Three Ingredient Homemade Laundry Powder

I am not sure where this original recipe came from. I have seen it in many different places on the internet. I want to share it because it has worked so very well for my family. It makes a powder that is easy to store and not heavy to deal with.

1 bar Fels Naptha soap (or equivalent laundry soap like Octagon, 1-2-3, etc.)
1 cup Washing Soda (not baking soda)
1 cup Borax

Grate the soap. Mix together slowly with powders (you don’t want to get sloppy so you don’t make a mess or accidentally inhale this).

Store in a small container with a lid (I use an old coffee canister. Use 1 tablespoon per load. If it’s a horrible load of nasty kid stuff, use 2.

This works well. The soap shreds will work their way to the top of the container, so I just stir from the bottom when I measure my tablespoon.

We make double batches in just a few minutes. If you use the 1-2-3 bars (a Mexican brand that works well and is inexpensive) they are double sized, so each bar counts as two anyway.

Hope you’ll give it a try! I save money on the laundry as well as the gas for a 25 minute drive to town to purchase it!

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  1. says

    I don’t remember where I found the recipe, but for several months, I have used this recipe with Ivory soap, and really like the results.

  2. Mary Ann says

    Sounds like a winner. I use the same ingredients but add water to make a liquid laundry soap. I will definitaly have to try it simply because it take up less room than the 2 gallons worth of liquid soap.

  3. Jack Parker says

    There are many recipes for laundry detergent out there that contain only these three ingredients. The amounts vary greatly from one recipe to the next, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Exactness is not required.

    I live in a big city with HARD water! The ratio of ingredients that works for me are…

    1 bar Fels Naptha (yes, you can use Ivory or any other pure soap.)
    2 heaping cups of Borax
    2 heaping cups of Washing Soda.
    (If you use Ivory, don’t heap the cups.)

    I don’t grate my soap. I put it through my food processor! It’s done in seconds. Once you have the ingredients mixed, it will help you tremendously to take five minutes to run the entire batch through your food processor. It will grind the soap down even further, which you want. And it will break up any clumps from the Borax.

    I make 2 batches of this recipe and store it in a gallon ice cream pail. If you have a front loading washing machine, you only need 1-2 Tbsp of detergent! (Imagine how long that will last you!) If you have a top loader, you only need 1/4 cup.

    Add 1/2 – 1 cup of vinegar to a Downey Fabric Softener Ball and toss it in the wash. Your clothes will NOT come out smelling like vinegar, but line-dried. The vinegar is a great softener and an even better rinse agent to rid your clothes of all that store-bought detergent build-up!

    Also, make your own dryer sheets by cutting old t-shirts, sheets or flour sack dish towels into squares. Dab each one with a drop or two of your favorite essential oil and store in a small container. I use an old baby wipes box. The rags will scent each other and, when you toss them in the dryer, you’re clothes will come out with a personalized scent. Do you like lavender? Cloves? Sandalwood? Rose? Vanilla? Give it a try! Best of all, the sheets are reusable and you can get a big bottle of scented oil from craft supply stores, like Michael’s, very cheap.

  4. Leann says

    This is a similar recipe to the Duggar Family. They use 1/2 cup borax instead though. I tried out their recipe for the first time last night. Now I know why women had muscles back then ;).

    The fels naptha bar definitely had a smell and looked like grated cheese. I used the smallest grater. My daughter kept telling me it stinks. I mixed it together in a plastic storage bucket and put it in a small bowl. Nifty. So I have a plastic bucket and a cheese grater in my “soap making supplies” now. I also have extra 2 tbsp scoops from my protein shake mix. So I confiscated one of those for my laundry soap.

    I wasn’t sure what to expect, because my kiddo didn’t want her laundry smelling like that bar of soap. I washed a load of towels last night and still used a regular bounce dryer sheet. The load came out beautifully. Unscented and I am quite surprised that it was “that easy” and “super economical” to make this. So I have 39 loads to go. :)

    Definitely a two thumbs up from an Alaska Girl in the City. :)

  5. Beth says

    You can Add downy unstoppables to your homemade detergeant, it leaves a WONDERFUL smell. it is a little pricey but if you google you should be apple to get free samples I did.

  6. Jennifer says

    I have been making this laundry soap for at least 6 months maybe longer and I love it!!! I try to stcok up on the Fels Naptha because it is sometimes hard to find it (only one store in my small town carries it). My clothes seem brighter and cleaner, I am a big fan of the bounce bar in the dryer. We are trying to cut as many corners as possible and laundry soap is one of the biggest expenses of a household so this does make a difference. Now looking for dish liquid and fixing to try a home made baby wipes recipe.

  7. Lara says

    The Purex Crystals fabric softener that you add to the wash, it is very economical! $3.97 for a large bottle. Just use half capful for each load or to your scent usage. I would think as strong as this is, one could use very little to scent a whole tub of homemade detergent.

