Homemade Laundry Detergent

For years I had made my own laundry detergent and then when we were in the process of moving, I ran out and bought detergent.  Then we had the front load and I didn’t think I could use my homemade powder in it but I was talking to friend a couple of months ago and she was telling me that she has used the homemade powder in her front load and has never had any problems. I’m not telling you it’s ok . . use your own judgment and if you ruin your washer, don’t blame me!  ;)

Some mix 2 Tablespoons of powder with hot water, stir it up and pour it into the dispenser.  Some are able to put powder in the dispenser.  I put the powder right in with the clothes.

There are all kinds of recipes out there, including some that are liquid and some that are powder and I’ve tried several of them but I always go back to the basic recipe which is:

  • 2 parts grated soap (Fels Naptha, Castille, Zote, Ivory – just your basic bar of soap) (2 bars)
  • 1 part washing soda (not baking soda) (4 cups)
  • 1 part Borax (4 cups)

If the soap is real dry and powdery, there’s a lot of dust.  Also, the Borax is dusty.  I recommend doing this outside and using a dusk mask of some kind.

Soap Ingredients

Basically, mix it all up and use about 2 Tablespoons per load.  There are more detailed instructions, tips  and pictures below

Let’s talk about a few things.

The cost of ingredients – The washing soda was $3.45.  I used probably 2/3 of the box.  The borax was $3.38 and there’s enough in that box for two batches.  The Fels Naptha was .97 and I used two bars so the total cost for my batch of soap was less than $6.

How much does it cost per load?  I’m not sure!  How’s that for informative?  I’ve never measured and probably will not.  While searching for information, I came across a blog where a lady said she measured and she got 160 loads from her batch, making it about .0375¢ per load.  I found another lady who had counted her loads and said it cost a little less than .04¢ per load.  I found one popular brand of liquid that was about $16 for 24 loads and that comes to about 67¢ per load.  A less expensive brand was $8.29 for a 32 load bottle and that comes to about 30¢ per load. I’m very happy with anything in the .04¢ range.

How well does it clean?  I find that it cleans just fine. We don’t usually have filthy clothes.  Some folks add a cup of Oxi Clean to the mix.  We so rarely need Oxi Clean that I keep a container of it and add it to the wash only when needed and I can’t remember the last time it was needed.

Does the laundry smell?  There is no “fresh spring” scent or lavender scent in this recipe.  Some folks add Downy® Unstopables™ or the Purex® Crystals.  I do not add either of those to the mix because Vince probably doesn’t want his hunting clothes smelling like “Shimmer” or “Lush” whereas . . I love for our sheets and towels to smell like “Shimmer”.  Whatever that scent is, I love it.

Downy Unstopables

When grating the soap, a very dry bar of soap grates into a finer powder.  A moist bar of soap looks more like grated cheddar.  I had two bars – one that was new from Wal-Mart and one that had been bought from a hardware store and was probably older.  The new bar grated into the cheese like shreds and one bar yielded 5 cups of grated soap.

Moist Grated Soap

The dry bar of soap grated into a powder and yielded a little over 2 cups of grated soap.  That’s a huge difference.

Dry Bar of Soap Grated

Tip:  When making the detergent, open the bars of soap, leave them in a dry location for several days to dry out some.

Some folks put the whole mixture into a blender or food processor, a few cups at a time, to get it real “powdery”.  I don’t and it works just fine.  I’m all about simple and easy and the least possible mess.

The larger container will be stored in the cabinet and the smaller container will be kept on the shelf by the washing machine.

Measuring Spoon

I keep a measuring spoon set on a Command hook on the side of the washer and I always know where it is.

Towel on Dryer

Speaking of Command hooks, I have one on the dryer, on which I keep a dish towel.  Each time I empty the washer, I wipe that rubber gasket to keep it from developing an odor.  So far, by doing that and leaving the door open, I’ve had no problems with an odor from the front load.

