Whether you’re out of your favorite brand or want to try making your own, this DIY laundry detergent recipe cleans your clothes for pennies.
The cost of name-brand laundry detergent keeps rising. With all of the labels claiming a “new and improved” formula, you’d think they must be adding better ingredients. But the main ingredient in laundry detergent bottles is water, which is why pods became so popular quickly. Even those laundry pods have drawbacks, such as the inability to adjust the amount you use for loads that are more heavily soiled or smaller loads.
Why Make Your Own Laundry Detergent?
Powdered, liquid, or pod laundry detergents all share another problem: their ingredients are unknown. That’s because, while manufacturers can advertise that their detergent contains stain-fighters or softening agents, they don’t have to tell you exactly what they’re using. And if they don’t have to tell you what’s in there, you won’t know what you’re being exposed to.
Commercial Brands Use SLS, Fragrances, and Dyes
Many cleaning products and laundry detergents use sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a skin irritant for some people. Commercial detergents also use dyes to increase customer appeal or act as optical laundry brighteners, and most add fragrance that lingers on your clothes after they’re dry. If you or a family member has allergies or sensitive skin, these ingredients, dyes, and fragrances can be highly irritating.
In other words, using commercial detergents doesn’t necessarily get your clothes any cleaner, but it does lighten your wallet and may cause allergy symptoms or skin irritation. So why not make your own homemade laundry detergent for a fraction of the price?
Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe
Makes enough for approximately 24 loads
- 1 bar of non-moisturizing soap
- 1 cup washing soda
- 1 cup borax
- 10-15 drops essential oils (optional, for fragrance)
- Grate the soap with a cheese grater or use a food processor.
- Combine the grated soap, washing soda, and borax in a plastic container with a lid. Be careful not to inhale the powders when pouring them into the container.
- Add essential oils for fragrance if you’d like.
- Put the lid on and shake well. Store in a cool, dry spot with the lid tightly sealed.
Use a non-moisturizing bar soap, such as Fels Naptha or Ivory. Soaps with added moisturizers may trap soil and odors on your clothing.
Note that the recipe calls for washing soda, which is different than baking soda. Washing soda is made from soda ash and can be found in the laundry aisle of most grocery and big-box stores. One brand is “Arm and Hammer.”
The essential oils are not necessary for this recipe but can be included for fragrance.
How to Use DIY Laundry Detergent
You can use this homemade detergent recipe in the washing machine or when laundering items by hand. It also makes an excellent pre-treatment to remove laundry stains.
Add 2 tablespoons of homemade detergent to the drum of top-load machines before adding water or clothes, or sprinkle it on top of clothing before closing the door of front-loading machines. If you’re hand-washing an item, add 1/2 teaspoon of the powder for every 2 quarts of water.
To remove tough stains, apply a wet paste of water and homemade laundry detergent to the stain. Using your hand or a soft-bristled brush, gently rub the paste into the stain, wait 10 minutes, then launder as usual.