Is homemade laundry detergent really cheaper and does it really work?

Homemade Laundry Soap

Quick and easy homemade laundry soap recipe. Perfect for holiday gifts!
Quick and easy homemade laundry soap recipe. Perfect for holiday gifts! | Source

Making your own laundry detergent is not only quick, simple, and inexpensive; it is extremely rewarding and better for you and the environment.

Basic Homemade Powder Laundry Detergent Ingredients

There are many DIY Laundry Detergent Receips out there, with just slight variations. They include essential oils for scent or anti-bacterial properties. But the majority all start with the same base ingredients:

  • Borax
  • Washing Soda
  • Bar Soap (Fels Naptha)

All of these ingredients can be found at your local Walmart in the laundry detergent aisle.

Commercial Detergents Contain Harmful Chemicals

Phenols, sulfates, and petroleum distillates are harsh chemicals and irritants to the skin.
Phenols, sulfates, and petroleum distillates are harsh chemicals and irritants to the skin.

Commercial Laundry Detergent vs Homemade Laundry Detergent

Commercial laundry detergents like Tide, All, and Gain are full of harmful chemicals like sulfates, fragrances, phenols, and petroleum distillates which have been linked to cancer and lung disease.

Many of the fragrances in the detergents are also man-made and are very harsh for your skin.

Why would you want to wash your clothes with that? Your children's clothes with that?

Homemade detergents are made with mostly natural occurring minerals that are less harsh on the human skin and have been proven to be just as good, if not better at fighting stains and removing harsh odors.

What is Boric Acid?

Boric Acid is what happens when Borax reacts with another acid like sulfuric acid or hydrochloric acid.

That chemical reaction produces boric acid which has a pH of 5.0 or less. Borax has a pH of 9.2-9.3.

Borax is NOT the same as Boric Acid!

The internet is great for finding information, but it also can have false information and have it spread like wildfire.

One of the misnomers about Borax is that it is not safe or that it is the same as Boric Acid.

Borax and Boric Acid are NOT the same thing.

Borax (a.k.a. sodium tetraborate) is a boron mineral and salt that is mined from the soil. Borax is classified as a non-carcinogenic and a mild skin irritant (if used excessively). Baking soda will cause skin irritation if used excessively.

Borax is as toxic as table salt. It may be listed as a poison on the box but it is only toxic at high levels (i.e. 4500-5000mg/kg). Table salt at that level would harm you as well.

Borax is also non bio-accumulative, which means it does not easily penetrate the skin. So using it in laundry detergent every day it will not build up in your system.

Is Homemade Laundry Detergent Really Cheaper than Store Bought?

Many people ask if homemade laundry detergent is really cheaper than store bought. Here is the cost savings breakdown of three different commercial laundry detergents vs homemade laundry soap.

For this example, all products were purchased at my local Walmart in the Midwest.

Regular Store Bought Detergent

  • Tide Laundry Detergent (72 loads) $17.97
  • Gain Laundry Detergent (96 loads) $14.97
  • All Laundry Detergent (96 loads) $10.77

Calculation Tips

You do not need the entire box of borax and washing soda for the recipe, so you must calculate the cost per oz.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

  • 20 Mule Team Borax (76oz) $3.97
  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (55oz) $3.47
  • Fels Naptha (5.5oz) $0.97

To figure out the cost of the borax and washing soda, you need to calculate the price per oz.

  • Borax = $3.97 / 76oz = $0.05 per oz; $0.05 * 8oz = $0.40 per recipe
  • Washing Soda = $3.47 / 55 = $0.06 per oz; $0.06 * 8oz = $0.48 per recipe

Total Price of Homemade Laundry Detergent

  • $0.97 Fels Naptha
  • $0.40 Borax
  • $0.48 Washing Soda
  • $1.85 (28-32 oz) 56-64 loads

Cost Savings: Commercial Laundry Detergent vs Homemade Laundry Detergent

Detergent
Total Price
Price Per Load
Annual Savings Using Homemade
Tide
$17.97
$0.25
$91.52
Gain
$14.97
$0.16
$54.08
All
$10.77
$0.11
$33.28
Homemade
$1.85
$0.03
----
The average family of 4 does 8 loads of laundry a week or 416 loads a year.

Homemade Laundery Detergent Ingredients / Equipment

Equipment and ingredients needed to make homemade laundry detergent
Equipment and ingredients needed to make homemade laundry detergent | Source

Basic Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

This recipe is for powder laundry detergent. We find that it is quicker and easier to store than homemade liquid laundry detergent. Although, both recipes use the same ingredients.