Comments

  1. 1

    Cindy Stowe says

    Thanks Judy! A GF of mine uses the same recipe & when she told me about it, I had just purchased liquid commercial soap. When it runs out, I’m switching!!

  2. 2

    says

    I am going to give this a try. I do use vinegar in the rinse as a fabric softener and that works great with no odor left in the clothes (it’s an old Boy Scout thing for sending kids to camp with no fragrance left in the clothes to attract mosquitos or other pests). Good for hunting clothes, too! Thanks!

  3. 3

    SarahB says

    I have been using homemade for about 4 years now and I like the liquid the best. About the same recipe (2 bars + 2 cups each of the others + 1 cup oxyclean) only you mix it with boiling water (3 gallons total) to disolve and let it sit to gel for 24-48 hours. It makes about 12 quarts of concentrated detergent (I love the look of the mason jars in my laundry room!). Then you pour the concentrate into a used laundry detergent dispenser, add water to fill and use it just like the name brand. So, one quart of concentrate makes about 2.3 quarts of “ready-to-use”, which is roughly 20 loads of laundry. I think we average about 240 loads per batch of homemade detergent!!

  4. 4

    says

    That’s the same recipe we used in Relief Society when all of us got together to make it. Some made the liquid kind, too. I only do two loads of wash a week, so either way, it’s not too expensive, and it’s going to last me a long time, no matter what I buy or make. =)

  5. 5

    Helen Koenig1 says

    Judy – thank you! I think I know what I will be using once my current laundry detergent runs out!!! I”m tired of spending $15 for a box of detergent when I could make it for so little and still get equivalent cleaning power!

  6. 6

    says

    I need to make another batch (I make much smaller batches). I’m glad to know it doesn’t need to be further downsized in the blender (especially since my 40 year old Osterizer gave up half its speeds a week ago.) I’ve been adding some lavender essential oil for a more pleasing scent, but may omit that this time since it really doesn’t affect the laundry anyway. It’s also helpful to know how different the yield of a new bar is from an old bar. I think the bars I’ve purchased have been old when I bought them. I just keep an old measuring spoon in the detergent bottle, but might try the command strip too.
    Thanks for posting this just when I need to make a new batch.

  7. 7

    Katherine says

    My recipe calls for twice as much grated soap (1bar soap to 1 cup of washing soda and 1 cup Borax). I think I will try your recipe, as the grating the soap part seems to take me a while, and I get tired of it.

  8. 8

    Robin says

    I also use a powder recipe almost identical to that one and love it. My husband is a truck driver, and his work clothes get so yucky, and no trouble with it getting them clean. I also use vinegar instead of fabric softener as a previous commenter said. There is no vinegar smell when the clothes come out, and my towels seem so fresh and absorbent. I like to make a bunch of the laundry soap at one time and store it in air tight containers to keep for a while.

    P.S. I love your blog!!

    • 8.1

      Nancy says

      How much vinegar do you use for the rinse. my husband is a truck driver too. I make my own soap, only i use washing soda, borax and oxyclean and i have to run his through two cycles and an extra rinse to det the diesel smell out. if vinegar helped in the frist cycle that would really help.
      Thanks,
      Nancy

    • 8.2

      Nancy Alberts says

      How much vinegar do you use in the rinse. I make my own soap – washing soda, borax and oxy clean. My husband is a truck driver as well and I wash his clothes in 2 cycles and an extra rinse to get the diesel smell out. if vinegar would get it out in the first cycle that would be great.
      Thank you,
      Nancy

  9. 9

    reenie burke says

    i have been trying to use up my laundry soap, to make some of this, but every time i turn around husband has bought some more. glad you posted about just putting the soap in with the clothes in the front loader. i was thinking i was going to have to make the liquid, the powder seems so much easier.

  10. 10

    says

    I mixed up a batch of the dry laundry soap last month. I love how it cleans my clothes. I also use white vinegar instead of fabric softener in the final rinse.

