How To Make Laundry Detergent

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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.

A wooden bowl and scoop of grated Fels Naptha soap for use in making homemade laundry detergent sits in front of a cheese grater and a wash basin on a wooden table.Pin

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)


  1. Grate the soap with a cheese grater or use a food processor.
  2. 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.
  3. Add essential oils for fragrance if you’d like.
  4. 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.

Pre-treating Stains

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.

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  1. Ann Smith says:

    Do you have a homemade laundry recipe that is safe for that is safe for delicate fabrics?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I don’t. I hand-wash most delicates or use Castile soap.

  2. Is it safe to use this homemade laundry detergent recipe in areas that have hard water?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Yes, it’s the best homemade laundry detergent for hard water.

  3. Hi can you tell me if this formula is safe to use if you’re on a septic system? I know the natural ingredients are safe, just wondering about the grated soap. Thanks in advance!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Actual soap is never septic safe since it is fat-based, sorry!

  4. Hello from the UK!

    Thank you for sharing all these great recipes for detergents.

    Could you tell me if you use this mixture for all types of laundry, or just for whites? I am a bit hesitant to use it with coloured clothes, and I imagine it would not be suitable for delicates?

    Many thanks!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hello to the UK!

      This mixture is safe for all non-delicate clothing.


  5. I’d love to make my own laundry soap! Does this work for a front loading HE washer?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It sure does!

  6. Louise Vandermarel says:

    Love to make this, but can’t get borax.
    any substitutes?


    1. Katie Berry says:

      You can try using an equal amount of an oxygenating cleaner like Oxyclean.

  7. Do you know anything about allergens in it? I have a severe skin allergy to Tide. I’ve used Gain for years because of this. I’d love to try this out, but I’m a little hesitant to switch and possibly itch lol.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Everything has the potential to be an allergen, it just depends on a person’s sensitivity. I haven’t had any allergic reactions to this, nor has my son. If you’d like to test it before making a large batch it’s easy enough to do: wash your hands with the Fels Naptha soap. If you don’t have a reaction then the next day try mixing 1 tsp washing soda with 3 cups water and dipping a hand in it, then rinse. Watch another 24 hours for a reaction. Repeat the same thing with 1 tsp of Borax in 3 cups of water and wait a day to see if you have a reaction. If you don’t, then you should be fine using this.

  8. Has anyone had experience with this detergent and cloth diapers? Or baking soda and vinegar? Or do I need to buy the super expensive “just for cloth diaper” detergent?

    1. Kim Barclay says:

      This laundry soap works great for cloth diapers. Gets them nice and clean. You can dry them outside on the line to let the sun bleach them as well.

    2. Katie Berry says:

      Excellent advice. It’s been years since I’ve had kids in nappies, but I’m so glad you shared this for the folks who still do!