Homemade Laundry Detergent

Making your own homemade laundry detergent can be a great way to save on an ongoing basis. Here’s  recipe that a HBHW reader submitted. Be sure to also read through the comments section below. We have quite a bit of good discussion on the topic going on and there are many questions that came up and have been answered below.

What you need:

All ingredients can be found at your local grocery store in the laundry isle.

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

  • 1 bar of Fels Naptha soap, shaved
  • 4 cups of hot water to melt the soap
  • 3 gallons of hot water
  • 1 cup of borax
  • 2 cups of washing soda
  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • 1 large Rubbermaid container about 4-5 gallons size

Here’s what you do:
Grate the soap into a saucepan. You can use either a box grater or a food processor for this. I recommend you do not use whatever tool you use for grating soap with food. I was able to buy an extra food processor very inexpensively at a thrift store.

Add 4 cups of hot water to the pan.  Simmer on low until the soap melts completely into the water.

Add borax, washing soda and baking soda to the hot water. Simmer on low until it desolves with the soap (by craig at dresshead inc). If the mixture is not melting, add more water if needed.

Add 3 gallons of hot water to the large container. Add the mixture to the hot water. Mix with a large spoon until it
completely dissolves.
Let cool overnight. You will notice that it turns into a thick gel. Use 1 cup of this homemade laundry detergent per load of laundry

Further Reading – Keeping It Clean

This is a 3 ebook series that will help you spend less time and money on your laundry. Tawra and Jill from Living On A Dime share their best frugal laundry, cleaning and home organization tips.

Grab your copy today at http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/laundry

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  1. julie mace says

    This is safe for HE; it’s low suds. I’ve been doing it for years, but I still use Tide on the jeans (I have 5 boys that get very dirty). This is definitely not for heavy soil. However, I have used this homemade laundry soap with jeans and it works if I add a cup of oxyclean and put it on the heavy soiled option and let it soak for an hour. Then it does get my jeans clean. :) I would compare this to a generic detergent for lightly soiled items. It is very inexpensive and lasts a very long time!

    • denise says

      for those jeans add one to two cans of coke (brand name coke no diet) to the wash cycle with rhis soap it works great

    • Pat Rose says

      Hi, Julie, thank you for your comment. My four year old washer died a couple of weeks ago. I could not believe it! Anyway, I have been making and using a variation of this Fels Naptha recipe for about five years. It has saved me a bundle and my clothes could stand right up there in the Clean Laundry Hall of Fame. I was just gifted by my wonderful sister, a new HE machine, a Whirlpool top loader, a Cabriol or something. I recently spent $16.00 on a 57 load Tide HE Tide package. That is more than I spend in a year on laundry detergent. But you think I am good with my homemade? Thank you so much! I love the soap and can make a batch in 20 minutes. I chop up the soap with a serrated knife, but it in an old soup pot that is used for nothing else, melt it down, add 1 Cup A & H Super Washing Soda and 3/4 Cup Borax to my 5 gallon can, add hot water to that, stir it all up so the two powders are dissolved, and then add the melted Fels Naptha. Many of my friends are using it too. It has been a huge savings. One time I added cold water to the borax and sw soda powders, and they seized up! Thanks so much!

  2. Sarah says

    I add a can of coke when I wash my husbands work clothes, you’d be surprised how well this works it’s gets my hubby’s oil and mud soaked clothes super clean ( he works oilfield )

  3. b! says

    I use Zote soap and add a few drops of essential oils to the water as its boiling (my hubby likes orange). Also I noticed the detergent turns out better if you shave the soap as fine as possible.

  4. Nancy Lee says

    I’m sure this is a great recipe, but I just wait until Walgreens or RiteAid put Purex Free & Clear detergent on sale for $1.99 and then do some serious stocking up and I have saved A LOT of money over the course of a year. The detergent is excellent for a lot less money.

  5. Ruth McBrian says

    The homemade Laundry Detergent is great even with adding lavender oil to it I figure it costs 20 cents a Gal. I buy everything but lavender at Wal-mart and lavender at health food store. Saves lots of money.