  11. 11

    says

    I love it.. homemade soap.. and so happy to have choice of ‘liquid or powder..Sarah when you make the liquid you said about putting in a empty soap dispenser when you say
    add water to fill do you mean filling machine then adding the soap. I am definitely going to give this a try.

    ..

    • 11.1

      Helen Koenig1 says

      My take on what Sarah said was a tad bit different. I thought she was referring to a soap dispenser like a jug of All liquid soap – in which case after you have added the concentrated soap, you just add water to fill up the bottle (I would suggest using HOT water – “melts” the concentrated soap gloop a lot better!

      FWIW – I used to make my own starch too – would use Argo starch – maybe 2 tablespoons of that in a bowl, add 1 tablespoon COLD water and mix to break up and until a smooth paste, then SLOWLY add hot water, mixing all the while (I am thinking it is 1 cup). When that is added and mixed, then pour into some sort of spray bottle (if it is smooth you really don’t need to strain) and add HOT water until you have the desired amount. There are USUALLY directions on the side of the box for light, medium and heavy starch – I usually make medium to light starch – and turn that into the spray starch which I LOVE.

  12. 13

    says

    You are the Mother Earth!!! I love your blog…your ideas..and your recipes!!!! I have a front loader and I keep a box of baking soda inside when not washing…really helps with the odor thing as well as the wiping the gasket dry. Thanks for all the suggestions!

  13. 14

    Irene says

    I started making liquid laundry detergent a few months ago. I also have front loaders and I prefer the liquid in them. the recipe is very similar, the price phenomenal, and my clothes smell fresh (I don’t use any scents in mine).

    I started making my own Greek yogurt too….

  14. 15

    says

    I am still on the hunt for a good homemade laundry soap. my problem is our water. It’s awful and DH’s ranch clothes can get pretty nasty. The powder soap doesn’t clean well in this water, but I may have to give yours a try. I am picking up 7 boxes of Borax anyway today…might as well make it 8. :)

  15. 16

    Ruth C says

    Does anyone run into the problem of having white patches of ??? stuck to their clothes after washing? It shows up on the darks but is probably on the whites, too. It comes off in the dryer but I like to air dry if possible and it is hard to remove without the dryer. I associate it with homemade detergent which I’ve been using for a few years. I recently tried making my own dry detergent and it seems to be a bit worse. I wonder if it is the Borax.

    • 16.1

      Kathy says

      I believe it is the fels naptha or the soap. I had the problem so I started grating mine in a food processor. I also had the problem of the soap getting stuck in the tray in the dispenser because it wasn’t fine enough. Hope this helps.

  16. 17

    Darlene B says

    Does anyone know if this laundry detergent will work okay in the newer HE style washers? I don’t want to take a chance on ruining the machine, but I would sure like to use a more economical detergent!
    Ruth: I do have white residue on my dark clothes and I don’t use homemade detergent yet. It’s so annoying and I don’t know how to resolve that issue!

  17. 18

    lynne quinsland says

    i have used the liquid version of this for about a year now and i really like it. i think i am going to try the powder this time so i can have my LARGE canister (22 qts) back in use for kitchen staples. i had hesitated about bringing it back for kitchen use, but then i remembered that there would not be a strong soapy clean ocean scent left because there is no scent with this homemade stuff. i loved how the liquid worked , i just want to down size the storage.

    last time i made this (liquid) i premeasured all of the dry ingredients into a ziplock baggie. i figured since i was grating soap, i might as well just do it all. i mixed fels naphtha and zote. my recipe only called for one bar, so i grated both bars and split it. went ahead and made my liquid and stored the other shavings with the premeasured borax and soda. guess i only need to go mix them all together now for the powder! whoop whoop! how’s that for easy peasy lemon squeezey!? LOL

  18. 19

    Mary Jo says

    I like the idea of the hook on the side of the washer for the towel to dry out your washer. I also pull out the detergent drawer and drain it well and dry out the inside of where the drawer goes. I only have to use the expensive washing machine cleaner about once every 3 or 4 months. There must be some sort of tubing that gets gunky with time and causes a sour odor if I don’t clean with the machine cleaner occassionaly.

