DIY Laundry Detergent for Pennies per Load

SurvivalWoman SurvivalWoman  |  Updated: July 1, 2019
DIY Laundry Detergent for Pennies per Load

Most everyone uses laundry detergent and if we’ve kept a record of the cost, at the end of the year we would be surprised at the expense for that one product alone. If we are counting our pennies, and who isn’t, it might be economical to learn more about homemade household cleaning products, specifically laundry detergent. It can be made for pennies on the dollar compared to the popular commercial brands.

The great thing is that homemade cleaning products work as well or better than the more costly products purchased from the store.

Another benefit is that our homemade versions do not have added fillers which often cause breakdown in the fiber of our clothing or cause fading and chemical residue. Here is some information to consider.

Laundry Detergent Fillers

Fillers are usually chemicals that have been added to laundry detergent to be used as a binding agent for water and to add bulk to the bottle or box of detergent, therefore making you think you are getting a better deal at the grocery store. Filler’s can count for up to 45% of your laundry detergent! Bigger is not always better!

Those fillers are there to make it appear that you are getting more for your money. It is one way for manufacturers to charge more, while you, the consumer, are getting an inferior product.

Some detergent brands may be increasing your family’s risk of asthma, skin irritation, hormone disruption, and cancer. It’s important to remember that your exposure to the toxins in your laundry soap don’t stop when the clothing is folded and put away. Some of these products are engineered to remain on and in your washed items – this is evidenced by the “fresh scent that lasts and lasts”.

I saw an ad recently that claimed that the fresh scent would last for many weeks. This is particularly true of the added wax-like scented beads which are put into the wash cycle. I know, they do smell good but instead of using those chemical filled, expensive products, I have found that adding a few drops of a favorite essential oil to a woolen drier ball works very well and smells great, with no added negative side-effects; it just doesn’t last as long.

So in addition, I often add a few drops of an essential oil to a few small pieces of felt then put them in the dresser drawer. Lavender, rose, jasmine and lemon are all nice but you can choose from the many options available in the essential oil world. There are many brand and scent options.

A few common fillers in your detergent are:

  • 1,4 DIOXANE- a synthetic oil-based carcinogen
  • GLUTEN- wheat and other grains are used to thicken and extend products
  • ALCOHOL- decreases the detergents freezing point and increases solubility
  • LIMESTONE & CHALK- Calcium based to work with phosphates in increase suds
  • PERFUME & COLOR- Covers the smell of chemicals and makes it look “pretty”

Facts about Fillers

  • Fillers are often made of sodium sulfate. To discover if your laundry powder contains sodium sulfate you can do a simple test. Put one teaspoon of laundry powder into a cup of water and stir. Sodium sulfate will not dissolve and can be clearly seen at the bottom of the glass. Some fillers are ground down into a very fine sand-like consistency, making them more difficult or impossible to detect.
  • They get into the fibers of your clothes and grind together (with washing ) therefore they lessen the life of your clothes and make them look faded and pilled.
  • After just 10 washes, clothes, towels and blankets gain 2% of their weight in detergent residue (fillers and chemicals) and are constantly being absorbed by the skin.

Save big by using “clean” detergent! I did a little poking around and found that washing machine repairmen are very aware that these fillers are causing more frequent machine breakdown. Our own repairman was very open about the subject and the shortened life span of machines due to additives and fillers in detergents.

With the cost of a washer ranging between $350. to over $1000., who can afford to replace a washing machine more often than necessary? Taking better care of your machine can give you savings that then can be used to purchase some of those special preps you’ve been wanting.

One of the main reasons we switched to making DIY laundry powder was because our youngest child had sensitive skin and would sometimes develop a rash and redness where clothes touched the skin. This reaction happened even when we switched to detergents that were touted as being mild and suitable even for babies.

We found that the two “mildest” brands caused even more skin reactions and this happened even if I ran the clothes through a double rinse cycle. It took me a while at that time to find the right detergent “recipe” that worked for her sensitive skin.

Yet another negative effect is that fillers can trap bacteria in your clothes, causing smelly, sweaty clothes to quickly smell bad again soon after washing.

