Homemade Laundry Detergent: New Tutorial

by Ivory Soap

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Homemade laundry detergent, one of the simplest DIY projects, can be really confusing for a first timer, so here’s an updated tutorial.  But first……..


I just needed to get that off my chest before people start asking me about it.  ANY baking soda, washing soda, or other basic solution (like lye) reacts with air and completely loses potency over time.  In a chemistry lab, these things are kept in liquid form, but only in tightly stoppered little bottles.

So, I no longer make liquid detergent.  Our old liquid detergent post is still popular, but I want to make it clear that it’s obsolete.

No Borax?

Borax is found in commercial LIQUID detergents only.  It’s not very strong compared to washing soda, and requires HOT water to really do it’s thing.  I have omitted it, and am VERY pleased with the results.

However, if you insist on making liquid detergent, PLEASE use borax.  The gelling will help keep it stable for a while longer than washing soda alone.

You will need:

      • 2 cups washing soda
      • 3 bars of soap
      • cheese grater
      • some sort of electric grinder
      • measuring cups
      • scale (optional)
      • an old baby formula container, or the like


1. If you have whole bars, use 3- 4oz bars.  If not, you can weigh out 12 oz of random chunks.

2. Grate on a cheese grater.


3.  Add the washing soda NOW.  (Soap doesn’t grind well without the dry soda in there to break it up.)


4.  Put batches in your grinder and make it tiny.

5.  Use three tablespoons per standard load.  Half that if you have a high efficiency.

More about laundry

To see how I use it in my laundry, go HERE.

To hear all kinds of nerdy chemistry babble about detergent, go HERE.

For all kinds of troubleshooting, or if you have sensitive skin, go HERE. 

For a DIY stain routine and lots of nerdy babble, go HERE.

For my hundred-years-ago tutorials that are out-of-date, but still frequented, go HERE.

Tips and FAQ

      • You do not need a dedicated grinder, bowls, etc.  Just run it through the washer.
      • The finer the grind, the better your dissolving
      • The older and more dried out your soap, the easier it is to grate and grind
      • Borax is unnecessary for powder and absolutely necessary for liquid (if you want it to keep any potency).


Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

Twisted Cinderella September 24, 2012 at 10:11 am

Thanks! I will bookmark this and give it a shot!

Sara September 24, 2012 at 11:49 am

We have been using this for about 2 months for all of our household laundry and it works just great. Mixed up a batch for my son to take to college and his roomie is using it now too because it’s cheap and doesn’t smell funky (his words). And they are using vinegar for the rinse! (That took a little convincing.) Thanks so much for your exhaustive research and helpful posts, pictures and descriptions!

Muzhik September 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm

If you’re using 3 bars of soap, make sure one of the bars is Fels Naptha. Despite it’s name, it does NOT contain napthalene; and I’ve found it does a WONDERFUL job.

I do have to disagree with you on the borax. I used to live in a city that had very hard water, in an apartment where what water there was came out of the faucet. I found my clothes came out cleaner once I started adding borax to the mix.

The point I want to make here is: THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING IN THE WATER. It doesn’t matter what your local water is, if you use softened water or if your water is magically de-mineralized by fairies, washing your clothes with soap or detergent involves a chemical reaction that may or may not be affected by minerals or chemicals that can be in your water. This is why you have to play around with the formulas and figure out what works best in your situation.

(As an aside, this is why I always tell people that, in an emergency, NEVER drink the water from your water heater without filtering and treating it first. Whatever chemicals/minerals/etc are in your water will be cooked into … something … by the water heater. For proof, look on YouTube for videos on “water heater sediment flush” and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll never use the hot water from your kitchen faucet to make a cup of instant coffee again.)

Floss September 24, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Borax is toxic and should not be put into the sewer for dispersal to the oceans. Glad to see a ‘safe’ formula.

Carol September 29, 2012 at 9:07 am

What is the cost per load?

SinyaLynn September 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Please tell me a little more about what types of soaps will works – should they be made of lye – are the glycerine or oil soaps okay to use?
I’ve got the hardest of hard well water – the kind that smells like sulfur – I use vinegar in the dishwashing machine to stop the spots and etching.
I’m looking forward to trying this out.

