The Original Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

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Homemade Laundry Detergent

Making homemade laundry detergent is easy, inexpensive, and effective in regular and HE washers. Save money and avoid chemicals with DIY 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. Further, making your own laundry powder is fast, easy, and inexpensive.

Why Powdered DIY Laundry Detergent?

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

Moreover, this powdered DIY laundry detergent recipe requires just three simple ingredients and takes only a few minutes to make.

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

Note: This homemade laundry 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

Generally, you can purchase all these DIY laundry detergent ingredients at your local grocery store:

  • A 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. To explain, some people are comfortable with popular brands that are not totally natural, while others prefer to make their own.

Some commonly used bar soap brands include Kirk’s Original Coco Castile®, Pure & Natural®, Fels-Naptha®, and/or ZOTE®. Also, both ZOTE® and Fels-Naptha® are made for and sold as a “laundry bar.”

In contrast, 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. Also, you can purchase a natural bar of soap. Because everyone is on a different level we encourage everyone to do what they’re comfortable with.

As previously mentioned, all items can be found in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores. However, if you cannot find washing soda, you can learn to make your own here!

Homemade Laundry Detergent Pictorial Instructions

For visual learners, 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:

Photo 2

3. My shaved bar looked like this:

Photo 3

4. Add 14 ounces of borax:

Photo 4

5. Add 14 ounces of washing soda:

Photo 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 In Homemade Laundry Detergent 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!

*******

References and Resources

About Matt Jabs

Matt loves to inspire others to save money and live more sustainably. He is passionate about eating local, living simply, and doing more things himself. He also writes about Personal Finance at Debt Free Adventure. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and his +Matt Jabs Google profile.

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DISCLAIMER: Information on DIY Natural™ is not reviewed or endorsed by the FDA and is NOT intended to be substituted for the advice of your health care professional. If you rely solely upon this advice you do so at your own risk. Read full Disclaimer & Disclosure statements here.

Comments

  1. bessie says

    I have a family of 12 and have tried this laundry soap and wouldnt use any other this product cleans our cloths well deoderizes perfectly and we are greatly satisfied with a family this large it have save 40.00$ per month and laundry soap alone and our clothes look , smell and work fine even with some allergies most of the family have thanks greatfully

  2. Colleen R says

    We have been using his for several months now. I don’t add oxi clean or anything else. We have a front load HE washer. I put the powder in the dispenser and start the washer. I have never dissolved the soap in any temperature of wash water and we have no problems with film or residue. . Our clothes are clean and smell great.

  3. Ruth says

    I use this in cold water all the time and never have a problem. Maybe it has more to do with the water. My water is fairly hard. I also haven’t noticed any problems with fading and I do use the Oxi-Clean.

  4. Lisa says

    Thank you, Sandie! Mine does as well (both liquid & powder), but I guess I need to dissolve the soap in warm water first because I do most of my washing in cold…as warm or hot is unnecessary, wears out clothes faster, and costs more $.
    Thanks again!

  5. Sandie says

    Hi Lisa – No, I don’t have an HE washer. Others with an HE washer might be better able to advise you, but I would think if there is a liquid soap dispenser, you could use that. My daughter has an HE washer that has both a liquid soap dispenser and a powdered soap dispenser.

  6. Lisa says

    Sandie,
    Do you have an HE washer? And if so, do you put the dissolved soap directly into the washer bin or in the liquid soap dispenser?
    Thanks!

  7. Eileen Clifton says

    Hi Sandie-

    Unfortunately I cannot use oxiclean in the wash as my husband reacts to it. I do already use vinegar in my rinse cycle. I have tried Fels Naptha, White Zote Soap, and am currently trying the pink Zote Soap. I do not have any Ivory. I suppose I could try that next, but I have not been successful yet. Perhaps it is the addition of the Oxiclean that helps with fading and such. I have not had issues with film on my clothes since I started dissolving the detergent in warm water. I just want people to be aware of the fact that you can’t throw the detergent in with cold water. It needs to be dissolved in warm first. Thanks.

    • Sandie says

      I’m sorry you can’t use oxi-clean. I prefer the ivory soap so far. It’s so easy to cut up, freeze and then put in my food processor. Adding vinegar to your rinse will also help with any residue.

  8. Patti G says

    This has probably been asked and answered previously.

    Does the oxi-clean tend to fade clothing? Do you use it with colors as well as whites? What about delicates?

    Thanks for your help.

    • Sandie says

      Hi Patti – I use the oxi-clean in every wash and for all clothing types. I haven’t noticed any fading from it.

  9. Eileen Clifton says

    I have to respectfully disagree with Matt’s comments that the laundry detergent works well in cold water. It left a film all over my clothes and I had to rewash them in warm water. I have been using hot or warm water at first to melt or dissolve the soaps in the water, before turning the washer to cold. I like the smell of the detergent, it doesn’t have that chemical smell. However, it seems that it is fading my clothes and my daughter’s clothes, even when washing them in cold water. I have changed to baking soda instead of washing soda, and changed to the pink Zote soap for whitenessin the hopes of having better success. I have been using about 2 tblspns per load in my top loading washer. I will see what happens. I have not been 100% pleased with this unfortunately, and I really wanted to be. I hate the smell of chemicals, but gotta have a detergent that cleans well, gets the smells out, and does not fade my clothes.

