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How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

Updated on February 3, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Making homemade laundry detergent is not only a great way to save money it is a great way to cut your carbon footprint as well. It is better for the environment and your family because you leave out the artificial scents and toxic chemicals.

Save Money When You Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

You save a lot of money by making your own cleaning supplies, laundry detergent included. Figure less than one cent per load of laundry, depending on what your costs for the ingredients are.

Generally you can make enough detergent to wash one hundred loads of laundry for about $1.25. Compare that to what you are currently paying and you will see how cost effective it is.

But does it work?

Sure does! Not only are the clothes clean but because the homemade detergent tends to suds less they get rinsed more thoroughly. Your clothing lasts longer, too.

This is not rocket science, nor will it take you all day. Figure on about fifteen minutes of your time to make your cheap, earth friendly laundry soap.

Now that is a great investment in time, isn't it?

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent Recipes

  • 3 cups (2 bars) Fels Naptha or Zote Soap, grated
  • 1 ½ c 20 Mule Team Borax
  • 1 ½ c Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil 10 drops rosemary essential oil Or use the essential oils you like best.

Mix ingredients together in a large covered container and allow to stand for 24 hours for the essential oil scent to permeate the detergent.

Use one tablespoon per load for normal sized loads with normal dirt. This will wash about 90 loads. Be sure to store this marked and covered tightly, away from children.

For Hard Water

  • 12 cups Borax
  • 8 cups baking soda
  • 8 cups washing soda
  • 8 cups grated castile soap or fels naptha

Mix all ingredients well and store in a tightly covered container. Use 2 tablespoons of powder per load. You can add essential oils if you like.

For Tough Cleaning

  • 2 c fels naptha grated
  • 1 c borax
  • 1 c washing soda
  • 1/3 c oxy clean

Mix together and use one to two tablespoons per load. Add essential oils if you like. Store covered and stir before using.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

1 quart boiling water

  • 2 cups grated soap (ivory, fels naptha, zote, etc.)
  • 2 cups borax
  • 2 cups washing soda

Add the grated soap to the boiling water and stir over low heat until the soap pieces are all melted. Pout this water into a large container and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until it is completely dissolved. Add two gallons of water, stirring well. Add essential oil for scent if you wish. Cover and allow to stand overnight. In the morning it will be a thin gel.

Use one-fourth cup of the mixture for each load of laundry. Be sure to stir it before use. This is low sudsing so don't expect billows of suds when you do your clothes.

Homemade Fabric Softener

Nothing is better than vinegar to soften clothes. Just use ¼ cup of vinegar mixed with your favorite essential oil in the rinse cycle and your clothes will be clean, fresh, and soft.

Another fabric softener is made by adding one cup of baking soda to two cups of water. Stir well and add one cup of white vinegar. Shake well before using. Laundry soap and fabric softeners are not hard to make, don't take much time and save you a lot of money. They are good for your wallet, the environment and your family and that just feels good all the way around.


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    • rlsoden4 profile image

      rlsoden4 5 years ago

      I also make homemade laundry detergent (powdered) only I substitute Ivory soap for Fels Naptha. I honestly cannot tell a difference between my recipe (very similar) and store-brand. Great hub! I'm trying to learn to do things myself instead of depending on grocery stores for certain products.

    • profile image

      Michelle, WI 6 years ago

      I would also like to add, I get the best smooth liquid by adding the borax along with the grated soap in the boiling water. Then, I take a large kettle and put hot tap water in it and place it on the burner I just turned off and then add the borax/melted soap mixture and THEN the washing soda. Its inevitable that it will gel up and slightly separate as it cools so each time I use it, I swirl it around first. Shaking it(if ur using old detergent bottles to hold it) will cause it to breakdown and separate more. It gets kindve messy over time but its effectivity is just as awesome and worth saving the money. I have saved $60 in 3 months even after the cost of ingredients! Woohoo for this recipe post!

    • profile image

      Michelle, WI 6 years ago


      i had this happen the first time too. When u add the water at the end, use warm water so the soap doesn't re-harden to gel so quickly. :)

    • profile image

      Renee 6 years ago

      I made this today, but it turned into a thick gel right away!! what did i do wrong?!

    • PassionForTrashin profile image

      PassionForTrashin 6 years ago from Saucier Mississippi

      I just made my own version today with 1 bar of Fels Naptha, 2 cups Borax and 2 cups of washing soda. I doubled the recipe and it fit perfectly in a 50 oz. CoffeeMate container I had on hand. I wanted the soap to be really fine so I pulled out my old coffee grinder and it worked great. I can't wait to try the fabric softener recipes too in hopes that our line dried laundry won't be so "crunchy". I was going to do the liquid version but the powdered takes up so much less space.

