Household Recipes: Homemade Laundry Detergent

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I am a hardcore couponer.* My kids are even in on it. Whenever we go to the grocery store together they both want to know ahead of time “Do we get any coupons?”. I usually pick out a coupon I had planned on using (for a kid friendly item to make it more fun) and give one to each of them. Their job then is to find the item or items in the grocery store and put them in the buggy. They also get to put them on the belt and hand over their coupons when time comes to pay. Then we talk about how much money they saved that day by using them and I’ll usually go through a drive through for some sort of treat and explain to them how we got that “free” with the money we saved.

Consequently, Katy’s favorite thing to do is get my coupons out of the printer whenever I print them off from websites and such. As soon as she hears that printer going she hollers out “Ma! Can I get the coupons out for you?” and here she’ll come a running with pieces of paper, proud as a peacock. Hint: You can print out coupons directly from by using the Coupons widget about middle ways down in the right sidebar!

One of the things that drives me half mad is the price of laundry detergent. This is one item which is absolutely necessary in your household but so seldom goes on sale. To make matters worse, Katy has had some sensitivity issues to detergent in the past (she broke out in hives when I tried out a lavender scented one and on one other occasion when I tried another detergent) so I am limited to which ones I can purchase.

A while back, I came across a post on homemade laundry detergent. Now my initial thought was not to replace our laundry detergent but rather to simply know how to make my own in a pinch, if I ever had the need. I just love being able to do things like this on my own, must have been all those episodes of MacGyver when I was younger. I was pretty surprised to find that not only did it clean better than the high dollar brands but it also softened our clothes (I no longer use fabric softener) and made everything even smell fresher than the brand I had been using.

It has been requested by all members of my household (including the youngest, who thinks grating soap is just the coolest thing ever) that I only use this detergent from now on. We’ve been using it for a few months now and I’m totally won over. Of course, they love it for the smell and feel of our clothes, I love it for how great it works and the fact that it only costs me about eight cents per load of laundry now!

In my mind, the commercial versions can’t come close to this.

Tipnut has an extensive list of laundry detergent recipes on her site, including several for liquid detergent. She also has a great FAQ section just for laundry detergent questions! I considered the liquid detergent recipes for all of thirty seconds and went straight with the powder because it suits my commitment to keep things as low maintenance and simple as possible.

This is only my second batch that I’ve made up. It seemed to last forever so this last time I actually measured out how many loads were in each batch so I could give you an accurate figure. No wonder it lasted forever, I had made enough for 160 loads!

Today I’m bringing you the recipe I use which I found on After viewing this tutorial, hop on over there and check out her other recipes for detergent to find the one that works best for you. This one is the hands down winner at my house!


You’ll need:

  • Laundry Soap (Fels Naptha or Zote are the ones I have used. You can also use: Sunlight Bar Soap, Kirk’s Hardwater Castile, or even Ivory)
  • Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
  • Borax

Note: You’re not likely to find all of these things in one store. I usually have to make trips to at least two different stores to get them. One store will have the Borax but put it beside a huge box of Baking Soda instead of washing soda and then another will have the soap. Just have fun shopping around for what you like but be sure you remember where you got everything! I am going to show you a recipe for detergent to make about eighty loads worth but I recommend you get four bars of soap and go ahead and make 160 loads worth because there is enough Borax and Washing Soda in one box to do that much. This will give you the absolute best savings!


The only real work involved is grating your soap. I use a cheese grater for this. I really want to use my food processor but I’m worried about hard soap damaging or dulling my blades so cheese grater it is!

Get your soap, a dishpan or large bowl, and grater and go find something good on TV.

If you have access to one of the first few seasons of Mcleod’s Daughter’s, that’d be my pick.

*I get about three cups of soap shavings from each bar. Measurements will vary according to the size of your bar soap and how finely it is ground.


We’re grating this kind of fine so it melts easier in the water.

If you like, you can run the shavings through the food processor when you are done to make it finer but this works just fine for me.


Measure out your soap grounds in a large mixing bowl. This is where the recipe gets easy.

However many cups of soap shavings you have, half that to know the number of cups of Washing Soda and Borax to put in.

So for six cups of soap shavings, use three cups of borax and three cups of washing soda!


Measure out Washing Soda


And borax..


Stir all of that up!

You’ll have to stir a bit each time you scoop some out to get a good ratio of soap shavings to powder but that’s no big deal.