  19. 20

    Kim Q says

    Don’t forget to pull open the detergent drawer after your load is finished, so that it can dry out inside. For kicks and giggles, pull the drawer out…if you’ve had your machine for a little while, you might notice a scummy coating along the “tracks” the drawer slides out on, and that coating could be growing mildew. Ask me how I know! Every so often, I scrub it as best as I can with a long handled dish brush, preferably before I run the cleaning cycle.

  20. 21

    Helen Koenig1 says

    A lot of folks have discussed the “scummy” residue or a sour smell – I wonder if any of you all have tried using vinegar to counteract this?
    Vinegar will kill the germs that make that smell. It also will make the soap scum (which is the scummy mess you find in the machine AND on your clothes) vanish. AND it will kill the stinky odor (sour odor) that your machine has (germs again!)
    Your clothes should be brighter and smelling nice (no VINEGARY smell!)

  21. 22

    says

    I made a triple batch of this with the Oxi Clean in the late summer. Still using it. Love it. And best yet – teen age daughters like it too!

  22. 23

    says

    I been using this in my front loader for over a year now and never had any problems yet. I also stick my bar soap in my microwave for a short amount of time. The soap kind bubble up but it make it easier and quicker to grate. I keep an eye on it while in the microwave and it doesn’t seem to have affected the microwave any. My mother puts her soap in an old blender to mash up her soap this seems to work fine too.

  23. 24

    Debra says

    Thanks for the info. went right to the hardware store to purchase the supplies for the detergent. Hubby thought I was wacky but when I broke it down in dollars and cents…He got it! For $6.93, made 3 gallons of concentrate. I already use vinegar in the wash and get that at Sam’s. Stores near me charge nearly $2 for a large jug of vinegar so when I go to Sam’s, about 4 times a year, I stock up on it. Ladies, you are the Best!

  24. 25

    Brandy M. says

    I’m working on a huge Costco container of soap right now, but I am going to try this. I remember you posting about it once before and I was intrigued. Now that I’m working on ways to save some pennies, this is a must-try! Thank you for sharing!

    BLM :)

  25. 26

    says

    I got the ingredients for this and the handcream when I went to the grocery store this morning. SO looking forward to trying it (and maybe sharing since I’m by myself and this would probably last YEARS!! HA). Thanks Judy! Oh yeah, do you also recommend doing the grating outside or just the mixing?

  26. 27

    Kat says

    I cant wait to try this i started coupon now this..when and where do i placr vinegar!!!!! Ive front loader

  27. 28

    AngieG9 says

    Looking forward to making this detergent. I made a huge amount of fabric softener yesterday using a bottle of hair conditioner, vinegar, and water, some lavendar scenten hand wash, the hand cream, and now today I will make this soap, using the soaps I have found in hotels I’ve stayed in over he years. I always take my own soap with me, but since I am paying for that soap anyway I pack it in my bag to bring home with me. I have been saving it for something someday, and now the day is here. Will have to run over to the hardware store for borax, but that’s no problem. I have used vinegar and washing soda for years and love it.

  28. 29

    Brian says

    My take is a little different. I’m a couponer, so I can almost always get one of the store brands very inexpensively. I use half of the “recommended” amount per load, let the clothes agitate for about a minute and then I stop the cycle, allowing the clothes to soak while I do other things – how long depends on how dirty the clothes are (ours are usually pretty lightly soiled), and when my chores happen to take me past the washing machine. Somewhere around 30 minutes, usually, but sometimes longer. It doesn’t matter, really.

    I save a lot between the coupons and cutting down the amount of soap I use, and our clothes come out great, even the whites.

    I focus my money-saving time in the kitchen, where I find that it has a better rate of return.

    And the bonus is that we do get the benefit of those nicely scented sheets and towels.