  6. says

    Is this detergent safe for colors? Will colors fade faster than if I use Cheer and cold water? Also, is there anything I can add to help it clean better? My light colored clothing is starting to look dingy.

    • The Hillbilly Housewife says

      A splash of white vinegar in the wash will help colors ‘stay’ better during the washing process. I’ve used this trick when I’ve washed multi-color shirts, even white with red stripes, to keep the red from running onto the white. Another trick is to turn the clothes inside out when washing. I know if you check with manufacturers of denim jeans, they always recommend this to keep the color truer and lasting longer. Couldn’t hurt to try. Thanks, Rosetta, for stopping by to ask. Does anyone else have any ideas? Please share them if you do. Thank you.

      • Vickie says

        Hard water affects how well the detergent works. I add 1/4 cup baking soda with the detergent and it makes a huge difference. You can adjust to your own water conditions.

    • charles says

      you might wanna try hydrogen peroxide, it will remove formula stains from baby clothes so im sure it will help hard to clean clothes, shouldnt take much per load or pour directly on stains or hard to clean spots prior to loading in washer, we used as pre treatment on baby clothes to take out formula stains, good luck;

  7. Jennifer says

    What exactly is “washing soda”? Is it just another name for regular detergent? Ive looked for it at my grocery store and cant seem to find anything with that description…..Does anyone know of a specific brand?

    • Jane says

      Washing Soda is Sodium Carbonate. Read about it here http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-washing-soda.htm# Arm and Hammer makes Washing Soda. It’s also used to treat swimming pools so you can buy it in larger quantities from pool supply places. It is NOT the same as Baking Soda so don’t confuse the two. If you read the article it should answer your questions about it. Hope this helps.

    • Vicky says

      Arm and Hammer makes super washing soda.But if u cant find it u can make it…U make it with Baking soda.Put 1 to 2 Cups of baking soda on parchment paper in preheated 400 degree oven for 30 min.On a cookie sheet)Stir after 15 minutes.remove after 30 min.and let cool.U can stir it while it is cooling.Have a blessed day.

  8. MaryLou says

    I am a little frustrated because I made some laundry detergent using Borax and just today (09/26/12) I read an article online that borax “Sodium borate, also known as borax, and boric acid are added to many products as cleaning agents or enzyme stabilizers, or for other funtions. They can disrupt the hormone system.” Where does a person go online to find out facts? I realize that “natural” ingredients does not always mean “healthy” ingredients, but there must be a place somewhere to find out what natural ingredients are good and not good?

    • The Hillbilly Housewife says

      I understand your frustration, MaryLou. There is so much information out there, it’s hard to know where to go and what to trust. And, yes, even ‘healthy’ ingredients can have side effects. It can also be very individual. Some of the more intricate research and information comes out of university studies and medical center studies. Mayo Clinic comes to mind, for instance. Another research center that I’ve looked at is the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, but it takes a bit of digging. Does anyone else have a favorite place to go for information about health topics? Please share them here if you will.

    • Michigander says

      This is a reponse to MaryLou’s question about is it harmful to the hormone system. Sodium borate will be ok in small doses. Just like a little baking soda, or table salt. If you ate a pound of baking soda, borax, or salt i’m pretty sure I would get sick. Using it in small doses will be ok.

    • Jamie says

      If you put this into a smaller laundry bottle (I use an old one and just fill it from my bucket when it gets low) you can just shake it before you pour and it mixes it so you don’t get as much separation.

    • Vicky says

      HEy clumping is the nature of it.U can put into smaller or repurposed detergent bottle and drop in a marble of smooth stone and shake it up.It is excellent laundry detergent.

  9. Tara says

    How well does your ” no grate” recipe clean clothes, Miranda? I’m trying to cut down on spending and between running a farm and having a 10 month child, I don’t have much spare time! Just curious!! Thank you!

  10. Tara says

    Shells, you didn’t do anything wrong. It settles and needs to be stirred each day you use it. One good mixing should get you through however many loads you do that day.

