Homemade Laundry Detergent (Recipe and Video)

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Guest Post by Jackie of Lilolu

Homemade laundry detergent can be environmentally friendly and save you a bundle. There are many variations of this laundry detergent but I prefer the liquid version since it works best in high efficiency front loaders. It has saved me a lot of money and I hope it will do the same for you. Enjoy.

18 cups of water
1 Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Bar Soap or Fels Naptha soap bar
1 cup of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (Baking Soda will not work – It must have sodium carbonate)
1/2 cup of Borax
3 gallons of hot water
5 gallon bucket

1. The following items will be needed:

2. Grate the Dr Bronner’s soap or Fels Naptha soap with a food processor or a hand grater. This will help the soap dissolve quickly.

3. Bring 18 cups of water to a simmer. Pour the grated soap and stir until it is dissolved.

4. Add one cup of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (Must be sodium carbonate)

5. Add 1/2 cup of Borax and stir until it is completely dissolved.

6. Add 3 gallons of hot water to a 5 gallon bucket. Then pour your dissolved mixture in the bucket and stir. Let it sit overnight.

7. The following is the end result.

Cost for 4 gallons of homemade laundry detergent:

1 bar Fels Naptha $1.29

55 oz box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda $2.75 (1 cup cost .40¢)

76 oz box Borax $3.79 (1/2 cup cost .20¢)

4 gallons = 64 cups or 64 heavily soiled loads

Total cost per load = .03¢ Happy washing!

Jackie is a mother of 3 and a wife who loves quotes, poetry and learning something new every day.  She has a passion for learning to live an organic life and documents this journey on her blog, Lilolu.  She is also the creator of Mama’s Quotes.


  1. Sarah says:

    I am curious, would you use less for a high efficiency washer? Like say a 1/4 of a cup for a regular load instead of 1/2 cup?

    • Stephanie @ Saving Naturally says:

      I would imagine it would be the same as with other detergents for an HE machine.

  2. Stephanie P says:

    I LOVE my homemade detergent. I use almost the exact same ingredients but in a dry version instead. I’ve given baggies of it away as small freebies and folks love it!

    3 cups Borax
    2 cups grated bar of soap (I alternate between Bronner’s peppermint and lavender)
    2 cups washing soda
    2 cups baking soda
    Use 2 tablespoons per load (aka the size of a coffee scoop)

    *trick for if you hand grate your soap: let it sit out for a while outside of the wrapper – it helps it dry out and grate easier.

  3. Stephanie P says:

    Oops! I forgot about the simple fabric softener.

    To keep clothes fresh and colorful, I put white vinegar in a downy ball for the rinse cycle. Works every time plus much cheaper and healthier too (no nuerotoxins from the fabric softener).

  4. Lady Why says:

    I’ve used this exact recipe for years and it works wonders! I don’t even remember what it was like to buy those pricey, chemical laden detergents from the store. I’ve never tried the peppermint soap. I believe I’ll give that a try! Thanks!

  5. Angie says:

    Would this be cloth diaper friendly?

  6. Keara says:

    I am also wondering the same about the HE washers. Do you use less then 1/2 cup?

  7. Stephanie P says:

    Angie – I’ve heard that the liquid leaves a bit of a residue but the powder doesn’t. I can’t speak from experience though, I don’t have any kiddos.

    I use the powder kind with my cloth toilet paper and cloth pads and it works great. The vinegar rinse gets out all the potential soap residue without leaving any vinegar odor.

  8. sandy says:

    Nifty! Definitely going to make this. Besides the savings, I love that I won’t be buying and throwing away tons of packaging.

    Question: Is it necessary to have a dedicated pot to mix this in, or can I use my regular cooking pot?

    • Stephanie @ Saving Naturally says:

      If you were going to use a regular cooking pot, I would just be very careful to get it extra, extra clean, because of the Borax in the recipe.

