Homemade Laundry Detergent - Liquid and Powder Versions

I have found in my discussions with others regarding this subject that people seem to have strong feelings about their laundry detergent.  There are those that swear if they don't buy one specific kind, the one they are loyal to, their clothes just don't get clean.  There are those that buy what's on sale, but have specifics that they won't buy because they feel their clothes won't get clean.  And then there's those, I am in this last group, that initially felt similar to those mentioned above but got tired of paying the ridiculous prices and, on a whim, finally made their own detergent one day.

These detergent "recipes" are found all over the web and are extremely similar, with the exception of the amount of water in the liquid version.  It seems to vary depending on preference.

I have an HE/Front-load machine and have been told time and again that liquid is the best to use in it.  So, because of that, for a period of time I was making the liquid version.  But, as I researched more and more with a lot of information showing you can use powdered or liquid, I have since switched to using the powdered version.  It's easier to mix up and I can mix a huge batch and leave it in a bucket.

Both recipes are below.

Three ingredients {plus water} are all that's needed to make detergent.  These ingredients cost me a total of $5.56 at the grocery store.  I found all 3 in the laundry detergent section on the top shelf.

I figure that the homemade liquid detergent costs me 92 cents for 2 gallons which should clean approximately  128 loads of laundry {64 if using 1/2 cup}.  92 cents!!  The homemade powder detergent costs me $2.78 for 1 quart and 1 pint which should clean approximately 63 loads of laundry.  The savings, compared to store bought detergent, is truly amazing.

Borax and Washing soda both work as laundry boosters and the Fels Naptha bar works as a stain remover. You can use different soap, just make sure it's low sudsing (coconut oil soap or castile/olive oil soap are usually low sudsing).  All report to be septic safe {I have a septic tank}.

You can add essential oils to the finished product, but it's my understanding they are slightly hard on clothing.  I use no added fragrance and instead add 1/4 c. white vinegar to the fabric softener slot on my washing machine and my clothes smell "clean" and are super soft.  I use this detergent in cold water and have had no issues.

Homemade Laundry Detergent - Liquid Version
makes just under 2 gallons {approx. 64 -128 loads of wash}

what you'll need:
a large bucket that holds at least 3 gallons {to mix the ingredients in}
2 - gallon containers {to store the detergent in}
a grater
liquid measuring cup
something to mix it together with {I use my immersion blender to ensure it's mixed well - alternatively, you could use a spoon or whisk and shake the final product}
a large pot/stockpot
a funnel {if needed to pour liquid into the gallon containers}
1/2 c. borax
1/2 c. Washing soda
1/3 bar Fels Naptha or Zote soap (or 1 whole bar of another soap)

Add 4 cups water to the stockpot {tap water is fine but you can use bottled}.  With a grater {or food processor}, grate the Fels Naptha bar over the stockpot.  Turn the stockpot on medium heat and stirring, allow the soap bar to melt into the water.  *Large chunks will not melt so if a piece falls off while grating, try to chop it up smaller.*

Being careful not to allow to boil, continue stirring until all grated soap is melted {no chunks or small pieces}.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the borax and washing soda, stirring until thoroughly dissolved, about 4-6 minutes.

Put 1 gallon and 8 cups of hot water into the large bucket.  Carefully pour in the soap mixture.  With an immersion blender, blend until fully incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Allow to cool to room temperature.  Stir again, either with a large spoon or the immersion blender, and pour into the 2 - gallon containers, using a funnel if necessary.  This should leave enough room in the container to shake prior to each use.

Use 1/4 - 1/2c. per load of laundry.  {typically 1/2 c. with top load and 1/4 c. with front loading machines}

**The detergent may be watery, it depends on the water you use {hard or soft}.  Within the next 24 hours it will separate and part of it will begin to gel.  Shake each container well.  Give the container a quick shake prior to each use and it will separate again {see photo below}.**

Homemade Laundry Detergent - Powder Version
makes 1 quart and 1 pint (approx. 63 loads of wash}

what you'll need:
a grater {or food processor}
a large bowl {to mix the ingredients}
1 Fels Naptha bar (can be substituted with Zote, Ivory or Castile bar soap)
1 1/2 c. borax
1 1/2 c. washing soda
1 quart and 1 pint container with lid or 3 pint containers

Pour the borax and washing soda into the large bowl.  Stir together.  Grate the Fels Naptha bar and add to the bowl.  With a spoon, mix until fully incorporated.

