Homemade Laundry Detergent

(5 votes)
122 Comments
7 minutes
September 29, 2022
Carole JonesJump to Recipe

Homemade Laundry Detergent is an amazing way to save significant money in your weekly budget! Given that, this post will walk you step by step through the three most popular recipes, along with comparing the pros and cons of each. However, learning how to make your own laundry detergent is really quite simple and can you believe it only costs a few pennies per load?

Easy Liquid DIY Laundry Detergent

What I Love About Homemade Laundry Detergent

With six kids, money is always tight so I have to find creative ways to make the budget stretch where it can. Homemade laundry detergent is one I’ve been using for over 10 years. Surprisingly, my older children are completely embarrassed that I am posting these recipes. Apparently, the fact that I only pay pennies 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 would obsess over 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 a while ago, I began making my own homemade laundry soap. The first recipe I tried cost me $2.30 to make 10 gallons!!

And I know what you are going to ask before you ask it. Yes, each one of these DIY laundry detergents are safe for HE machines because they are low-sudsing. That quality is the only “secret” to HE detergent. I have a HE machine myself and love my results with each recipe

How to Make DIY Laundry Detergent

Once you have some basic ingredients, learning how to make laundry detergent is quite easy. It’s all about ratios and if you prefer powdered or liquid laundry soap. 

  1. Choose between liquid or powder detergent – this comes down to personal preference more than anything else. Both types of laundry soap work well in all types of washers.
  2. Grate a bar of laundry soap – the most common choice is Fels Naptha soap, but Castile soap is also a great choice, especially if you have sensitive skin. The bar should be 5 ounces. For the 5 gallon recipe, you will melt the soap after grating it. 
  3. Add washing soda powderthis is not the same as baking soda so do not make that mistake. Washing soda is a natural, non-toxic cleaner and softener. 
  4. Add Borax powder this laundry booster is really effective at helping the detergent work better. Because Borax adjusts the pH level of the water, it allows the detergent to clean better.
  5. Add essential oils, if using – while this step isn’t necessary, some like the addition of scent to their homemade laundry detergent. They even make an oil that smells just like Tide!

The 3 Best Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipes

I have used each of these three recipes throughout the years. Included below are both the instructions on how to make your own laundry detergent, plus the pros and cons of each variety. If you’ve never made your own laundry soap, pick the recipe that seems do-able to you. As you’ll see, the ingredients are almost identical so you can’t go wrong. 

Easy Homemade Laundry Liquid Detergent

If you prefer liquid laundry detergent over powder, this is an easy recipe that is the one I use the most. Not because it works any better than the others. Just a personal preference, probably because there’s no bar of laundry soap to grate 🙂 

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent Recipe

Easy Homemade Laundry Powder 

This homemade laundry detergent recipe is definitely the easiest of the three to make because it is all dry ingredients that are mixed together. Then, store it in an airtight container to keep the humidity from making it clumpy and you are good to go! 

Homemade Laundry Detergent Powder recipe

5 Gallon Homemade Laundry Soap

While this DIY laundry detergent is the most involved recipe and you need a bucket, it makes the most laundry soap…and is the best price per load! Even though it “makes” 5 gallons of detergent, when you use it, you mix it with equal parts of water…so you actually have TEN gallons of laundry soap from this recipe!

Homemade Laundry Detergent Powder recipe

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!

5 gallon bucket homemade laundry detergent

DIY Laundry Soap FAQ’s

Is homemade laundry detergent safe for washers?

Yes, despite the rumors or “experts” you see online, each of these three recipes is completely safe. Like any other laundry detergent, what causes damage to your washing machine is when too much soap is used. 

Many people wrongly assume that more soap will result in cleaner clothes. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Hence, if you want clean clothes that don’t get detergent build-up on them or in the washing machine, just remember less is more! 

How much money can you save making your own laundry soap?

If your main reason for trying out DIY laundry detergent is to save money, you have hit the jackpot my friend!  Based on current Walmart prices, here is a price comparison chart for the three different types of homemade laundry detergent, as well as store-bought brands. If these numbers don’t convince you, I’m not sure what will!

RecipeTotal CostRecipe MakesHE Amount per loadHE Cost per LoadStandard Amount per LoadStandard Cost per Load
Easy Powder$4.907 cups1 Tb$0.0442 Tb$0.088
Easy Liquid$2.1318 cups2 Tb$0.015¼ cup$0.030
5 Gallon Liquid$2.3010 gal¼ cup$0.004½ cup$0.008

Is homemade detergent effective at cleaning?

