How To Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

How To Make Your Own Laundry Detergent


Until nontoxic, biodegradable, single-use, disposable socks become a reality, everyone has to do the laundry. And for many this is a pain. Besides the obvious time sink, laundry can be fairly resource intensive.

However, with this simple DIY project, you can dramatically cut down the cost of cleaning your clothes by making your own laundry detergent.

Even though it may sound daunting, making your own laundry detergent is a worthwhile endeavor for several reasons. Commercial laundry soap is very expensive– gallon for gallon, it costs more than twice as much as gasoline– and making it yourself can save you a lot of money. It is also possible to make laundry detergent that is much more environmentally friendly than most commercial brands are. All it takes is a little time and a few ingredients.

The key ingredients in homemade laundry detergent are available at any department store and include water, bar soap, borax, and washing soda. Washing soda is very similar to baking soda, but has been processed differently so that it has an extremely basic pH so it doesn’t emit fumes, but it can burn your skin and take the wax off your floors, so wear gloves and handle it carefully. However, once it is incorporated into your laundry soap, it is diluted and considerably neutralized, so it is no longer dangerous to handle and won’t harm your clothes. Borax is a naturally-occurring laundry booster that has been used to help remove stains and odors from fabrics for more than 4,000 years. It works by converting some of the chemicals around it into hydrogen peroxide, which helps your laundry detergent clean in the same way that oxygen-based cleaners like OxyClean do.

To make your own environmentally friendly laundry detergent, follow these steps:

1. Decide if you prefer liquid or powder detergent.

Liquid detergent is easy to customize; you can include essential oils to give it the scent you love most. Powder detergent is easier to make, as it doesn’t involve using the stove, and easier to store, as you can put it in any box and don’t need a leak-proof jug or bucket.

2. Assemble your supplies and ingredients and start soaping!

To make powdered laundry detergent, you will need the following:

-2 cups of finely grated bar soap (Any brand will do, but avoid strong scents.)

-1 cup of washing soda

-1 cup of borax

To grate the soap, a food processor works well, or if you are feeling strong, try a cheese grater and some elbow grease. Mix all the ingredients well and store in a box or other container. If the container is air-tight, your soap will last longer. Use about two tablespoons per load.

To make liquid laundry detergent, you will need these ingredients:

-2 cups of bar soap

-2 cups of washing soda

-2 cups of borax

Boil one quart of water and add the bar soap, mixing until it has completely melted. Then pour the soapy water into a large bucket or jug and add the borax and washing soda, mixing until it is all dissolved. Add 2 gallons of water and mix thoroughly. Once the mixture has cooled, you can add a few drops of the essential oil of your choice for scented detergent. This soap does tend to gel when it cools, so be prepared to mix or shake it before you use it. Use about 1/4 cup per load.

It couldn’t be easier to save money and the environment by making your own laundry soap. The ingredients are common and the steps are simple, so get washing!

48 thoughts on “How To Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

  1. Tom says:

    Remember: If you’re spending one hour to save £6, you’re working below the minimum wage.

    1. Cyranix says:

      Not included in cost comparison: health and environmental effects.

      1. Sam says:

        Of course that’s true, but its only a valid comparison if you were going to work/make money during that time. If the time making soap takes away from your time watching the boob-tube…time well spent. And of course we should aim to never waste time, for that is the stuff life is made of!

    2. fxer says:

      Haha, well of course “Don’t Waste Time Making It, Just Buy It” isn’t exactly this site’s motto

    3. Dax says:

      So what? It’s still money in your pocket. You don’t get any by sitting on your a** all day long.

  2. wyn says:

    will this harm my washing machine?

  3. joe says:

    No price mentioned.. How does this compare to store soap? Is it same cost as gasoline per gallon, half the cost? Also is this safe for modern he (high-efficiency) washers?

