Homemade Laundry Detergent

This is a guest post by Erin from “I am Frugal.” She recently wrote about how her family saves money on snacks. Her advice is simple and practical. If you enjoyed this post you may want to subscribe to her blog.

For the past six months or so I have been making our own laundry soap. I was a little skeptical at first to make my own and wondered if it would really work on my kids dirty clothes. But because of the cost of making my own laundry soap, which is about $.01 a load, I finally gave in and decided to buy the supplies one day when I was in need of some laundry soap. I figured it cost me about the same amount to by the supplies as it would to buy me a thing of laundry soap so if it didn’ t turn out I wasn’t really out that much money. I was VERY surprised at how easy it was to make the soap as well as how it worked in getting my family’s clothes clean. I am now on my 3rd batch of laundry soap and have never had any problems with the soap. Each batch of laundry soap makes about 2 gallons of laundry soap or more than 70 loads of laundry.

To get started you will need:

20 Mule Team Borax -about $4

Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda- about $3

Fels-Naptha Soap bar- about $1

Total, all of this cost about $8, but the Borax and Soda you are only going to be using 1/2 a cup so this will last you for a LONG TIME. For the Fels-Naptha bar you will only be using 1/3 of the bar for each batch of laundry soap that you make so you will only have to buy one of these bars every once in a while and it is your cheapest cost. One thing to note about these ingredients is that I was NOT able to find any of these ingredients at Walmart. All of these ingredients can be bought at smaller stores like Albertsons, Smiths, and Maceys in the laundry section of the store.

To get started bring 6 cups of water to a boil. While your water is coming to a boil Grate 1/3 of your Fels-Naptha bar with a cheese grater. It will look like this:

When your water has come to a boil add your grated soap bar and mix until it is dissolved. When it is dissolved add 1/2 cup of Borax and 1/2 a cup of Soda to the mixture and stir again until it is all dissolved. It will look like this when it is all dissolved:

Now take 1/2 of the mixture, about 3 1/2 cups, and pour it into an empty milk jug. Now add water to the milk jug until it reaches the top and put on the lid. Shake the jug for a couple of minutes to mix it all together.
At this point you can either leave your first half of the laundry mix in the milk jug or you can do what I do and pour it into an empty liquid laundry detergent bottle like this one:
If you pour it into the liquid laundry detergent bottle then you will want to pour the rest of the mixture that is still in your pot into the milk jug again and repeat the process of adding the water and shaking the bottle again to finish making your laundry soap. When you are done you should have 2 gallons of laundry soap made. You are now done with your laundry soap!! I am able to pour 1 gallon of the laundry soap plus about a third of the second milk jug into my big bottle and then I just leave the rest in my milk jug to be used later when my bottle is running low.

To use this laundry soap, shake up the mix before each use and then pour a 1/2 a cup of laundry soap into each batch of laundry.

If you are wondering why this laundry soap works like it did, let me tell you why:
Mule Team Borax is a natural laundry booster that helps your laundry detergent to work better, Arm and Hammer Washing soda is a laundry booster as well as neutralizes and eliminates odors, and the Fels-naptha bar is a stain remover.

Final Price for 2 gallons of laundry soap:
$.33 for 1/3 of the soap bar
$.30 for 1/2 cup of the borax
$.20 for 1/2 cup of the soda
Final Price: about $.70 for a batch of laundry soap or $.01 a load!!

That is ALOT cheaper than even the Purex brand Laundry soap that I was buying before which costs more than $5 for 65 loads of laundry,

So give homemade laundry soap a try and save some money in the process!

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the directions.I have seen this in the past,but haven’t tried it yet.I’ve been blessed with free detergent or almost free for sometime now.I also haven’t been able to find washing soda anywhere,but I haven’t looked really hard for it.It has to be sold here by someone.BTW….I am able to get borax at wally world and it’s also sold at target here.
    Thanks again 🙂

  • justusseven

    I love my homemade laundry soap too! Mine is a powder version so no cooking necessary, costs about $.03 per load:

  • Anonymous

    I was just wondering…if you have a front load washer would you still use 1/2c. of detergent?