Marilyn September 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Hey – we make all of our own soap – lye coming in at 0-1% – and we grate it with a “salad shooter”. I’ve ruined a lot of food processors in my life and NEVER a salad shooter. You can find them used or get one new – they are marvelous for making laundry soap or grinding up a soap and adding nice things to it to make it even better.

caroline October 1, 2012 at 11:18 am

thanks for info–however i live in jamaica (washing soda) not the same as baking soda! for the (soap) any soap bar! more explanation please.thanks

Ivory Soap October 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm

All “real” soaps use lye. they say ATE at the end of the ingredient words. Sodium tallowATE. Sodium coconATE. If you have access to “non-soap” synthetic detergent bars, (like…Dove?), they also use synthetic detergents that work well in hard water. That’s why the synthetic ones were invented. Hard water isn’t a problem.

Amanda October 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Do you have anything for hard water and rusty water?

Deb October 7, 2012 at 7:24 am

Can this non liquid be used in a front load washer. I’ve always used liquid and not sure on powder in my new front loader

Jennifer October 10, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I have grated the soap fine and run in through the grinder with the washing soda. I am finding the soap clumps and sticks to one or two pieces of clothing and I have to run an extra rinse. Not sure what to do, any suggestions?

Alysia October 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm

I am going to try this-Thank you for all your explanations, delving into the nerdy stuff, I love it! I have been making the liquid detergent version from other websites because I was fearful of putting powder detergent in my HE front loader. But I have wondered how well the detergent (made in a 3 gallon batch) was holding up. The detergent seemed to be less effective over time, as you have pointed out in your posts. I am still leary of using powder detergent BUT I believe the main issue with powders is they don’t dissolve completely, thus gunking up the machine and plumbing and I’m pretty sure this stuff would dissolve just fine as I have dissolved it when making the liquid detergent without a problem. So, now my problem is…what to do with all this Borax I have??? 🙂

Ivory Soap October 12, 2012 at 6:52 am

Yes it can be used in a front loader, but please make small batches and keep in a very air tight container so it doesn’t lose potency on you.

Ivory Soap October 12, 2012 at 6:55 am

Check our other DIY cleaning product posts. I think you will find what you’re looking for.

Suzy October 12, 2012 at 8:38 am

Jennifer, try dissolving the soap in very hot water before adding it to the washer.

Suzy October 12, 2012 at 8:40 am

Here in Peoria we have three Mexican stores where you can buy bars of Mexican laundry soap which works well. If you have hard water go ahead and add the borax to the mix. It is a water softener.

Muzhik October 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm

@Jennifer, it could be that you’re using too much soap. Try this: take one or two of your bath towels and run them through the washing machine without adding any soap. Stop the washing machine about halfway through the cycle and check the wash water. If the water is soapy or you see soap bubbles, then you’ve been using too much soap. If this happens, you should probably run all your towels through the washer several times until the soap rinses out. You should also try using half as much soap as you’ve been using.

Lara October 17, 2012 at 10:16 am

I’ve been making my own laundry soap for years, I use the pink Zote soap, mainly because I can get it for $0.80 a bar at Big Lot. But I always use Borax, because I was told to when I was researching how to. I make it for my Eczema daughter. When I had my son I never used any baby detergent with him and it works great. I do not make it finer than my grater can do, partly because I’m to lazy, only rarely do I see chunks left in the washer. But I also have “washer balls” (9 hard rubbery balls) to help with the agitating.

My question with this is has anyone ever used Biz in place of the washing soda/borax? Both are in it.

Marilyn October 17, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I don’t use Biz, but I do use my own homemade soap and Oxyclean because it has all the stuff in it . . . works wonders. I’m still testing this liquid soap to see if it works. We have one of those laundry plungers too and I’m not getting clothes clean enough with the liquid soap recipe – – – Yes, I do have a clothes washer – but it broke down and I was not going to the laundromat – LOL

C. Kirk November 1, 2012 at 8:59 am

I have a house full of teen boys! I need something to control BO. Will this detergent work for that? The box of washing soda says to add 1/2 cup to your load with detergent. So, how can 3 tablespoons per load of this mixture do the entire job? I also have been looking for alternative to bleach. Can oxyclean, peroxide or vinegar still kill those germs on bath cloths, ect. like bleach?

Hillary November 7, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Is this safe to use on cloth diapers?

Meagan November 26, 2012 at 9:50 am

Ya’ know, I have been making my own laundry soap for years, using equal parts borax, washing soda, and instead of grated soap….drum roll…Ivory snow. It’s already a powder, so there’s no need to process from shavings. Much easier, and I have to say that I have not noticed a difference from when I used to do the grated soap.

