Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Homemade Laundry Detergent....It Works, It Really Does

Tired of paying $10.00 for a gallon of Tide? Or even $7.00 for the cheapo brand? Here's a secret: the ingredients that make your laundry cost about $4.00 for a year and a half supply. The binding agent costs $3.00. The rest of it is tap water and advertising.

You only need three ingredients:


Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)

3 Bars of Fel Naptha Soap (or Octagon) We find both at Krogers.

These supplies will allow you to make 15 gallons of soap (at 3 different intervals, which should last you approximately a year and a half, depending on size of your family)

Physical equipment you need:

5 gallon bucket with lid (we call them pickle buckets and we had plenty, but without lids, so I purchased a new one at Lowe's for $4.99. I recommend the one with the cushioned handle.)

Measuring cup

Stirring spoon (I bought a long handle wooden one that sits right on top of my laundry bucket)


Medium size sauce pan

Measure 2 cups of borax into the pickle bucket.
Measure 2 cups of washing soda into the pickle bucket.

Peel the paper back on one bar of soap, and grate the soap. The smaller you grate it, the quicker it will melt.
(All tools can be cleaned up with hot water.)

When you're finished grating, the soap looks for all the world like shredded cheese.

Put the grated soap into the saucepan, cover with hot water and stir while over medium heat.

*DO NOT* walk off and leave this - it will boil over.

The soap will melt into a smooth yellow soup in approximately 5 minutes.

Pour the hot soup into the bucket, adding it to the washing soda and borax. Stir.

Add hot tap water (approx 3.5 to 4 gallons, or to within 4" of the top of the bucket), stirring as you add the water.

That's it.

You're done.

Until it cools, it will be a smooth yellow liquid. After it cools, it will be a thicker yellow gel. I keep the wooden spoon on top of the bucket to give it an occasional stir. Even in our unheated laundry room, in the middle of January, it stays a creamy gel.

For each load of laundry, I use a cap from an older store-bought jug and use the same amount of homemade that I used of the store-bought.

This bucket above (minus 1 gallon I shared with a friend) lasted our family from July 2008 to yesterday (3-30-09). We average 4-5 loads of laundry a week.

The first time I made detergent it took me about an hour - this morning it took me about 25 minutes.

The total cost for the last batch, today's batch, and the next batch was $15.00. This includes the plastic bucket, measuring cup, wooden spoon (all reusable) plus the ingredients. The actual ingredients cost $7.00 - and that's 3 separate batches, lasting our family a year and a half.

(The washing soda and borax come in one size (approx 6 cups in each one), so I found it easier to go ahead and buy enough soap to match the soda and borax. I just stored them until it was time to make the next batch.)

If you want lavender scented detergent (or vanilla, or whatever), you can add essential oil to the mixture. I don't because I have asthma, and prefer unscented. The Fels-Naptha soap has a light, clean scent to it but it doesn't bother me in the least.

BTW- this is low-foaming. If you prefer lots of suds, you may not like this detergent. But you should also know that the "sudsing" is artificially added to commercial detergents, and has nothing to do with actual cleansing. Americans have been trained by Madison Avenue to think "suds" equals "cleaning".

Let's see, what else can we make for ourselves?


  1. Homemade laundry detergent is what helped set us firmly on the path we're on! A couple things to add to your post (I use the same basic recipe):
    1) If you use eco-friendly soap (I make my own, but I used to use South of France, which is very easily found around here) you will have eco-friendly laundry detergent. Borax & Washing Soda are all-natural. Fels Naptha may be too, but I just don't know.
    2) I've begun using a whisk to stir the bucket as I fill it up with the water. I've found this really mixes it up very well and saves me some trouble/stirring hassles.
    3) I did the math on this once. When I was buying South of France soap, it cost me around $5 to make 5 gallons, and came out to around 1 cent per ounce (I think - it's been a while). Now that I'm using soap I've made, it costs me a fraction of a cent per ounce.
    Thought that was cool!!
    Great post though!!! I really don't see why people don't make their own laundry detergent. There are also similar recipes for powder detergent out there. I think it is all pretty much the same, just don't melt the soap, and blend all the dry ingredients together - then use like a tablespoon per load. :)

  2. I just stumbled upon your blog from a comment you left on pioneer woman and I am converted. I will be making this soap within the week.

    As an aside, I am also a homeschooling mom... leaning towards unschooling. We tried to be structured, but it didn't flow for us. Ended up going against what naturally works for my son. He's a bit too kinesthetic to do too much sit-down "you must focus NOW" type work. He's also been diagnosed recently as bi-polar and we've chosen not to medicate, so the more laid back our lives are in general, the better.

  3. My DD is ADHD -couldn't sit down at all in school and was constantly getting in trouble for it. the only thing I would have changed about our homeschooling/unschooling is that I ever put her in school in the first place and let her stay there through second grade.

  4. LOVE your blog! I am going to make this!