Homemade Powder Laundy Detergent Recipe:

  • 1 Bar of Fels Naptha Soap (5.5 oz)
  • 1 Cup Borax (20 Mule Team)
  • 1 Cup Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

Makes between 28-32 oz of laundry detergent, depending on how finely you grate the bar soap.

To Use: 2 Tbsp of homemade powder laundry detergent for top-loading washing machines. Use 1 Tbsp for HE washing machines.

What do you need to make homemade laundry detergent?

A following is the list of ingredients and tools that are useful in making your own homemade powder laundry detergent. We have listed the brands that we use, but you can make your own substitutions.

Ingredients:

  • Borax - 20 Mule Team
  • Washing Soda - Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
  • Bar Soap - Fels Naptha

Tools:

  • Glass Measuring Cup
  • Heavy Duty Cheese Grater or Food Processor
  • Glass Mixing Bowl
  • Sturdy Funnel
  • Glass Container - Mason Jars or Ball Canning Jars

Note: would not recommend using a plastic container, as plastic has been known to leach chemicals into its contents.

Substitutions:

There are other brands of Borax and Washing Soda that you can substitute based on your personal preference.

  • Bar Soaps - Dove, Ivory, Dr. Bronner's
  • Basic Homemade Bar Soap - for a completely natural laundry detergent, substitute your own homemade bar soap. Recommend using a base soap recipe without scents and additives.

Optional Ingredients:

  • Baking Soda - some people add baking soda, but we have found that it doesn't add to the detergent
  • Essential Oils: lavender, tea tree oil, citrus - you can add several drops of essential oils for scent or for anti-bacterial properties


How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

Assemble all your ingredients and utensils in your kitchen or in a well-ventilated area.

Make your own laundry detergent

Use the grating blade of your food processor to grate the Fels Naptha bar soap
Use the grating blade of your food processor to grate the Fels Naptha bar soap | Source
For a finer powder, change to a pulverizing blade and run the bar soap through again until fine.
For a finer powder, change to a pulverizing blade and run the bar soap through again until fine. | Source

Step 1:

Grate one bar of Fels Naptha bar soap using a stainless steel cheese grater or the grating blade on your food processor.

I like the food processor because it is much easier and takes less time then the manual method.

Don't worry, the food processor cleans up quite easily in the dishwasher and is safe to use on food afterwards.

If you are concerned, you can always run it through the dishwasher twice as an extra precaution.

For my homemade laundry detergent, I prefer a finer grain of the bar soap instead of the grated chunks.

So I reprocess the grated soap again in the food processor using the pulverizing blade.

You do not have to do this step, the grated pieces of bar soap are just fine for the recipe.

1 cup each of borax and washing soda
1 cup each of borax and washing soda | Source
Mix ingredients thoroughly
Mix ingredients thoroughly | Source
DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent makes great gifts!
DIY Homemade Laundry Detergent makes great gifts! | Source

Step 2:

Measure out 1 cup each of the Borax and the washing soda.

Pour into the food processor with the grated Fels Naptha bar soap.

If you do not have a food processor, you can pour the ingredients into a large glass mixing bowl and use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients together.

Make sure the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

You want an even distribution of the grated soap, Borax, and washing soda.

Step 3:

Once the ingredients are thoroughly mixed use a funnel and pour the mixture into glass jars.

The wide mouth Ball canning jars work well. You can also use stainless steel containers.

You just want to make sure that the containers have airtight sealing lids to keep out moisture.

It is best to not use plastic containers, as they have been known to leach chemicals into their contents and you do not want to add any potential irritants to your laundry detergent.

Step 4:

USE!

Use 2 Tbsp of homemade laundry detergent for one load of laundry in a top-loading washer.

This DIY homemade laundry detergent recipe is safe for HE washing machines, you just reduce the portion by half. So use only 1 Tbsp of detergent for HE washing machines.

How many people use/make homemade laundry detergent?

Do you use or make homemade laundry detergent?

See results without voting

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21 comments

Dalila 23 months ago

The essential oil can be added when the 5 gllaon bucket is either at the half full stage or when you have the entire full 5 gllaon bucket filled. Either way, the key is getting it blended in with the other ingredients really well. My friend uses a paint stirrer that she attaches to her husband's drill to get it mixed. I have found that this is the best way also, as opposed to having to stir all 5 gllaons by hand.


Novel Treasure profile image

Novel Treasure 23 months ago from US Author

I love it. I have not switched back to store bought since I tried making it myself. It takes less than 5 minutes to do and the savings are tremendous.


