Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

There are two things you should know about me:

1) I am cheap.

2) I am not original.

Awesome way to introduce a post, right?

Let me say a little more about Point #1:  I’m not a spendthrift.  In fact, if you ask my husband, he’d tell you quite the opposite.

It’s just that I’d rather spend my money on something fun and cool.

Laundry detergent does not fall into either of those categories.

As for #2, well, that’s pretty self-explanatory.  This post won’t tell you much more than you could know if you just googled…or frankly, read the post that I got it from myself.  But, I get asked all the time about my homemade laundry detergent, so I’ll just tell you how I do it because it’s seems like an easy post and I was making more today anyway.

Here’s what you need for each batch:

1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (NOT baking soda!)

1 cup Borax

1 bar of Fels Naptha Soap (I heard you can also use Zote)

1/4 cup of Oxi Clean*

A little bit of Purex Crystals stuff*

*the last two ingredients are optional, FYI.

Let me save y’all a lot of time and agony.

Fels Naptha (and Zote) are found in the laundry detergent aisle.  NOT the soap aisle.  I may, or may not, have spent a lot of wasted time looking in the entirely wrong part of the store.  Ahem.

Secondly, I used to get my Fels Naptha at the grocery store for what I thought was a reasonable price of $1.79 per bar.  Until I found that WalMart carries it for under a buck.

Even better.

The washing soda proved more elusive for me, but my mother in law was able to find it at her local Winco…and she lives 5 hours away…so I had her buy me 10 boxes.  I think they were about $2 per box.

Now, the original recipe I followed showed a regular cheese grater in the picture.

And I will tell you right now that if this little adventure required me to sit there and hand grate a bar of soap, I would never, ever, ever do it more than once.

Much less more than one batch at a time.

Grating it in a food processor literally takes all of 9 seconds and all the parts get tossed into the dishwasher.  The end.

If you don’t have a food processor and have an aversion to manual labor like I do, find one on Craigslist for $5.

Or borrow the one your mom has had hidden in the back of her kitchen cupboards for the last 20 years.

If you want to grate the skin off your knuckles, then by all means.

When it’s grated, it will look exactly like cheddar cheese.


As in, anytime anyone goes into your laundry room they will look at you with disgust and say “is this CHEESE???!!!”

Every. single. time.

Sometimes I say yes just to mess with people.

I used to make this following the original “recipe”.

And then one day I ran out of homemade stuff and in a moment of weakness bought a bottle of detergent at the store.

And almost had a heart attack at the price tag.

But sometimes desparate times call for desparate measures.

While I swore I’d never pay that kind of money for something as silly as soap again, I did find that I missed the fresh smell of traditional detergents.

(Remember, I’m doing this because I’m cheap.  Not because I’m overly concerned with chemicals or have issues with allergies to perfumes and such.  If you do, you’ll obviously want to skip this step.)

So I bought a bottle of the Purex Crystals and add about a cap full to every 3-4 batches.  Be careful, this stuff is strooooong so don’t use too much or you’ll give yourself a headache.

As an aside, if you don’t add the Crystals your clothes won’t smell like anything.  Not bad, nor good.  Just like….clothes.

Mix it all together and use 1 tblsp. for an average load.

I use 2 tblsp. if stuff is gross or extra dirty.

Put it in a big pretty glass jar and admire your Little House on the Prairie ways.

Remember how I said the OxyClean was optional?

It is.

I’m just really particular about my clothes not being dingy.

So, yes, I use it…and you’ll see that I still use regular bleach, color safe bleach and have assorted stain fighting sprays in my arsenal.

Because the homemade stuff doesn’t work?

No.  It works great. I’ve been making my own detergent for about a year and it’s been awesome.  Or at least, no one’s said that my family and I look like slobs.

I used all that extra stain fighting stuff when I bought the pre-made stuff too. (Not in every load, just depending on what was going on.)

If you want to make your own detergent and actually be successful about it, I have a couple of tips:

-Make as many batches as the container you have allows and use a big container.  In this case, I made 4 batches, which didn’t even fill my new glass jar halfway, but I ran out of Borax.  It doesn’t take but a few minutes more to make 10 batches at a time then it does to make 1 batch. Promise.

-Buy more ingredients than you need to make your batches and have it waiting in the cupboard to be mixed together.  If you wait to buy all the ingredients when you run out of mix, you’ll instead find yourself buying premade stuff because it’s right there and all done for you.  Don’t set yourself up for failure.  I usually restock  anything I need the minute I run out and then it’s in my house and all I need to do is whip up more.

-This takes 10 minutes.  Tops.  I made four batches, and took pictures of the process for this post in that much time.

-I have no idea what the cost breakdown of this is because no matter how often I swear I’m gonna count how many loads of laundry I do with it, I never rememeber.  But I can tell you with full confidence that it is significantly cheaper than buying even the store brand laundry detergent.

