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Homemade Laundry Detergent

17 May 2012

Something I’ve seen on the internet and wanted to try is homemade laundry soap. There are lots of ‘recipes’ for this online, but I wanted a powder (for easier storage) and I have a high efficiency washing machine, so I needed something compatible with that. We also have never used things like fabric softener or oxyclean on a regular basis, so I didn’t want to start using those in my homemade laundry soap.

We’ve been using this for 3 weeks now, and have been really happy with it. It works great in our HE machines, leaves our clothes just as clean as the name-brand detergent we had been using, and is way cheaper. It also takes almost no time to make, and I keep it in a much cuter container than the detergent we had been buying (and I go through less plastic!).

cheap home-made powder laundry soap

I was able to find all the ingredients I needed at Walmart in the laundry section. Here’s the recipie I ended up using:

  • 2 cups washing soda
  • 2 cups borax
  • 1 bar zote laundry soap (about 2 cups)

diy laundry soap ingredients

All I did was measure out two cups of each of the powders, and add them to a jar. Then grind up the laundry soap bar. I used a food processor, but a shredder would also work great. My biggest pieces were about 1/4″. I was worried this might be too large, but haven’t had any problems with them not dissolving or anything. I added this to the jar too, and shook it all together – done! This makes 6 cups of laundry soap, so you need a jar/container at least that big (6 cups is about 50 oz). This is actually in a smaller jar – a 34 oz SLOM jar from IKEA. You only need to use 1 tablespoon per load (!), so I have a little scoop in there left over from an old set of measuring spoons. I also cut out a cute vinyl label to go on the front.

DIY laundry detergent

All the supplies cost $9 at walmart, but I still have plenty of borax and washing soda leftover for future batches. With the leftover ingredients taken into account, the 6 cups of laundry soap comes out to $2.60. Since I only use 1 tablespoon per load, this comes out to 96 loads at under 3 cents per load! In comparison, I had been paying $12 for 64 loads worth of liquid laundry soap – about 19 cents per load. That may not be much per load, but its going to add up!

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47 Comments leave one →
  1. Gavinsmom permalink
    8 February 2014 11:05 PM

    I just made my first batch of the dry laundry detergent. I used borax, washing soda and the pink Zote laundry soap. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the soap melts because I dont have a food processor only a grater. It smelled so good when I was making it.

  2. roci permalink
    2 January 2014 9:10 PM

    Isn’t it borax toxic?

  3. Shaunna permalink
    8 November 2013 2:42 AM

    Does this work in cold wash for dark loads?

    • 8 November 2013 11:08 AM

      Yes – it definitely works in cold wash for dark loads – that’s probably about 70% of my laundry :)

  4. Rhonda permalink
    1 April 2013 5:55 PM

    Can i use the regular baking soda instead of the super washing soda?

  5. 31 March 2013 7:07 AM

    oh thanks! but i tried one recipe very similar, but it let big residues and my washing machine, have you some advice, or do you think i must made a liquid soap?

  6. Jill permalink
    30 March 2013 5:23 PM

    I wash a lot of my clothes in cold water. Does this work in cold water also?

    • 30 March 2013 5:42 PM

      Jill – yes, I wash almost all my clothes in cold water! You just need to make sure your soap is ground up into fairly fine particles or you’ll have little pieces of them left when your cycle is done. My Wal-mart has started selling flakes of zote soap, and I’ve been using that in my homemade laundry detergent instead.

  7. Megan permalink
    19 December 2012 9:57 PM

    My Wal-Mart only Fels-Naptha which is 5oz. Does that mean I need to use 3 bars?

  8. Amanda permalink
    22 September 2012 10:53 PM

    Do you use the same amount of detergent in a regular washer as an HE machine? We live in an apartment complex that does not have High Efficiency machines. I would like to know if I would need to use more than the recommended amount above. Thanks!