Lara November 26, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Meagan, great idea, never thought of it, and I have it in the house to.

Muzhik December 15, 2012 at 11:09 pm

@C. Kirk, Honestly, using hot water will do a better job of killing germs, etc. than any soap solution in cold water. The washing soda may say to add 1/2 cup, but they’re going for the lowest common denominator. They have no way of knowing the efficiency of your washing machine or the chemical makeup of your water, so they’re having you put they most that they know will do the job. For most people, that will be much more than they need to use.

This is why every “homemade detergent” article I’ve ever read is slightly different. You need to start out with the proportions in the article, then adjust your formulation for your particular situation. If you’re using softened/de-mineralized water in your machine, you won’t need as much detergent as someone in an area with hard water. The borax and the washing soda help improve the efficiency of the soap by “softening” the wash water. If your water is very hard (where I grew up, we used to joke about having to put a nylon over the faucet to strain out the bigger pieces) you may need to add more washing soda or borax to your formulation.

C. Kirk January 1, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Wow! My clothes have NEVER been softer! I squirt the pit area of extra stinky shirts with h2o2. I am very happy with this dry detergent formula! Thank you for all your help.

zhappyhomemaker March 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I am glad to see this post, as I have been looking for a Borax-free recipe. One of my children is allergic to Borax. However, I don’t have a food processor. Any good ideas for a substitute way to get the powder fine enough for my front loader?

Also, are you saying there is Borax in all commercial liquid laundry detergents? I haven’t been able to find much information about that, but it would explain a few things for me.

Ivory Soap March 13, 2013 at 6:57 am

I use a food processor or coffee grinder. The trick is to put the washing soda in WITH the soap when you grind. You can’t get the soap fine enough without grinding it WITH the soda.Your other option would be to dissolve it in really hot water and keep in an airtight bottle.
I’d only do enough for a week or two.

Not all liquid products have borax, but all commercial products with borax seem to be liquid. You would have to look it up http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/ for each product. Check out the troubleshooting posts too, it MAY help your kids’ skin to sour your laundry with vinegar.

Angela March 13, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Did you know you can turn ivory soap into soap flakes by microwaving it? Easier than grating and grinding. Google it. Any thoughts about this recipe for cloth diapers?

Muzhik March 14, 2013 at 9:35 am

@Angela, everything I’ve read indicates this recipe is great for cloth diapers. I would urge throwing some Fels Naptha or some Zote into the mix, grating it to mix with everything else. Start with half a bar, try it, then change the amount in the future depending on your results. I use it as a pre-treatment, and am amazed at how clean my clothes get.

Just a clarification: microwaving Ivory doesn’t turn it into soap flakes; it turns it into a huge pile of soap foam that, when it cools and hardens, is easily crushed. Makes it MUCH easier to mix into the batch.

As for Borax, it’s a mineral that is mined. It comes out of the box pretty much the way it came out of the ground. If the user is using a dry cleaning powder and wants to use Borax, they can add it themselves. If the user is using a liquid cleaning product, though, and wants to use Borax, it’s MUCH easier if the Borax is already added to the final purchased product, since I’m not aware of any liquid versions of Borax. The ONLY reason I use Borax is because I live in an area where the water coming out of the faucets is hard (has a lot of dissolved minerals) and the landlords don’t believe they need to provide softened (de-mineralized) for apartment laundries.

madeleine March 18, 2013 at 8:12 am

I read that soda (washing or baking) is very bad for the aluminium parts of the machine. What is your idea on this?

Abby March 20, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I want to use a good unscented soap for this. I’ve read on other sites that castile soap is best. I certainly don’t want to use Fels Naptha since that’s got all kinds of things in it, not to mention fragrance and colour. Will any soap work? This is confusing.

Daisy March 21, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Abby–Yes, just about any soap will do fine. You can certainly use castile if you like.

Ivory Soap March 29, 2013 at 7:28 am

I have heard that for dishwashers, where the elements and whatnot are exposed. One benefit of the commercial ingredient sodium silicate, is that it protects the parts from the harshness. But I have never heard it for a laundry machine.

Muzhik March 29, 2013 at 4:42 pm

@Madeleine, remember that washing soda is different from baking soda. You cannot substitute the two in this recipe.

May March 31, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Hey Deanna and Daisy. I’ve been lurking around your yummy website for months and wanted to say THANK YOU so much for sharing your awesome recipes and ideas!!