    • profile image

      Vee 6 years ago

      Would anyone care to share their preference of powdered or liquid? I'm looking forward to making my own, just wondered if anyone had luck with the powdered? I don't know anyone who has tried the powdered, only the liquid. Thanks for your input!!

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 7 years ago from Western New York

      I love it! I just tried this for the first time, and my laundry is actually CLEANER than with the commercial detergent. I have an HE machine- I use the Duggar recipe and use 1/4 cup of laundry soap in the machine (non-HE machines would use 1/2 cup).

    • profile image

      Student 7 years ago


      Im working on a science fair project and im using your recipe for my project I just wanted to say thing you for providing an easy way for me to get my project done and for other people to get their closed washed without paying the demanding prices. I may keep using this even after the science fair!

      Thank you

    • profile image

      mal malhi 7 years ago

      ty.. loved the potential of this article.. will have a go at making it!!!

    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      I just told my wife that I was going to make some detergent. She just started laughing and said that if I do, then she will be glad to be rid of the job of doing laundry. I guess I will just keep buying Tide.

    • profile image

      laundry 7 years ago

      Now let us use detergent that does not damage the environmental, environmental destruction is one of the detergent

    • Cassidella profile image

      Cassidella 7 years ago

      Hi Marye,

      I just learned about this in a soap-making class recently and wanted to share it here, but I see that you have already done a fine job with this helpful hub! No doubt, many will enjoy the savings from this great and easy-to-make detergent!

    • baby-gifts profile image

      baby-gifts 8 years ago

      I have always wanted to make my own laundry detergent. Thank you for the information and recipe's. This will save "loads" of cash!

    • profile image

      Katie 8 years ago

      I have been using the liquid version of homemade detergent for 6+ months now in an HE washer. I use half of the recommended amount (ex. if the recipe calls for 2 TBSP per load, I use 1). I love it and it cost me $7 for the ingredients. That's enough to last me a whole year!!

    • janddplus4 profile image

      janddplus4 8 years ago

      Thank you for this hub. I have been using the homemade laundry soap recipe for a while now. I learned it elsewhere. I showed a friend of mine how to do it, and she experimented and added essential oil to the laundry detergent. I like the smell of Zote or the Fels Naptha better, myself. But we have both been looking for a recipe for fabric softener. I can't wait to try this. She has three children, and I have four, so we are excited to save tons of money with easy things like this.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 9 years ago from NW Indiana

      Marye,Think I will have to give it a try. I use the ingredients you listed for your detergent recipes for stains and delicates anyway. C.S.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      I looked it up. HE is high efficiency, basically a low sudsing detergent. Most homemade detergents are VERY low sudsing so it should be fine..but you are on your own with this experiment..LOL

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 9 years ago from NW Indiana


      Now I realized that I wrote HD when in fact I should have wrote "he". I went to sleep and woke up with the correction in my head. I double checked it too! So sorry. How could you know what it is if I am writing it wrong? DUH, ME! C.S.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 9 years ago from NW Indiana

      Marye, HD is for the newer machines that have no agitator in the middle. Supposed to be more energy efficient, and all that good conservation stuff. I personally liked my old machine much better but now I have this one. The cost of HD is two or three times higher than reg. detergent so it does not feel like I am conserving my precious resource of CASH. It would be great if I could use your recipes. C.S.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      You buy it in a bar and grate it yourself...any natural soap would work.

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 9 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Sounds like a brilliant idea. I wonder if this would be ok for front loading machines. I have had my house flooded once from this machine and would not like it to happen again.

      Also product wise can you buy 2 cups grated soap (ivory, fels naptha, zote, etc that anywhere in the world I haven't heard of it in australia. Although I haven't looked yet. Thanks again great hub

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Honestly CS I do not know what HD products are. :/

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 9 years ago from NW Indiana


      What about the use of these homemade soaps and softeners in the new machines that require HD products? The manufacturers directions say that reg. detergents will harm the machines. Do you think it would be safe to utilize your recipes for these machines as well? It would be great if you can because the HD is very expensive and probably not any better quality, just a demand thing for the marketers. C.S.

    • raguett profile image

      raguett 9 years ago

      Awesome thanks...your fan..R

    • ProCW profile image

      ProCW 9 years ago from South Carolina

      VERY nicely done! I hope this gets around! I'm going to try it!