  9. Kimberly permalink
    17 September 2012 11:10 PM

    I have used this recipe but in my case it would discolor my clothes

  10. sarah permalink
    8 September 2012 1:54 PM

    do you use this soap on your whites?

    • 8 September 2012 1:55 PM

      Yep, all my laundry. I add some vinegar if it’s something really smelly.

  11. Lacey permalink
    7 September 2012 10:29 PM

    If you use a good food processor (like one of the mini ninjas. they sell them for $20 at target for the college kids) it really blends the dry mix fabulously. All the pieces are tiny, tiny, tiny; like a fine powder. Over the past month I haven’t noticed any settling but I do give the mix a stir before I scoop it. I also added 1 cup of Oxi to the mix. Seems to be working out well.

  12. brenda permalink
    29 August 2012 12:15 PM

    I use a lavender, goats milk soap bar to grate up with the washing powder and borax. I love the smell, no need for fabric softener either. I have made the liquid but I am going to try the dry as I travel alot and the powder would store a little nicer.

    • 7 October 2012 2:42 PM

      Brenda, can you please share your recipe for the liquid laundry detergent….I, too, have a HE washer that only dispenses liquids and would love to have this! Thanks!

  13. Emily permalink
    19 August 2012 10:05 PM

    Do you usecthis directly into your he washer, or do you use the detergent drawer? Thanks!

  14. 13 August 2012 8:15 AM

    Do you add the powder with the clothes or in the detergent cup? I have a front load and have never used a powdered soap.

    • 17 August 2012 5:16 PM

      I add the powder with the clothes. I then also add some vinegar in the detergent cup – I find it helps with smell a bit more than just the detergent!

      • Megan permalink
        2 April 2013 4:35 PM

        The vinegar also works as a fabric softener that cuts back on that washer machine stench :)

  15. danielle permalink
    19 July 2012 9:46 AM

    how much do you use for a load?

    • 17 August 2012 5:16 PM

      I only use a tiny bit per load – less than a tablespoon.

  16. Bonita permalink
    8 July 2012 1:21 PM

    Awesome! I will look for Zote the next time I shop, I used the Fels Bar from Walmart and I think I will switch. I havent noticed any buildup in the machine but I have only been using it a week. My husband was surprised that I did all the laundry in the house and I cant wait to wash the savings into my wallet!

  17. Makenzie Barker permalink
    29 May 2012 10:23 AM

    So my parents are divorced and I live with my dad every other week…. We try to save as much money as possible since he lost $50k a year to spend more time with me. This recipe would be fabulous for us, especially since we only have to wash clothes twice a week! :)
    But how do you make it pink? Is the soap already pink or something?

  18. Doula Sarah permalink
    26 May 2012 3:38 PM

    I love making my own detergent, I use vinegar in the rinse though and there is no smell left, no soap scum, my husbands greasy yucky clothes come out nice and clean, jeans dont feel oily and it saves me a pile of money!

  19. 26 May 2012 12:54 PM

    I want to try and make my own soon. Thanks so much for sharing at Toot Your Horn Tuesday!

  20. Deb S. permalink
    23 May 2012 10:04 PM

    I used the “recipe” Denise posted above for a year. I’m not sure how it will do long-term in a HE washing machine, but I ended the year with a huge amount of soap scum in my washer. I actually had to scrape the scum off of my washer drum with a credit card. Our clothes seemed clean enough and I loved the savings, but I did go back to “regular” detergent. (Haven’t had any buildup issues since.) I would suggest keeping a close eye on your washer drum. Perhaps different washing soaps (I used Fels-Naptha) and area water will react differently for you. I hope this is the case, but wanted to give you the heads-up.

  21. 23 May 2012 8:04 PM

    Thanks for linking to Take-A-Look Tuesday – you were featured today!!