I just mixed up a batch of the “I think I have hard water” laundry soap. Instead of grating bars of Ivory soap myself, I opted to use Zote soap flakes that I bought at Wal-Mart. I put in a load of whites and I noticed that there were no suds. I realize that you do not necessarily need suds to clean, but I want to make sure that this is typical for this recipe. I am wondering if the pre-grated soap flakes measure the same cup-for-cup as the hand-grated Ivory soap would. The Zote flakes were dryer and thinner than I think freshly grated Ivory soap would be. Any thoughts? I’m also not 100% sure that I have hard water and perhaps using this particular version of the recipe is not appropriate for my water.

I peeked into the washer during the agitation cycle and discovered that the water was gray and dirty, so I am hoping this is a sign that the detergent is doing it’s job ’cause I love the idea of having great home-made laundry detergent!

Lara April 8, 2013 at 9:56 am

May, I’ve been told that we have an obsession with suds in the USA. I’ve also been told that homemade laundry soap is not sudsy, it can be used in front loading machines because of that. I’ve been using homemade for years and don’t miss the suds, my water is typically very dirty.

KayMarie April 12, 2013 at 6:34 am

Can Zote be micro-waved for ease of use like the Ivory?

Lara April 18, 2013 at 6:59 am

I never have, after I shred it, it just drys up in my container. I’ve actually never even ground it I have these little pink streaks in my detergent all the time. You can buy white Zote as well. I’ve seen it advertised at Lehman’s in Ohio.

Sarah April 24, 2013 at 6:27 pm

So, if I wanted to use unscented soap and add essential oils, can I do that? If so, how much would you recommend?

Kristie Fox April 30, 2013 at 11:58 am

Anyone ever tried making washing soda with baking soda? Does it work? 1 hr in oven at 400 degrees…

Sarah May 2, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Ladies, I need your help! I love this recipe for laundry soap….so much better than any other kind I’ve used. BUT, I cannot use it for my son’s cloth diapers. Back when my oldest was still in dipes I used homemade detergent and it was awful…build up, leaking, diaper rash. Yuck. So I’ve been shelling out big bucks for “cloth diaper friendly” detergent. I don’t want to anymore! I looked on the ingredients on my expensive brand and researched them, and I need your own research to help me determine what ratio if I want to do this myself because I just don’t know where to begin with that. Here are the main ingredients on the one I use: sodium carbonate (washing soda?), sodium percarbonate (some oxygen bleach powders, like Tropical Traditions, had this as their only ingredient), natural agents (citric acid?), sodium sulfate (I didn’t really understand the need for this), biodegradable surfactants (most likely synthetic because it is detergent…not soap, right?).

In researching other high quality brands of cloth diaper detergent I came across one with only 3 ingredients: sodium carbonate (washing soda?), sodium percarbonate (oxygen bleach?), and sodium bicarbonate (Baking soda?). Can you affirm or correct? What do you recommend in amounts if I’m making my own? Help me, please! I’m running out and don’t want to spend $17 on a small little bag of detergent! 🙂

Sarah May 2, 2013 at 12:38 pm

That was supposed to say “Natural chelating agents” up there. Sorry.

Also, I might mention we have a water softener.

Ivory Soap May 2, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Looks like you have it right. It’s a synthetic soap, washing soda, oxyclean, and a filler (bicarb or sodium sulfate). The big diff might be the synthetic soap or complete absence of soap in that last one you found. I don’t have a good source for synthetic soap. But otherwise, it’s a standard formula for detergent. I would try 2 T washing soda and 1 T generic dollar store oxyclean (oxygen percarb) in a load and see. The bicarb is pointless. Just make sure to do a vinegar rinse. The high pH of detergents can irritate baby’s skin.

Sarah May 2, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Thanks so much!!

Donna May 18, 2013 at 7:05 pm

For the cloth diapering mommas….Leave out the soap. No Ivory. No FelsNaptha. No Zote. NO SOAP! I highly recommend a liberal vinegar rinse as well as a second rinse with nothing in it. I use homemade laundry detergent now and I use FelsNaptha and I L.O.V.E. it. I do use borax because, as stated before, I have hard water but, when I was diapering, I didn’t use the soap. The soap is what will coat the fibers and trap that pee smell in which in turn causes the red butt syndrome. The vinegar really helps strip the diapers well of any residue as does the second rinse. If you are still having trouble, strip your diapers. Also, always strip them before trying something new so you really get to see true results.

