How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade laundry detergent is technically the first thing that I looked into when I had to adjust the budget. The price of name brand detergent is ridiculous! If you go to a grocery store it’s close to $20.00 for a little over one gallon of Tide. Go to Costco/Sam’s Club and you spend about $45 for a 3 gallon jug. I knew that if I could save us some of that money this would certainly be worth it.

I started my online research. The only thing that made me hesitate was the idea of having to grate a bar of soap. I have one cheese grater that I treasure, but if my beloved Colby Jack starts tasting like Ivory Soap I was not going to be a happy camper. Yes, it could be done, but I wasn’t sold on the idea just yet.

I found the perfect recipe thanks to Jille’s blog, One Good Thing. She is constantly trying new home goods that cost less. I highly recommend her blog and looking at some of her old posts. It’s certainly given me some great ideas!

Her recipe calls for: borax, washing soda, Dawn dish soap and hot water.

For those of you who were like me and had never heard of or purchased borax or washing soda, you can find it in the laundry detergent aisle. It costs you maybe $3.00-4.00 for big boxes of both products. The beauty of it is that those boxes will save you so much money. Not following? If you want to make 3 gallons worth of laundry detergent, you’re only using 9 tablespoons of both the borax and the washing soda. You’ve barely used 1/8th of the box. So you’ve barely spent $1.00 + using the Dawn you already have around the house instead of spending $45.00 at the grocery store. Now that’s what I call savings!

The only thing I must emphasize is that you are going to notice one important detail about your homemade detergent. There will not be a lot of bubbles. Advertising companies have made sure that we associate bubbles with cleanliness. This is not true. The bubbles in laundry detergent are created by extra chemicals. It doesn’t make your clothes any cleaner. It just makes you feel good. So, your homemade detergent will simply clean your clothes. You don’t need to pay for the bubbles.

The first time I put together the laundry detergent it was very easy. My husband was a little skeptical, but our clothes have all come out clean. The only reason I waited to post this amazing find was because we both wanted to adjust the recipe slightly.

For each load of laundry with the original recipe, you need to use one cup of detergent. It means that you’re going to go through your homemade product faster. So I either needed to get in the habit of making it more often or we had to figure something else out. We decided that next time we would double the cleaning ingredients and use less water. This way we would only need ½ cup of detergent for each load and we won’t go through it as quickly. It works brilliantly! You can make it either way and you’ll still have amazing results.

The only thing I’ve noticed is that the laundry smells clean, but there isn’t the typical perfume scent that normally goes together. If you want to add an extra clean scent you can add essential oils. It’s not necessary by any means, just an option if you like a certain clean laundry scent.

Original Recipe – 3 Gallons:

  • 9 Tablespoons Borax
  • 9 Tablespoons Washing Soda
  • 6 Tablespoons Dawn Dish Soap

Pour the ingredients into your container. (You can use old milk jugs or your old store bought laundry detergent container.) Pour 4 cups of boiling water into the jug. Swirl until ingredients dissolve. Let it cool. Fill to the top with cold water.

Shake before using. Pour 1 cup of detergent per full load of laundry.

Our Version – 3 Gallons:

  • 18 Tablespoons Borax
  • 18 Tablespoons Washing Soda
  • 12 Tablespoons Dawn Dish Soap

Pour the ingredients into your container. (You can use old milk jugs or your old store bought laundry detergent container.) Pour 4 cups of boiling water into the jug. Swirl until ingredients dissolve. Let it cool. Fill to the top with cold water.

Shake before using. Pour 1/2 cup of detergent per full load of laundry.

*Photo provided by Natures Nurture Blog


19 thoughts on “How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

  1. Laura, making homemade laundry soap is a wonderful way to save money! We’ve been doing it for over 2 years now and love it. I challenge your notion that grating a bar of soap will make your cheese grater taste soapy. You wash your grater with soap by hand and with soap in the dishwasher, and it doesn’t taste like soap because the soap is water soluble and rinses off. Same with the bar soap. You’ll also get a bigger bang for your buck. We use the recipe from Michelle Duggar in her book 20 and counting (p 173):
    Homemade Laundry Soap
    1 Fels Naptha soap bar, grated
    1 cup washing soda
    1/2 cup borax
    Grate the soap bar into a small saucepan. Cover with hot water. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring continually, until the soap completely dissolves.
    Put washing soda and borax in a 5-gallon bucket. Pour in the hot, melted soap mixture. Stir well, until all the powder is dissolved. Fill the bucket to the top with more hot tap water. Stir, cover securely, and let set overnight. The next morning stir the mixture. Mix equal amounts of soap concentrate and water in a smaller laundry-detergent dispenser or container. Shake before using.
    For top-loading machines: Use 1 cup of the soap mixture per load.
    For front-loading machines, use 1/3 cup per load.
    Note that her recipe makes 5 gallons of concentrate, which is reconstituted throughout the year (10 gallon equivalent!). We keep it in a 5 gallon orange “Homer” bucket from Home Depot. One thing we found very useful is to buy a paint stirrer drill attachment that’s about 3-4 feet long. It helps keep the soap mixture concentrate uniform as it will separate when it cools. The drill takes all the mess and effort out of stirring a 5 gallon bucket. So for less than 10 dollars, you get 10 gallons of Laundry detergent. And don’t worry about your cheese grater. Even if it tastes soapy (which it won’t) even if it does, with the money you save you can buy yourself a grater dedicated entirely to laundry soap! It’s what we wash Isaac’s clothes and diapers in, and have never had a reaction with his sensitive skin! Great post, Laura!

    • Matthew, thank you so much for the feedback. I guess I have a new project once we run out of our new batch. We’ll have to see which one is easier, cheaper, or better. I am very curious to try your recipe. I suppose I ought to admit that the other reason for not wanting to grate the soap is sheer laziness. Perhaps it will be worth it after all.

  2. I think this is one of the most important information for me.
    And i’m glad reading your article. But want to remark on few general things, The web site style is great, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

    • Thank you so much for the comment. I really appreciate the feedback. I have so many more articles I’d love to share. Hopefully I will get some time soon to post my new findings. I look forward to talking to you again soon!

  3. How well does this detergent cut on grease & oil? We have heavily soiled clothes in this household, and I want to be sure it would really clean them before making this.

  4. I’ve been making my own detergent for about a year now, with the grated Fels Naptha soap. I wasn’t sure if the whole household was impressed or even liked the laundry soap.
    But my questions were answered a couple weeks ago when our roommate announced that he feels sorry for the people that come through his checkout line and are paying so much for brand name laundry detergent. Apparently he not only likes the detergent and how it works but loves the savings. LOL… I live with a couple of very smart men. 😉

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