The Original Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

Homemade Laundry Detergent

This is the ORIGINAL homemade laundry detergent recipe, all others only imitate what you’ll find here.
This is a fun project that will save you money and help you rid your home of toxic chemical cleaners. When you’re done making this check out these other related articles:

Note: No time or desire to make homemade laundry detergent? You can always purchase a great natural brand like this.

When we first set out to make our own homemade laundry detergent we thought it would be difficult and time consuming – turns out it’s neither. Making your own laundry powder is fast, easy, and inexpensive.

We opt for powder over liquid in respect for opportunity cost, storage, and simplicity (the liquid variety takes longer to make, requires more storage space, and is more complicated). And now, years after making our first batch, thousands of others have tried it and loved the results.

This powdered homemade laundry detergent recipe requires just three simple ingredients and takes only a few minutes to make.

The instructions and pictorial instructions follow, along with the cost savings breakdown, notes on HE washers, septic tanks, and borax safety.

Note: This soap/detergent works in all HE front-load washers; read more below.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Prep

Total

Yield 32 ounces

Ingredients

Instructions

Thoroughly stir together for several minutes and enjoy the results! You can take this a step further and blend the mixture in a blender or food processor to create a powder that will dissolve easily even in cold water. (Just be sure to let the dust settle before removing the lid of your blender or food processor so you don’t inhale the fine particles.) Store in a sealed container with a small scoop.

Notes

Each batch yields approximately 32 ounces (between 32-64 loads based on how many Tbsp used per load).

Use 1 Tbsp per small load (or 2-3 Tbsp for large or heavily soiled loads).

Homemade Laundry Ingredients

I purchased all these ingredients at my local grocery store:

  • 55 ounce box of Arm & Hammer® Super Washing Soda = $3.99
  • 76 ounce box of 20 Mule Team® Borax = $4.99
  • 10 pack of 4.5 ounce bars of Ivory® Bar Soap

Note on ingredients: use whatever ingredients you are comfortable with. Many people cannot afford natural soaps, while others make their own. Brands of commonly used bar soaps include Kirk’s Original Coco Castile®, Pure & Natural®, Fels-Naptha®, and/or ZOTE®. Both ZOTE® and Fels-Naptha® are made for and sold as a “laundry bar.” If you’re looking for a pure, natural solution you’ll need to go with a handcrafted soap so you can be sure of its ingredients.

All items can be found in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores. If you can’t find washing soda, you can learn to make your own here!

Pictorial Instructions

For visual leaners, like myself, enjoy these pictorial instructions.

1. Start with these ingredients and utensils:

Homemade Laundry Detergent 1

2. Shave 1 bar of soap. I used a simple hand grater:

Homemade Laundry Detergent 2

3. My shaved bar looked like this:

Homemade Laundry Detergent 3

4. Add 1 cup of borax:

Homemade Laundry Detergent 4

5. Add 1 cup of washing soda:

Homemade Laundry Detergent 5

6. Stir thoroughly:

Homemade Laundry Detergent 6

7. Stirring is complete when you have a powder like this:

Homemade Laundry Detergent 7

8. Store your detergent in an airtight container and enjoy!

Homemade Laundry Detergent 8

Use 1 Tbsp per small load or 2 -3 Tbsp for large or heavily soiled loads. If you have really hard water, you may need to use even more.

You can blend the mixture in a blender or food processor to get a fine powder that will dissolve easily in cold water loads. If you don’t want to do this extra step, you can also just dissolve the detergent in a pint of warm water before adding it to the washing machine.

There you have it folks – simple, easy, fast, and efficient homemade laundry detergent!

When you’re done making this check out our article on homemade fabric softener/dryer sheets!

Note: No time or desire to make homemade laundry detergent? You can always purchase a great natural brand like this.

Cost Savings Breakdown

Prior to making our own, we were using Arm & Hammer liquid detergent.  Here is the breakdown in cost analysis:

Use 1 Tbsp per load, or 2 -3 Tbsp for large or heavily soiled loads.

  • Arm & Hammer® liquid 100 ounce detergent – $6.79 – 32 loads = $0.21 per load
  • Tide® with Bleach powder 267 ounce detergent – $20.32 – 95 loads = $0.21 per load
  • Jabs Homemade powder 32 ounce detergent – $2.98 – 64 loads = $0.05 per load

As you can see, whether I compare against traditional store bought liquid or powder, I am saving $0.16 per load!

High Efficiency (HE) Washers

HE front-load washers require “special soap” for one reason alone – low suds. Because they use less water, they require soap that is less sudsy. The good news is this homemade detergent is VERY low suds. The “special” HE detergent is just another advertising mechanism to push consumers to buy “special soap” for unnecessarily high prices.

Regardless of your washer type, just make your own in confidence.

Safe for Septic Tanks and Fields

This is the best laundry soap to use with septic tanks because it contains zero phosphates and zero fillers (like montmorillonite clay) that cause commercial powder detergents to clog lines. It is also completely non-toxic so it will not harm necessary septic bacteria like toxic detergents and antibacterial soaps. Use with confidence.

Is Borax Toxic?

After thorough research, I have concluded borax is only as toxic as baking soda or table salt; if you ingest it in high quantities, it may make you sick. If you use it as described in our recipes, it poses no toxic threat.

