Homemade Laundry Detergent

My older children are completely embarrassed that I am posting this recipe. Apparently, the fact that I only pay $0.006 per load of laundry is completely “not cool.” I beg to differ completely! As you can understand, a family of 8 makes A LOT of dirty laundry. (Especially when one of those people is a 15 year old girl who tries on at least 10 different outfits a day and throws what doesn’t make the cut into the dirty clothes hamper….)
I am the first to admit, I love me some original scented Tide. I love the way it smells. What I don’t love is the price I pay, especially for the high efficiency safe stuff. So awhile ago, I began making my own laundry soap from the above pictured ingredients. I found everything at my local Hy-Vee grocery store and it costs me $2.80 to make 10 gallons.
Please, don’t let this weird, coagulated gloop keep you from giving this stuff a try. It may look weird and have a consistency you have never before witnessed, but it works like a charm and will save you a boatload of money. I really like the scent it has naturally but feel free to add your favorite essential oils to customize it!

Yes, it is safe for HE machines because it is low-sudsing, which is the only “secret” to HE detergent. I have a HE machine myself and love my results.

Homemade Laundry Detergent
(makes 10 gallons: 640 loads for a front load HE washer, 220 loads for a top load washer)
4 C hot water
1 bar Fels-Naptha soap, grated
1 C Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 C Borax
essential oil (optional)
1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt together the grated soap and water until the soap is completely dissolved.
2. Fill a 5 gallon bucket 1/2 full of hot water. Add the washing soda, Borax and melted soap mixture. Stir well until dissolved (I used a yard stick).
3. Fill the bucket to the top with more hot water and stir well. Cover and let sit overnight. The finished mixture will resemble a loose, liquid form of Jello. At this point, you can add 50 drops of the essential oil of your liking to the soap. (I don’t add any to mine)
4. Fill your soap dispenser (I use my old Tide container) 1/2 with water and half with soap. Shake well before each use. For front load washers, use 1/4 C – 1/3 C per load. For top load washers, use 1/2-5/8 C per load.


  1. Debbie S says

    I love your recipes! The shout was a little bit thick and wouldnt spary even out of the shout bottle, added a little water and works great! I am really impressed, had no idea it could be made so simply. How long can you keep a 5 gallon bucket of the laundry soap?

  2. Anonymous says

    Hello Carole. I have recently joined Pinterest, and that is how I found you. Someone “pinned ” one of your posts, the shout one. I also have a family of 8, and I am constantly looking for ways to save money and run things in my home more efficiently. Thank you for posting the things that you have found. I don’t have creativity, I use other peoples creativity. :)

  3. says

    Welcome to my blog! Pinterest has become my #1 referring site over the past few months so I am well aware of their great service. Hope you enjoy joining in on the craziness :)

  4. Anonymous says

    I have been looking for a recipe for laundry soap, but every one I find calls for that weird soap and washing soda. They are both unavailable to me, I live in a very rural area. So I wondered if you may suggest any substitutes for these 2 things. I am however able to get Borax.

  5. says

    Anonymous: I also live in a small town, so I feel your pain. I know some people have used regular bar soap instead of Fels Naptha, but I wouldn’t think it would work as well since Fels Naptha is concentrated and specifically made for clothing. Both the Fels Naptha and the washing soda are available on Amazon, so don’t give up yet! It is worth it!

  6. says

    Hello, I just joined pinterest and seen your recipe for soap. Sounds super easy and i wanna try it but I wanted to know if there was anything else besides oils that I could add to get a fresh amazing scent??? My husband is for sure all about the smell of his clothes after he sweats all day doing construction. Any ideas would be great!..Thanx for sharing!

  7. says

    MommaRose – Glad to have you here! I have only ever added essential oils to my recipe, but I would think any type of fragrance additive would work. My husband really wants me to find a “Tide” fragrance, but I don’t think they sell that :)

  8. says

    Just stumbled upon your site thanks to Pinterest. I’ve seen this laundry soap recipe before, but the Shout recipe was a new one and I’m looking forward to trying it out. In response to the earlier post from Anonymous, I too live in a pretty rural area. But I did notice that our local Wal-Mart now carries all three ingredients needed to make this soap – it was all right there in the laundry aisle. Maybe your Wal-Mart has them too?