Homemade laundry detergent is extremely effective at cleaning clothes. As long as you use an appropriate amount of laundry soap in every load, it works perfectly. And, for the two liquid recipes included in this recipe, you can use each one as a spot treatment as well. Just rub a few drop of the detergent into the fresh stain and let it set for a few hours before washing. 

Is homemade detergent safe for HE washers?

As long as the proper amount of homemade laundry detergent is used for your type of washer, yes they are safe! Carefully read the washing instructions for the recipe you choose and follow closely the HE measurements. Because the key to high-efficiency washing machines is that the soap is low-sudsing. The use of washing soda in all three recipes is the secret to these recipes succeeding in HE washers. 

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Homemade Laundry Detergent

3 Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipes

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5 from 5 reviews

The 3 best homemade laundry detergent recipes that are only a few pennies per load!

  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 7 cups – 10 gallons 1x

Ingredients

Scale

5 Gallon Laundry Soap

  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1 bar Fels-Naptha soap, grated
  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1/2 cup  Borax
  • essential oil (optional)

Easy Laundry Powder 

  • 2 cups washing soda
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 1 bar Fels Naptha or Castile soap, finely grated

Easy Liquid Laundry Soap

  • 3/4 cup Borax 
  • 3/4 cup washing soda
  • 1/2 cup original Dawn dishwashing soap

Instructions

5 Gallon Laundry Soap Instructions

  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 use a yardstick).
  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. 
  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  per load. For top load washers, use 1/2  per load.

Easy Laundry Powder Instructions

  1. Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl. If you want a finer consistency, you can run the finished powder through a food processor. Store in an airtight container.
  2. For HE machines, use 1 tablespoon per load. For standard washers, use 2 tablespoons.

Easy Liquid Laundry Soap Instructions

  1. In a 1-gallon bottle, add half the hot water, then the Borax, washing soda, and Dawn. Gently agitate the mixture to combine. Add the remaining hot water. The end result will be quite thin. 
  2. To use, shake the bottle well before measuring out 1/4 cup for HE machines, or 1/2 cup for standard washers. 
  • Author: Carole Jones
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Cleaning

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Carole Jones

Carole Jones is an Arizona-based cookbook author & food blogger. She's authored The 30 Minute Cooking From Frozen Cookbook and the self-published Take 5: Chicken e-cookbook. For the past 15 years, Carole has shared her culinary adventures cooking and baking for her six brutally honest children here on My Kitchen Escapades. Hot, crusty bread is Carole's love language, but her two adorable grandchildren are a close second. Yes, second. Don't judge.

122 comments

Kathy
3 years ago

Live in Lacombe, Alberta and don’t shop online. I can’t find the Fels-naptha bar soap.

Carole
3 years ago

Hi Kathy! The easiest option is to shop online but if you aren’t comfortable with that, you can talk to your local store manager and see if they are willing to order some for you. Good luck. It really is amazing stuff!

Ever
3 years ago

Use only 1-2 Tablespoons. I m the kinda girl who thinks if a little bit is good, then a lot must be great. Don t do it. This homemade laundry detergent doesn t contain all the fillers that store-bought detergent has. You really only need 1-2 tablespoons. Using too much could create a film.

Devaney Dawn O'Brien
2 years ago

I have all the ingredients so I’m going to give it a try! Your recipe said (for front-loading machines) to use 1/4 c to 1/3 c per load but in your comments, people have said to use only 1-2 Tablespoons. Any thoughts on this?

Carole
2 years ago

All I know is my own experience with the recipe. I think those who didn’t add water to the concentrated detergent used 1-2 Tablespoons.

Jordan
2 years ago

I’ve made this 4 times now it separates in my five gallon bucket after it cools down. Any idea why it would do that? Does this happen to anyone else? I use a paint stirring attachment for my drill to stir it.

Carole
2 years ago

Mine doesn’t separate, but some of the liquid does come to the top after it sets. I use a 5 gallon paint stick in mine to mix it up just a bit.

Quincy
2 years ago

Thank you! This was so helpful with the price of detergent right now

kate
1 year ago

i would not recommend using Dawn dish soap, it’s very toxic, and is loaded with synthetic fragrance. nor would i
use fels naptha. that one is bad, as well. you can just use a clean liquid dish soap, like Bio Clean, or 7th Generation….or you can merely mix the powders together, and just use that as your laundry powder. simple….

Susan Fiet
4 months ago

There is a difference between soap and detergent. Soap leaves a residue over time on your clothes and within your washing machine components. A detergent rinses clean. I made the liquid detergent recipe with the Dawn detergent. I have finished the first batch and have been pleased with its cleaning power. I would recommend it.

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