Adina P June 26, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Sarah and Ivory Soap: So what is the final recipe you came up with for a cloth diaper friendly detergent? How much vinegar in a load? I need hand holding on this as I am considering buying overnight pull-up style cloth diapers for my kids, but I’ve never used cloth diapers before. I started using the dry detergent on this site and like it, but now I’m lost on what to do. I did see a recipe somewhere that used Dawn + washing soda + Borax. What do you think of that? I don’t care about staining…just that they are clean and don’t retain an ammonia odor.

Sarah June 27, 2013 at 10:10 am

Adina…funny you should ask this question because I thought about commenting again about my experiment with oxygen bleach + washing soda. Not good. I don’t know if that was the cause or not, but my son has been having lots of issues, so I’m going to have to return to what we were using before (Rockin’ Green). I know many people have used the homemade version and their babies have done fine, so I would say just try something and if it doesn’t work, strip your diapers and start again with something else. I wouldn’t do Dawn and Borax with cloth diapers, though. Those 2 products really aren’t meant to be used on cloth diapers on a regular basis. Just what I’ve read. Most of the cloth-friendly homemade detergents I’ve seen online are some combination of baking soda, washing soda, and oxygen bleach. None of those combos worked for us. Oh well. He’s already 17 months so hopefully it won’t be too much longer before he is down to just his naptime & nighttime diapers. (Wishful thinking, maybe?)

David October 13, 2013 at 5:39 am

How many loads does this yield please?

Ivory Soap October 28, 2013 at 6:46 am

No clue. Lots!

Muzhik October 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm

David, figure out how many ounces of material you’re using to make your batch; figure out how many ounces are in each tablespoon; figure 3 tablespoons per load (to start) and that will give you an idea how many loads it will do.

Ali December 1, 2013 at 2:16 pm

What kind of soap do you use to grate?

lucydawn January 28, 2014 at 8:27 pm

I’m allergic to ivory soap!! Also I’ve been dealing with a contact dermatitis for years. The only makeup and face care products I can use is Chanel. What would you suggest for a “Miss Itch”like me??

Michelle Oaks February 26, 2014 at 6:34 pm

This is a different recipe than what we have been using -which we included in our recently published book on self-sufficiency, homesteading, etc.
How do you like this recipe? Does it clean and remove stains well?

Lara April 7, 2014 at 8:29 am

Lucydawn. I use pink Zote for, my daughter had Eczema, and it seems to help.

Marilyn April 7, 2014 at 9:09 am

Please learn to make soap . . . it’s so EASY – really it is!!! You can make it out of all vegan oils, special oils/butters or just using tallow or lard which makes a LOVELY soap – esp. for washing clothes – – – you use a lot more lye in a cleaning soap than you do for a skin product, but it’s super easy and you can make batches that you can make once and use for years before you make another . . . online tutorials are fabulous. But start out with a 1 lb batch no matter what – make it in a trash bag lined box or a “Pringles” can or whatever – since you’re going to be grinding it anyway. Just my 2 cents worth . . . soap made at home is pennies on the dollar and you can know exactly what’s in it . . . the ground soaps now have stuff in it that they do not have to disclose just like foods . . . MW

Janet July 4, 2014 at 5:04 am

Just a couple of questions…
1. How does this powder do in a HE front load machine on cold or warm water? I rarely use hot water to wash clothes.

2. Marilyn, what easy recipe do you use for skin soap and for laundry soap making? I have been frightened of the lye. And I don’t have a scale to measure by weight. Is there a recipe that uses volume measurements instead of weight?


Linden March 28, 2015 at 4:16 pm

I used this for about nine months before switching back to Tide. It seemed to be getting my clothes clean–I understand that they don’t need to be perfumed to be clean–but after about month 5 or 6 I noticed that any clothes that sat in drawers for more than a week, would start to stink like they were still dirty. They would smell clean right out of the washer, even the dryer, but not after sitting for a bit. I was potty training my son at the time, and his “clean” underwear would smell like a diaper pail after just a few days! We have soft city water so I messed with formulations (more washing soda like recommended, more detergent in a load, etc.) but nothing helped. Also, vinegar does help strip residue from your clothes, but in my experience, it does not soften or remove static nearly as well as commercial softener. However, I am using less softener now than I used to, to stretch it more and because I know it’s not absolutely essential. I’m considering trying a different homemade recipe, the “Mom’s Laundry Sauce” one. It’s like a cream formula of soap, washing soda, and borax and is supposed to be super concentrated.