Pour the detergent into containers.  Use 1 T. - 1 1/2 T. per wash load, either sprinkling on the wash or putting in the detergent tray.  

**Since writing this post I've written a follow-up that can be found here.**


  1. I have been thinking about making my own for awhile, especially since the price of detergent (and I am a one type only kind of gal) has been climbing and climbing. This inspires me to get to it!

  2. Making our own laundry detergent is one of the best things I've done. We prefer the Zote soap, as the Fels-Naptha seems to aggravate my boy's allergies. Thanks for sharing the breakdown in cost!

  3. Thanks Daisy for leaving this info - I'm sure it will come in helpful for others. I've heard of Zote but haven't yet tried it. Meg, I'm surprised you haven't yet ventured into this territory! :) I hope you find it works well for you. Please let me know if you discover any additional tips or information.

  4. This summer I have seen several recipes for making your own detergent. I keep thinking I just don't have time to make my own but the cost of detergent is crazy. Cross my fingers, I am going to give it a try. Can I use utensils normally used for food. I don't have to have separate tools do I? Oh, and were did you find your plastic bottles?


  5. Janet - I truly hope you like the homemade detergent. It's not as smooth and "beautiful" as store bought but it works great! I used my regular grater, immersion blender and spoon because, the way I looked at it, it's just soap. I also used a soup stockpot from my kitchen again, with the same theory. The bottles were saved from when my husband used to like the bottled iced tea by Arizona - their perfect because they are heavy duty. You could use re-purposed vinegar bottles too.
    Hope this helps!

  6. i always want to make on my own but i don't know what would be the best thing to do glad that i have found your site..thanks a lot for sharing..its really a big help

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  7. Im going to make this this weekend. I have really sensitive skin. Do u think this will irritate me? I usually use All free and clear detergent but have been looking for ways to save money. I hava already started making my own fabric softner and I love it.

  8. I made this and followed the directions completely. I used 1/2 cup in my front loader washing machine. Any feedback? I am concerned to increase the amount. I am new to making laundry soap and do not want to (1)harm my washer. (2) fear of damaging our laundry. (3) have lingering soap in my laundry.

  9. Jen - I would recommend using the Zote or Ivory bar soap as opposed to the Fels Naptha. I've had other readers who have sensitive skin tell me that this recipe works for them with that substitution.
    Tnecgrl - I apologize, I'm not sure what your question is. Are you saying 1/2 cup didn't work? I have a front load machine as well and do fine with 1/2 cup of the liquid soap. I use vinegar (straight vinegar) as my fabric softener which would also remove any lingering soap. If there's something else I can answer, please let me know.

  10. My son has sensitive skin and we used Dr. Bronners unscented bar of soap and he did just fine. I'm almost done with my first batch of liquid and I may try Ivory this time...debating on powder vs liquid.

    Has anyone had any issues getting Body Odor out of armpits? My hubby (especially in the summer) STINKS after he runs and I found that I had to use a store bought detergent to get his pits on his running clothes clean. Would vinegar in the rinse cycle help this or does anyone have other suggestions?

  11. Sarah - I have to laugh because I feel your pain. My husband works in remodeling so I have the same issue. I've found no problem getting the smell out. I do use vinegar as the softener, so I'm not sure if it's the soap, the vinegar, or a combination of both.
    Anyone else have any ideas???

  12. So, I make a homemade liquid detergent that is 3 tbs washing soda, 3 tbs Borax, 3 tbs Dawn dish soap, and 4 cups water. I usually double the batch. This way, I don't have any grating or cooking! I use Fels as a pre-treat bar, and add about 1/2 cup clear ammonia to any load that is smelly. Hubby has sweaty feet, thus gross socks, and they never retain a smell after washing. I've also read that a mixture of peroxide and baking soda can take out body odor stains on white shirts, but don't use it on colors!

  13. Its so inspirational! I always love home made laundry magics :)
    Thanks for this lovely post!

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