Homemade Laundry Detergent–Dry and Liquid

by Daisy on 07/29/2008

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**Update 5/31/12**  Old recipe.  Liquid loses power over time.  See THIS post for new tutorial.

To make your own low-bubbling detergent for both high efficiency and traditional machines, you need four ingredients: Borax, Washing Soda, Soap, and Water

Borax and Washing soda can usually be found in the laundry aisle of any good grocery.

Pretty much any soap is suitable for laundry use, however, some soaps are so GOOD or so EXPENSIVE that it would silly to buy them for laundry. If you aren’t making your own lard or Crisco soap, or don’t have a bunch of old soap bits lying around, Ivory (25 cents a bar at Walmart for the 16 pack) is your best bet for versatility and price. Fels-naptha and Zote are also fine options. Zote may be as economical as Ivory or homemade since it comes in such a large bar, but I haven’t found it in my area.

Kirk’s Castille is JUST FINE for laundry, but at 1$ a bar, I would never buy it for that purpose. However, I did buy it to make shampoo, but because of the ADDED EVIL GLYCERIN, it makes my hair GREASY, so for our demonstration this afternoon, Kirks will be the LAUNDRY bar. (Grrrr.)

Powdered Laundry Soap:
2 cups finely grated soap (Ivory, Fels Naptha, Zote, homemade, or a combination)
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda

Mix and store in a coffee can or what have you. Use 1-2 T per load.**

If you intend to use this detergent DRY, then I highly recommend that you buzz it in the coffee grinder or food processor to get the soap really fine.

**NOTE: There is a great degree of debate about this laundry powder and others like it. Some find that the laundry comes out clean as a whistle using the usual 1-2T per load. Others find that their clothes come out smelly and dingy. Here is the MAGICAL solution. Because of water differences, soil differences, and washer sizes, it will take SOMEWHERE between 1TBSP and 1/2 cup of this detergent. (Mine is 6T for a super-size white load) BUT, once you find your magic amount, it will be the cleanest, whitest laundry you ever had.

Depending on WHY you are choosing to make your own, this may or may not discourage you from continuing to use it. If, for example, you are doing it to be better for the environment, more self-sufficient, reduce chemicals in the home, or because you hate shopping–it won’t affect you. However, if you are doing this solely for the purpose of being frugal, you may find that your perfect amount of powder exceeds the 5 cents a load that you can squeeze out of a wholesale club bulk buy.

Now, onto the liquid.

Liquid Laundry Soap– (*****EDIT 7/2012  This liquid version WILL lose power over time, so make smaller batches.*****)
2 cups finely grated soap
1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
water and bucket (> 1 gallon)

1. If you tried the powder version and want to switch that batch to liquid, cook it all in the saucepan together over medium until the soap melts OR if your ingredients are still separate, melt the soap over medium in a few cups of water and add the rest right after you take it off the heat and stir to dissolve.

2. Pour in pail and add enough HOT water to equal one gallon. Stir well.

3. Let set up overnight.

4. Stir. It will be a soupy gel.

5. Use between 1/4c and 2 cups per load. (**See above note)

This stuff also works well as a pre-treater. I’ve found it especially effective with those phantom water drip looking circles that appear on my t-shirts. I’ve also used it to scrub the bathroom and in my dishwasher in a pinch.


{ 111 comments… read them below or add one }

Ivory Soap September 27, 2012 at 8:34 pm

check out our category DIY, cleaning products. I’ve done LOTS of research on this. I’ve worked up the chemistry for the soda, but I haven’t made a firm decision on the optimum amount of surfactant. I know what I use and like, but I don’t have research to back up the soap amount. I haven’t found anyone who does.

GracieB October 10, 2012 at 10:34 am

I followed the instructions for the liquid detergent; I used Dr. Bronner’s pure castille (baby mild, unscented) All-One! bar soap. My detergent is more of a solid gel (similar consistency to Crisco), and when I peek in the washing machine, there are NO SUDS. Are my clothes actually getting clean? I read on the label that the soap is some kind of organic oil soap.. is this the reason for the lack of suds? I’m very confused and concerned that my things aren’t getting clean..

sherry October 13, 2012 at 7:04 pm

We all are made to think that SUDS means CLEAN.. well it is not the case. It is an additive to make suds which is not needed. laura sulfate is what makes suds and you don’t need it to be clean. Homemade laundry det. is not going to suds like we expect and it really is cleaning your cloths. I have been learning how to make all my items i clean with and wash with and even bath with free of chemicals and lake of suds is in all of it.. but i feel great and my house and self are clean and happy…

Kri5tle October 27, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I am interested in making my own laundry soap, but is it as effective in cold water? I do not use warm water for laundry. Thanks!

Sarah November 1, 2012 at 8:30 am

I wash everything except whites and towels in cold water, have been using this homemade detergent for over 3 years and think that it works great!

Amber November 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I used some dial bars from the dollar store, plus a container from there and just shook it up (with some essential oils). Smells awesome and my grater has never been so clean!

Joyce December 14, 2012 at 10:31 pm

I am wondering if this will work with my hard water, / well water. I also have a rust problem with my water.

Joyce December 14, 2012 at 10:39 pm

I have well water that has rust in it. Any suggestions as to something I could add to the dry recipie to help with the rust? Will my well water make it so the soap does not clean as efficiently?

Wanda Jones February 16, 2013 at 10:31 pm

I am considering on making my own laundry detergent. One of my problems is trying to determine what type of essential oils I should be using and where to get them. I don’t want to stain my clothes. I is it found with the candles or in health and beauty aid( bath oil).?

ANA MOLINA February 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Well it be ok to add a few drops of any fragrance oil for a good smell in the liquid detergent?

christine April 11, 2013 at 8:53 am

i used 2 cups zote, 1 cup washing soda, and 1 cup borax. I made 1 gallon and let it sit over night. Now it’s 1 gallon of solid soap. Granted, it’s softer and more malleable than the original bar of zote. What did I do wrong? Is there a way to fix it?

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