soap. As long as it isn’t a beauty bar, it should set us just as good. I really haven’t noticed much difference with the Fels Naptha–and as a side note, it is higher in price.

    So glad you made your own–hope you continue to like it. :)

  23. I started making my own laundry detergent for several months now and there is no turning back! I love it and I think you will, too. he recipe I use cleans so well, is super easy and is amazingly frugal. Here is a link to my blog post.
    http://naturalhomemaking.blogspot.com/2009/03/laundry-soap.html
    I use Oxi-Clean only for my whites and I use homemade woolen dryer balls (I will post next week). I also use vinegar as softener.

  24. MichelleH says:

    I started making our laundry soap when Baby #3 arrived. It’s cheaper than regular soap and it’s a LOT cheaper than baby laundry soap — and works just as well. I thought I would miss the scent, but I like the ‘clean’ smell.

    I don’t use OxiClean in mine and use 1/2 bar of Castille soap ($1/bar), but other than it’s the same recipe. I used to pour it into old detergent bottles and give them a shake before pouring. Now I just leave the soap in the stock pot I cook it in. It sits on the dryer and I use an old ladle to dip into the washer. It doesn’t seem to get lumpy. Maybe it’s the heat of the dryer every day that keeps it from solidifying?

  25. I’ve thought about this, but I’m just not sure yet!!! Is washing soda different than baking soda? And do you use store-bought oxy? Or do you have a recipe for that?

  26. I have been making my own laundry soap for about 6 months now – I love it!

    I make the powdered kind – 2 cups borax, 2 cups washing soda, and (1) 5 oz bar of Dr Bronner’s lavendar soap. It smells heavenly! I use 2-3 TBSP per load so it lasts a long time.

    I also use vinegar as fabric softener. I had a lot of trouble with fabric softener when I was pregnant (made me even more sick than I already was, and I was nauseous the entire pregnancy both times!) so we avoid all fabric softeners now. The vinegar is nice, but it doesn’t seem to get rid of static in the winter. I have heard you can wad up tin foil into a ball and stick it in the dryer – it’s supposed to help with the static. I need to try that!

  27. I’ve wanted to try making my own for awhile but still haven’t been able to locate washing soda on any store down here. I guess I should look in different places in the aisles. ;-)

    I am thinking that I would prefer the powdered just because of space although the idea of keeping the liquid in an old detergent bottle is a good idea too.

  28. Juliana E. says:

    I have been making my own detergent for about 6 months and really I can’t tell any difference. My recipe is the same, except for the oxyclean. I am going to start adding that to mine. I do use the old bottles from detergent and shake it before pouring and that has taken care of the stirring issue for me.

  29. It’s great to read this post, and here your experiences, Amy, because I’ve been planning on trying this. I’m pretty much using up my stockpile of laundry detergent before I go out and buy the ingredients!

    It’s very helpful to hear everyone’s suggestions. I think I will start with the powdered detergent if it works just as well.

    I haven’t been able to find washing soda yet either, but maybe it’s just under my nose as well!

  30. first of all great name! lol

    I’ve been making my own since January.. the arm n’hammer washing soda here is at walmart in the laundry section… I add calgon softener to mine b/c I’ve got hard water, but you said you only use 1 5 gallon, I do 2 5 gallons (so more water).. I’m not sure if it makes a difference or not if you’re using it more concentrated..
    i love the homemade over the store bought though.. works better out here! i figured it works out to basically $1/month for laundry soap. (and i’ve got 6 people here, so lots of laundry!!)

  31. Sherry says:

    This is a great idea. I have thought about trying to make my own detergent, but I have a front loading washer. Does anyone else have any experience with this? I guess I’m concerned that the soap won’t dissolve with the tiny amount of water that my machine uses. I currently use store bought liquid detergent and double rinse. My machine won’t let me put the detergent in first.

