Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade laundry detergent

I am excited to share this with you today!  I have been using this homemade laundry detergent since November, just trying it out before I shared it with you.  And since I LOVE it, it is time to finally share.

This detergent is CHEAP, smells great, is fast and easy to make, and it works really well.

You will need 4 ingredients (pictured above) which you can find at Walmart or pretty much any grocery store – 3 bars of Fels Naptha soap, large box of Baking Soda, large box of Super Washing Soda, and a large box of Borax.

The Fels-Naptha soap will need to be grated.  You can grate it by hand with a hand grater or if you have a food processor you can grate it in there.  I grate mine in my food processor.

It looks just like cheese after is grated, and it smells wonderful!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

You can just mix up the grated Fels-Naptha with the other powders just like that but I like to blend mine up to make it finer.  I just blend (again with my food processor) some of the washing soda or borax with the grated Fels-Naptha until it is much finer.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Store in an airtight container (this is only 1/2 of the batch, it makes 2 full canisters like this.)

Use 1-2 tablespoons per load. 

(I typically use 1 tablespoon for regular loads, 2 tablespoons for extra large or extra dirty loads.)

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Some people will add a large container of Oxy Clean powder to this recipe too.  But at $7 a container, to save money, I only add oxy clean to my white loads (in place of bleach) or extra dirty loads in addition to the detergent.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Now for the price breakdown – here is a picture of all the ingredients and prices at my local Wal-mart (in the laundry care aisle).

Homemade Laundry Detergent

  • Fels-Naptha – $0.97/bar x 3 = $2.91
  • 1 box of Borax = $3.38
  • 1 box of baking soda = $2.24
  • 1 box of Washing Soda = $3.24

Total: $11.77

Once grated and mixed together it equals 26 cups of detergent (416 tablespoons).

If I use 1 tablespoon per load that gives me 416 loads (2.8¢/per load, so less than 3¢ /load.)  If I use 2 tablespoons, I will get 208 loads (5.6¢/per load, so less than 6¢/load.)  And since I only do 2 tablespoons for extra large loads or extra dirty loads, I will get somewhere in between 208-416 loads making my cost 4¢ – 5¢ load.

Compare to these 2 powdered detergents that I priced at Wal-mart (just a sample to show you cost – you can figure out your cost per load of your favorite detergent.)

Gain: 120 loads for $14.97 = $0.12/load

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Tide: 102 loads for $17.97 = $0.18/load

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Even if I used 2 tablespoons per load I would get 208 loads (double the Tide above) and I would pay less than $12.00.  I would have to buy 2 boxes of Tide for $35.94 to get that many loads.  So you can see it will save you a lot of money!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

One other thing about it that I love.  We hang dry a lot of clothes (jeans, sweaters, shirts, etc.) to prevent fading, shrinkage, etc.  And jeans especially would end up smelling ”musty” or that “left too long wet in the washing machine smell” – know what I am talking about?  Because they took so long to dry, no matter if I took them right out of the washer when done, by the time they were dry they would usually smell.  NO MORE!  Not with this detergent! Smile  I think the baking soda really helps with that.

A couple more tips:

  • Everything I have read has said you can use this in HE (High Efficiency) Washing Machines since this detergent does not sud much, if at all.  I personally have an HE top loader washing machine and it has worked fine in mine.  I do try to add the detergent to an empty machine, start the water and let it run for 10-20 seconds while I am sorting or gathering clothes, just to let it dissolve some into the water.  Even with regular store bought liquid detergent, my machine instructions recommended adding the detergent at the bottom to an empty machine. 
  • There are MANY homemade laundry detergent recipes out there.  This is the first one I have tried, but I encourage you to do a quick search on Pinterest or google if you want to compare or find more recipes. 
  • You can also take this basic recipe and turn it into a homemade liquid detergent.  MaryEllen posted her method for doing that here.  And once again, do a simple search and you will find even more ways to do that. 
  • Check out my “homemade & healthier living” board on Pinterest for some more recipes I have pinned.

If you have any other questions, ask away in the comments and I will be sure to answer them and even update the post if I need to. 

Have you ever thought about making your own homemade laundry detergent?  It is SOO much easier than I imagined and I LOVE the way it smells!  (Our clothes smell fresh & clean too.)

Do you make any other cleaners or detergents?  Next I want to try making dishwasher detergent – so if you have a good recipe for that, let me know.


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Comments

  1. says

    I do something similar to this, but my receipe is 1 bar of Ivory, 1/2 cup of Borax and 1/2 cup of washing soda. I use 1 tablespoon per load. Sometimes I multiply this receipe and end up using 6 bars of soap and 3 cups each of borax and washing soda and I dump in a container of downy unstoppables.
    I use this laundry soap on everything from cloth diapers, to my husbands greesy military uniforms. It works well for my son who is allergic to almost everything and we have been using it for over a year now!

    • Jes G. says

      Thank you for adding this… we all have very sensitive skin when you said Ivory i said “that’s it!’ thank you so much form a sensitive household…. will try SOON!!!!

