Homemade Laundry Detergent

I’ve been experimenting with homemade laundry soap since March 2010.  Talk about a long-term project! I have scoured the internet for recipes and ideas. I’ve boiled, grated, mixed and stirred more times than I care to count and have lost track of exactly how many recipes I’ve tried.


Image by doodleflydezines

I started with powdered variations in early 2010. I changed variations several times but could never find anything that I felt got our laundry clean and left it smelling fresh…or at least not smelling the way it went into the washer.  I especially had problems with my husband’s work clothing and towels/sheets and anything that got especially messy like burp cloths and cleaning rags.

I used a liquid variation for a few months.  It was not complicated to make however it took more time then powder and I felt it was hard to store.  I tried using an old store-bought bottle but both kinds I made separated (which the recipe indicated would happen) but it was very hard to shake it all back together.  It almost needed stored in a bucket where you could stir it easily. 

My husband, bless his heart, helps me with laundry and there is no way he has patience to stir detergent every time he does a load (I barely had patience to do it!).  Don’t write it off because I didn’t like it though, see if it’s for you.  There are many women who swear by homemade liquid and love it. 

I found that powder was the best way to go in our house.  It’s easy to store and scoop. (I use a ¼ cup scoop that came from coffee or something like that.) An old measuring cup would work too. 

Here are some of my observations in my laundry soap endeavor:

  • Water matters.  If you have hard water, softened water, salted water, or whatever it will affect the effectiveness of your laundry soap.  Our water is salt softened but has a heavy clay residue.
  • Don’t expect suds.  I get zero; none; nada, nothin’. 
  • Patience! Consider this a long-term project.  It’s still January so at it to your yearly To Do list.
  • Experiment with recipes and ratios.  If it calls for 1 cup of something, you may need 1 ½. It goes back to water and the dirtiness of your clothing. 
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment
  • Adjust the amount needed per load based on your needs. 
  • Keep some store-bought on hand.  No condemnation here.  Listen, if you’re experimenting and your dogs pukes all over the foyer rug at 6am and you don’t find it till you get home at 6 pm USE THE STORE BOUGHT! You aren’t going to lose the mom of the year award.  I’ll still vote for you – promise!
  • Vinegar is the best rinse agent.  Add it to your softener ball or the center of the agitator that holds to hold fabric softener.  Vinegar helps remove any soap left in the clothing plus takes away odor.  Your clothing DO NOT smell like vinegar when they come out. ( I promise, again).  It will smell of vinegar while the rinse cycle is going but once out and dry the smell is gone.

 Here is what I use for my recipe.  I store it in a 2 gallon bucket with a lid.  When I was experimenting I made ½ as much and stored it in a plastic tub.  Whatever works for you.  I’ve included links to amazon more so for the picture in the event that, like me, you never heard of some of the before. I urge you to price check your local stores and online before you buy.

 1 box 20 Mule Team Borax (4 lb box)  (laundry detergent isle)

1 box Arm & Hammer Washing Soda  (55oz) (laundry detergent isle)

3 cups of baking soda

1 bar Fels Naptha soap bar (laundry detergent isle)

1 canister Boraxo Powdered Hand Soap (16 oz) (hand soap isle)

Combine borax, washing soda, baking soda and boraxo in a large tub.  Grate bar of Fels Naptha with a hand grater into the powder using the finest side of the grater. (I have an old one I keep especially for this job).  Stir together.  I take off my rings and use my hands to mix it.  You really need to incorporate the ingredients. 

To make combining easier when I’m dumping the dry ingredients I alternate some borax, some sodas, some boraxo and keep repeating that until they’re all in. 

Use between 1/8 and 1/2 cup depending on size of load. (experiment with what works for you.) Fill your softener dispenser with vinegar.  Wash in cold or warm water. 

I’ve read that hot water and the borax can create a chemical reaction which can take color out of some fabrics.  I have not had any problems doing towels, sheets and doggie blankets in hot water. 

 The great thing about this is you can adjust the ingredients as needed.  I used the above minus the Fels Naptha for my son’s infant clothing. I think the Fels is the key to getting really dirty clothing clean.  Of course if your husband has an office job, you have no pets, your kids don’t play in the mud and you never spill anything on yourself you might be ok without the Fels. 