  9. says

    Quick tip regarding the consistency of the soap. Get a 5 gallon paint/compound mixer they cost five bucks and attaches to any drill. Put it in the drill and the slowly start blending the soap for about three minutes. It will be more creamy and easier to scoop.

  10. Becky L. says

    I cannot wait to try your soap! One question though, to use a 1/2 or 5/8 of a cup for a top loader couldnt you just not dilute it by half when you transfer to a regular bottle and use 1/4 of a cup?

  11. says

    Becky- you could try doing that, but it is a very thick, gelatinous mixture so I’m not sure how well it would distribute without diluting it with water first. If you try it, let me know how it works!

  12. says

    For the people that can’t find the Washing Soda and the Fels Naptha- I found it at my Ace Hardware store! I’m pretty sure there are Ace or Westlake Ace Hardware stores all over the country. By the way, can’t wait to make your fabric softner!!!

  13. says

    Julie- Thanks for your input! I am amazed at how many smaller, local stores are now carrying all three ingredients due to customer demand. This recipe has spread quickly and people are hooked! I hope you love the fabric softener as much as I do :)

  14. Anonymous says

    I have made this recipe too, only the dry version, and I used a bar of Kirk’s Castile Soap. It smells wonderful, very clean & fresh, and it’s completely natural too. It’s working well, so I don’t know if the Fels Naptha recipe works better, but I will try that one in my next batch. I am wondering if anybody has compared results with the liquid laundry soap vs. the dry. Is either one more effective than the other?

  15. says

    I have seen the dry homemade laundry soap recipe as well. I have never used it, but when I used store bought soap, I always preferred the liquid. That is why I chose the liquid for my homemade version as well.

  16. Anonymous says

    I’ve been using this for a while, I only make 5 gal since I have a topload and it works great- just shake well!! :-) Also I stopped using dry soap after my repair man chastised me- they tend to not breakdown all the way and build up in the tub where you can’t see them or some such and not good for the washer. AND the tide essential oil- there is actually a company that makes it actually!!! I just got dove scent, ask a store that sells the oils or an apothecary if they can order it. :-) That seems like a lot of info to pass on! Lol

  17. Anonymous says

    I am interested in making your laundry detergent and I’m a big fan of essential oils but I’m not sure if I would want to add that to the detergent or not. If I did, how much essential oils do you add to one batch? I saw the link to the tide essential oils, but what other essential oils have you put in your laundry detergent?

  18. says

    If adding essential oils, I would add them as I mixed up each batch with the water. I wouldn’t add them when I made the 5 gallons or it might lose some of it’s potency. The amount is completely up to you. I add about 1/4 tsp to about a gallon, but you could always go more or less depending on what you like.

  19. says

    Have you noticed a lot of fading or fuzzies on your clothes from the soap? I’ve noticed that sometimes if I buy some of the cheaper detergents they seem to age my clothes a lot quicker. So excited that they make Tide essential oil!

  20. says

    Do you need to cover it in the 5 gal bucket? I would assume so, but i just wanna be sure before I dive into this, so to speak! I’m a single dad, and also a miser, so this fits right in with all aspects of my personality/situation :)

  21. Anonymous says

    aA – You do need to cover it. Hope you love it as much as I do!

    Steffanie – I haven’t noticed anything when it comes to fading or fuzzies. Granted though, doing 3 loads of laundry every single day, I’m just grateful to get it done and that it does a great job cleaning :)

  22. says

    Carol, my daughter & I just made the laundry soap last night (we’re sharing a batch) & were both eager to try it. When we were cleaning up our funnel (we’re storing the concentrate in milk containers) I noticed how minimal the suds are & wonder if this could be used in a dishwasher. Any thoughts to this?
    We love the clean smell of this soap and can’t believe we’ve been wasting so much with purchased laundry soap. THANKS for your recipe!

  23. says

    FYI, I’ve used a similar recipe with OTHER bar soap and it did NOT turn out as well, didn’t wash as clean. I recently made this one and it washes BEAUTIFULLY!

  24. says

    Unknown – I have never thought to use it in the dishwasher. I wonder how well it would do on greasy stuff? If you try it, let me know!

    Ronsgal – Glad to have you here and that the soap is a success for you as well!