  2. Beverly says

    I used to make a recipe very similar to this only in smaller batches and I loved it. But, after using for a while I noticed my whites getting dingy gray–even with using bleach. So back to store bought I went. Have you noticed this? and, does the Oxi Clean prevent this? I would love to get back to making my own laundry detergent again. You are right….the smell is amazingly clean!

    • Zella says

      My mother tells of when she married my step-father, his whites were very gray, too. He had been a widower for nearly 20 years. She put them in the washer with only borax, running a complete cycle in the washer. She did this three times in a row before she was satisfied with the results. The cause, she says, is of the detergent not being completely rinsed out before drying. This can also happen when using liquid fabric softener. She uses only white vinegar for fabric softener. It keeps her towels fluffy without the greasy build up of either liquid softener or dryer sheets. It’s cheaper than his solution: toss & buy new!

    • says

      The Boy Wonder and I are also wanting to know about this, especially since we wash everything in cold water.

      Also, for those interested – there are Pins for homemade Oxy Clean on Pinterest.

    • Tracy says

      I used to wash mine only in cold & it does work, but I don’t think the detergent fully dissolved. Now I use warm & haven’t noticed any undissolved detergent in my drain.

      • teriw says

        I mix my powdered soap in about half a cup of warm/hot water first until no grains are left and then pour it into the dispenser of washer. It has been working great so far.

  3. Monica says

    I love the idea of making my own laundry soap and I plan to do it this weekend. Thank you for your recipe, it seems easy, cheap and straight forward, and I think we can all appreciate that :). My question for you though is, would the recipe work the same if I didn’t use the Fels-Naptha soap and replaced it with another soap? I only ask because I have never heard of it ( I am from Ontario Canada) and I’m not sure we would have it here I just wanted to ask before I go out to look for the ingredients to make the laundry soap this weekend. Thank you.
    P.S. I’m really excited to explore the rest of your site, it’s great that you’ve taken your time to share all your tips and tricks and ideas with us all.

    • Christina says

      Monica,

      you can use other soaps if you can’t find Fels Naptha. You can use Zote (a pink soap found at home improvement stores here in the US.) and some people even use soaps like Ivory if they have sensitive skin. I would maybe try 1/3 of the batch with whatever soap you can find and want to try – and try it out to see if you like it and it works well. then you could always make more or try another kind of soap.

      hope that helps.

    • Tracy says

      My understanding is that it just can’t be a “beauty” bar with all the extra moisturizers in it. I tried it once thinking it would smell nicer, but it didn’t work well at all.

  4. Tracy says

    I also have been making my own detergent for almost 3 years now, and love it. I used to make the liquid type, but it was kind of time consuming. I’ve. Bee doing powdered for 2 years now & don’t plan on changing anything! I use 1 bar ivory, 1 cup borax, and 1 cup washing soda. I did find after a long while my whites turning dingy, so now when I triple the batch (which I did anyway) I add a bag of cheap generic oxipowder stuff Obey at the dollar store. It perfectly fills my ice cream bucket & last almost 2 months! Can’t beat that!

  5. thecla santeler says

    i always want to do this but i live in peru and finding ingredients can be such a pain- not just finding them but also at a decent price. sometimes i get a diy idea and then realize that i can just buy the product already done and made so much cheaper.

  6. Kerry says

    Do you think you can substitute oxy clean for borax? Borax got a very low score from ewg.org because of its harmful ingredients.

  7. says

    i have been using the laundry det for over a year now… i love it… i have a family of 6, so yes it saves us tons of money!! :) i also make my own shout, from a recipe on pinterest!! love it as well…

    • Christina says

      does the shout work really well? would love to try that too. I am currently using a no-brand Oxy spray that seems to work ok.

    • Christina says

      YES, they really do! I think my towels are softer now then when I was using reg. detergent and fabric softener. I don’t use fabric softener any more now although I still am using fabric sheets in the dryer.

      • teriw says

        Fabric sheets have some really nasty ingredients and also leave a greasy feel. I am highly allergic to such things so never use any commercial softening products.

        For softness try vinegar in the rinse cycle or if you want scent make a sachet with lavender buds. Add other essential oils you like if you want a stronger scent.

  8. Sandy says

    Just made this laundry detergent the other day and used it for the first time today. Love it! I have acute scent sensitivities, but this soap doesn’t seem to bother me. Very unusual. I did put Oxy Clean in it, but I bought the Scent Free box. Works great!!

  9. says

    Are you sure ONE tablespoon is really enough? I’ve heard that you can use much less than the detergent makers suggest, BUT I can’t seem to resist the urge to use more (1/4 cup+)! I keep thinking my clothes won’t come out clean enough using such a small amount. I need some help in fighting the urge to put a whole cup of laundry detergent in my washer (which isn’t an HE, btw)!!!

  10. Sam says

    Hi! Would love to do this but is it septic safe? I know the Oxy Clean is, but what about all these ingreds combined?

  11. Sherry Johnson says

    I was wondering how many cups are in the grated soap? I had to resort to a different kind and it’s all natural but is already flaked.

    Thanks

  12. Rosalie McGough says

    I remember my mom grating fels-naptha soap into her wringer washer when I was a child. It was especially for the load of whites which never got mixed with any colors. She had the whitest whites hanging on her clothes lines, back in the day.

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