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Homemade Laundry Detergent

I read the Duggar’s book, 20 and Counting, a couple years ago.  In that book, they offered a recipe for a powdered laundry detergent.  But, I’ve always been partial to liquid detergents, so I never tried making it.  That book planted a seed of desire to try making my own detergent, so when I saw a recipe for a liquid version on Pinterest, I was all ready to try try it.  It took me a little time to track down all the components that I needed, but last week I finally brewed a batch, and am very pleased.  As well, I tried a couple easy recipes for fabric softener, and have been very happy with them as well.

Why make your own laundry detergent?

There are some obvious benefits to making your own laundry detergent.  The most obvious would be the cost savings.  To make approximately two gallons of this detergent cost me in the range of $4, plus the cost of water from the tap.  I’ve been using 1/2 cup of detergent per load, so you can do the math, but suffice-it-to-say, the savings adds up.  (That’s 64 loads for around $4!)  Another benefit would be that it’s an affordable way to have all-natural laundry soap, and that’s a definite plus.  The third most obvious benefit to me is that it reduces packaging waste as well. I hate  to think of all those giant plastic containers of laundry detergent I’ve gone through over the years, and though we recycle when we can, it’s still more added waste to our environment.  A great idea for this project would be to keep an old laundry detergent container and use it to store your homemade version–reduce, reuse repurpose!

Although I believe in saving money and love the idea of having all-natural products and food in my home, I’m not willing to have those things at all costs. There is only so much of me to go around and my time is valuable; if saving money is tremendously time-consuming for me, I generally make a choice not to do it.  After making my own laundry detergent, I also tried a recipe for making my own hand soap–what I loved about both recipes is that they required very little time and effort and they made large batches, so the little time I spent will go a long way.  That’s definitely time well spent for me and my family.

So, without further ado, here’s my laundry detergent recipe, taken from Why Not Sew’s Blog via Pinterest.  I will put the recipe here, though, to save you the hassle of switching over to another website.  Also, I adapted hers a little to work for me.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

  1. 6 oz bar of soap (can be any kind, Mrs Meyers is a great all natural alternative, I used half a large bar of Zoat soap, easily found in the laundry detergent isle of my grocery store for around $2)
  2. 1 cup Borax (a powdered laundry booster, also easily found in the laundry isle of Walmart or most grocery stores)
  3. 1 cup Washing Soda (not so easily found, I finally tracked it down at Ace Hardware, but found it later on Amazon too, you will most likely find it in the Arm and Hammer brand, but do not confuse this with baking soda, it is not the same!)
  4. 2 gallons of water


  1. Grate the bar of soap into a large stock pot.  (I used a normal cheese grater, it worked just fine and didn’t leave an aftertaste on the grater like I was afraid it would–it is just soap, after all!)
  2. Add one gallon of the water
  3. stir and cook over medium/high heat until the soap is fully dissolved, this doesn’t take long
  4. add your borax and washing soda
  5. bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until it coagulates (thickens)
  6. take off the heat, add remaining one gallon of water and stir
  7. pour into containers and allow to cool over night

That’s it!  It did thicken quite a bit for me overnight.  The blog where I got the recipe from recommended pouring your detergent from the pot into old milk jugs, but I found that it was a little to thick to squeeze through the small opening once it cooled and made it a messy process to get my detergent out to do my loads of laundry.  So, I put it into large-mouthed containers where I could easily fit an old measuring cup inside to measure the amount of detergent I needed and I have been much happier.

Here are a couple disclaimers:

  1. The end consistency is a little thick and gloppy, not nearly as smooth as the store bought kind.  I believe that’s because the commercial versions use emulsifiers, as well as artificial dyes, to give it the color and texture that we think is appropriate.  To me, the uneven consistency of my end product makes me have more pride in it, it feels more like what laundry detergent probably should be like.
  2. When you do your laundry with this soap, you will notice almost NO suds.  You must retrain your brain not to equate suds with clean.  The very first load of laundry I did with this soap had blood stained clothes in it.  I had briefly pre-soaked them before putting them into the wash, but that was it.  They came out of the laundry with no sign of the blood stains anymore.  I was completely sold after that!  Also, because they are low-suds, it is fine to use in HE machines!
  3. No matter your effort to add scent to this detergent, most likely,  your clothes will come out of the dryer with no scent.  I added some lavender essential oils to my laundry detergent, the detergent smelled great, but the clothes had no scent on them when the laundry came out of the wash.  Again, I did some research and learned that commercial brands can make our clothes smell so strong because they are using artificial scents that are not good for our skin or our environment.  You might get different results than I did playing around with essential oils, etc, but I want to prepare you that if you are addicted to the strong scents of your favorite commercial brand, this might disappoint you.

