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Inexpensive Powdered Laundry Soap

Updated on June 4, 2013

by Shelia R. Wadsworth ┬ęCopyright (2012). All rights reserved.

Laundry seems like a never ending chore!
Laundry seems like a never ending chore!

Chores are expensive!

Since I have been off of work for several weeks due to a health concern and deciding that I would stay home with my children as they participate in cyber school education, I realized that I was going to have to cut costs. One area where we can trim our budget is finding alternate, cheaper supplies for doing daily household chores. One particularly expensive product is laundry detergent. Many of the commercial products contain unnecessary ingredients and we are basically just paying (usually a lot) for the name brand. I know there are various recipes for making detergent out there; I checked them out myself. I used what I thought were the best ideas and combined them together to make this particular recipe for powdered laundry detergent. This is a great activity to do with children. My son and I whipped up a batch in a little less than an hour.

What you will need
What you will need


  • Powder color-safe fabric bleach, 19 oz. (Sun or Clorox). I used Sun and bought it our local Family Dollar store for $1.00.
  • A 6 or 8 pack of bar soap, grated. Ivory soap is usually recommended in most recipes but any soap that contains sodium tallowate will do. DO NOT use beauty bars such as Dove, Caress or Tone; they have oils in them that may stain clothing. We used Irish Spring to see what scent it would give the clothes. It was $3.25 at Family Dollar. *We have since tried it using Fels Napa laundry soap bars, Zest bars and Purex Crystals laundry enhancers
  • A large container with a lid. I bought a 24 quart utility can for $6.50 at Family Dollar but it was a bit bigger than I needed (unless I make more!).
  • Baking soda, 64 oz. I used 4 boxes, again from Family Dollar for $.50 a box. Wal-Mart also carries a 64 oz bag for $2.16 in the detergent section near the borax and wash soda (actually on the same shelf in our Wal-Mart).
  • Wash soda (also called soda ash), 64 oz. It was $3.24 at Wal-Mart.
  • Borax Mule Team laundry detergent booster, 79 oz. $3.38 at Wal-Mart.

Altogether I spent $19.37. Subtracting the $6.50 I spent on the utility pail (after all, I will use it again) the cost was $12.87 for 290 oz of detergent. When looking at the popular powdered detergents, Gain was $16 for 126 oz. You would need to purchase 2 boxes ($32) to get 252 oz while the homemade version yields 290 oz. for $12.87. That is about a savings of $20! And you will save even more because you only use 1/4 cup per load so it will last longer.

Grating the soap
Grating the soap

What to do

In addition to the other things, you will need a cheese grater and a container to grate the soap into. First, you will grate the bars of soap. My son and I found that if you put the soap bars in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes first they grate better. Grate the soap as much as you can (just be careful you don't scape your knuckles!) you will have some chunks of soap left over (suggestion: throw them into a nylon stocking and use as a freshener in drawers or closets). Second, you will take the borax and pour about a 1/2 of the box into your storage container. Next, you will dump in 2 boxes of baking soda. Then, you will pour about 1/2 the box of washing soda. Then, you will pour in 1/2 the box of color-safe fabric bleach. Finally, dump in some of the grated soap. Mix this thoroughly with your hand (my son put the lid on the top and shook the container all around). You will then put the rest of the ingredients in the container in the same fashion, making sure to mix well. The soap pieces may be a little "chunky".

Click thumbnail to view full-size
In goes the BoraxPutting in the baking sodaAdding the washing sodaGrated soap
In goes the Borax
In goes the Borax
Putting in the baking soda
Putting in the baking soda
Adding the washing soda
Adding the washing soda
Grated soap
Grated soap

Doing the wash!

*Please forgive me, but I forgot to get a photo of the color-safe bleach being added.

Now you are ready (well, maybe not ready) to do that enormous pile of laundry in your laundry room! You will use a 1/4 cup of detergent per load. I started the washer first, then added the detergent before putting in the clothes. Be aware that this WILL NOT suds up like traditional detergent. The clothes came clean with just a hint of scent (if you would like more scent you could probably add more grated soap) and they were soft, so no need for fabric softener, which saves you even more money! An hour of your time and some simple, inexpensive ingredients is well worth the effort to make this detergent.

Finished product


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    • SRae profile image

      Shelia Wadsworth 4 years ago from Central Pennsylvania

      Thanks! We gotta get at and make some more :)

    • trusouldj profile image

      trusouldj 4 years ago from Indiana

      Very informative.