Just make sure you don’t confuse borax with boric acid, the two are NOT the same. Use borax (I recommend 20 Mule Team brand), and steer clear of boric acid.

For those of you who want more info, read this excellent Crunchy Betty article where she expounds the toxicity levels of borax; I couldn’t have said it better myself – thanks Crunchy Betty.

At the end of the day, decide for yourself to use it or not, and afford others the same courtesy.

What are you waiting for? Go get the ingredients and make your homemade laundry detergent today!

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References and Resources

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Comments

  1. Thank you Zi, I just made a batch and am trying it right now.! 🙂 Hope it works out okay, with a family of 5 we are always looking for ways to save money and live as natural as possible.

  2. Hi,
    Just found your recipe for home made laundry soap and love it, made two batches now and find that it works really well. The only thing I am not sure of is how much to use in a regular sized top loader machine? We have very soft water so I am thinking not much, but it must be more than two tablespoons?
    Thanks
    PM

  3. i am using the little slivers and leftover pieces of bath soap. how much measure wise of grated soap should i have/ one cup, two cups, a half cup?

  4. I have been using this recipe for several months. Our laundry is never heavily soiled. I have found that on sheets there is a white residue left from time to time and the fragrance of deoderant is left in t-shirts.

    I have started using a 1/4 of the amount of liquid laundry detergent that I used to use and 2 tablespoons of this recipe to boost. That seems to help.

    • I have begun using 2 parts hydrogen peroxide to 1 part Dawn dish soap mixed in a spray bottle. I spray it on the armpit area of tshirts, and the smell is gone. (Be careful not to breathe it in.)

  5. I have made and used this soap recipe. I washed my washable floor cleaner pads and they just didn’t come out clean, I had to wash them twice. I don’t have hard water but I’m thinking of grating another bar of hard soap into the mix. What do you think?

  6. So I tried the laundry detergent today pretty easy to make and seemed to work fine for me. No residue was left and I washed some pretty nasty stuff with only using 1 tbsp. thanks for sharing!

  7. I love the laundry soap recipe and have made it a few times. I am though having trouble with the ivory soap. I have been grating it and then mixing it in but see little chunks of it on my clothes when I pull them out of the washer. How can I prevent this? Thank you

      • Matt, I just grated it, and then put some of the washing soda/borax mix in my food processor along with the grated soap. Took some extra time, but worked nicely! Do you have a recipe for some sort of dryer sheet? I was thinking a mixture that you could use along with a wash cloth (reusable) Thank you & blessings back!

          • I’m still microwaving the soap until it puffs up, then dropping it into the blender or food processor until it’s a ground up to the size of coffee grinds. After that mix everything together using whatever method you prefer.

            However another contributor (Sandy maybe?), suggested cutting soap into 4 or 6 pieces, and freezing it, which makes it easier to grind or grate.

            One tool I haven’t heard anyone mention are those hand graters in a jar, which operate by pressing down on the lid… has anyone used them for soap?

  8. Hi Matt,
    I’ve been looking for exactly this for our new HE machine but I do have what may be a dumb question. We’ve been using liquid detergent as well as liquid fabric softener since we purchased the new machine. There is one ” tray or drawer ” inside the machine with two compartments into which you pour both, shut the tray door, and let the machine do its thing. If I switch over to your powder detergent using the powder receptacle in the machine would I still be able to simultaneously pour the liquid fabric softener into the liquid receptacle without problems ?

    • Our HE machine also has one tray with separate sections for detergent (that has a divider to set it for liquid detergent or powdered) and fabric softener as well as one for bleach. We use this recipe for powdered detergent and liquid fabric softener (or vinegar sometimes) all the time with no problems. We do have to take the tray out now and then to clean it but we did this when we used store bought laundry soap as well. PS: there is no such thing as a dumb question. 🙂

  9. Hi Colleen,
    Thanks for that ! The machine we have has one tray towards the rear inside of the machine with a divider. The left section is for liquid fabric softener while the right section is for liquid detergent. In the front left corner of the machine there is a receptacle for powdered detergent. I mention that only to clarify what may have been a confusing earlier post. Would I still be able to utilize both if using powdered detergent in the front along with only liquid fabric softener in the rear tray ? I happily admit to having zero in the way of mechanical aptitude so not sure if it really matters.

  10. Our machine has the tray on the outside of the machine at the top left. It slides out for adding detergent and fabric softener and then slides back in before you start the machine. I would say that it should work if it has a place for both. I would think the machine would separate the input of the detergent and the fabric softener as one is used in the wash cycle and one is for the rinse cycle. Our machine is a Maytag HE machine that we bought in 2006 (we are in Canada).
    Matt, thanks and blessings on you and your family as well.

  11. I tried this and it didnt clean a lot of the clothes. So researched online and adjusted the recipe to 8oz bar soap, 2 cups borax and 2 cups baking soda wash. Then it called for 1/8-1/4 cup per load. This seems to work well. The soap doesnt seem to dissolve before I put the clothes in but I never had chunks left on them when its done. Maybe it dissolves as the clothes are swished around. We have really hard water, which may be why I had to increase the recipe and use more. I added 1/2 cup vinegar with lavender oil to my downy ball. Not sure if it made a difference or not.