Homemade Laundry Detergent

Have you seen how expensive laundry detergent has gotten? It’s getting a little crazy.

And not only laundry detergent…but everything. Gasoline has certainly taken quite a hike in my lifetime. I remember when it was less than a dollar for a gallon. And now, we are quickly approaching $4.00 per gallon. Yikes! The price of a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread…everything is going up.

So what’s a family to do to control their expenditures? It’s getting harder and harder these days. But I have found a new way to save on one expense.

About a month ago, I found a recipe for making my own laundry detergent. And it’s so easy! (Remember…I like easy. If it’s too difficult, I’m likely to not do it.) The most difficult part was finding the different ingredients needed to make the detergent. That took a while.

I started looking for my ingredients at Target and was able to get two of the four necessary things there. I was able to find a substitute for one of the things that Target did not have while I was there but I was still missing on thing. With the help of my sweet husband, we took to the internet to look for our final ingredient. Unfortunately, the product’s website said that no stores in our area that sold this product. I decided to hold off a few days from ordering it online from Amazon or Ace Hardware (which would ship it to the store of our choice), which were the only two places that I could find the product as I wanted to just look at a few stores when I happened upon them for other reasons. A few days later when I visited my grocery store, I found this last product…and the one that I had found a replacement for. So, that being said, it was challenging to find everything…but it’s possible. So let’s begin.

Here are the things you need:

  • 20 Mule Team Borax — this stuff is really dirt cheap and a super hard cleaner. It works by converting some water molecules into hydrogen peroxide, thereby aiding in the cleaning of your clothing. Because it is a basic solution (9.5), it produces a basic solution in water and increases the effectiveness of bleach and other cleaners. I was able to find this at Target as well as my grocery store of choice (Harris Teeter) but was less expensive at Target.
  • Baking Soda — the regular ‘ole stuff. You can find this…well…anywhere.
  • Super Washing Soda — this is not the regular ‘ole stuff. This is specifically for the washer and is meant to compete with magnesium and calcium ions in hard water and prevents them from bonding with the detergent so that it can do its job in cleaning your clothing. This is the product I had the most difficulty finding in a store. Ultimately, I was able to locate it at my grocery store, Harris Teeter…but not at Target, much to my dismay.
  • Fels-Naptha bar soap — yes, a bar of soap. On it’s own, this is used as a pre-treater for laundry stains.

So here’s what you need to do to put it all together:

Take your bar of soap and grate it up. I did this with my cheese grater. When I finished, it looked something like this:

Grated Fels-Naptha

After I grated it, I let it sit out over night in an open container to let the soap harden just a bit before putting it in the blender/food processor (as seen above). I then chopped and ground it until it looked something like this:Now is when you take all of your ingredients and combine them together into your chosen container. The recipe that I’m providing yields a quart of detergent. (I used an old pitcher that will never be used again for drinks.) Your bar of ground Fels-Naptha soap:

Ground Fels-Naptha

1 cup of borax:


1 cup of washing soda:

Washing soda

1/2 cup of baking soda:

Baking soda

And you mix it all together in your chosen container until it’s well blended:

Detergent mix

And there’s your lovely, homemade detergent! From everything that I can find, it is safe to use in high-efficiency washing machines. I have been using it in my HE machine for about a month now and have had no issues with it. I use 2 tablespoons of this mixture in each load (and I have pretty full loads).

Detergent scoop

There is not an overpowering scent from this but there is, what I would describe, an overriding fresh scent in the laundry.

So here’s one of the best parts: the cost. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the exact cost of each of these items to the cent because I didn’t save the receipt long enough. But this is a close enough approximation for you to give you the idea.

  • 1 76-ounce box of 20 Mule Team Borax cost about $3.50. I used 8 ounces of that for a cost of $0.36.
  • 1 64-ounce box of Arm and Hammer’s Super Washing Soda cost about $4.00. I used 8 ounces of that for a cost of $0.50.
  • 1 55-ounce box of Arm and Hammer’s Baking Soda cost about $3.00. I used 4 ounces of that for a cost of $0.21.
  • 1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap cost about $1.50. I used the entire bar for a cost of $1.50.

For this entire quart of detergent, it cost $2.57 (again, that’s the rounded cost since I don’t remember the exact cost). We’ll approximate that I can get 30 loads out of this (because I still don’t know how many I can do as I haven’t gone through it all) and that rounds out to a whopping $0.08 per load. You’re lucky to spend only twice that much on store-bought laundry detergent (if you can find it on sale at a good price, that is).

I’m excited with how well this has worked so far. I think I’m going to continue to experiment with this a bit more. I’ve read some that regular ‘ole bar soap works well, which I might do a test run of here in the future (need to research a bit more about the use of that in HE machines). I think I’m also going to look at the different ratios of ingredients and see how that does.

If you decide to give it a shot, let me know how it works for you. If you change anything, let me know what you did and your results. I’m always interested in the variations that I see.

I am not held responsible for any damage done to clothing or machines as a result of using this detergent recipe. Please do your own research and decide if this is the best thing for you to use in your home before using it for yourself.