How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

Looking for a simple homemade laundry detergent that will actually get your clothes clean? This basic recipe only needs 3 ingredients and will keep your clothing fresh and tidy.

Looking for a simple homemade laundry detergent that will actually get your clothes clean? This basic recipe only needs 3 ingredients and will keep your clothing fresh and tidy. #homemadelaundrydetergent #frugaltips #laundrydetergent #makeyourown

Homemade Laundry Detergent

This is a very simple and basic, yet effective way to make homemade laundry detergent. If you are looking for something very frugal, this detergent will cost about $0.02 per load without the addition of essential oils.

My husband works around black rubber dust all day and this is the recipe that we use to keep our clothing clean. As you can imagine, if it can clean rubber dust out of clothing, it can clean just about anything!

—Need to save as much money as possible on laundry? Here is a comprehensive article on Frugal Laundry Strategies.

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

What You Need:

  • 1 bar of Bar Soap(such as Ivory)
  • 1/2 cup Borax
  • 1/2 cup Washing Soda
  • Essential Oils (optional)

How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

Step 1: Grate the soap and put it in a saucepan.

Step 2: Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts.

Step 3: Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved. Remove from heat.

Step 4: Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket. Now add your soap mixture and stir.

Step 5: Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. Add in a few drops of essential oils such as lemongrass if desired. Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel. You use ½ cup per load.

If you feel that you need some kind of fabric softener, just add a bit of vinegar to your clothing in the softener part of your washing machine. Again, you could add a few drops of essential oils to that as well.

Looking for the best essential oils to use? We use Rocky Mountain Oils for all of our essential oil needs. The products are quality, the prices are reasonable, and shipping is always free!

Need to organize your laundry days and laundry methods? Here are some Laundry Routine Tips too!

If you are looking for a more detailed recipe (that does not contain any borax), you can find one in my daughter’s book: Little House Living – The Make Your Own Guide to a Frugal, Simple, and Self Sufficient Life. She also has a wonderful recipe for a Homemade Stain Stick and some other great DIY laundry products.

This recipe might seem simple, but it’s effective and will get your clothing clean, that’s what counts! To extend the life of your clothing, it can be good to alternate a homemade laundry detergent like this one with some kind of store-bought detergent. This can help to ensure that your clothes are getting clean and that no buildup of any kind of soap will occur on the clothing.

Looking for more money saving tips? Here is a huge article filled with Frugal Tips that will keep your pocketbook happy for a long time.

Have you ever make homemade laundry detergent? Did you make this recipe or do you add anything else to your homemade detergent recipe?

This article about Homemade Laundry Detergent was originally published on Little House Living in October 2009. It has been updated as of December 2018.

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43 Comments

  1. does this really work? How many loads does this make, if you had to guess?

    Can you find washing soda near the detergent?

    1. What is washing soda? Where can you purchase this?

      I am trying to make my own washing detergent and do not know what is washing soda?

      Thank you.

        1. You can also make your own Washing Soda by sprinkling Baking Soda on a cookie sheet. I can’t remember specifics, but (Google to be sure) I think it’s 400*F for 30 minutes.

          If you are making your own laundry soap to get away from chemicals, Ivory would not be my choice. Long story short, Commerical Beauty Bars/Moisturizing Bars are SuperFatted. That means after the soap is made it has extra fats floating around (not used in the process) left over to moisturize skin (although handmade soap is 1000X better in every way, JMO). Using handmade body soaps means you don’t also require extra skin lotion. Another reason handmade is cheaper in the end. JMO

          To get back to the laundry soap; you don’t want to use soap made with SF (buildup) I don’t use my handmade body soap for laundry because I like the extra moisturizer of leaving Shea Butter on my skin. But I wouldn’t want Shea Butter scum left on my clothes, no matter how lightly. When I make Laundry Soap, I make bar soap with no SF. But I wouldn’t suggest using it in the shower. It won’t hurt you, but it will definitely dry your skin after prolonged use.

          My handmade Laundry Soap works great, we use a bar as a stain stick and just plain old dirt cheap vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser. Making your own or buying someone else’s handmade Laundry Soap means you could add EO but it’s really not necessary and only adds to the cost (again JMO)

          I grew up with retired Farmers as neighbors. Although the Grandma took pride in sharing her knowledge with my Mother (her helper). Their motto was: “we don’t buy it! If we can make it!” It was like living next door to Laura Ingles without the children! They even made yogurt and cheese and the lye they used in the soapmaking.

          Hope this helps

  2. Have you tried out this recipe since you posted it? It looks so easy to make! What size bucket do you use for the final mixture? Does it need to be stored with a lid on? How long does it keep for? Do you also have a recipe for fabric softener? Sorry for the “laundry list” of questions! 🙂
    Also, I just discovered your website and I love it!