    1. Gloria says:

      Hello! I bought 12 oz of 20 Mule Team Borax, 63.845 oz of Arm & Hammer, and two bars of fels-naptha (laundry bar) for around $7 before tax at Wal-Mart. It is also supposed to be safe in HE washers.

  4. Jason Guardley says:

    Does this laundry detergent work for colored and black clothes too?
    I don’t want to wash out the black of my cool black polo shirts. ;)

  5. heather says:

    works out to about 10-15 cents per load, and is safe on colors as well as whites as long.
    Is it safe for HE washers and front loaders, just use 1 tbl instead of 2.

    1. heather says:

      sorry! ugly post- blame it on the kids in the background… yes it is safe for colors. yes it is safe for HE washers because it is low foaming/sudsing, just use less. I’ve been using a similar recipe for months now with no issues- and my whites are coming out cleaner/brighter than before.

    2. Phil says:

      My local dollar store sells a 19 ounce (weight) box of biodegradable detergent for $1. I get about 10 loads, or 10 cents per load. I highly doubt that any homemade detergent will offer any significant savings, even excluding the time and effort to make it.

  6. taylorbitt says:

    Reblogged this on Ripen.

  7. How To Make Your Own Laundry Detergent klcmaker says:

    Reblogged this on NoCo Mini Maker Faire.

  8. GardeningGal says:

    I will try this recipe, but have been making the following recipe and am very pleased with it: buy large jug of cheap liquid detergent (All, Arm n Hammer, etc.); and large sized Dawn dish washing soap. Pour half the All into an empty container; pour half the Dawn into each container; fill with water and shake to mix. This gets the sox clean, along with contractor’s work khakis, removes odors from dishcloths; also rinses out completely in one rinse cycle; costs about 6-7 bucks a bottle and works better than the $18 brands.

    1. Theresa says:

      I used ZOTE soap, it was 97 cents a bar, half the bar was 2 cups grated. so 50 cents. Borax is about 4 dollars a box that is 4lbs 12 oz or 76 oz. So it takes about 8 oz for a cup and it figures to be 45 cents a cup so 90 cents for the Borax. The baking soda is about 3 dollars for the 4lb size and 1 pound equals 16 oz so you would use 1 pound. that would be about 75 cents a pound. THE GRAND TOTAL IS $2.65 for 2 gallons. if you only use 1/4 of a cup then you get 128 loads, and this is NOT counting the qt of water to begin with. GRAND TOTAL OF EACH LOAD IS ABOUT 2 CENTS.

      1. Tracy says:

        You want to use washing soda NOT baking soda.

        1. patty says:

          what is the difference baking soda vs washing soda?

  9. Jessica says:

    Is this cloth diaper friendly?

  10. Rick Fernando says:

    I make my laundry detergent soap but after 24 hours,it turns into a solid state.. I stir using the drill but still form into a solid state after 24 hours.It is soft and you can not pour into a container. I want to liquify so that I can pour into container.

  11. karen says:

    We have been using this powdered laundry soap for several months now. It works great! We use just one tablespoon per load in our HE machine. We use Ivory soap to make it very cost effective, especially when I can a 10 pack of bars for only $5.00 on sale at shop rite.

  12. nancy says:

    i bought a box of orax and a box of wahsing soda 3 months ago when i need ot make the detergent i buy a bar of soap and make the detergent i stillused it for as i said i have usesit for 3 months have half of the boxes left. It is safe for the septic system safe on my closths and i have alot of them adn very CHEEP!!!!!!!!! only takes like 15 minutes to make and i never have to worry about picking it up at teh store… try it

  13. dsmith says:

    I have used this for about 2 years. Works great. I like to our it into large bucket to mix at first than I put it into Gatorade bottles to store and use. It is like Cotton before I open the bottle but I shake it and it’s perfect again… Works great on all clothes and I use it in my he washer

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Drew Hendricks is the Co-Founder of Mens Gifts. He's been featured in many publications such as Forbes, Inc. and Entrepreneur covering business and tech related topics.

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