-I’ll be honest and tell you that it doesn’t work to take out the stinkyness of my husband’s workout/basketball clothes.  Thinking it was the fact that most of the ingredients are all-natural, I bought my old standby Tide and washed his gym clothes separately.  They were still stinky.  Eventually, I figured out that I needed to use Tide Sport…so it wasn’t the homemade recipe that was the problem…it was just that weird wicking fabric that needs uber powerful stuff to get clean.  So, I just make him keep it all in a separate basket and I wash his sports clothes separately.  If you have kids that play sports, you might have to do this too.

Do you make your own detergent?  Have you been toying with the idea?



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I'm a mom to four. A wife to one. I believe in story. I love telling you about mine and would love to hear yours. There's really no sense in wasting our suffering and not sharing in each other's joy. We're all in this together...even if it doesn't always feel like it.

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  1. 1

    I have been making mine for a few months now but as soon as I finish this batch I am done because My hubby is too stinky and it doesn’t clean his clothes. However I love it for my clothes. I know I could just wash his clothes by themselves but its too much work.

    • 2

      I totally get that. Fortunately, it’s only my husbands sports clothes that need washed separately…so it’s only one small load per week…the other 7-8 loads get washed using the homemade stuff so it’s worth it for us!

  2. 3

    try vinegar on the stink. spray it directly on the smelly areas. it totally works. smells horrible when you spray it, but doesn’t after the wash.

    • 4

      +1 on vinegar. It was the only thing that made sharing dorm washers bearable last year, and this year I’m living in an apartment where the default (non-vinegar) choice is between Overpriced (convenience charge) Dingy Basement Smell or Self-Serve Laundromat Smell.

      Vinegar. It’ll soften your clothes and make Dingy Basement, Shared Washer, Self-Serve, and Sweaty Exercise smells go away. Fresh out of the wash, you’ll smell the vinegar, but when the vinegar smell leaves the clothes over the next couple hours, it takes Other Smells with it.

  3. 5

    You crack me up. You are talking about laundry detergent and you are STILL funny.

  4. 6

    I just started making my detergent last month, and am SO glad I did! I feel like all I do is laundry and this at least makes me smile just a bit, knowing I made it & am saving money. I found my washing soda at Wal-Mart & it is always fully stocked. I also recently found a recipe for fabric softener via pinterest & am really happy with it!

  5. 7
    Andee Eve says:

    We are so cut from the same cloth! Yes, I too make my own laundry soap ( tho I make the liquid version) and I too really enjoy saving my money. My husband laughs at me ( in a sweet way) about it. I always tell him,
    Houses & wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord. ( proverbs 19:14). It’s kind of our little thing that I say when I’m saving us money somewhere :)
    So yes, some may call us cheap, thrifty, or even frugal-
    But I like to think of ladies like us as prudent :)

  6. 10

    I’ve been making mine for over a year now. I use a bar of ivory soap though instead of the Fels Naptha. I also recently started adding a few drops of lavender to the batch too!

  7. 11

    I have not tried this … I’ve been intrigued, but haven’t done it. I think mostly because we’re a family of three and don’t really have that much laundry (I know, I know, don’t hate me) that I fee like I buy detergent all that often. I do however shop at WinCo … so apparently I have access to the goods ;). When you come visit me for a week in Idaho following Snap! I’ll hook ya up ;).

    The main reason I want to make my own laundry soap, btw, is to have it in a cute container ;). Just sayin’.

  8. 12

    i can’t decide if you’re crazy or a genius!

  9. 13

    I’m laughing at the comments now, esp. Andrea wanting to make it JUST to put it in a cute container. This sounds like a great idea and I might do it, even if it is just the two of us. Just sounds like a fun thing…and I like the container, too. The only thing…will the food processor clean up okay by hand? We don’t have a dishwasher. I KNOW!!!! :) I’m the dishwasher, but Dan steps in, too.

    • 14

      I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t work well to just rinse with really hot water…after all, we wash dishes with soap…this is just a different kind!

  10. 15

    But will it work in a high efficiency washer?? The last time I said “oh it will be fine, soap is soap” my washer shut down and needed repairs…. so what kind of washer do you have?

    • 16

      hmmmm….this i don’t know. i’m amish and still have top loading washer/dryer. sorry!

    • 17
      Veterkins says:

      Yes, I’ve heard it works well in HE washers. there are no suds so you don’t have to worry about over sudsing.

      I will be using it in my HE washer – I just have to gather the ingredients. I think the daughter-in-law and I will be making a batch tomorrow!!

    • 18

      I use something similar in my dishwasher. I use 1/2 cup borax & 1/2 cup washing soda & white vinegar in the rinse and my dishes are always sparkly, I use a measuring cup as in medicine measuring cup and maybe to the 1st line. I just make sure their is a thin layer in the detergent part if that makes sense. I only use 1/2 cup bc i have a small container that fits nicely under my kitchen sink so it doesn’t take up a lot of room but you could always do bigger just as long as it’s equal parts.