    1. My mom uses a 5 gallon bucket to store hers in, I ended up sticking with a store brand (Country Save) because we use cloth diapers 🙂 I don’t have a recipe for fabric softener yet but I can put it on my list!

  3. Dear Paddy and Merissa,

    Laundry detergent and fabric softener are indeed easy to make and it works well (we have a household with 4 children, so I have a truck load of laundry every day).

    Recipe for fabric softener:
    6 cups of water
    3 cups white vinegar (in Holland: cleaning vinegar)
    2 cups of any hair conditioner you like

    If you mix that (do shake very, very gently or stir) in an old plastic container for liquid laundry detergent and pour it into some glass jars of …. (whatever you have that is empty), it looks nice as well (the same for l. detergent by the way).
    The vinegar smell is gone as soon as washed and dried. It is way better for your machines as well.

    Another recipe for fabric softener:
    quart bottle with white vinegar
    tablespoon of rubbing alcohol
    25 drops of (lavender?) essential oil

    Another recipe for fabric softener:
    2 cups of white vinegar
    2 cups of baking soda
    4 cups of water
    Use 1/4 cup per laundry or 1 teaspoon on a wet washcloth in the dryer with the rest of your laundry.

    In the Netherlands baking soda and borax are -unfortunately- not available, so I haven’t tried anything with those ingredients. The first recipe for fabric softener works splendid and is easy to make. I use appr. 1/4 cup per laundry.

    Have a blessed day!

  4. Hi there,
    What is “washing soda” ?
    Sorry, never heard of it.
    Do you need a lid on detergent to keep it fresh ?
    Thanks!

    1. I don’t think you need a lid on the detergent. Washing Soda is just another kind of baking soda, you should be able to find it at Target or Walmart.

  5. Hello!

    Does this recipe work to use for washing cloth diapers?

    I have my own homemade bars of Tallow soap I would use. Do you think the laundry detergent recipe here would ruin cloth diapers?

    Thanks!
    Abby

    1. For this recipe it does have to be washing soda, the 2 have different chemical makeups. You should be able to find washing soda at both Target and Walmart.

  6. I have used homemade laundry detergent and fabric softener for almost 2 yrs now. YES it works!!! I make my laundry detergent using Fels Naptha brand laundry soap bar or Zote laundry soap …both available at Walmart as well as the Washing Soda. ( Arm and Hammer makes it ) I use a 5 gallon bucket with lid and actually make enough to fill the bucket. It lasts me almost 10 months. I also use the 1st Fabric Softener recipe given by Judith. I buy White Vinegar by the gallon as I use it for my homemade cleaner recipes as well…so I just use an empty gallon to mix it in. I usually buy VO5 hair conditioner as it’s usually on sale..and with coupons I pay as little as 35 cents for a 16oz bottle. One ‘batch” lasts me about 3mths or so. LOVE the savings and the fact that I ‘made’ it myself!

  7. I make my own laundry detergent and use it in my HE washer all the time without any issues. It uses the same three ingredients but is a lot less work. Put one bar of basic soap (I use plain ivory) on a plate in the microwave and cook until it gets all puffy and misshapen. Put it in a blender or large food processor with 1 cup of washing soda and one cup of borax. Pulse until it forms a powder, there should be no big hunks of soap. I then put this powder in a plastic stoage container and use a tablespoon per load added directly to the drum (not the little soap dispenser thing if you have one) Ony takes a couple minutes and no grating soap or cooking it with water. Plus it’s a lot easier to store.

  8. Would this be a good detergent to use for cloth diapers. I am looking to start making our own detergent, but I have been warned about fragrances and buildup on cloth diapers. If not, do you know a good recipe for cloth diaper detergent?

    1. Yes, you can use this recipe on cloth diapers. I personally use Country Save (because I like a powdered detergent) but I have many friends that use this one on cloth diapers.

  9. Does this work good on work clothes? My husband works around grease and dirt all day long. Does anyone have a recipe for degreaser or laundry stain remover?
    Thank you!

    1. My mom used this on my dad’s work clothes and he works in an area where there is rubber dust and is constantly dirty. This recipe worked for her!

  10. I would like to know if you can use this recipe on High Efficiency washers, as well?
    Thank you!

    Just started following you on Facebook and with your website, loving it!