  • onemotherslove

    I’m wondering if this can be used on cloth diapers, since regular detergent is not suggested for diapers?

  • TA-TA

    I was also wondering if any one had used home made detergent with a HE/front loader. We have trouble with suds build up when we use non HE-detergent, so I was just curious.


  • Laina@ abundant food savings

    I was also amazed at how easy it is to make the detergent I used Ivory soap bars instead of Fels Napa love the smell. I also use white vinegar in a Downy ball as a rinse agent – softens the water, takes all soap residue out and leaves just the fresh laundry scent behind. Plus it’s only $1.98 for two big jugs.

  • Anonymous

    I also use this recipe and love it. I buy the borax, washing soda and fels naptha at Winco, here in the pacific northwest.

  • Baba

    Thank you so much for the recipe! You can bet I will be making some for our home!

  • The Barnharts

    making my own clothes soap has been on my mind for awhile now, I’m so glad you posted it- is there a place online where i can buy the bar of soap? I live in the middle of nowhere!

  • Rhonda in OK

    I made some homemade detergent years ago, like 10 years ago, and did not really like it.
    But we lived in the country and had very hard well water too.

    but with your recommendation, I am going to try your method. You always have great advice.


  • Saver Queen

    I was just wondering – is this hard on the clothes and is there any kind of residue at all – or do your clothes come out virtually the same as they would if you washed them with a liquid detergent? Unfortunately we have a front-loading machine, so I doubt we can try this but I would like to try it in the future.

  • Erin

    This is Erin at I Am Frugal. To answer a few of the questions people have asked I have not had any problems with having residue on my clothing, just make sure you shake the container each time you use it. I’m not sure how this works with a front loading machine, I don’t have one so I’m not sure about that one.
    And I would think this would be totally fine to use on cloth diapers since the ingredients are so basic.

    I have been using this laundry soap for probably 6 months now and haven’t had any problems with it. If you feel their is any residue on your clothes you could do like Laina said in her comment and put a little vinegar in a downy ball and see if that helps. But, like I said I have not had any residue on my clothing, just make sure to shake it all together, sometimes some of the ingredients sink to the bottom.

    I Am Frugal

  • Erin

    This is Erin from I am Frugal again. If anyone is interested I have also posted about a recipe for dishwasher detergent that using the Borax and Washing soda together. I also have a stain remover recipe that works great for laundry.

    If you are interested in reading about that you can go to iamfrugal.blogspot.com and scroll down on the right hand side of the blog to the “recent topics” area and click on the “frugal recipe” label and you will find all of the recipes.

    I am Frugal

  • Blakely

    I make my own laundry detergent and love it.

  • my2boyz

    I use to amke my own years ago, same recpie but after a while i noticed my whites were getting a gray tinge to them. Maybe it was my water? I don’t know. I now use Charlies Soap it is awesome and green!

  • Jennifer Reinsch

    I love my homemade laundry detergent (I actually use the same recipe you mentioned, just in a larger quantity). Also, someone asked about a HE machine. When I had a regular washer, I used 5/8 of a cup, but with my HE washer, I use 1/4 of a cup.

  • Ira

    A low cost, green eco friendly, healthy natural way to do laundry is with soapberry which grows on the Chinaberry tree and has been used for thousands of years. It works very effectively.

  • Blanka

    This is great!
    I have to tell you that I found Borax in Giant! And they have sale 2/$7 this week.

  • Anonymous

    Does anyone know anything about the homemade laundry detergent plugging up your washer or would the vinegar help!

  • Airstream Memories

    After much searching in our area, I was unable to find the Washing soda, so my husband did some research on it, and found that it is Sodium Carbonate, which is found in the pool supplies! Our Wal-mart carries a product year-round for pools called pH increaser by Hth Spa. This cost $6.43 for a 2 lb. bottle and worked wonderfully. I love the results, and love the fact that I am saving so much money by making it!