Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Make your own (easy, cheap & green) laundry detergent!

This is one of the things that I get asked about the most, so I thought I would write a post about it.

Can you really make your own laundry detergent?!  Yes, you can and it's so easy, so green and so cheap that I'm wondering why in the world I didn't know about this sooner!  Honestly, who wants to spend more money on laundry detergent than you have to?

When I first heard about this amazing concept I got right down to business, doing what I always have to do, and that is...research!  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I like to research pretty much everything.  Why?  Well, in this instance, what if it doesn't work?  What if it's really bad on your washer?  What if it kills fish when it gets into the ground water which then travels to their river home?  And if those all pass the test, I then have to find the absolute best recipe (still kind of weirds me out to use the word "recipe" when we're dealing with soap) which leads me to learn that hard water requires different ingredients than soft water (info about that here if you care to know) and then I had to know the best and cheapest ingredients to use of course...anyway, with out further ado, here is the recipe I currently use and love.

Recipe for Laundry Detergent
Finely grate the bar (or half bar) of soap.  (Kind of a weird thing to do, but it won't hurt your grater at all.)  Mix the grated soap with the borax and washing soda for about five minutes and you're good to go! 

This will make about 32 ounces.  I use 2 Tbs (or 1/8th cup-black scoop in the picture) per load but if you have softer water than I do, you probably only need 1 Tbs per load.  This come out to between only 5 to 10 cents a load! (Commercial detergents are 20 cents or more per load.)

Some additional info & tips:

-This has very low suds so it works great in front loader High Efficiency (HE) washers.
-I add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar in place of the fabric softener and that softens the clothes and breaks up the mineral deposits found in my lovely hard water.
-I've found this detergent works great with warm or cold water washes.
-You can add a few drops of any essential oil to the recipe to scent your laundry (I want to try this after I research essential oils a little more.)
-I found the borax, washing soda, Zote/Fels-Naptha at my local grocery store (Macy's in Utah) for good prices.  They were in the laundry detergent isle, kind of dusty on the top shelf ;)  You can also buy them online.
-From what I understand, this is much better for the environment in several ways: less toxic ingredients, less manufacturing (less fossil fuels), and no huge plastic bottles being made and then thrown away.
-I love that I can easily make a year supply and store it on my laundry room shelf with out taking up a ton of room!
-There are many recipes out there for a homemade liquid/gel/glop laundry soap but it required boiling the ingredients and storing a huge bucket of the stuff which I wasn't all that excited about.
-There are also recipes out there that use other types of bar soap but from what I read, some of those soaps can leave a residue on your clothes, especially any bar soaps with mosturizers, so don't use those!
-The soap grates easier if it's dried out a bit so I unwrap it as soon as I buy it and leave it out for a few days.  Some people also recommend microwaving it for a few minutes, the idea being that you can then just crush it to powder.  I tried that with limited success so I recommend grating unless I find a better way.
-Borax and washing soda have many great household uses, such as making your own dishwasher detergent (I will post about that soon!)

That's it!  Although the research is certainly not that simple, in my opinion, the end result is because it's easy to make, better for the environment, cheap and can look pretty great in a cool upcycled bottle with neat label.  

Please let me know what you have learned about homemade laundry detergent and what your results are if you try this recipe!


  1. I've wanted to try this, but been too lazy to do the research it required :) Thanks for the info

  2. Thanks, Jamie! It took me awhile to finally get around to making this but I'm glad I did because it works so well and it just feels good to be so thrifty. ;) I still have some of my store bought detergent left but it's taking forever to use it up because the homemade stuff is so much better!
    If you give this a try, you'll have to let me know how it works for you.

  3. Well, when I get a "chance" to go to the store (meaning that's one of the mom jobs I avoid/procrastinate...well okay, I'll admit it, I try to avoid most mom jobs) I will pick up ingredients. I'm almost out, so it will need to be soon

  4. This is the exact same recipe I use! I prefer the smell of the Zote soap and was bugged when Walmart stopped carrying it, but I heard it is at Home Depot (and now I'll look at the grocery store too.) I've been using it for about 1 1/2 years and LOVE it! I do think that my whites do not get as white, but otherwise I have zero complaints. The Zote soap is AMAZING on stains. Just rub the bar right on the stain then send it through the wash - it's gotten out major grease stains and even those bright orange baby poop stains.

  5. Lori, I'm so glad to hear that you love this recipe too! I've never tried the Zote directly on stains because I still had some shout spray that I was using up (it's finally about gone) but it sounds like it would work better than that and would be a lot cheaper. Hurray!
    Jamie, you'll have to let us know how it works for you when you try it.


  6. hi, i'm jamie's old neighbor & she just pointed me over here... i love the idea of this, i have only one concern - my husband and my baby have very sensitive skin, so we have to be pretty careful about detergents & soaps... do you have any experience with sensitive skin and this soap?

    also, to get things whiter, could you maybe just add a little oxy clean to your soap? :)

  7. Hayley, thanks for stopping by. You bring up a very good point, that I should have included in this post-sensitive skin! My daughter has eczema and VERY sensitive skin and that is one reason why I love this detergent, since it doesn't have the added colors, scents etc, it doesn't bother her skin at all. I've never tried adding Oxyclean to this detergent because even that is too hard on my daughters skin, but I googled it and plenty of people add it to their homemade detergents no problem so it should work well for you. You'll have to let us know, if you try it. I honestly haven't had trouble with my whites not being bright enough with this detergent, maybe because of the vinegar I use with the wash? Anyone who didn't have bright enough white use vinegar too? (My daughter's skin can't tolerate fabric softeners/dry sheets of any kind either so I'm glad that the vinegar does such a good job of softening clothes!)

  8. p.s I would probably add about 1/2 cup of Oxyclean to the recipe if you want to try that.