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 23 months ago from Ontario, Canada

I have not tried making my own laundry detergent but am keen to do this now that I have your recipe. What a saving this would be, too.


Novel Treasure profile image

Novel Treasure 23 months ago from US Author

Thanks! I have not heard of using vinegar as a fabric softener but will definitely be trying it in the future.


Sabrina 23 months ago

Thanks for sharing about this soap-it sounds great! By the way, we don't use fabric softener for our clothes (b/c of skin sensitivities), but we do use white distilled vinegar. A 1/2 cup during the final rinse helps soften clothes, esp. for fire-retardant kid's jammies (supposedly, I don't know since we don't have that kind!). So I keep a big jug of vinegar by the washing machine!


Chinaimport profile image

Chinaimport 2 years ago from Guangzhou

Large scale manufacturing is expected to cost much lower than what an individual makes in her backyard. Keeping that in view, Tide should cost significantly less when compared with $1.85 home made powder. It seems big multinational do their research well to extract maximum out of one’s purse. The same Tide powder cost about $8.50 in India, still leaving a decent sum in their coffers after paying for all advertisements, distribution and other expenses.

While I may not actually get around to making washing powder at home, I would still remember how much it should cost. Thanks for sharing this hub.


seanorjohn profile image

seanorjohn 2 years ago

Very useful info.Hope I can track down all the ingredients. Voted up and useful.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

I like this. It is much easier then the last recipe that was published on HubPages. Thanks.


ARUN KANTI profile image

ARUN KANTI 2 years ago from KOLKATA

Very useful information. Thank you.


Madison Resare profile image

Madison Resare 2 years ago

I didn't know a lot of the facts you included in this article, like the difference between the Borax and Boric Acid. Very informative, I am going to save this information to try it at home sometime:)


Novel Treasure profile image

Novel Treasure 2 years ago from US Author

These same ingredients can be used for liquid detergent which makes much more. But it takes longer and isn't as convenient to store


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

This is awesome and I am going to give it a try. The ingredients I know are good for cleaning and better for the environment. And the savings are fantastic. Thanks for this very useful hub. Bookmarking and sharing. Voted up, useful and interesting.


Novel Treasure profile image

Novel Treasure 2 years ago from US Author

I was surprised at how simple it was :)


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 2 years ago from California Gold Country

Thank you-- I may have to try this. The savings are too good to pass up. (and I actually have the ingredients on hand.)


Novel Treasure profile image

Novel Treasure 2 years ago from US Author

Hi Examiner,

I'm enjoying the dialogue. It's always nice to meet hubbers who not only make comments but will engage in good conversation! What I have read, boric acid isn't a condensed form of borax, but a chemical reaction between borax and another acid, like sulfuric acid or hydrochloric acid. But i agree with you, many things can be harmful if used in the wrong dosage. Even table salt can be harmful if used in excess :) I have to admit, I've certainly become more label conscious now that I have children. It's a small step, but hopefully one that is on its way to making our family a more greener, self sustaining family :)


The Examiner-1 profile image

The Examiner-1 2 years ago

Hello Novel Treasure,

They can both be harmful in the wrong dosage or taken in the wrong way. When I am going to start a new product I research the ingredients that I am not familiar with. Boric acid is a condensed form of borax. Boric acid can be applied to minor cuts and burns. Very diluted it is used as an eye wash. I believe that it is safe to use as a laundry wash.

Kevin


Novel Treasure profile image

Novel Treasure 2 years ago from US Author

Hi Examiner,

That's awesome that you made the switch already. Wish i had sooner. There is some debate about whether or not boric acid is harmful or not. But I still think its better than the commercial storebought brands.


The Examiner-1 profile image

The Examiner-1 2 years ago

Novel Treasure

This was interesting to read and made me wonder about making this until I checked again on the ingredients on mine. I stopped using chemical laundry detergents quite a while ago and switched to a natural one by Green Works. The main ingredients are boric acid, several plants, and calcium chloride. It did not sound different than yours, unless the price is less. I voted yours up an shared it.

Kevin


carrie Lee Night profile image

carrie Lee Night 2 years ago from Northeast United States

Interesting and useful hub :) Thank you for taking the time to write this hub. Have a wonderful week.


Novel Treasure profile image

Novel Treasure 2 years ago from US Author

Thank you. It's super easy. We have been using it for a month now and won't go back!


hausofdavid profile image

hausofdavid 2 years ago from Los Angeles

This is brilliant! Thank you.

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