  8. mirenda says

    I read you should not use bleach with this homemade laundry soap and the only reason i would , would be for whites…what do you use instead??

      • faith says

        It is never wise to mix cleaning agents, particularly with chlorine bleach involved. The chemical reaction between these two cleaners can release harmful gases, most notably chlorine gas.

  9. TomR says

    Washing Soda is sodium carbonate (or soda ash). If you have trouble finding it you can make your own by baking it at 250 degrees for an hour. This releases carbon dioxide, the gas that makes your biscuits rise, and leaves sodium carbonate behind. Works fine for us. We find it’s cheaper to get large sacks of feed grade sodium bicarbonate from a local feed store, so check the internet or the yellow pages to find one in your area.

  10. Joanne Peterson says

    I now have a high efficiency washing machine. I ran out of homemade laundry soap and didn’t make a new batch because I am not sure if this laundry soap can be used in a high efficiency washing machine. Does anyone know if this laundry soap can be used in a high efficiency washing machine? I don’t want a mess in my laundry room just in case this soap can’t be used in a high efficiency machine.

    • geekbearinggifts says

      The rule of thumb with HE machines is to use half the amount of detergent called for in a traditional machine, whether using homemade detergent or commercial detergent (but make sure you read the manual for your specific machine.) DON’T put powdered detergent in the detergent cup unless your machine is designed for powdered detergent–put it in the bottom of the drum before you add your laundry. Please note, however, that most people who use homemade detergent in HE machines use the liquid or gel versions since the powdered detergent doesn’t dissolve as well in the small amount of water an HE uses. This is especially true in cold water loads.

      • Joanne Peterson says

        Thank you for letting me know. I will make the liquid soap and use half the amount in the washer. I didn’t realize I should use half.

        In my old machine, in cold water the powder didn’t dissolve well. That’s when I started to make the gel form of laundry soap. Because of very hard water, I used an equal amount of borax and washing soda as the grated soap and found the clothes got cleaner.

        Thank you again for your help.


    • bevy says

      yes because the fels naptha, or zote is low suds. i use this in my new HE washer daily. and no problems because it isn’t sudsy.

  11. leann says

    I have the HE GE Washing machine, front loading and have never had a problem with the 2 tbsp of soap. I am almost done with my 2nd batch of soap since November. We love it and the kids are taking an interest now in grating the soap. They still like to add regular fabric softner to their laundry in the dryer so I try to stock up when I see it marked down at Target to a $.

  12. leann says

    Sorry, I mean I made my 2nd batch in November and it is going to last through the end of January.

    The first batch was August through October.

    No issues.

    • Joanne Peterson says

      Thank you, I appreciate your answer. I will make a double batch over the weekend. I really liked the homemade soap and felt it did a good job cleaning the clothes. I don’t like spending the money for the HE soap. I have two babies and a seventeen year old at home so I have a large amount of laundry. Thank you again for your reply!

  13. Jane says

    I have found Zote (a pink, Mexican made laundry bar soap) at the dollar store and it works just as well as Fells Naptha soap. I’ve used both and I like the Zote because it’s cheaper – it’s a larger bar so makes a larger batch of detergent and it’s only $1. It smells to me kind of like citronella but doesn’t leave a scent when the cloths are dry and works just as well. Go by the ounces – Fels is 5 1/2 ounces, Zote is 7 ounces so I add about 1/3 more of the other ingredients. It would be hard to mess up the recipe there are so many variations. I prefer the liquid soap because I have a front loader and the liquid just seems to work better. I’ve been using this homemade soap (got the recipe at for about a year and love it. Works great in an hE washer because it doesn’t make suds.

  14. Jane says

    Whoops – forgot to mention – I’ve never used the dryer bar and I’m kind of afraid to because I use a lot of microfiber cleaning cloths (love, love, love them!) and they say not to bleach them and not to use fabric softner because it will put a film on them and they won’t work as well. Anyone who uses dryer bars have any experience with this? I hate to put anything permanent in the dryer. Also, I don’t like a lot of fabric softner on stuff. My sister in law uses 2 or 3 sheets of fabric softner and her towels are water repellent. I hate that. I really do like the vinegar rinse – it seems to remove all the residual soap and softner residue from the cloths. Any comments???

    • says

      Would you put the vinegar in the liquid bleach receptacle? or would you put it in an extra rinse cycle? Any experience? I have read the manual, and it is not clear.

      Thanks much!


  15. Brook says

    I too love this recipe. I use the Kirk’s Original Fragrance Free Castile soap. I do not like the smell of Fels Naptha or the Zote. I have young children and need something more mild and natural for my family. You can get Kirk’s on for about $1/bar.

  16. Belinda Green says

    I’m from Australia and now having trouble buying Borax – stores don’t seem to be stocking it any more. Is there a substitute I can use? I normally use the Washing Soda, Pure Soap and Borax recipe.

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