    • Sandie says

      Hi Eileen – I’ve been using this powdered formula for many months now and I’ve had no problems with it in cold water. I dissolve it in warm to hot water in a cup first then put it into the wash with cold water. I use vinegar in my final rinse and have had no residue or unusual fading problems at all. I’ve used both Ivory soap and Fels-Naptha, both of which seem to work equally well, although I prefer the Ivory. I also add about 1/4 cup of Oxi-Clean to each wash load.

        • Victoria says

          I have to say also that I experience no problems and I generally wash in cold too. I was dissolving it in hot water prior to putting it in but have recently got lazy and just thrown it in (1st thing into the machine as the water is starting, then the clothes) and I see no difference, no film on the clothes at all and the come out nice fresh and clean 🙂 I have also added 1/8c fine sea salt and 1/4-1/2c baking soda to my mix and I love it! I add 1/3c vinegar to my softener dispenser and I use 5 wool dryer balls in the dryer afterwards, such a difference in our clothes! The only thing I notice once in a while is deodorant stains on my husbands shirts but I have found remedies on the net of how to pre-treat these (havent tried any yet though!!) 😀

    • dawn says

      i agree. if u wind up having to buy new clothing or add a bunch of other ingredients to get your desired effect, it isn’t much of a bargain. i have 5 boys and am probably going to have to switch back to my tide w/ bleach. if i have to rewash the extra stinkys and soak it gets less cost effective and too time consuming. of course i was never worried about chemicals. i just wanted to save some money.

  10. Lisa says

    For me, I’d rather buy an environmentally friendly soap if I’m forced to wash in warm or hot, which isn’t necessary for most laundry items and is costly. Please advise if the dry mix can be used – successfully – in cold water. Thanks!

  11. Jen says

    I was going to try this recipe, but then remembered a bag of similar “earth friendly” detergent that I bought years ago, which has been lurking in the back of my cupboard ever since since it didn’t work very well. It is made in Victoria, BC and contains borax, washing soda and “50% recovered soap powder” which means it uses discarded hotel room soaps that have been recovered & processed into laundry detergent (kinda icky I know). It suggests using 1/4-1/2 cup per load. I recall it left clumps of what I presume are soap bits on the clothes. Mind you, the instructions recommend warm or hot water & since I usually only wash in cold I didn’t heed the advice. Does your recipe require warm/hot water? If not, do you think the poor performance is due to higher ratio of soap vs borax/washing soda? I’m thinking of trying it again, cutting it with more borax & washing soda.

  12. ashley says

    hi, i just made this using the ZOTE brand soap and it doesnt get super fine when stirring, will this cause any problems?

  13. Janet says

    I can tell you I used the Sports Suds over the weekend on all our gym shirts. I went to the gym today and worked up a good sweat. Happy to report that smelling the shirt after my workout it did not have that awful smell I usually find. A small container that does 32 loads for top load – 64 HE front loads is approx $20.00 (depending on where you buy) – more then I would normally spend but it is cheaper then buying all new dry wick shirts. Google Sport Suds and check out reviews – I was impressed and my initial results are good. I would love an alternative but I would rather spend a bit extra and not be so self-conscious working out if I can’t find a home made alternative.

  14. Ruth says

    I’m interested in this subject too as I had a horrible problem over the summer with my clothes retaining the body odors even after washing. So if anyone comes up with a good solution, please let me know. I’d prefer not to try and save money on homemade laundry detergent only to have to spend extra money to make up for what it doesn’t do.

  15. Janet says

    Thanks Doris – Soaking for me did not work. I did break down and buy the commercial stuff called Sport Suds – felt not too bad after reading this on their website – but wish it was not soo expensive – but cheaper then buying new clothes-
    Earth and People Friendly
    Sport Suds is made from natural ingrediants. It does NOT contain dyes, phosphates, UV brighteners, bleach or perfumes.� It is hypo-allergenic and ideal for infants and others with sensitive skin.� It is safe for septic systems, highly biodegradable and certified safe for use in small lakes and streams (OECD 301A).�Sport Suds has not been tested on animals. A

  16. Doris says

    Ive noticed my boyfriends workout clothes really smell bad but only on his “dry fit” type of clothing (and just a few t-shirts, some of his other performance gear must be made differently). What I like to do is soak it in vinegar/water mixture for at least 30minutes before I wash them. The only reason I don’t boil it is because it’s synthetic and says it needs to be washed in cold water.

  17. Kat says

    I was just wondering, can you add any kind of fragrance to the detergent? I have so many bottles of fragrance oils and was wondering if those would work.

    • Shawn says

      I have been adding vinegar to my fabric softener compartment on my HE front loader, I also add about 20 drops of fragrance oils to the vinegar. My clothes come out smelling SOOOOO good! I am currently using a crisp linen scent. For the past dozen loads I haven’t had any issues. =)