Saturday, January 22, 2011

Simply Homemade: Laundry Detergent

EDIT: I've updated this post as of June 2012 to include some things I've learned about laundry soap in the past year and a half.

This past year, in trying to save money everywhere we possibly could, I decided to try making homemade laundry detergent. I was incredibly pleased with the process and results. It is super easy to make and so economical as well. The ingredients will cost approximately $10 or so to start but you will be able to make laundry detergent for approximately two YEARS with what you purchase. One recipe makes 5 gallons of soap and there's enough borax and washing soda to make approximately 6 batches of soap before you use up the washing soda. That means, you can make approximately 30 gallons of laundry soap with your supplies (I am not counting the bar soap that you have to buy as well).

Supplies Necessary for Making Laundry Detergent:
1/2 to 1 bar of soap. You can use Dr. Bronner's if you want a great scented bar. You can also use Ivory, Dove, 1/2 bar of Zote or 1/2 Fels Naptha bar. (The last two are specifically laundry soap bars but are bigger than regular bars which is why you need to use only 1/2 a bar).
1 cup washing soda. This is also found in the laundry detergent aisle.
1/2 cup borax. Yup. Same place.
Optional: 5 drops of essential oils if you would like your soap to have a specific smell.

A pot to cook the soap in. You can use one of your own kitchen pots. It just needs to hold about 6 cups of liquid.

A Five Gallon Bucket. This is what I make my whole batch of soap in.

My big container and my two smaller containers that I refill over and over.
One or two large containers to store the soap in. I actually use a recycled plastic kitty litter container that the litter comes in. It is huge and will hold one full batch of soap.

An old laundry soap bottle or two. I fill these up from the larger container. This makes it much easier to measure and pour from a regular sized bottle than having to use the huge storage container. My detergent tends to separate over time so these smaller bottles are also convenient to shake up right before pouring.

Grate your bar of soap with a cheese grater. Cook over heat in 4 cups of water until dissolved. Fill a 5 gallon bucket half way with hot tap water. To this hot water add the pot of melted soap and water from the stove. Next add 1 cup of the Washing Soda and a 1/2 cup of the Borax Laundry Booster. Stir to mix.

This is what it looks like when it separates. I just give it a quick shake and it mixes up fine.
Allow to cool overnight and then mix well and pour into your containers. I do have to shake my bottles each time I use them as it tends to separate. I used a full-bar of Fels Naptha the first time and think it was too much which is why I cut the recipe back to 1/2 bar. Two different recipes I referred to said two different things. I tried it one way the first time and found that 1 bar made it too thick. The 1/2 bar of Fels Naptha is perfect. It is very similar to regular laundry detergent consistency.

The only thing I don't like about the process is cooking the soap on the stove. It makes my house smell very strongly of whatever soap you use. It's not a horrible smell but it is strong. I try to melt the soap as fast as I can and then air out my house quickly. I love making laundry soap. It doesn't take much time or money and it lasts forever and works just like the store-bought products. 

Yields approximately 70 loads of laundry per batch if you use 1/2 cup of detergent.

My big kitty litter container of laundry soap. It was full to the TOP when I made the recipe.
Best of all, if you want to make homemade dishwasher soap, you can use the washing soda AND the borax for that recipe.

We made about 6 batches of laundry soap at my MOPS group with all the moms. We were able to make 6 batches in about an hour and a half! It only takes about 15 minutes per batch to make 5 gallons. So many of the moms were so excited about the laundry soap. A lot of them thought it would be a huge process and were surprised by how simple it was in the end.

Here's where I found my supplies:
Washing Soda-approx $4.00 at Walmart
Borax-approx $4.00 at Walmart
Fels Naptha-$2-4/bar. I found mine at City Market but you might find it at Walmart
Dr. Bronner's soap-$3.50/bar at Vitamin Cottage or a store that carries natural products



  1. looking forward to your homemade dishwasher soap recipe.
    making laundry detergent is definently simple and thrifty! and it makes me happy every time i use it.

  2. Can you use this recipie for He machines?

  3. Annie, I believe so but since I don't have an HE machine I don't want to speculate and be wrong. I've seen other HE users say they've used it. You might want to do a little research before trying it as I know there are many very similar detergent recipes online.

  4. I sure need to try to make this. It would save so much money.

  5. It really is so simple to make!! Give it a go! You'll be glad you did.

  6. I've been adding about 1/2-1 cup of Biz as an extra laundry booster. It's great for helping get out those tougher stains. Totally optional, but if you want the extra boost, you can add it. I've also been adding lavender essential oil to add a lovely scent. I have a friend who uses a bar of almond scented soap so their laundry smells like almonds. Try any scent you'd like if you want scented soap.