  9. Stefanie R. says:

    What about would you use in a HE washer? (of the powdered det.) thanks :)

    • Stephanie @ Saving Naturally says:

      So many HE questions, and I am entirely unknowledgeable because I’ve never had an HE machine! Anyone who knows the answer can chime in, pretty please! :)

    • Rae-Anna says:

      I have a top load HE washer. I make my own LD but I use a different recipe (same ingredients, except I add a tub of the dollar store oxy clean and my quantities are different) Mine is a powder. I noticed after (many) months of use, our drains clog up.

      SO, I did some reading, and I now just dissolve my scoop of LD in hot water before putting it in the washer (I have an old bottle, I put about 1/2 c HOT water in, add a scoop, and shake). I put the LD in before the clothes. I also started using vinegar in the softener spot in the washer (I use the bounce bar in my dryer). After unclogging the pipes, and using this new method, we have not had any issues. I wash cold/cold and our washer lid locks, and will not turn on with the lid open, so I believe the problem was that the detergent wasn’t dissolving. The vinegar works as a softener and will help keep any residue from building up in the pipes.

      I’ve been using homemade detergent for almost 2 years, I use it on all of our clothes, including cloth diapers (I didn’t use the bounce bar when she was in cloth diapers, softeners leave a film on the diaper and may prevent fluid soak up after a while…stick with vinegar) and baby clothes. When I sold some of our daughter’s baby clothes, I had many comments about how great the condition was (no fading, no stains) and have been asked what detergent I use. For stubborn stains, I kept the brush that came with cradle cap shampoo (I figure if it’s gentle enough for a newborns’ head, it’ll be fine on fabric) I also use a soft toothbrush. I use blue Dawn, peroxide, and baking soda (NOT premixed). Seriously, I have not found a stain I cannot remove. I bought used clothes that were stained, and got those stains out, too! Patience is needed on some stubborn stains, and patience is much cheaper than re-buying stained clothes.

      The only thing I don’t like is the clothes don’t smell pretty, even with the bounce bar. I think I will be getting some of those purex crystals and adding them to the mix. I am also going to try a paste recipe I found (I will still use my recipe, but omit the oxy [will explode] and use their technique)

      • Rae-Anna says:

        This is how I make mine:

        I use 3 bars FelsNaptha…grate them in the food processor, adding some of the borax or super washing soda so it doesn’t clump, also this allows for a super fine mixture. Use the cheese grater attachment AND the blade for chopping, after you grate the soap, add some borax and keep chopping until it’s teeny tiny. (If your nose is sensitive, I would wear one of those disposible masks because the grinding does create a super fine dust that may make you sneeze) You will need to empty the food processor for each bar of soap.
        1 full box Borax
        1 full box A&H Super Washing Soda
        1 tub generic Oxy (I found a big tub at dollar general, or use 2 smaller ones at the dollar store)

        Put all ingredients into a clean and **dry** 5 gallon bucket with a lid (you can buy these at Lowes). I usually let my husband pick it up and shake it because I am weak. I have just rolled it around on the floor and turned it upside down a few times. I use a scoop from the oxy container (about 1 oz) per load. I keep it in the 5 gallon bucket, sealed tight, out of the way. I bought a 1/2 gallon plastic container at the dollar store that has a wide mouth screw top lid and I just refill that as needed, kept by my washer. You can store in whatever container, I would just make sure it closes tight so no moisture gets in.

  10. Diana says:

    I love making my own laundry detergent! It’s really not that hard and is such a huge savings! And you know what’s in it! I would suggest not using Fels Naptha as it is made with petroleum. But it is quite a bit cheaper than Dr. Bronners.

    Sandy – you can use a reg. cooking pot. It’s just soap, it all washes out nicely.

    Does anyone know how to keep it from separating though? It seems mine always separates and I have to mix every time I use it. I’ve poured mine into a juice pitcher, so I can just shake before using.
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..The Diet – Part 1 =-.

