Feb 14, 2013

Homemade Laundry Detergent

In my journey to a frugal healthier lifestyle, I've started making a certain number of home and personal care products that are not only healthier than store-bought versions, but cheaper. 

All over the web you can find tons of recipes for home and body care products, but many call for ingredients that are expensive or hard to find. One recipe I saw for a natural cleaning product had about 5 different kinds of essential oils. While I'm sure it cleans well, for folks like me who nearly have a heart attack at the purchase of one tiny bottle of tea tree oil for $8 or $9, these items are just not worth it for use in my home products. Tea tree oil and peppermint oil are the only two essential oils I use for my home and body care products. Every other ingredient you can get easily at regular-people stores.

Laundry detergent is the first DIY home or body care product I started making about a year ago. My primary motivation was to cut back on the high cost of most laundry detergents.  This was even before I started considering the potentially dangerous additives found in most normal laundry detergents, which include phenols, surfactants, and optical brighteners, to name a few.

"Think about it: clothing is in constant contact with your skin. The skin is exceptionally permeable; it quickly absorbs outside substances directly into the blood stream. Many experts recommend: if you wouldn`t eat it or drink it, you shouldn`t be letting it come into contact with your skin. Ditch the commercial laundry detergents and seek out more natural ways to clean your clothes." (Click here to read the rest of this health report.)

Natural laundry detergent is certainly not my primary concern when it comes to healthy living. I am most concerned about the things we put directly into our bodies. But I found this detergent considerably cheaper than store-bought detergent, easy to make, long lasting because you use way less than you think you would need, and it happens to be healthier. That's just an added bonus!

Laundry Detergent

1 bar Fels Naptha soap, or 2 bars Kirk's Castile soap (This is the more natural option.)
2 cups washing soda
2 cups borax

Shred the soap using the fine side of a cheese grater. I had the ingenious idea to use the smallest grater on my Kitchen Aid. This saved tons of time. 

Note; some recipes will suggest grinding the soap in a food processor, or, if you're like me, you'll come up with that on your own. I'm not pointing any fingers, but someone in my house may have thrown her dying food processor over the edge by trying this. So yeah, the soap is too hard on the machine. 

Mix the shredded soap with the washing soda and borax. If there are lumps in the powdered ingredients you will want to sift them through a sieve before mixing them with the soap.

Now, at this point most recipes will tell you to mix the powder with a ton of water to make liquid soap. I didn't realize I was supposed to do this at the beginning of my detergent making career, so I was just using the powder by itself. Guess what? It works fine! The soap shreds have no problem disolving. Plus it takes up less room in my laundry room/closet and it saves a big inconvenient step.

Store in a container with a lid. An empty coffee container is perfect, or get a clear plastic container specifically for this purpose. I prefer a clear container so I can see when I am getting low.

 Keep a quarter cup (1/4) scoop in the container. You'll need one to three tablespoons depending on the size of the load. Yes, that's all you need! This soap even works for my husband's dirty work clothes (he's a construction superintendent). Sometimes I'll use four tablespoons if the clothes are particularly dirty, but this soap really works amazingly well. Plus it is suitable for high efficiency machines.

I usually end up making a double batch so it will last twice as long. 

That's it! Easy, natural, and cheap. What's not to like?

Update: Borax, washing soda and Fels Naptha soap can all be found in the detergent section at Wal-Mart. They should also be available in most major grocery stores.

DIY laundry detergent funny; 

"Why are there weevils in your laundry detergent?" 

My sister was visiting and throwing in a load of laundry and didn't know what the yellow soap shreds were hanging out in the detergent!

Do you make your own laundry detergent? How does your recipe compare to mine?


  1. I love homemade laundry soap, and I actually think it does just as good of a job as store bought. I make mine almost exactly like yours, except I use two bars of Fels Naptha

  2. I make it about the same, except I have been using a bar of Zote soap, (which I find at a walmart close to a large Mexican community) because I didn't like the scent of Fels Naptha. I also first grate my soap, and then mix everything in the food processor. It works very well, and has a light citrus scent!

  3. Where does one get washing soda?

    1. Monika, washing soda can be found in the detergent section at Wal-Mart and most major grocery stores. Borax and Fels Naptha soap should be in this section as well. Thanks for asking! I'm going to update the post...

    2. I found my ingredients in the detergent section of Giant Food, made my first batch this week and will never go back. If you are unable to find washing soda, here's a site that tells you how to make your own -- you just bake baking soda and it becomes washing soda: http://naturesnurtureblog.com/2012/05/08/ttt-turn-baking-soda-into-washing-soda/.

    3. Thanks for your comment, Annette! I am so glad you like the detergent. And thanks for sharing the link to how to make your own washing soda!

  4. Great idea! Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday! Hope to see you on the new blog hop today :)

  5. Is anyone using it with HE washing machine?

    1. Yumi, this recipe is fine to use in HE machines! That's what it originally was intended for, only I found it works great in regular machines as well.

  6. I've been using a slightly different version of this (enough to now have lasted over a year!) and really like it. It's so humid in this part of Florida that I keep only an instant coffee jar full in the garage on the washing machine and the rest in a Tupperware container in the hall closet inside the house. So for less than $20, I have a one+-year's worth of detergent.

  7. I did this and loved it! I used my salad shooter and it worked awesome!!!

    1. So glad the recipe is working for you Beth!

  8. I'm really interested in making this here in Cambodia (if I can find all the ingredients). Will the soap still dissolve in cold water only wash/rinse cycles?

  9. Great post. This week over on Wildcrafting Wednesdays we’re hosting a special Hygiene Edition and this post would be perfect in the carnival. I’d love it if you would pop over and share this post with our readers.