  11. Jamie says

    I have used this for almost two years and it has saved me tons of money! I do put about a half cup of white vinegar in each load as a fabric softener as well…works great. I also throw in a Tide Boost packet from time to time for heavier loads, but I find this recipe handles almost anything, just treat stains like you always would.

  12. Christmas says

    I made the Laundry Detergent last night did it to the tee.but I checked it this morning and still water like it nevered came to a gel. I did put a little gain but that shouldn’t have done no diferent’s in it…

    Please Help

    • Vicky says

      Not every time does it gel but it is fine.Use it.Sometimes I use a wisk here to stir it up.Sometimes the humidity affects it but use it..

  13. crystal says

    I don’t use water at all I keep it dry and use it like powdered. Detergent usually 3tblspoons do the trick. For my babys clothes I use a bar of Johnsons baby soap and plain baking soda its gentler fot babys skin

  14. Kay says

    I made the laundry detergent for the first time yesterday, and used a drill with a paint mixer to mix it in the 5 gal. pail…was a lot easier than using a stick and done a better job of mixing.

  15. Anna says

    I am making this laundry detergent right now. I was just wandering how much water you might have to add to the borax, washing soda and baking soda to get it to dissolve? I have added 5 extra cups of water so far and it still does not seem to be completely dissolved.

  16. Rodney says

    I made my 4th batch yesterday. This time I used a small $5 bottle of gain for my last gallon in the bucket – mostly because we miss the smell of gain. Anyway, when I went to stir it this morning after cooling I noticed that it had not separated like before – there was no layer on top. Apparently, the gain has something in it that keeps the various ingredients in suspension. Its also a nice blue/green color.

    BTW, to stir in the 5 gallon bucket I use my electric drill with a metal paint stirring attachment which was approximately $3 from Lowes.

  17. Hzlove says

    I have made my own soap for a year & love it. I did buy tide free once when I was on a pinch & didn’t wasn’t to make Big batch just before I moved. When I did make it. I dumped the tide right on and it caused my soap not to gel. So there must be something in store bought soaps that food this. I have combined the last few cups of the last batch I made to the me match and the anti gelling still takes place. I’ve wondered what they use on store bought soaps that does this. I’m not concerned, just interested

  18. Deborah says

    I have made this and love it. But I have also make the powdered, too. It takes a very little because it has no fillers! This laundry soap is awesome. It cuts grease like you wouldn’t believe! I use this to do deep cleaning in the kitchen and bathroom. I do use vinegar in my rinse water.

  19. says

    I have been making my own soap for a while now but I don’t make mine like you do I use 4 C. water 1 bar fels-naptha soap 1 C. 20 mule team Borax and 1 C. Arm & Hammer washing soda. and 2 qt. size mason jars. before I get started I grate the Naptha soap on a paper plate and in a bowl I mix the Borax and washing soda together and mix it up. In a Med. size pot I put the 4 C. of water on to boil and pour in the Naptha soap and stir until melted do not let it boil just a simmer. take off heat after the Naptha is melted and pour in the borax and washing soda and stir until you don’t feel any grit. pour equal amounts into each jar fill with a little more water to leave about 1 inch from top of jar put lit on and turn upside down set aside for 4 hours. When time is up I open the jars and use a knife and cut up the soap. Using my blender I take the bottom parts off and screw them onto the jar and use my blender on whip for about 1 min. until it looks like mayo repeat doing both jars I use 1 Tablespoon in my wash and it does about 128 loads make sure to label the jars soap because it will look like mayo. So far I have been really pleased with how it works and if you want a little oxyclean just put about 1/2 C. hydrogen peroxide in the wash works great

    • Bonny says

      Hi Diane, I would like to make it the way you do but got confused about one of the directions. So after you cut the detergent with a knife are you saying to screw the quart jars onto your blender upside-down then blend until it whips up like mayonnaise?
      Before I try this I’ll await your answer.
      Thanks, Bonny

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