    • I make the liquid for our church food bank.and I ever had any separation until lately
      And I also don’t know how to correct this. I just put it in a large pot and cook it until
      I get it all in a nice clear solution then I put it back in a bucket and legit set over night
      Or 24 hours then it seems to be ok.

  11. Stephanie P says:

    Stefanie R. – The powdered kind is also low-sudsing. I don’t have an HE but one of my good friends does and she makes and uses the powdered version.

    Actually, that was one of the things that caught me off guard when I made it: looking in the washer and not seeing all the suds!

  12. Heidi says:

    I have been making this for a couple of years now. I switched to the powdered kind because I don’t have a lot of room to store the jugs of liquid and I think it is less messy. I just read that maybe borax isn’t something we should be using. I haven’t researched it yet. Do you have any thoughts on that. I love making things at home and not having to throw away all those plastic bottles.

  13. Jackie says:

    Heidi, I love the powered version of this concoction but I have an HE front loader. The soap doesn’t dissolve as well, since my machine uses very little water. I use to make homemade dishwasher powder with Borax until I found out it’s unsafe to ingest. Over time the residue stays on the dishes.
    .-= Jackie´s last blog ..Rekindling Old Friendships =-.

  14. Michele M. says:

    Diana, I used to just grate the soap bar with a hand grater and mine separated. Now I put all the ingredients together in my food processor and grind it into a finer powder. It seems to separate less. I store it in a small bucket with a lid and still give it a shake once in a while. Hope that helps.

    I’ve heard that the Dr. Bronner’s leaves a residue on clothes when washing in cold water. I have always used Fels Naptha, but would like to try a more natural soap. Has anyone experienced this?

  15. Jennifer says:

    I have been making this for years.
    For the question on cloth diapers…I use it and a couple of the cloth diaper websites recommend it.
    Also, I do not use Fels Naptha. I buy and use Ivory for this. If you do not want to grate it just put the bar of soap in a quart of warm water and let is soak overnight in the the morning it will be like a body wash (that is what I use for body wash…save lots of money) then just heat it up and add the other ingredients. I have less separation this way.

  16. Allison says:

    Does anyone know which version is better if you have a septic tank, or does it matter?

  17. Charity says:

    Is this the best and safest version for using on baby clothes? With my girls I only used ALL baby liquid- was much less that Dreft. I’d like to make this for my sis n law and their new baby. Also, I’ve been using the liqu version on our clothes, but my towels do not seem to be getting very clean and they do not smell fresh. I’ve even tried adding vinegar to the 2nd rinse. Any tips?

  18. Stephanie P says:

    I use Dr. Bronner’s bar in my powdered and don’t have any residue issues. I think it’s because of the vinegar rinse.

  19. Tiffany says:

    Where do you buy Dr. Bronner’s and super washing soda? Can you find them at Wal-Mart/Target and are they in the laundry detergent aisle? I was also wondering about using white vinegar for fabric softener. Does it leave an odor of vinegar on your clothes?

  20. Michele M. says:

    I have not been able to find washing soda at any of our surrounding Wal-Mart stores. Our local grocery store is the only place where I have found it. Target carries Dr. Bronner’s, also health food stores and online stores like vitacost.com. The vinegar odor doesn’t stay on clothes. They just come out smelling clean.

  21. Tiffany, You can find washing soda in the laundry detergent isle in most supermarkets, usually near the Borax and Oxi Clean. If you don’t find it, your supermarket will be more than happy to start stocking it, if you request it. That’s what I did. As for the Dr. Bronner’s soap, you can either request that as well or order it online. I found Vitacost.com to have it for a reasonable price. Shop the price if you’re not satisfied with the cost.
    .-= Jackie@Lilolu´s last blog ..Homemade Toothpaste A Bust For Us =-.