  11. 19
    Carrie R. says:

    I’ve been thinking about attempting this, but was a little leary after I tried to make my own dish detergent. Yeah, that didn’t go over too well. I really like how you broke it down and all the tips you gave. It makes me feel as if I could really do it. I need to do something with the leftover Broax from my dish detergent fail anyways. ;o)

  12. 20

    We made homemade laundry detergent for our family members last year as Christmas presents (we do homemade gifts, not traditional store bought). It was a hit! We have not been consistent about making our own at home but I might just try this again soon.

  13. 21

    I make my own laundry detergent… and it’s the same recipe. It works for us. I think that the fels-naptha soap has a pretty strong scent.

    • 22

      i think the fels naptha has a strong scent when it’s soap…but somehow my clothes don’t smell like anything after i’ve washed them?

  14. 23
    Mary TAylor says:

    Thank you for explaining that your husband’s gym clothes didn’t smell fresh. I have been making my own soap for a while and found the same thing with my kids gym clothes.

  15. 24

    I have been making my own for about 1 1/2 years. (I have a tutorial on my blog too) I make the liquid kind and thought would try the dry/powdered kind like you showed over the summer. I don’t know if it was because of summer or because it was powdered but one batch only lasted about a month. When I make the liquid it lasts for about 3 1/2 months. So I went back to liquid. I’m excited to learn about the purex crystals and will add that to the liquid batch next time. I love how the homemade soap works and I’m with you – who wants to spend all that extra money on soap when you can buy new shoes!

  16. 25

    I’ve been making my own (the liquid) for about a year and a half and I LOVE IT! I’ve made *three* batches of laundry detergent in that time. THREE! It’ll last us for 4.5 to 5 months. I’m going to have to make my fourth batch this week. But I’m seriously amazed at how long it lasts and how cheap it is!!! I like the idea of adding a little more Borax to it (my recipe uses 1/2 cup). Also like the idea of adding the boost of Oxy Clean, too. I wash everything of ours in it with the exception of our undies – those have to be washed in All Free & Clear — but a bottle of that will last months since I only do one load a week in it.

  17. 26

    So I finally made this today. First load is in washing (diapers). I thought the Fels-Naptha gratings looked too long tho? Maybe not? I put two tbsp in the wash cause one just didnt seem like enough, I bet it was.

  18. 27

    I made my first batch today, but my food processor crapped out on Sat. so I had to hand grate. It made it really thick and long… Towels seem clean, kids clothes are up next.

  19. 28

    I made my first batch of laundry detergent a month ago. I used a similar recipe to yours, only the recipe I followed didn’t call for the Oxi Clean. I will have to give that a try! Thank you for the suggestions and notes. Also, I don’t have a food processor, but I did enlist my hubby’s help in the grating process. I told him if he wanted me to save money, he could grate and I’d do the mixing! Hee Hee:)

  20. 29

    I used the sun crystals as well. I noticed that the batch as I stirred the components together had a heat reaction. I used it and the smell of the clothes for weeks afterward were great. Now here a couple weeks later I have noticed the mix still smells great, but my clothes aren’t sweet smelling any more after they come out of the drier. Has any one had this problem, and does usiing oxi clean really matter apposed to the other sun brand. Thanks,

  21. 30

    Finally made it tonight! Stuff smells good, and I couldn’t find purex at winco… And YES, folks asked if that was cheese! Why yes, yes it is. I always put cheddar in the wash lol

  22. 31

    I make my own recipe too – the same as yours! except that I add regular baking soda too. it seems to help with odors. Maybe try adding a few TBSP to a load of your husband’s clothes with your homemade detergent and see if that makes a difference.
    Christina @ The Frugal Homemaker´s last blog post ..Rolled Fabric Flower Ring Tutorial (Guest post)

  23. 32
    Erika McKinney says:

    I make my own as well, because I’m cheap, but because I’m allergic to everything! I make mine the liquid way however. I basically grate a bar of Fels Napha (or a bar of home made soap I’ve made out of coconut oil or lard) toss it into a pot. Fill the pot with water and melt the soap down. I pour this into a 5 gallon bucket. Add a cup of washing soda and a cup of borax and mix it up with a stick ( I got a big paint stir stick from Home depot FREE). For fragrance I go to any health food store and get a bottle of essential oil. Orange Blossom is usually the cheapest so that is what i use. I toss that in and then FILL UP THE BUCKET .. all 5 gallons with water.. stir it up. If i’m lazy i’ll use my stick blender. I use half a cup per load and it lasts me quite a bit. Use can also fill up your rinse thingy (whatever it is called lol. mine is a hole in the top of the agitator) with white vinegar. It softens clothing, helps rinse it clean, AND gets rid of smell :) Now to figure out the whole fabric softner issue. Again.. I’m allergic :( I’ve tried essential oil in some Downy Free.. it isn’t bad but boy is it expensive.
    I so enjoy your blog!!!

    Erika :)


  1. […] a few tutorials on how to make your own laundry detergent pinned, but it wasn’t until I read Jeanette’s take on her process that I thought I’d give it a whirl.  It sounded cheap, fast, and effective, […]