  32. JeannaMO says:

    I use the homemade stuff as well. Works great for me! I also have homemade lye soap on hand (a batch that we did’t care for the smell of) and that works great – doesn’t seem to separate as badly. Regarding softener, I add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar (any other will stain your clothes) and about 4 drops of essential oils (someone gave me some camomile EO) and that leaves the clothes smelling wonderful (and not so much like an Easter egg from the vinegar-ha!). I just use old detergent bottles and give a shake before using. Also, I add a little extra borax or washing soda if I’m doing really dirty clothes or whites. Also, love using the clothes line – cut my electric bill in half by ceasing to use the dryer! wow!

  33. Carolyn Higdon says:

    I made the liquid laundry detergent about 4 months ago and love it! It cleans really well and my clothes smell clean. I made the dry laundry detergent next and used it in my HE front load washer with HOT water and there was alittle grit in the bottom of the laundry despensor. So, I think I will go back to the liquid.

  34. That’s so funny! I just did a post on this. I prefer the powdered detergent for the same reason. I just like that I don’t have to worry about the extra steps. It works just as well as the liquid without the extra work and without wasting the water.

    I have a whole list of homemade laundry care recipes over here if you want to check them out.

    http://savingsmakecents.blogspot.com/2009/05/lgsg-homemade-laundry-care.html

    Beulah

  35. Carolyn Higdon says:

    I’m using a HE Front Load Washer so it doesn’t use very much water. I think that’s why the dry detergent didn’t dissolve all of the way. I also used HOT water. I have to admit though the dry is easier to make and uses less space. If I had the top load washer I would definitely use the dry.

  36. I, too, have begun to use homemade laundry soap.
    I use it powdered, and I don’t add the OxiClean. I like that idea and will try it with my next batch! Here’s a link to my fledgling site where I discuss my laundry soap and homemade fabric softener.

    http://www.mainelymom.com/2009/05/22/begun-green-homemaking-journey-homemade-laundry-soap/

  37. Victoria says:

    Instead of tin foil try a tennis ball in the dryer in place of fabric softener… And for a little extra add a few drops of essential oils to the ball…. Just a thought!!

  38. Victoria says:

    Your welcome.. I’ve been working on homemade cleaning products for a while now and that is one of the suggestions there are others for “fabric softener” another is homemade sachets full of your favorite smells.. However they typically only last about 10 loads or so.. But if any one wants the recipes for the lavender or lemon sachets email me and i will forward it to you.. Victoria dvtchambers@yahoo.com

  39. hollyjcaj says:

    I’ve made my second batch and love it. I’ve given several samples to friends (this has also been a great way to recycle my coffee creamer bottle besides putting them into the recycle bin) and they love it too. I’ve noticed that with the different recipes for liquid and powdered soap, that the powdered recipes are about double the cost per load. I assume that’s because the powdered needs to dissolve first where as the liquid doesn’t need to. For some the cost difference isn’t a big deal. For others it is depending on how tight your budget is and how much laundry you need to do. However, either way the cost per load is still hands down better than store bought. So, try both. See what works better for your home. Your budget, clothes, and land fills will thank you. Happy Washing to all.

  40. I have been feeling rather guilty about all of the plastic containers I throw away and where they might all end up. This recipee will save a lot of packaging as well as $$. I am going to give it a try :) Thank you!

  41. Yay! Doesn’t it feel good make your own? I make my own with my castile soap, which I also make myself. I usually grate, but I love how you use the food processor. Great blog!

  42. Jennifer says:

    I found my boxes of borax and washing soda at Kroger. It was on the top shelf, so I passed by it twice.
    I have been making the liquid detergent for a little over a year now. I love it!!
    If the clothes are extra dirty/sweaty, I put in an extra scoop of the detergent. I also add Oxi Clean to my husband’s work clothes.

  43. Just made my first batch…the recipe I used was

    4 c borax
    4 c washing soda
    4 c baking soda
    2 bars Ivory soap, grated

    Use apprx 1/8 c per load

    Store in an airtight container. This should last me a long time! I also found my ingredients at Kroger, near the Clorox bleach section.