  22. Tiffany says:

    Thanks for all the help ladies! I can’t wait to try this out. I found Borax very easily, but had to search awhile before I found that Fleet Farm has the washing soda. I found the Dr. Bronner’s at a local health food store in town, but I am going to check out Vitacost now. Thanks again!!!

  23. Karen says:

    I asked at our local WalMart, why they no longer carried borax and washing soda. I was told that they considered it too dangerous!! They also no longer stock fabric dyes or amonia, apparently for the same reason. They do, however stock drain opener, chlorine bleach, rubbing alcohol … Go figure! My husband thinks some of it may have something to do with DIY drug labs. So now I have to pay a bit more for it at other stores, and wonder if they think I’m “home cookin” LOL.

    • Stephanie @ Saving Naturally says:

      @Karen, So funny that they would consider those too dangerous, yet keep shelves and shelves full of all sorts of other chemical cleaners that are poisonous, not to mention processed food that is hazardous to your health. :)

  24. miranda says:

    Could anyone share how well this works in very hard water? I’m concerned that it will leave soap “scum” on my clothes.

  25. Dianne says:

    I have been using Zote’ Bar Laundry Soap for my homemade detergent and love the smell. This is available at the Mexican grocery. Also, I haven’t been able to find washing soda so have been using baking soda and borax. Love the homemade detergent though I’m still trying to find my “perfect” blend!! :) White vinegar is a fantastic rinse agent. No odor and softens clothes well. Yea homemade!

  26. TW says:

    Can you use Dr. Bronner’s Liquid soap vs. the bar? And if so how much do you use?

    • Stephanie @ Saving Naturally says:

      @TW, No, I don’t think you can with this recipe, though there may be others out there that do use the liquid. It needs to be a bar, whether it’s Fels Naptha, Dr. Bronners, or even a basic one like Ivory.

  27. Barbara says:

    I used to have residue on my clothes with the homemade laundry soap, but read that it was due to HARD WATER. I increased the amount of borax by 1/2 cup and that solved the problem. ALSO, if you don’t like the SEPARATION OF THE DETERGENT, after your batch has set up for 24 hours add a capful of store-bought detergent and give it a shake. It increases the cost per load a little, but it adds a little color and fragrance as well as giving you a smooth liquid detergent.

  28. i make a similar version but just as a powder, so it is even simpler. (septic safe but i do not have an HE washer.)

    i use dr bronners instead of fels naptha. it is safe in baby wash and all else, but performs BEST with a scoop of (cheap, off-brand) oxygen cleaner. i’ve used it on cloth diapers, too, but after a few months i did notice some lingering odor. i just use it on clothes now and have never noticed any residue (washing on cold with occasional vinegar).

    if anyone seeks a dry recipe: http://www.somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/2010/02/how-to-make-your-own-laundry-soap.html
    .-= suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter}´s last blog ..birth of a new year when the time was fulfilled =-.

  29. Grace S. says:

    I, too, have made this in the past and have enjoyed it. However, I noticed certain things with my last batch. It was the first time I used this homemade laundry detergent using city water. First, my whites seemed to get dingy like I hadn’t experienced before. Second, my towels were starting to lose their ability to absorb water quickly which was a grave nuisance drying dishes.

    I don’t know if it’s due to (1) buildup of residue, (2) not enough soap to cut dirt, etc., (3) use of bleach with whites counteracting the detergent??, and/or (4) the water softening ability of the borax or washing soda which contributes to the dinginess and/or the repelling of water in the towels (internet research led me to this information.)

    What experiences have you had to help me with this? I’ve since gone back to store-bought detergent. My towels work much better. I now use ammonia for disinfecting instead of bleach. Ammonia also helps with dirt/grease dissolving (using less detergent when doing so). This may have started to bring back absorbency in my kitchen towels.

    So, I have all these variables to consider. I would like to go back and make my own detergent again, but I would like to figure this out before I do.

    Thank you for your assistance.

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