Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Save Money By Making Your Own Laundry Detergent

Yeah, me neither. It is one of those things that is never finished at my house. There is always a load in my washer, another in the dryer, and more in the hamper (or on the floor in my kids' rooms) waiting to be dealt with. I especially hate spending money on laundry.  Detergents and spot treatments must somehow have gold in them; why else would they be so dog-gone expensive?

That is why I was willing to try making my own. When I first heard of making your own detergent, I pictured being outside with a big iron pot over an open fire. Isn't that how they used to make soap? Any-who, I discovered it wasn't nearly that much trouble, nor did it involved fire (much to my sons' disappointment).

I looked at quite a few recipes for laundry detergent. The one that sounded the best was one I found on a blog called How Does She?. I was excited to try it if it meant saving money on something necessary-but-not-much-fun.  I looked for the ingredients at the grocery store, but they did not carry everything needed, so I headed over to Super Walmart, which I am sure was cheaper anyway, and found all of the ingredients.  The recipe makes a large batch of dry detergent, which I prefer over the liquid kind.  It calls for:

1 (4lb 12 oz) box of borax - I bought 20 Mule Team Borax
1 (3lb 7 oz) box of Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (soda ash)
1 (4 lb) box of baking soda
1 (3 lb) box of OxiClean stain remover
2 bars of Fel's Naptha laundry soap, grated

1 (55oz) bottle of Purex Crystals fabric softener - I bought the lavender blossom scent, which smells heavenly:)

You will need a large bucket to mix it all in. The only tedious part of putting all of this together is the grating of the Fel's Naptha. However, I used my food processor with the regular blade and it was not much trouble. I just cut both of the bars into about 6 pieces, dropped them in, and turned the processor on. In about 45 seconds I was done. The rest is easy: just pour everything into the bucket (you will use all of the ingredients - no measuring), stir, and you are finished.

The ingredients (including the Purex Crystals) cost me right at $23, but this makes a huge batch which should last quite a while; you only have to use 1 to 2 tablespoons of detergent per load, depending on how large and dirty the load is.

diy laundry detergent
Recipe makes way more than this
I have already begun to use this and have been very impressed with its cleaning power so far.  Know that it does not produce many suds, but that is okay - it still works. I actually think it works better than my name-brand detergent. I had several items that had already gone through the wash once, using Tide detergent, but still had spots on them. I ran them through the wash again, and everything came out clean and clear.

For those of you who prefer to use liquid, here is a recipe for liquid laundry detergent. Need cheap spot treatments for your challenging items? Here is a terrific recipe for cheap and effective spot treating using only 2 ingredients!

New Addition: After posting this,  a reader contacted me to say that she has sensitive skin and cannot use Fels-Naptha. If this is the case for you, she recommended Dr. Bronner's Castile Hand Soap or Mrs. Myers instead.  Thank you for that information, Sherri! 


  1. Hi Patty!
    I would like to know approximately how many loads of laundry will this amount of detergent clean.Also can you use this formula in the new HE washing machines?

  2. I made this about 8 months ago and was very pleased with it! We do tons of laundry. Out of curiosity, I started keeping track and it worked out to be on average 12 loads a week. That includes all the sports stuff, clothes, sheets/towels, rugs etc... We are a family of 5 with 3 teens. It took us 6 months to go through all the homemade detergent (never using more than a cap full (the Purex crystal's cap). I keep putting off that Walmart run to re-purchase the items needed to make another batch. Over the past 2 months I've purchased liquid laundry detergent and softner at least 3 times. That's about $25 each time. I think my kid's fill the cap to the top with each load they do :( We have an HE front loading machine and it's not a problem. BTW, I found the better smelling bar soap at Home Depot (name of which escapes my mind). I think the bar (Fel's Neptha?)sold at Walmart next to all the ingredients is unpleasant smelling. That's just me. The other bar brand is much more pleasant smelling. Anyway, I miss the smell of the homemade detergent and how soft our laundry was - so TODAY, I'm off to Walmart and making this!!