I recently came across someone who uses their food processor with the grating blade to for their Fels bar.  I imagine it would work I only question if after continued use would it begin to smell like soap and not work so well when used with food again.  It would surely cut down on time and let’s face it mama – time is precious!


Add some essential oil if want a scented laundry soap.  I did this half way though my last batch, at my husband’s suggestion, and it made a nice difference.  I added 10 drops of lavender essential oil to half my bucket.  The laundry now has a light lavender scent.  The vinegar rinse probably dampens the smell but I wasn’t going for a store-bought lavender scent anyway. 


Try it and let me know what you think. 

Until Next Time,

Be Blessed

This post shared at Growing Home’s Teach Me Tuesday.

12 responses to “Homemade Laundry Detergent

    • Awesome Melina! If you feel that your clothing are getting clean without it you can leave it out. If you can’t find any brand of powdered hand soap then I’d recommend adding a little more Fels Naptha. Let me know what you think!!

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  2. I’ve been experimenting with homemade laundry detergents too! And, I also have come to the conclusion that homemade dry laundry detergent is the way to go. Please come over and check out my comparison on my blog Cornerstone Confessions and leave a linky back to this post in the comments. I’m sure some of my readers would love to read your conclusions as well. Thanks for your analysis.

  3. ok, updates: it was A HIT!!! Hun you must have worked hard over the last year through trial and error because your combo is perfection. Even without the powdered hand soap it was wonderful. I’ve since found the powdered hand soap and I am debating whether or not I’ll add it next time I make more. The detergent was the best I’ve ever found. Even with the MIL messes, the kid messes, the GA clay messes (which I have to tell you, NOTHING gets out GA red clay, except this stuff!!), and then the doggy labor and PUPPY messes… wow. The labor and new puppy messes were disgusting. I mean, nasty filthy stains and nauseating odors and yet everything came out like new and smelled great. no harsh cover-up smell, it actually neutralized the odors! and, I haven’t had any fading problems. This is the recipe I’ll be using from now on.
    I have already given your link out to many friends, and I would LOVE to feature this on my blog- throwbackliving.blogspot.com
    and I’m laughing at myself as I type this, because I have ZERO followers for that particular blog.
    However, it is linked to my others, and I created the blog with the hope that it would help women. I am not making money or having a lot of followers, but once the information is put out there, it’s out there, available to whomever comes across it.
    It’s up to you, it’s just that I’ve had so many friends already asking for the recipe since they found out I made my own and that it cleans and deodorizes so well. I would love to put it up on my blog, and I don’t want to take any credit for it because it was your hard work and experimentation and then blogging about it that did it.
    So please let me know, and I don’t have a clue how to guest post, but I just wanted to see if it something you’d be interested in doing.
    It’s been a huge blessing to me and many others already.
    Thank you and God Bless!!!

    • Ok great!! I found out how to add you so that you can guest post, ad I need your email address to add you. Then I believe you can sign in and post, and you could probably go into your post here, copy the entire thing and paste it to post… Yes I’d love the laundry detergent post, as well as any info or blurb you’d like to add!!! :).

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  5. I recently made my first batch of powdered laundry soap and we LOVE it. I grated the soap but my grater left the pieces pretty long. I did use my food processor to chop the soap up in smaller bits — it doesn’t smell like soap when you wash it, so it doesn’t smell like soap when you chop up soap in it 🙂 We use a slightly different receipe, and we only use 1 tbsp per load, but I agree with previous comments — homemade is the way to go!!

    • Kristen,
      I’m so glad you loved the laundry soap! I do think that slight tweaks are necessary for every family but what I love about this base is that your possibilities are endless!

      Thanks for taking the time to let us know how you made out.

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  7. Hello Danielle,
    Are you still using the laundry recipe as you listed it? I made my own detergent with F-N soap, borax and washing soda and have used it several times. I’m a little concerned about long-term use, as I’ve read that people often have yellowed/dingy clothes or smelly clothes using my ingredients. What has been your experience? Why do you use the boraxo? I’m thinking it must have some positive qualities that F-N soap doesn’t. Thanks so much for letting me know.

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