  44. When I added the oxi clean to the pot it foamed up all over my stove top! Thankfully I have a flat top stove so it was pretty easy to salvage what went all over the place and clean it up. So I was still able to make it. But I’m wondering if anyone else who uses the oxi clean has had this problem and if there is a hint to make it so it doesn’t happen next time. Thanks for the recipe!

  45. I add 15 drops of essential oil (diluted in almond oil first) I also make my own dryer sheets and softner and dishwashing detergent. Directions below:

    For softener: 1 cup soda 1 cup water in a huge bucket (take outside or put in tub) to the bucket add 1 cup white vinegar stir and let it sit. to that add 10-20 drops essential oil that has been diluted first in almond oil. Pour into a downey ball or add to your fabric softener spot. THEN…While you are washing your clothes, soak an infant wash rag in the fabric softener solution. lightly squeeze out the solution (don’t squeeze dry). Toss in with your clothes in the dryer..along with a softball sized balled up aluminum foil(prevents static). Done! Don’t worry, nothing smells like vinegar everything is soft and clean.

    My favorite oils are lemongrass, vanilla, mint and lavender. You can use the vanilla without diluting, if you just grab the vanilla extract for cooking.

    FOR dishwashing detergent. Place 1 tablespoon Borax in each detergent spot. Place 1 tablespoon baking/washing soda in each detergent spot. Finally add 1 tablespoon LEMON juice into each detergent spot. IT WILL foam up for a second. Also add the lemon juice in the rinse aid location (not the borax or soda). Also for a little disenfecting, add one drop of teatree oil, in either of the detergent spots. Perfect! my glasses are sparkling and I have very hard country water. My septic is saved from all the goop in commercial soaps.

  46. does the liquid get your clothes pretty clean- i tried a powdered recipe and my clothes came out bad. i had not tried it with the oxi clean though. the liquid with the oxi clean mixed together, your clothes come out good? sue

    • @sue, I’ve tried it both powdered and liquid. Like the liquid much more! The powdered version doesn’t get my clothes clean, either, even with oxi clean.

  47. i want to try your recipe for the liquid with the oxi clean. i am trying to save money some how. i know i can get all the items to make the liquid. sue

  48. To save money, use baking soda instead of the oxi. It does the same thing, plus offers softeness to your clothes. I made the powdered version and it was fabulous. I use the ZOT soap. It is pretty pink and smells fresh. Lovely recipe.

  49. I’ve been making my own laundry detergent for about 3 years now. I LOVE it and have saved so much money for my family. My husband came up with a brilliant idea to help stir the detergent the day after you make it. My detergent is always quite gelatinous the day after I make it, so my husband bought me my own dry wall mud mixer/paint mixer attachment for a drill. It looks like a long hand mixer beater except it attaches to a cordless drill. I stick that into my 5 gallon bucket and stir away until all the lumps are mixed well! I usually stir my detergent for a good 5 to 10 minutes, but then I never have to stir my detergent again after that first mixing time.

  50. My husband has been making ours for over a year. It cleans just as well, I just miss the smell… it’s not a much of a smell, which is what he likes… well that and that it costs almost nothing to wash. We have even made the homemade fabric softner……. again, I miss the smell, so I buy gain fabric softner or downy.

  51. I use this concoction my self for the last year. I squeeze with my hands the soap and make sure there is no large clumps I squeeze till it is done, I have some spare time. I find that the fels-naphtha degreaser bar bleaches out my colored clothing, all colors and here a speck, there a speck or blob. I use the fels-naphtha concoction just for whites and have a second batch for colors. I love the fels-naphtha because it gets out all stains on white.

  52. I have the same recipe. But I have not used a whole bar of soap. I have always only used 1/3 bar.
    Then 1/2 cup of everything else. And it has always worked great. Still get a few clumbs but using a whole bar of the fells napa seems very harsh to me.

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