  11. I have been using a DRY recipe for my washing powders for about 4 months now. Let me start by saying, I have a family of 7 people and 3 inside dogs, one of those people is my Dad who is in the end stages of Alzheimers, so I have to was a lot of sheets, blankets, and towels every day. My recipe has lasted me over a month at a time, (my washer runs no less than 4 lg. loads per day) I bought a small plastic bin with a lid on it to keep the whole batch in, Recipe is:
    *1 (4) lb box of Baking Soda
    *1 (4) lb box of Soda Wash
    *1 lg box of Borax (I think it may be 4 lbs. too)
    *3 lb tub of Oxy Clean or store brand, (which is what I use) (I keep the plastic tub it comes in to put a smaller amount of my powder in and keep it on the counter by my washer, rest goes under the cabinet in the dry & out of the way.) ** OxyClean is Optional** Other recipes I’ve found do not have this as an ingredient, I just used it and liked it, so I added it!
    *3 bars Fells Naptha & 1 bar Zote bar soap (or all the same, this way is my personal preference. You will find Zote is more moist than the Fells, which will make grating it harder)
    *1 bottle of Purex Crystals, I use the baby scented one, THIS IS PURELY OPTIONAL, this just adds fragrance if you want, and you can use any fragrance you like, or NONE at all – makes it cheaper!
    Grate your bar soap,(yes by hand), only takes a few minutes, then put it in a blender with your crystals if you are using them, until it is super fine, pour into bin, pour in all your other boxes, and I mix by hand, you can use a spoon, but took too long for me! I use gloves, it will dry your hands out! Just mix, mix, mix and your done! Careful of the Borax, when you are pouring it in, get it close to the tub as you can, there will be dust, and it will go right up your nose!
    ***JUST 2 TABLESPOONS per LARGE load, I use 3 to 4 on my REALLY dirty stuff, and I just use my 2nd rinse on these. (I’m talking pooped on, peed on, dirty things from my poor Dad)
    ***This does NOT suds up – which makes it great for ALL washers, which I have to admit is a hard habit to break, but if you will feel the water after everything is dissolved, you will feel the slickness of the soap.
    My pay comes in at the 1st of the month, so I buy everything I need, and I go back at the beginning of the next month….I still have washing powders at home! I was using the largest box of store bought powders, and it would last me 4 days, just to give you an idea how much this saves me, 2 boxes of regular detergent (about 1 weeks worth), would buy me a whole months worth, plus extra washing powders and about $10 in change in my pocket. More if I didn’t use the $10 tub of OxyClean, and I think the Purex Crystals are $4.76 at Wal-Mart. Of course without these two items, I probably would only have a months worth of washing powders, and the clothes might not come as clean!
    ***I also want to add my old detergent & fabric softener had left an awful buildup on the washer, this recipe has also helped to clean my washer (along with adding vinegar to the rinse cycle!). I put only 1/2 cap full of Fab. softener, and then use Vinegar instead of water to fill up the rest of way. This will help kill germs, & will make your fabric softener go further, since you only use 1/2 the amount you were. Clothes come out still feeling soft and vinegar smell will not be there when clothes are dried. Hope this will help everyone on here 🙂

  12. Merrisa,
    I have question on the laundry detergent and how it is on sensitive skin. My husband and two of my daughters have very sensitive skin and I usually by the detergent with no scent and dye free. Would this detergent recipe be ok for their sensitive skin. Always looking to save a few dollars and this looks like a great way to do it. Thanks

    1. Hi! I thought I’d let you know that my kids and I all have sensitive skin and because this rinses away so cleanly, it isn’t a problem. Using straight vinegar as a laundry softener helps even more. However, it could depend on the type of soap you use. I prefer Fels Naptha because it degreases much better than Ivory (IMO). An easy way to make sure is to find another family who already makes it and see if you can get some to try. Hope this helps!

  13. I just made my second batch of your laundry soap. I made a double batch this time. I also use oxy powder with it. We are frarmers. We raise grass fed cattle, goats and sheep. We get filthy and I do two loads of laundry a day. Just me and DH. I really love it. Love your website. Thank you so much. I did a bunch of your lotions and scrubs. Did them for Christmas gifts. Thank you again.

    Sandy

  14. I just made your laundry detergent for the first time -first time trying any kind of homemade laundry detergent. It definitely gelled into a solid, but soft, block of gel. It is not pourable at all. Is this how it is supposed to be? I’m not sure how it will work adding it to the detergent dispenser on a front loading washing machine. Does anyone just add it into the drum with the clothes? Also, will it dissolve well in cold water?

    1. We measure it out with a scoop instead of pouring it in. I guess I’m not sure how to add it because it would depend on your machine. We just have a top loading machine so I pour it in.

        1. Thanks, I will just try scooping out the gel and adding it to the washer. I will let you know how it goes. Thanks.

  15. Can you add rosewater to homemade detergent? I use Borax, Zote soap & water. Can I add rosewater w/o affecting the detergent & clothing?