**Since doing this post, I’ve amended it with a final step to help if your consistency isn’t right in the end, go here to see that post.

As I mentioned before, I also made some of my own fabric softeners.  Here are two recipes that I tried and got favorable results from.

Fabric Softener #1

  1. One part Vinegar (2 cups)
  2. one part baking soda (2 cups)
  3. 10-20 drops essentials oils, if you please (I used lavender essential oils)

Mix all ingredients together in a large container, if you recall from those elementary science experiments, the baking soda and vinegar will combust when mixed!  If your container isn’t large enough, it will bubble over the top.  Once it’s done combusting, it will settle.  You will need to shake before use.

Fabric Softener #2

  1. 3 cups vinegar
  2. 2 cups conditioner
  3. 3 cups water

Mix and use!  You may feel slightly weird about putting conditioner through your washing machine as I did, but from everything I’ve read, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

There you have it! You can now save a pretty penny on your laundry.  I will try to post my hand soap recipe soon, too!

7 Responses

  1. […] After using about half my first batch (which was 1/3 the recipe) I switched to a slightly different recipe with much better consistency results. 1 bar Fels-Naptha laundry soap, finely grated (I used a cheese grater) 1 cup Borax 1 cup Washing Soda 2 gallons water (I found all the ingredients at Walmart) -Grate the bar of soap into a stock pot and add 1 gallon of water. Over medium-high heat, stir until soap is completely dissolved. (The longest part is the soap grating. Also, stir slowly. I think this is part of the trouble I had with the first batch, I got it too "sudsy" on top and the suds never re-absorbed.) -Add 1 cup Borax and 1 cup Washing Soda. -Bring to a boil, stirring consistently, until it thickens. (It got slightly thicker, not quite the consistency of gravy) -Take off heat and add the other gallon of water. (I poured it into a bucket with a pour spout before adding the second gallon, and also skimmed any suds off the top) -Wait overnight for it to gel. (It may be hard on top at this point, mine had a thick layer on top the consistency of fat that's been left to cool) -Blend well with an immersion blender, then pour with a funnel into containers. (It should be approximately the consistency of store-bought detergent now) I added lemongrass essential oil to the first batch, but you couldn't smell a thing on the clothes once they were dry. Now I use 1/4 cup white vinegar in the liquid fabric softener compartment (more if it's jeans or towels) and put several drops of essential oil on a washcloth and throw it into the dryer with the clothes. They come out clean and smelling lovely. I got this recipe here: Homemade Laundry Detergent – Tidy Tangle […]

  2. Becky says:

    Just made #2 fabric softener – how much do I use in each load? This is probably lame but I’ve never used fabric softener before. Oh, except for when we were first married and I bought the “cuddly bear detergent” because I always saw the commercials for it. Two months of painful-skin-rashes-for-my-new-husband later, I realized I’d been washing all our clothes in only fabric softener. Good times.

    • Rachel says:

      Well, my machine has a dispenser for fabric softener, I just fill it to the fill line, so I’m not real sure, sorry (: Maybe around a fourth of a cup, approximately?

  3. […] my sister tried my homemade laundry detergent recipe and commented that her consistency was very thick, nearly solid when it finally cooled.  It had […]

  4. So I brewed a batch (as you say) last night and this morning it was so thick, it was one solid glob. I had to reheat it to get it out. I think this is what went wrong. I added all the water at one time because I didn’t read carefully enough and then boiled it. Speaking of boiling, mine wanted to boil over many a time. Make sure you have a LARGE pot if you do the full batch. I did half a batch because that’s all my pot could handle. I’m actually going to try making a powdered version and write about that as I don’t really care if I use powdered or liquid.

    • Rachel says:

      Yes, I think it’s important not to let it boil too much, I took it off the heat as soon as it came to a light boil. Also, you can find bars of castile soap that are unscented at most whole food stores, that could be an option for a scent-free version. Let me know how the powdered version turns out!

  5. Laura says:

    What I love about this post is my daughter has very sensitive skin and I think this would help a lot! Just bought the stuff to give it a try. Thanks for the inspiration!

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