I store mine in a little flip top container and leave an 1/8th of a cup measuring cup in there to measure it out. Can you believe this only takes two tablespoons per load? Seriously! I put this to the test, too. I’ve figure out that two tablespoons is pretty close to 1/8th of a cup so that is the measurement I use now.

The main difference you will notice between this and store bought detergents is that this detergent doesn’t suds up as commercial ones do. Don’t let that deter you! Once you pull out your first load of clean, fresh smelling, naturally soft and fluffy laundry, that only cost YOU eight cents to clean, you’ll be hooked.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

*This was based off of’s recipe #4, I just altered the amounts

  • 4 Bars Laundry Soap (to yield 12 cups of soap shavings)
  • 6 Cups Borax (this is roughly one box)
  • 6 Cups Washing powders (this is roughly one box)

Grate soap using cheese grater. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Place in sealed container and measure out two tablespoons for each load.


Smaller Batch Recipe

  • 2 Cups Laundry Soap Shavings (you can get this easily from one bar)
  • 1 Cup Borax
  • 1 Cup Washing Soda

*Follow Instructions For Above Recipe

Soaps you can use: Fels Naptha, Zote, Sunlight Bar Soap, Kirk’s Hardwater Castile, or Ivory

*For great coupon strategies and advice, visit


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  1. I’ve seen this around in blog-ville, but never got up the courage to actually try it. I think trying to find the ingredients is what’s putting me off – I don’t think I’ve ever seen those anywhere, but that could be just because I’m not looking for them. I think this time I’m actually convinced I could try this. You make it look super easy, for one thing. And for another, we’re saving to buy a house and I’ll do any cheap tightwad thing it takes! So once we’re through with the box of detergent we’re currently using, I might actually get out and find that stuff and make my own detergent.

    By the way, what area of the store is that stuff usually in? Should I start looking in the laundry aisle and fan out from there? I really have no idea where I’d even try to look for stuff like borax and fels naptha.

    1. Our local Wal-Mart carries Borax (same aisle as the laundry detergent), and I’ve seen Fels Naptha soap at the local grocery. I’m not sure if big chain groceries would sell the soap, but our local grocery sells it.

      1. Please tell me the name of the town and store where you buy Fels Naptha and A & H washing soda. I live in South Louisiana, and can’t find these items. And… if you could respond to my email address (, I would greatly appreciate it. I’m going shopping in Baton Rouge tomorrow, but I also shop in Lafayette and Alexandria. Thanks and God bless, Brigitte

    2. Usually, Wal Mart will have the Borax but they have it next to a big box of baking soda. Both are on the laundry aisle but you gotta keep hunting for the washing soda. Ashleigh was totally right, of course, you’ll likely find it at a local grocers.

      I have found Washing Soda, Borax, and the soap all at local grocery stores. They don’t have to be small ones, Publix usually has them and so does our Piggly Wiggly’s and things. I’ll bet you’ll have to go to two places to get it all but you might get lucky! I would check Wal Mart last as I have never seen all of the ingredients there.

      HOWEVER, my “new” local Publix grocery has everything! The Publix in Athens (where I used to live) did not though.

      Strange, strange!

      It’s always on the laundry aisle though!

    3. I found borax and arm and hammer washing powder at Kroger- sitting side by side. I live in a town of 3500 people, so you might find it on your laundry aisle at the grocery store if your town is of any size.

      The soap, however, I have not found yet. May have to use ivory.

      1. Be sure that you are purchasing the A&H Washing Soda, not detergent. I almost bought A&H detergent which defeats the purpose.

  2. I’m definitely going to try this recipe. I use Borax a lot anyway, especially with my whites.

    Interesting use for Borax: When my daughter (now 8 years old) was a baby, she was allergic to disposable diapers–all brands. They gave her a horrible rash. It was so bad that I sometimes would lay her naked on a waterproof pad so she wouldn’t be in a diaper. I didn’t use wipes on her either. I had to use warm water on a washcloth to clean her up. That’s how sensitive her skin was. To alleviate her rash and against the advice of her pediatrician (who insisted that diaper rash is worse with cloth than disposable diapers), I tried cloth diapers. Her very bad rash vanished almost overnight. I had a pail that I’d soak her diapers in until it was time to wash them (which I did every night). The pail had water and Borax in it, and it got rid of any bad odors. (Of course, I got rid of all solids before soaking the diapers in the pail.) When I’d wash them, I used the “free and clear” type of detergent with a hefty dose of Borax added in to the hot water. I used an extra rinse cycle to make sure they were really clean. I couldn’t use chlorine bleach because of her sensitive skin. Needless to say, the Borax always made those diapers and washcloths so clean and white, and my daughter never had a rash after I put her on cloth diapers. I am a HUGE fan of Borax now and will definitely try making some homemade detergent.

