Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tips and Tricks Tuesday #5: Homemade Laundry Detergent

So for a few years now, I've been making my own laundry detergent.  Yes, MAKING it.  In my attempt to get rid of harsh chemicals and all things toxic in my home, I found this recipe I'll be sharing with you today on Tips & Tricks Tuesday. Now, don't get the wrong idea.   I'm really not a "purist" or "naturalist"; "I only eat organic" kind of person.  Those labels come with expense and I'm more of the "keep the money in my pockets" kind of girl.
Making your own laundry detergent is a great way to save money though.  I've read that it cost some ridiculous amount like .02-.04 cents per load with this recipe.  I have no idea who spent the time calculating those numbers.  All I know is I can make a 3 month supply for about $5 (maybe less).  Good deal, right!

Here's the real reason I started making my own version of laundry detergent.  I was struggling with PMS irritability and read a great book about steps to take to help with that issue.  I learned that our environment has a great deal to do with our hormones, so controlling our environment by what we eat, drink, breathe, and allow on our skin (think make-up, lotions, cleaning products) can curb the effects of crazy hormones causing mama to go crazy.  My response- Yes, please!

 By the way, the book is called What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause by Dr. John Lee.  I think every woman over 30 should read it. 

Ok, back to business.  There are a few recipes out there to make your own laundry detergent.  I'll give you both the powder version and liquid version recipes and you can choose what best fits you.  I personally use the powder version because it's quick and easy, but the liquid version is more cost efficient (aka-cheaper!).

So here is the cast of characters!
1 box of Washing Soda (not baking soda)
1 box of  Borax
Fels-Naptha bar soap

You can find all of these products in the laundry aisle at the grocery store, but I have found that they are about half the price at Wal-Mart.  The washing soda and borax is about $3-4 each.  The bar of soap is less than a $1.  My advice is to buy a few bars and make a large supply to get you through a couple of months.  If you don't live near a store that carries these products, you can also order them from Amazon or Soapsgonebuy.

Powder Detergent
1.  Grate the soap. (One bar makes 2-3 cups)
2. Add 1&1/2 cup of washing soda and 1 &1/2 cup of Borax.
(This is my tweaked version. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of grated soap, 1 cup Borax, 1 cup washing soda.) 
3. Mix and store in an airtight container. Use 2-3 tablespoons per load.

It takes me about 5 minutes to grate a bar of soap and mix in the other ingredients.  Grueling, I know.  It doesn't make suds in your washing machine, but trust me, the clothes are cleaner than if you used store bought detergent which mainly consist of salt and phosphates.  This home made recipe is safe to use in HE washing machines and safe for little helping hands.

By the way, I just found out you can make washing soda from regular baking soda.  Without going into a chemistry lesson, bake your baking soda at 400 degrees F. on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes.  Mix it during the baking process and use gloves when handling.  Let it cool down then add it to your laundry recipe.  You can find out more about this process on my Cleaning Board on Pinterest.
Making washing soda from baking soda - smart!
Personally, the fewer steps I can take in making detergent the better.  This is good to know though and I'll keep it in my files under "just in case".

Liquid Detergent
1.  Boil a quart of water
2.  Add 2 cups of grated soap to the water.  Let the soap melt over low heat.
3.  Pour the soap water into a clean 5 gallon pail that has a lid.  Mix in 2 cups of borax and 2 cups of   washing soda.  Stir until everything is dissolved.
4.  Add 2 more gallons of water and stir well again. (You can add a few drops of essential oils here for scent)
5. Cover the pail when storing and stir before each use.  It will look like gel.  Use 1/4 for each load. 

I've never made the liquid version; like I said, the fewer step the better for me, but if you're in a pinch, this will last you a while.  Every penny helps and I'm all about making my pennies scream!

If you have family members that suffer from allergies/sensitive skin or you're someone that likes "green" cleaning, this is certainly the way to go. 


  I link all my projects with some wonderful blogs.  To visit them, go to the {Link Party Love} page found at the top of this page on the {Home} bar.
Also linking to:
Savvy Southern Style
No Minimalist Here
The Shabby Creek Cottage
Saved by Love Creations 
Miss Mustard Seed
Funky Junk Interiors
Coastal Charm 
Tip Junkie 


  1. I just tried a similar recipe a few weeks ago and love it. Megan

  2. I make this same washing detergent! I love it! My husband and I started making it a few months ago. We both really like it & I like that it saves $! I'm a new follower & I like seeing your DIY transformations.

    Shameless self promotion here: Please check out my blog

  3. I make the liquid (gel) version and LOVE it!

    1. I've always wanted to try the liquid version but end up falling back on the easy way out. Plus, I don't have a container with a lid yet. Someday.

  4. Good research into the hormones and the chemicals that affect them, all too true. I've been making this detergent myself and posted, and yes it works better than others I've tried and is cheaper, I love the smell and making everything myself. blessings, Lady

  5. Found your post on Inspiration Friday. Really? This home made version gets everything clean?? Stains as well? It sounds so easy and good! Do you use stain remover? Thanks so much for the dry and liquid recipes!!

