Homemade Laundry Detergent

We’ve become conditioned to believe that we have to buy everything we need. That’s not very frugal, now is it? And not very sustainable. In reality, it wasn’t that long ago people made everything they needed. They cooked from scratch. They whipped up a batter from scratch for waffles and pancakes. They made their own bread (I just did last week). And they sewed their own clothes, napkins, curtains, etc. (I’m working on this one.)

So as part of our experiment, I’ve started making my own laundry detergent.

Here’s the recipe that I used:

½ bar of Ivory or Fels Naptha soap, shaved (you can use a cheese grater; I used Ivory this time, but I’ll try Fels Naptha next time)
¼ cup Borax (20 Mule Team)
¼ cup Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer-DO NOT use Baking Soda. Be sure you get the right thing.)
4 qts. of water (1 gallon; 4 cups=1 qt)

Optional: 5-10 drops of essential oil per gallon for adding a scent. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

Boil the water in a large pot. Stir in the soap shavings and stir until all the shavings are melted. Stir in Borax and Washing Soda until dissolved. Allow to come back to room temperature. It will become milky white as it cools. Store it in a plastic container with a lid. If you don’t use it frequently, this can separate so you might need to stir it once and awhile. (But, really?!? WHO isn’t doing laundry like a mad woman, on a regular basis?!?)

This makes 1 gallon of detergent. I have a front-load washer and used about 1/4 cup for each laundry load. Use less if you have a top load washer.

There are a lot of recipes available online. Other liquid recipes like this one. And even some dry powder recipes.

The savings here is pretty phenomenal. If you buy one family size bottle of clothes detergent, you will most likely pay about $13.00.  The cost for these ingredients will also be around $13.00. But the difference is one of those store-bought detergents bottles will wash approximately 32 loads. While these ingredients will wash well over 100 loads. Obviously, that’s a big difference. And of course, helpful to my frugal lifestyle! 🙂


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12 thoughts on “Homemade Laundry Detergent

  1. We started doing this a month or two ago, and have saved a ton. It lasts a long time and seems to wash the clothes just as well.

  2. I’ve been using homemade laundry soap for 5 or so years now. I love it! Happily, you can really use any bar of soap you like. We use Dial because it’s the one my DD doesn’t have allergic reactions to.

    For cleaning dirt, no worries! My Hubby is a welder, and it cleans his filthy clothes no problem. On loads that need a little extra oomph, I and a 1/4 cup of the washing soda-but that’s typically for his jeans. They get the dirtiest.

    I have also found, that whites stay brighter with the homemade, but, if they do start to dingy, boil some water with lemon juice in it-you need a pretty big pot for this!-and then add your whites. Let them cool down, rinse and dry. If you can line dry in the sun, so much the better! Line drying will help whites stay whiter too, and it makes the clothes smell so good! 🙂

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  5. I made this tonight and am blown away the only difference I made was I couldn’t first.ding washing soda so I used colorox 2 powder it was 2.50 and it works amazing!!!! Thank u for posting this u just saved me 100s

  6. I made this using fels naptha soap. It was very thick, a gel consistency. I added an extra quart of warm water after it cooled and it seems to be better. I think next time I will try 1/4 or 1/3 of the bar of this soap.

  7. if you’re looking for a more natural soap to use, try a bar of castille soap. i use the one with tto (comes in an orange wrapper), but they also have lavender, almond, eucalyptus, and hemp.

  8. I made this last night and once it cooled it turned really thick. (This is my first attempt) Did I do something wrong? And is there a way to fix it without having to do it over? Thanks!!

    • nope – you did it right! It does get thick sometimes. If you have a long spoon or spatula you can give it a brisk stir and it will break back down. But you really don’t have to, it still works great.

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