Chrissy April 11, 2015 at 3:09 pm


I”m wondering if this will fade dark clothes over time, and if so, do you have any adjustments to cater to keeping fabrics dark?


Daisy April 11, 2015 at 9:41 pm

Chrissy–I suppose just the regular rules that apply to washing darks in general: inside out, darks of similar weight together, cold water, short cycle (to minimize friction that makes clothes fibers break down) line dry out of direct sun, if dryer dried use low temp.

Fergus September 4, 2015 at 12:13 pm

I need cloth diaper laundry advise!! I am going to try this recipe for my regular laundry, but I have read in so many places (including here) not to use soap with cloth diapers. Should I just leave it out?
I am looking at buying OxiCean Baby (it gets an “A” rating on EWG, which is better than other OxiCleans). The only ingredients are sodium carbonate peroxide and sodium carbonate. Has anyone tried adding that to their DIY diaper cleaner? I would like to use vinegar, but am scared to put it in my HE, front loading washer. I have read that it rusts(?) or corrodes the parts, as it is an acid. I’d like to keep the diaper cleaner as simple as possible 🙂 Maybe I should add that I live in CO and am pretty sure that our water is on the soft side.

Lara September 4, 2015 at 12:48 pm

While I never used cloth diapers, due to day care. I have heard several times that this is fine for cloth diapers. I actually make mine because my daughter has Eczema, and used it exclusively when my son was a baby. I think you could use vinegar in your HE washer as you can use it to clean the machine.

Alisha October 2, 2015 at 11:38 am

If I calculated this correctly, this recipe is MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE than even high priced natural detergent. I can get 58 regular loads from nature clean powder detergent for $18.99 or 36 loads from this recipe (doubled) for $43.50! It will cost me $3.50 for 4 cups washing soda and $40 for 6 castile soap bars to double this recipe. Double Recipe: 4 cups washing soda = approx. 946 grams + 6 x 4 oz castile soap = approx. 680 grams makes 1,626 grams or 108 tablespoons, dived by three equals 36 loads. Am I crazy? I was really hoping to save money on detergent!

Nandita November 29, 2015 at 2:10 am

Alisha. I buy my castile soap bars from Amazon 6 for $25-$26. I have a front loading machine so I use 1-2 TBS. It works great.

MC December 8, 2015 at 10:06 pm

Alisha- you can also make your own washing soda for less money as well. Good luck.

Sheila January 17, 2016 at 10:54 am

Alisha- holy moly! I can get a box of washing powder and Ivory, Kirks, or Zote soap for very cheaply at Walmart. Less than $10 total with several bars of soap. And Zote soap is huge, so you probably only need 1 bar vs 3, but check the weight. Or make your own soap out of coconut oil, water, and lye. It is very cleansing and easy to make. Use only 2-3 T per load, less of for front loaders. Don’t spend money on Dr Bronners. I think it is very expensive and will be using alternatives myself.
Adding eucalyptus, Rosemary, tea tree, and lavender oils in very small amounts kills germs, kills and repels lice and bedbugs, and gives it a nice clean smell.

Matthew G. January 27, 2016 at 2:35 pm

I’m trying this recipe as we speak (the first load of wash is in the dryer). I’m a soap maker so I formulated a bar specifically for laundry using a 50-50 mix of coconut and lard. My recipe includes sodium acetate (the result of neutralizing distilled vinegar with lye) as I have reason to believe this might be a better chelating agent than sodium citrate (citric acid neutralized with lye). I scented my soap as well, and the final cost per load is $0.18 if using 2 Tbsp, and $0.27 if using 3 Tbsp (as a comparison, the commercial liquid I use is $0.17 per load).
I do have reservations about using vinegar in the rinse water–even though everyone does it. I understand the reason: to balance the pH. But as a soap maker I know that acids will break soap back down into fatty acids (think oil). I fear that if all of the soap is not rinsed out of the cloths, adding a vinegar rinse will only make things worse (i.e. dingy cloths). Unfortunately, I can’t find any information to substantiate this and I’m not a chemist. . . . Any thoughts?

Greener Goods January 28, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Castille soap is CHEAP! The price to make this is SUPER cheap–and I make a bigger batch when I make it. Lasts for a long time! I use 1/8c scoop or two in my HE front loader washer, depending on size of loads/ soil level.