  25. says

    Hello! I just made the soap last nigh. Got up this morning and yuck it was a constancy I have never seen!
    I do have one question. I mixed it with half water and shook it well but it still had some small clumps in it. Is that ok? I started a load so I guess I will see but just thought maybe I should ask. It smells great and I am excited to get it going!

  26. says

    Clan6 – Yes, the consistency is quite off-putting! I wouldn’t worry about a few small clumps, but be sure you mix up the concentrate well before mixing it with the water. I also leave a bit of room at the top of my dispensing container so I can shake it well before using it.

  27. Katie says

    I can’t wait to try this! I am all about reusing right now with the economy (living right next to DC doesn’t help!) and I was wondering about using a pump-style detergent holder. I have one that uses 4 pumps per load, I’m not sure if that would clog the pump. Thoughts?

  28. says

    I have made laundry soap a few times. The recipe I have used does not use Borax. What does this do? Also, the one I have made says to just use a cup of the soap right out of the bucket (Don’t mix with water). I have tried the Fels Naptha, Ivory, and I just made some with the Kirks Castle soap. They all seem to work well. The last one with Kirks didn’t gel up like the others though.

  29. Susan says

    Hi Carole! I used made this and used for the first time today. I have an HE front loader and it didn’t dispense from the dispenser – too thick I guess. I had to flip the dispenser up as though I were using powdered detergent and it slid on through. Any suggestions? Thanks! Susan

  30. says

    Lisa – I would hesitate using this undiluted because it is quite thick, but if you do try it, be sure to use half as much.

    Susan – Did you use the recipe straight from the bucket or did you mix it one part water to one part detergent? I have an HE machine and it isn’t a problem. In fact, the end result should be really liquidy compared to store bought stuff.

  31. Susan says

    I did end up pouring into another container half way and then filling up with water and it dispensed just fine. So I’ve done 2 loads now and the clothes do seem clean. It’s just getting used to not having that fragrance, but that’s ok. :) I didn’t even use fabric softener. Thanks again! Susan

  32. says

    Love this soap. I’m wondering if you or anyone bought the tide fragrance oil and if so how much did you use and how did it turn out???

  33. says

    Anonymous: I am not familiar with Sunlight bar soap, so I really can’t give you an honest answer. If you can’t find Fels Naptha in the laundry section of your store, Amazon has it as well.

  34. Lavonne says

    I made this yesturday. But after the 24 hours, it wasn’t gel. It was watery. HELP…… what did I do wrong?

  35. says

    Lavonne: it should be a bit liquidy. I would call it a loose jello texture. If it is 100% liquid, then I am not sure what happened. It will not be thick like a store bought detergent

  36. says

    Do u have a recipe for fabric softener also?? Made my first batch tonight of the detergent and am so excited to put it to use for our family of six!!

  37. says

    Stacie; yep. I do have a recipe for fabric softener and homemade shout. Look under the “non-food” label on the right hand side of my home page. They will all be under there. Thanks!

  38. says

    Ok, I feel like this may be a silly question but I’m going to ask it anyway as I’m planning on making this today:

    Is the 4 cups of hot water just the amount you use to melt the soap? You then say to fill the bucket halfway with hot water and then even more after you add the soap so I’mm assuming you end up using a lot more water by the end (around 5 gallons or so :-D). Is that right?

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been excited to try making my own and my big costco container just emptied yesterday so it’s finally time! :-D

    • says

      Yes. The four cups is only to melt the soap in on the stove. You will fill your bucket halfway with water, add the other ingredients and then fill the bucket the rest of the way. Also, the result is a concentrated soap so you will mix 1 part soap to 1 part water before using it.

  39. says

    If you read the directions, you will see that you need to thoroughly mix once again after it sits overnight. This will be sure the ingredients are well mixed before you add the additional water when using.

  40. says

    Thank you! I read the directions a couple times and after it says sit over night it doesn’t say mix again. So I wasn’t sure :), but I actually stuck my arm in it and although the bottom had a lot of the goop the entire bucket was definitely the consistency you had said it would. I did half the detergent and half water into a empty tide container and used it, it seems very watery. Is that normal or should it have a thick consistency?