    1. Wow! Thank you for that story! It’s amazing how powerful this stuff is!

      When I first read that Tipnut said to use two tablespoons, I thought she must be crazy! lol “How on earth are two tablespoons of detergent going to clean my clothes?”. I’m a believer now.

      I know the other readers are really going to enjoy reading how well Borax has worked for you! Maybe we’ll help a few more skeptics to convert! lol

    2. Hi Ashleigh!

      My oldest son (now 9) was also allergic to a certain brand of disposable diaper. I learned the hard way not to use them on him. His rash was just awful! He’d even cry when I wiped him with just plain water & the softest wash cloth I could find. Never tried the cloth diapers though — just learned to use only one or two brands of disposables on him.

  3. I would love to try this but have not been able to find the ingredients anywhere around where I live.
    Have you tried the fabric softener? It is soda and vinegar, not got the exact measurements handy but had a lot of these to try as well as tipnut.

    1. Yep you can use bicarb/baking soda and vinegar as a softener. It will also clean your machine. Some people run an empty cycle and add the soda and vinegar to keep their machine clean.

      1. You know, I have totally quit fabric softener because my clothes come out so fluffy and soft with this, I really don’t need it anymore! I’ve never seen anything like it! If I hadn’t of been the one doing the laundry I’d swear fabric softener was used!

        Thank you for the recipe though! I will sure file it away for future reference!!!

  4. I am SOOOOO going to try this! I bet it will take me a while to find all the “ingredients” needed (I live in a very small Texas town). But I am determined to find them all and try this out. I break out and itch from nearly all of the suds (I call them suds) that I use. And I hate the ones they call “free & clear” b/c they smell like NOTHING. So, I have suffered through the itching and breaking out into rashes to have softer clothes and clothes that smell clean! So, hopefully this works out well for me! Thank you, thank you! I am also going to check out the site!

    1. I just love this stuff, truly. Let me know how you like it! I was thinking that for someone with really extra sensitive skin, Ivory soap would be a dream to use.

      Of course, my Katy and her hives have had absolutely no problem with this though!

      I just love it!


      P.S. Free and clear ones bother me for the same reason. I want a fresh smell!!! lol

  5. McLeod’s Daughters! hehehe

    I have no need to buy any laundry powder for a year because I got a year’s supply free when I bought my washing machine at the end of last year. And it will probably last me longer than a year because I always use less than the recommended amount. I think using one scoop is too much, I still feel the soap on the clothes.

    1. Try using vinegar in the rinse cycle to remove any soap residue. Works great. And no, your clothes won’t smell like vinegar once they’re dry.

      1. Sorry, forgot to tell you that you just fill the fabric softener dispenser in HE washers or 1 Cup in a top loader.

      2. If you fill a fabric softener ball 1/2 to 3/4 full of white vinegar, the vinegar releases automatically in the rinse cycle. Vinegar stops a soapy build-up on your clothes, and you don’t need fabric softener. Vinegar is also a mordant to set dyes in fibers, so it keeps your clothes looking newer. There is no vinegar smell left on your clothes, just a nice clean scent.

      3. I started using vinegar in place of fabric softener when I noticed my son was itching all the time. As soon as I did the itching stopped. We love using vinegar.

  6. Is this safe for my High Efficiency washer. I wonder if I need the boiling method?


  7. I’ve seen a similar recipe posted in various places for the past few years, but it required boiling the soap/borax, and washing powder, to create a liquid. I LOVE your recipe so much more! It seems like it would be a lot easier to make and to store. We’ll be trying yours! And, of course, I have about 100 bars of Ivory soap that I got veeery cheap after coupons! 🙂


    1. Yeah, see, y’all benefit from me being lazy all the time! lol

      I LOVE the smell of ivory. It always makes me think of taking baths at my grandmother’s house when I was a little girl. My great grandmother used Ivory soap all of her life.

      and Hey, IT FLOATS! lol


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