DIY Laundry Detergent

When I first came across this idea here I said to myself, “What? Who would make their own laundry detergent?” but after considering how tight things are right now I decided to give it a try. I’m totally hooked. It couldn’t be easier to make, the 3 ingredients are not hard to find, and you can’t beat the savings. It costs 5 cents a load! 5 cents! (I will break it down for you in a bit…) It leaves your clothes smelling clean and fresh, not perfumy. But the best part of all? You only use ONE TABLESPOON of this, people! Needless to say, it goes a long way. Can you hear those dollars stretching?

Here’s all you need: A hand grater dedicated solely for this purpose (I got mine for $2 or $3), a box of 20 Mule Team Borax, a box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (this is not the same as baking soda) and a bar of Fels-Naptha soap. All 3 ingredients can be found in the laundry aisle of most major stores and grocery stores. You will also need an air-tight container to store it in when you are finished. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy…a plastic container will do just fine.

For each batch you will use:

  • 1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap, grated
  • 1 cup of Borax
  • 1 cup of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

You’ll have plenty of Borax and Washing Soda leftover to make more batches. So, let’s get started! Grab a bowl and pour in 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of the Super Washing Soda. Using the smaller holes on your grater and those muscles you’ve got, grate the Fels-Naptha soap bar into the mixture. Use caution when it gets down to the end of the bar!

When the bar is fully grated (how many breaks did you take?) mix until everything is combined well.

The first time you make up a batch of detergent, you may want to save a little piece of the soap bar for pretreating stains, like grass stains. Just wet the stain, rub the piece of soap on the stain and wash as directed.

Now put it all into your container (the one pictured is from Target) and you are good to go! Remember one wash load only needs 1 tablespoon so keep one handy with your container. Sometimes the grated soap settles a bit in the container so I usually give it a stir each time I go to use it.

Now, here’s a breakdown of the cost:
20 Mule Team Borax – $3.39
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda – $2.49
1 bar Fels-Naptha – $.95
{You’ll get 10 batches from the Borax, 6 batches from the Washing Soda, and 1 batch from the Fels-Naptha bar. Total of $1.84 a batch / Approx. 36-37 loads per batch.}
Your prices may vary depending on your area but you should still see unbelievable savings!

I know what some of you are thinking so I’ll let you in on a secret. I wasn’t too thrilled about the fact that it is the powdered kind since I prefer the liquid, but it doesn’t leave any powder residue behind. { Plus, I researched how the make the homemade liquid detergent and it was too involved for me. I’m not going to cook my detergent in some huge pot…I do enough cooking as it is.}

Regarding High Efficiency Washers, my opinion is that this would be fine due to the fact that there really aren’t any suds. But if your machine is still under warranty, you might void your warranty so check with your manufacturer.

I really hope you try this. Even if you aren’t pinching pennies, I’m sure you could use that extra 10 bucks that you’d be spending on a bottle of detergent for something better, no? Let me know what you think!

22 thoughts on “DIY Laundry Detergent

  1. This is absolutely awesome! Thanks for posting this. When my current liquid laundry detergent runs out, I’ll definitely be giving this a whirl. I do so enjoy getting back to the basics. They tend to work better, and end up costing less, all the way around.

    • Thanks! Yes, it is specifically for laundry and it’s good to have a piece to rub on stains. I’m guessing the Dove would be good if anyone has sensitive skin though since it’s probably more mild. Either way – we don’t have to buy those big jugs of expensive detergents, right? 🙂

  2. I made the liquid detergent and was okay with it, but recently decided to try the dry stuff just because its easier. So far, so good. And although not pretty, I just poured the dry stuff back into the washing soda box so I’m reusing it rather than buying another container.

    • Yeah, why not right? Does it get clumpy in there, though? My washer and dryer are in the basement and it’s a little damp down there so I need to keep mine in a more sealed container.

      • My laundry room is upstairs so its dry. I guess that would have a big effect. So far so good, but its still a recent event 😉

        Oh, and I actually put my bar soap in my food processor with the grater attachment, and lickety split it was done.

        • I have been wondering if it would work in a food processor! Grating it is the worst part, but I just tell myself I’m working on my muscles. 🙂 Good to know – thanks.

  3. Pingback: Liebster Blog Award! « Bumbleberry Lane

    • Yes, it does! It works for cold, warm, and hot washes. If you have a load with dark colors, just make sure to fill the washer with enough water to make sure it’s all rinsed out. Every once in a while, I pack my washer too full and some of the residue is left behind. It’s fine if I give it some “wiggle” room. 🙂

  4. I made it today and used it . Love how it makes the clothes smell, and it washed well . I was kind of surprised that it did not “suds” up a ;lot . There fore I added more than 1T. I think I am just used to lots of suds , which apparently does NOT make for cleaner clothes, as this home made detergent seemed to work well! Do you really only have to use 1 T ? Does yours suds more than mine?
    My daughter pointed out this is probably how soap was used and made a long time ago . I think she is right ! When I think about the nature of the soda and borax, it is good for dirt removal . Thank you so much for this recipe! I work full time now (since my divorce) but LOVED staying home with my kids the previous years
    and this reminds me I can still do the home maker stuff I used to do and that I miss . : )

    • I’m so glad you like it, Doris! Yes, the clothes smell clean, but not perfume-y which is nice. No, it doesn’t make suds like we are used to from the other detergents. They have made us believe that our clothes won’t come clean without all the suds but that is not true! You really only need 1 tablespoon but I have used up to 2 for dirtier loads. Just make sure there is enough water in the load to rinse well like I said above. Thanks for taking the time to come back and report how it worked for you! Enjoy your holiday!

  5. Here’s a huge time saving tip and works better than grating it like cheese I put 1/3 chunk of the soap in the microwave for a min (until it expands) take it out let it cool (put in front of a fan for quicker drying time) bushmen it expands and cools Ill break it in pieces in a bowl or plate and it just crumbles to tiny pieces and powder in seconds

    • Consumers have been using powders for decades and not clogging machines. I’m guessing the only way it could possibly clog a machine would be if you used way too much? This recipe calls for one tablespoon of product per load so not a problem and a YES YES. 🙂

  6. It costs more than what you said. The arm and hammer is 5.49$ and fels naphtha is 1.79$. You also need to use more. 1/2 cup works better. But everything else is “spot on” ! I use the recipe to add to power detergent I already buy to extend. The Costco brand for example.

    • Hi Stephanie, this post was written about 4 years ago, so the cost of the items most likely went up! Also, prices vary by where you are in the country. It wouldn’t surprise me if the companies raised their prices because so many people are making their own detergents!

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