  22. sewwoodsy permalink
    23 May 2012 6:27 AM

    Love this idea! I wonder how this does in high efficiency washers…

  23. 22 May 2012 12:46 PM

    Julia, I use this same recipe, and have been for about six months. I love it, too! Instead of the Zote soap, I use Ivory. Does the Zote have a scent to it? I feel that is the only thing mine is lacking. So, the last batch I made, I threw in a half cup of Down Unstoppables. Thanks for sharing at our Handmade Tuesdays party.

    • 22 May 2012 1:02 PM

      The zote has a pretty strong scent – but I don’t smell it almost at all once my clothes come out of the dryer (although I do use scented dryer sheets). I do think, though, that zote does better at stain removal as it is made to be a laundry soap!


  24. Denise C Brenner permalink
    20 May 2012 11:52 PM

    Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap- Front or top load machine
    4 cups hot tap water

    1 Fels-Naptha soap bar

    1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

    1/2 Cup Borax

    -Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

    -fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

    -stir and fill a used, clean laundry soap dispenser 1/2 full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)

    -optional: you can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.

    -Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons

    -Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (approx. 180 loads)( 1/2 cup and 1/2 of a 1/4th of a cup)

    -Front Load Machines- 1/4 cup per load. (approx 640 loads)

    If you have a Downy ball, you can put about 1/2 cup of Distilled White Vinegar in there and it makes a fantastic fabric softener. And no, your clothes do not come out smelling like vinegar. If you dont have a downy ball, just add your 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rince cycle. I don’t like babysitting y washing machine so I have a Downey ball.

  25. Gemma permalink
    20 May 2012 2:07 PM

    Is your HE washer a front loader? Does this make any difference?

    • 20 May 2012 9:02 PM

      My washer is a front loader. I’m not sure if that makes any difference, but I have read of people using this recipe successfully in front and top loaders.

  26. Tiffany permalink
    20 May 2012 10:57 AM

    And for an even cheaper way you can buy regular baking soda (about 85 cents for the smallest box) and bake it until it turns into washing soda! Spread out baking soda on a sheet pan, bake in an oven set to 400 for 30 minutes as you have washing soda! Same texture and same chemical composition of washing soda. Try it!

  27. 19 May 2012 3:57 PM

    Thanks so much for linking up! I’ll have to try out this DIY lundry detergent recipe!

  28. Lisa permalink
    19 May 2012 9:55 AM

    I made this detergent almost 6 months ago, though the ratio I used was 1 bar, 1 cup borax, 1 cup soda. I’ve had to buy about 4 more more bars of soap (around $1 each) since, but still have enough of the other for at least 2 more batches. That is less than $15 over 6 months for a family of 5! The Zote is also great as a pre-treater, removes gummy, sticky residue (like from stickers or tape), and it took off the oil stain that I got all over my hands. Great great stuff!!

  29. evelyn513 permalink
    18 May 2012 10:45 PM

    Wow! I love this idea. I love saving money and it looks so cool in the jar. Just dropping in from Kitchen Fun with My 3 Sons to invite you to share this at my second ever blog hop, Freedom Fridays. So hoping to see you there!

  30. 18 May 2012 8:25 PM

    That is the same recipe I use. Just recently, however, I started making the liquid type because I wasn’t sure the dry type was homogeneous enough. Either way you make it, it’s so much cheaper than Gain,which I love, so I save that for only the best clothes. Everything else get the homemade. Towels get 1/2 c. bleach added just to brighten them up. I can’t believe how many people are now making their own laundry detergent! Good for all of us. :-)) Oh. A friend just told me that to remove odors from especially dirty work clothes, she adds 1/2 c. vinegar as well.

    • Debra Herr permalink
      20 May 2012 9:51 AM

      How do you make the liquid type?

      • Denise C Brenner permalink
        20 May 2012 11:53 PM

        I posted the recipe for the liquid laundry soap! LOVE IT!! and will never use anything but the homemade liquid and dry ever again. :) :)

  31. 18 May 2012 2:19 PM

    I love these DIY house cleaning tidbits! I am completely hooked.


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