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

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

julie mace - July 4, 2012

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!

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    denise - July 6, 2012

    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

    Reply
      Amanda - July 22, 2012

      how would the coke clean the jeans? I have never heard of that!!!

      Reply
        Jen - July 25, 2012

        the Coke has a lot of acid in it and will take grease and grime out too. Works wonders.

        Reply
        T - July 26, 2012

        It’s the combination of carbonation and acid that helps Coke to clean. You can check it out at http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/acid.asp

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          gina - August 5, 2012

          Coke works. My husband used to work in the oli fields back in the 80″s and I learned this trick reallly quick with his clothes. I used about 1 liter bottle per load on his oily clothes.

          Reply
          Jessie Lind - February 22, 2013

          Coke can remove the corrosion on car battery terminals – I fully believe it can clean the oil/grease from some jeans.

          Reply
    Christmas - January 8, 2013

    Dirty Job Complete and Purex Crystals and smells very nice

    Reply
    Pat Rose - May 21, 2015

    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!

    Reply
      Pat Rose - May 21, 2015

      OOPS, I also add 3-4 cups of water to the soap in the soup pot. – PR

      Reply
Sarah - August 5, 2012

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 )

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b! - August 7, 2012

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.

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lisa - August 28, 2012

Anyone ever used liquid Ivory bath soap in their recipe? If so, How much?

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Nancy Lee - September 4, 2012

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.

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Ruth McBrian - September 5, 2012

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.

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Rosetta - September 16, 2012

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.

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    The Hillbilly Housewife - September 17, 2012

    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.

    Reply
      Vickie - April 12, 2013

      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.

      Reply
    charles - July 27, 2013

    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;

    Reply
Jennifer - September 19, 2012

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?

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    Jane - September 20, 2012

    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.

    Reply
    Vicky - January 9, 2013

    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.

    Reply
MaryLou - September 26, 2012

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?

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    The Hillbilly Housewife - September 26, 2012

    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.

    Reply
    Michigander - November 2, 2012

    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.

    Reply
    Vickie - April 12, 2013

    ttp://www.ewg.org/skindeep

    Great website for toxic levels.

    Reply
shell - October 21, 2012

don’t know what we did wrong but after setting over night it clumped up

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    Jamie - January 2, 2013

    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.

    Reply
    Vicky - January 9, 2013

    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.

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Barbara - November 13, 2012

I have not heard of Feis Naptha soap, what and where can I find it?

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Cindy - November 14, 2012

Walmart has it in the laundry section.

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Miranda - November 21, 2012

I make my own laundry soap as well. But I use a “no grate” recipe. I find that it works just as well and takes a lot less time to make:

http://lifes-greatest-blessings.blogspot.com/2012/11/tutorial-no-grate-homemade-laundry-soap.html

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Tara - December 9, 2012

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!

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Tara - December 31, 2012

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.

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Jamie - January 2, 2013

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.

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Christmas - January 8, 2013

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

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    Vicky - January 9, 2013

    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..

    Reply
crystal - February 23, 2013

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

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Kay - March 18, 2013

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.

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Anna - April 11, 2013

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.

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Khristine - April 22, 2013

I would love to try this laundry detergent, but was wondering if it would be safe for septic tanks?

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    Diane - November 16, 2014

    So far I have been making mine for about 8 months now and we have a septic tank and it has not hurt it.

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Rodney - May 12, 2013

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.

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Hzlove - December 19, 2013

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

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Deborah - July 25, 2014

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.

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    Deborah - July 25, 2014

    I forgot to say that I make my own soap and use it instead of using the Fels Naptha.

    Reply
Diane - November 16, 2014

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

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    Bonny - June 20, 2015

    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

    Reply
ALICE - October 3, 2015

Seems to me: after you buy all the ingredients = NOT exactly worth the effort.
And: on another note: have been adding small amt of DAWN to laundry (with less detergent) for MANY years already.
Thanks.

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Maryrita - November 3, 2015

so, in Canada, what would we use? don’t have Fels naphta here.

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Stephanie - December 3, 2015

Hi. I would love to try this laundry recipe, but I have a question: I have a front-loader washing machine with a dispenser for liquid or powder detergent on the top of the machine; so should I put this gel detergent into that dispenser or must I put this gel directly into the machine drum on top of the clothes? Also, we have well water and a septic system; will this be safe for my septic system?

I really want to try this, if I can, because my husband has just turned 70 and is now fully retired, and living on his social security is very difficult. But I sure can’t afford to risk our septic system! Thank you.

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Desmond - January 27, 2016

I use Biokleen Laundry Powder Premium Plus. I only use a half-scoop of it per load and add scoops of Borax and washing soda. It’s all powder – no stirring or grating; no mess. Biokleen is made from “Natural Protein Digesters From Fermentation, Sodium Percarbonate (Oxygen Bleach), Soda Ash, Citrate, Surfactants From Coconut, Citrus Peel Extract, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Sodium Sulfate, Zeolites, Low Ph Silicates and Chelators From Vegetable Fiber.” (from the box) There’s also one without bleach. Walmart doesn’t carry this product, but Amazon.com does. I use white vinegar now and then and sometimes pre-treat serious spots and spills.

No one ever mentions washing machine brands – the cost and life-span of your appliances adds to your laundry costs, so the brand matters. My Maytag Neptune front-loading washer died last year after 17 good years. Maytag is no longer – it’s a Whirlpool label now, so I did a lot of research before I bought a Speed Queen replacement. One of the big factors in my choice was the repair business person’s recommendation. Speed Queen is made in the USA and has metal gears, not plastic. Just a suggestion!

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