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Is Homemade Laundry Detergent Really Cheaper and Does It Really Work?

Updated on September 27, 2017

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

Total Price
Price Per Load
Annual Savings Using Homemade

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.


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


  • 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.


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

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

How to Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

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

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 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.

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 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 4:


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

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