How To Make Laundry Detergent

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Knowing how to make your own laundry detergent can help you save a small fortune. Plus, it fights crime! What, you think I’m exaggerating? I’m not: there’s a black market for bottles of Tide stolen from grocery stores, with some places losing over $10,000 each month to theft!

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe | Make your own laundry detergent for just pennies | laundry hack | frugal |

Now, if you ask me, the real crime is how incredibly expensive commercial laundry detergent is. Sure, it comes in a brightly-colored bottle, but it’s priced as if the main ingredient is gold when it’s water. Not that you’d know it by reading the bottle. Go ahead and take a trek to your laundry room to check the ingredients on that bottle of pricey detergent. I’ll wait.

Back yet? Bet you didn’t find a list of ingredients, did you? 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.


If you’ve been washing laundry long enough, you probably remember how the formulas have changed. First, we learned that most commercial soaps contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and then we heard they also contained phthalates. Given the link between those and infertility (not to mention environmental damage), it’s not surprising the government made them change their formulas.

So we began seeing all sorts of “New and Improved!” ads for the detergents. Out went the PCBs, and in their place manufacturers started using sodium lauryl sulfate, which some believe causes cancer. Along with the SLS, manufacturers began using a slew of other ingredients which even the EPA notes pose both health and environmental concerns.

In other words, using commercial detergents doesn’t necessarily get your clothes any cleaner, but it does lighten your wallet and may very well pose other health concerns. So why not make your own homemade laundry detergent for a fraction of the price?

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How To Make Laundry Detergent


  • 1 bar non-moisturizing soap (I use Fels Naptha but even Ivory works)
  • 1 cup washing soda (not baking soda!)
  • 1 cup borax
  • 10-15 drops essential oils (optional, but nice for fragrance)


  1. Grate the soap with a cheese grater or using a food processor. This goes faster if you first microwave it for 20 seconds.
  2. Combine the grated soap, washing soda, and borax in a plastic container with a lid. Be careful when pouring the powders into the bucket, because you don’t want to inhale them.
  3. Add essential oils for fragrance if you’d like. The Fels Naptha has a nice clean scent on its own, but sometimes I like adding lemon or lavender to change things up.
  4. Put the lid on and shake well.

To wash: Shake the bucket before each use to make sure the ingredients are well-mixed, then add 1-2 tablespoons to the water as your machine fills — without the mystery ingredients, artificial fragrances, and extra water the commercial companies put in that’s all you need.

To pre-treat: For tough stains, make a wet paste of water and laundry detergent then apply it to the stain. Grab the fabric on either side of the stain and gently rub the paste into the stain, then launder as usual. Here are more tips to removing laundry stains with cornstarch, plus how to get ink stains out of clothes.



• Be sure to store unused borax and washing soda in air-tight containers or they’ll absorb humidity and turn rock hard.

• Many grocery stores stock all of the ingredients you’ll need to make your own homemade laundry detergent. If you can’t find the ingredients in the detergent aisle, look in the cleaning section.

• I do 5-6 loads of laundry each week, and one batch of this lasts me a couple of months. Since you can make about five batches before the boxes of washing soda and Borax are gone, I recommend buying 5 bars of soap when you pick up the other ingredients, so you have everything you need to make more.

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How to make laundry detergent - Skip the mystery ingredients and get your clothes just as clean for pennies a week!

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  1. Hi Katie
    I have made this and have been very unhappy with the result. My clothes are all faded! They don’t look as clean or as vibrant either. I can see marks still on them after washing. Any suggestions? I’m ready to go back to store bought stuff

    1. I’m so sorry you don’t like it, Angela. I’ve been using this stuff for years and haven’t had fading at all! Are you using Fels Naptha, or a different kind of soap? Are you using fabric softener? That can build up and make colors look less vibrant over time. It’s difficult to come up with suggestions since I haven’t experienced this, but one last thing to think about is adding some Oxyclean to the wash to brighten things up.

  2. 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. 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. 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!

    3. No. To clean cloth diapers you need a real detergent like Tide or Gain. Look up Fluff Love & CD science. This recipe isn’t a real detergent and will not clean clothes!!

  3. 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. 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.

  4. I love your cleaning solutions and have been cleaning with natural things for years. I started it because my little dog had severe allergies.

    I used to make my laundry soap similar to your recipe and one day I got a new one from my local health food store and I like it better. I no longer use Fels Naphtha, I use Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castlle Bar Soap. You can get it in different scents, I use 1 bar of the lavender and 1 bar of almond and mix them together since I make a double batch each time. A double batch lasts me 3 months.

    I cut the bars up in pieces and put them in the food processor to grind them finely. In a large bowl, mix 2 parts washing soda, 2 parts Borax and 1 part graded soap and 1/2 cup of aluminum free baking soda. You can add more essential oil if you want but I don’t as I find there is plenty in the soap already. 1 Bar of soap equals 1 cup. Use 1/8 to 1/4 cup per load of laundry.

    To remove stains from clothes I use a stain removing stick that I buy from they have wonderful things and have been using their soap for years.

    Like you I also do add some Oxy Clean to my laundry.

    Looking forward to learning more from you…Happy cleaning…Brenda

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Brenda! I’m a big fan of Dr. Bronner’s, so I’m going to give this a try. They do make a variety of lovely scents. 🙂

    1. Yes, just like with regular powdered laundry detergents or Oxiclean, if you’ve ever used that.

  5. 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. Hello to the UK!

      This mixture is safe for all non-delicate clothing.


  6. Hi, Katie! I’m excited to try this recipe, but I’m pretty new to homemade cleaning products after having recently decided to do away with store bought junk for the health of my family. I saw you say that this isn’t suitable for delicate clothing. Do you have any recommendations for what would be? Thanks.

    1. When it comes to washing delicates, I just use a little Ivory liquid dish soap and do them in the kitchen sink.

  7. I have some other questions. I found this section after the previous section on pillowcases. I have not had luck with powdered laundry products. I use to use oxiclean but had trouble getting it to dissolve. Powders also build up in the dispenser tray. Is the powder going into the dispenser drawer and are the majority of clothing being washed in hot water? I’m new to all of this and it may be covered and I have not found it yet. When adding vinegar for softener ( I do not use softener), your clothes do not smell like vinegar? Just trying to learn. Sincere Thanks.

    1. It’s a great question! As you know, vinegar has an awful pong at first. The good news is that smell fades quickly, and disappears entirely once it’s dry. In cleaning products that means you’ll smell it when you first spray or pour them, and as you’re applying them (like with my homemade all-purpose spray), but by the time you’ve wiped the surface and it’s dry, you won’t smell it at all. In the laundry, as you’d asked, you’ll notice it when the wash is running but the rinse and spin cycle will reduce it. By the time your laundry is dry, you won’t smell it at all. (I wouldn’t want to go around smelling like vinegar, either!)

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