My recipe is a little different:
1. 6 bars of Kirk’s Castille Soap at WalMart: $8 or less (less than $4 each per 3-pack)
2. 2 16-oz boxes of USP Baking Soda, baked* to convert to washing soda: $1 (50 cents each)
3. I 16-oz box of baking soda (not baked, just used as baking soda) .50 cents

TOTAL : Less than $5.50

I go outside on the porch, due to dustiness when using food processor and these ingredients.
Take 1 hour to make your washing soda from baking soda (see below). Once done, run your soap through the shredder, one bar at a time. Now run THIS shredded bar through the grinder with 1/3 of the dry washing soda and 1/3 of the baking soda above–you’ll do three batches to make this. The powder helps the soap mix up nice and even and not stick. It takes maybe 5 minutes to make this whole batch.

When I’m done with each batch, I like to add in fresh lavender buds from the bush over by the porch–and handful or two–and then mix and grind them in. I also add some lavender essential oil. Smells lovely! If you use Zote instead of Kirk’s castille, the lavender addition makes them smell oddly like lemon cookies (odd, since Kirk’s is citronella scent). The Kirk’s itself has no scent at all really.

*How to Make Wahing Soda from Baking Soda–super simple!
Turn on oven to 400. Pour two boxes of baking soda evenly on a cookie sheet, give it a shake to sort of even it out a bit, and put it in oven. Walk away, set timer for 1 hour, and you’ll make washing soda. When timer rings, remove, cool and then store in a airtight container or gallon ziploc storage bag, label and use in laundry detergent recipe above 🙂 . You can test conversion by sight, but I always HAVE to do the taste test to be sure, and I kind of like this step: wet a rice-sized bit on the tip of your finger with your tongue, dip is washing soda, taste on tip of tongue. It should not taste salty like baking soda, but bitter and “tingly” . I then spit it out, swish with a drink of water, and that’s it.

Greener Goods January 28, 2016 at 6:22 pm

Whoops. typo up there since I figured single-batch price first. Mine at a double batch would be $9.50 or less . Sorry about that. I realize this is an older thread but receiving new comments, so I thought I should update. I started leaving Borax out of my laundry detergent about 4 years ago when I began makign this recipe. And it’s really a laundry soap, not a true detergent, right? I guess it doesn’t matter. I have read something on the difference between laundry detergents vs. soaps, but this soap works well. I rotate between using Kroger’s Simple Truth “Free” organic detergent and this. Sometimes, this soap doesn’t seem to work on pet or stinky teenage boy clothes as much as I’d like it to0, even with using oxiclean (store brand) and enzyme pre-treaters for odor/stains.

theresa June 8, 2016 at 12:30 pm

it’s not easy to find a cheap soap without palm oil… ecologic manufactured soaps are pretty expensive…coconut oil is expensive, too (for making my own detergent soap) .. am still looking for alternatives.. does anybody know a product to substitute soap in laundry detergent? i don´t want to have more expenses than 2€/l.


Tommi November 21, 2016 at 3:57 pm


How much is 2 cups washing soda in -> mg ?

Total amount of soap i believe is 12oz = 340 grams

Laurie Siegle January 13, 2017 at 6:29 pm

I noticed a lot of people use Borax because they have hard water. Try using icecream salt. Google it! It’s by the salt at Walmart.

Emily Sterrett February 5, 2017 at 10:53 am

What can I use to wash out my husbands sweat ? oders from his shirts ? and pants ?, I already make our laundry detergent with Super washing soda,Borax and Fels-Naptha soap and nothing is getting the sweat ? Oder out of his clothes and it’s horrible smelling!Can someone help,Neither of wear scented stuff and the oxiclean didn’t remove it like it said it does on their plastic container for removing sweat ? orders. I’m allergic to dial soaps and the smell of ivory with aloe irritates my nasal allergies. Help!

Ivory Soap February 9, 2017 at 7:49 am

Have you tried an enzyme? We use use Zout as a spray and then launder.

Abigail May 3, 2017 at 5:55 am

I have never tried any DIY – I’m currently looking for information. Why is the soap used? Is it for cleaning purposes or for the smell?

Ivory Soap May 10, 2017 at 7:03 pm

It’s a surfactant. It surrounds and lifts the dirt away. There’s a separate issue with precipitating hard water minerals, but for regs DIRT, a surfactant has the slippery “fizzy lift” you need.

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