    1. Lynn, I do use stain remover but I have my own version that consist of Dawn and Hydrogen Peroxide. You can find the recipe under my cleaning page. It does get stains out pretty well by itself though. Yesterday I did a load with a pair of jeans that I got paint on. I forgot to treat the jeans but when I looked for the paint, it was gone.

    2. Hydrogen proxide works great in getting blood out. My son had a slight head injury, and his favorite shirt was soaked in blood. A friend from church said soak it in cold water. Well I did, and it worked! Came out as good as new! Happy son! Happy Mom.;)

  6. Also works beautifully as a pre(or post)-treat for stains. Gets all the ketchup and red dirt stains out of our white baseball pants, also oil spots. I just use cold water and a toothbrush and scrub with the detergent.

  7. I've been making my own for over a year using the same basic recipe. It works great. Natural cleaning products are so costly. This is a great way to use chemical free products inexpensively.

  8. I've been using this recipe though I use some type of oxigen cleaner, usually not the same brand every time, I'm using sun brand the next time I mix a batch. I on my cloth diapers (sans the naptha which causes repelling) for over a year now, and I love it. Since I made a huge batch I have 2 separate smaller containers one I put the detergent sans fels naptha in and the other I add a bar of naptha per 2 cups of the soda/borax/oc mix. I use only a TBL per load and love the stuff.
    Though I have heard of just using castile bar soap instead of fels naptha and have considered it, I'll have to see about price.

  9. I started out making the liquid version but switched to the powder because, like you, I thought it was so much easier. One trick I discovered for grating the soap is to use the grater attachment on my food processor (actually, the food processor circa 1985 I inherited from my mom). The bar zips into shreds in no time.

  10. Yes, I make detergent also, just started a month or so ago....cost savings and peace of mind. I have RA and so many allergies....controlling what I come in contact with is so helpful...My husband was dubious, but went along with it...until several loads later...he likes the smell, and how clean clothes get.
    I hadn't heard about the hormones thing, but it makes sense totally! Great job on research. I also did some research years ago, and the thing about magnetic fields in the bedroom caused by metal bedframes, and TVs, and lots of electrical items in a bedroom add to ill health. It affects hormones and immune systems....

  11. I make and use this all the time. It works great. Stopping by from Sisters of the Wild West:)

  12. I have been making my own liquid laundry detergent with the same recipe for months and I love it! I can make the soap into more of a powder by using my mini food processor. I like your blog, which I found through Sisters of the Wild West! Come by and visit me at Home In Douglas!

  13. That is a great idea! Thanks for sharing it with us!
    Stacey of Embracing Change

  14. This is such a great idea. We are so excited you shared it with all of us! We are so glad you joined our "Strut Your Stuff Saturday". We love to see all of the great recipes and ideas!! Thanks and we hope to see you again next week! -The Sisters

  15. I've been using this recipe for a few years and love it!

  16. I Love making my own laundry soap but always thought it was good for my clothes (I do a lower soap to other stuff ratio) never thought about what good it did ME.

  17. I make the same powdered laundry detergent! I grate my soap in my food processor with the fine grate disc then put the soap in a different container and put the chopping blade on the processor, add the grated soap, borax and washing soda, give it a few good pulses and that's it! It takes probably less than five minutes from start to finish.

  18. This is wonderful. This year I went vegan and also have been looking for ways to be more green. I hate that everything we use daily life is full of chemicals. I really would like to try this! Thanks for sharing. Looking at everyone's comments also, sounds like it really works.

  19. Thanks so much for mentioning HE washers in your post. My husband and I just bought an HE washer last year and while I've been wanting to make my own laundry soap I was afraid that I would break our shiny new machine.
    I'm really excited to be able to try this out now. :)

  20. Congratulations!! You are featured this week on Busy Monday at A Pinch of Joy! I hope you will stop by and grab a Featured Button from the Button Box on the sidebar this afternoon. Can’t wait to see what else you’ve been working on!

  21. A friend just gave me enough of this laundry soap to wash a load. I wanted to try it out on my toughest clothes so used it on jeans and a pair of old shorts that are kind of rough to begin with. When I took the clothes out of the dryer I was amazed at how soft the load was. I went out and bought all the stuff to make it with and have it waiting for when my cost co soap runs out.

  22. I have seen this before, and I do want to do this. I am inviting you to come and be part of my blog hop:

  23. I've been using the powdered recipe for several months and it is easy and cheap, plus our laundry doesn't have the highly perfumed soapy smell anymore. Everything just smells clean. I ran out of washing soda and thought I'd buy a small container of Tide in the interim and the cost blew me away. Making some washing soda per your post and doing it today. Thanks!

  24. Hey everyone, I have a question. What kind of essential oils do you add and where do you get them? I also have a HE washer & don't want to mess it up by adding the wrong thing.

  25. I use this in my HE machine and it is actually less stinky now. HE machines have an issue with this which is why you see cleaners now being sold for these washers. I add a bit of tea tree oil and lavender to mine. Grapefruit essential oil is good too. I only use one tablespoon and it works great

  26. Where do you get essential oils that are ok to use on clothes?

  27. HI, I have a question about this laundry soap--I have made and used this in the past but only for a short time because I found that it left a soap scum ring on my washing machine. Anyone else have that problem?