  41. says

    I made this yesterday and today it is all liquid, no gel or goop to be found. I stirred it up again very well and will check again tomorrow. I hate when I follow the recipe exactly and get odd results. Lol

  42. Anonymous says

    LOVE your recipes! While crusing your site I came across your recipe for “Homemade Laundry Detergent” and felt compelled to post my comment. As the wife of an Appliance Repair man, I need to let you know that the repairs for machines using this type of recipe for soap has increased 10x since the recipe went viral. Here’s the problem…Fels Naptha AND Zote have a base of Tarrow, which is derived from Animal fat/hooves. It is gelatin based and this apparently creates HAVOC with your Washers, innards! This goopy stuff becomes caked on the pipes and tubes ect. The last repair he did for a “Homemade Laundry Soap” household ended up costing more than the Washer was worth, so the homeowner ended up having to replace the Washer. Please know that this doesn’t happen overnight,but the more you use, the quicker the build up. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to post this information. Appreciate it!

  43. says

    Carole: I just made this yesterday and was surprised at how much fragrance was in the Fels Naptha. I have chemical sensitivity to fragrances so I may or may not be able to use this (won’t go to waste though, I’ll give to my daughter). I was wondering if you were aware of any fragrance free soaps that may work. I know Dr Bronner’s makes a bar soap that may work and I buy some from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods but all of these are for bathing. What do you think?

  44. says

    Pammy-I think another fragrance free laundry bar soap would work well. I know people have substituted other laundry bar soaps. Let me know how it works!

  45. says

    Stephani – I just use a box grater like for grating cheese. It certainly takes some muscle and time since the fels naptha is hard.

  46. Anonymous says

    Does the grater and the pot used for melting the soap leave a residual? Or, can you just wash and continue to use for food prep?

  47. says

    Great question! The Fels Naptha was right off so no special ones required. I rinse them off well and then just stick them in the dishwasher.

  48. says

    Not the dispenser in your machine. Good question! Just some container that you can mix half soap and half water, mix well and dispense into your machine. I use old Tide bottles that I fill up half with water, half with soap.

  49. Emma says

    Hi there
    I made this up last night, left the bucket covered to sit overnight. Today I have a bucket with a very firm 1inch cake ontop and very watery conditions below. No goopy gloop at all.
    I used a handmade bar of soap that had been given to me a few years ago. It’s ingredients were very basic and it was labelled soap.
    Has this happened to anyone?
    Am thinking I may need to whizz the firm cake in the food processor just to break it up again.
    Or maybe even start again with new ingredients?

  50. says

    Emma- I think your problem is due to the homemade soap instead of Fels Naptha. I would try again sticking with the instructions. Good luck!

  51. Cindy says

    Hi! I was wondering if it is possible to use the concentrated formula instead of diluting it the second time in the smaller container and just using half as much in the washing machine? I have a top loader and was thinking I could just make sure it got diluted in the machine a bit before I put the laundry in the machine. What do you think?

  52. says

    Cindy- my main concern with that is the thickness of the concentrated detergent. I don’t think that gelatinous mixture would be good for your machine unless it was first thinned. Just my thoughts.

  53. says

    I don’t use water when I make this detergent – one cup of each, mix it together, stick it in a zip lock bag. I use one T for each load in my front loader HE washer. Works great. MUCH easier than all that boiling and water and NO five gallon bucket!!

  54. says

    I’ve been making this recipe for years, though not from your site. The other site just said to use whatever bar of soap. (Ivory or the Costco brand is super cheap)
    Either way, this stuff is the bomb! The last batch I made, I added baking soda. Still works awesome!~
    I’ve tried adding essential oils to it for scent, but it never held up to the rinse cycle.
    I’m going to have to try your recipe for the fabric softener!

  55. says

    for those who cannot find Fels Naptha……castile soap is a good substitute. Most stores, drug stores, and even places like Cracker Barrel will carry Castile soap. Use the Kirk’s Castile bar soap not the liquid.

  56. Tara says

    I have a question about the laundry detergent: My husband has sensitive skin, so we use the Tide free and clear; do you know how people with sensitivities react to this?

  57. Linda says

    Carole, I have been making this detergent for about a year now. I always dissolve my washing soda and borax in the water while I’m melting my fels naptha. I really like the soap, but if I shouldn’t do this please let me know.

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