Here is a website that gives grades from “A” to “F” to specific detergents and other cleaning products that you may find interesting.

People often ask if this detergent can be used in High Efficiency (HE) washing machines. Yes, it can. The first time you use this Zote recipe you may question if it is effective because it makes very few suds, if any. Rest assured that if you can get over the idea that seeing suds means cleaner clothes you will see the results and be pleased.

Recipe: Zote Powdered Laundry Detergent Recipe

2 14 oz. bars of ZOTE soap. Some folks use Fels Naphtha soap but in doing that you must consider that the Zote soap bar is about 15 oz. and the Fels Naphtha is only 5 oz. per bar. So Zote is more economical to use. There is a concern with Fels Naphtha because it contains titanium dioxide which some say is bad for septic tanks and toxic to our waterways.

I have not researched this down to the chemical level but since we do have septic I have chosen not to use it. I like the smell of Zote better anyway. Some folks use Ivory soap. You choose. The next time I make laundry detergent, I am going to use Dr. Bonner’s soap bars. They are a bit more costly but without any colorings.

1 box 20 Mule Team Borax. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral that is great for whitening and deodorizing. One of the most popular kinds of borax is made by 20 Mule Team and usually comes in 76 oz. boxes. (Wal-Mart and larger grocery markets)

Let me share some information about an ongoing confusion as to what 20 Mule Team Borax is made of and if it is safe to use as a laundry product. Borax is sodium tetraborate or sodium borate. It is not boric acid (hydrogen borate), which seems to be a misconception that’s going around the web and has caused concern about using Borax for cleaning purposes.

Borax is a salt of boric acid but it is not chemically the same as boric acid. Like many other natural substances sodium tetraborate should not be ingested nor come into contact with your eyes, nor should it be applied directly to the skin. Other than that I can find no cause for alarm and no reason to fear borax when used externally in laundry soaps or cleaning supplies.

The safety studies that I could find were related to either ingesting borax, or keeping it out of your eyes. 20 Mule Team Borax is considered pure boron, a natural element. It is considered non-toxic to humans even though it is toxic to insects.

1 box Super Washing Soda– 55 ounce size box – This is a household cleaner and laundry booster and is made by Arm & Hammer. It helps to neutralize laundry odors. This is not baking soda. It can be found near the 20 Mule Team Borax. Washing soda or soda ash; is a white powder that is used to remove dirt and odors. (Walmart and larger grocery markets)

3+ cups Baking Soda. If you have hard water this will soften it and it helps eliminate odors as well. Even though you may need only 3 cups of this larger box there are so many other household uses that using this natural cleaner, deodorizer, and personal care product, will not go to waste. I always keep at least one large box on hand. (Walmart sells the larger size box which is more cost effective than buying the smaller one pound boxes from the grocery store.)

2—16 oz. or 1– 32 oz. containers Awesome Oxygen base cleaner. Sometimes they have Awesome Oxygen Orange in a 32 oz. container, orange label and that is the better buy. They always have the 16 Oz. jar with blue label. Either is fine. (Dollar Tree) You may also use brand name Oxyclean but that can be a bit pricy. Awesome Oxygen from the Dollar Tree does the same job and is less costly


Finely grate the Zote soap bars. Hand grate on smallest size grate to help it dry more quickly. Spread out on cookie sheets and allow to dry for 2 days.

This step takes a little patience. It’s a good idea to wear a mask while grating the soap because it has a strong scent.

(Drying makes blending with other ingredients easier. After drying put the grated soap into a food processor in small batches, wearing a mask.)

In a very large pot or 3 gallon container begin layering all of the ingredients. Again wear a mask as the fumes and dust can be strong. When all is mixed thoroughly put into a lidded container, either plastic or glass. Use a 2 Tbsp. scoop that comes in the AWESOME Oxygen container as your measuring scoop. If you are washing a small washer-load of clothes use only one tablespoon.

You may add a scent like Unstoppables but it is not a softener and adds expense and chemicals to the detergent. I would not use Unstoppables or any added scents if this laundry detergent is to be used on clothes for babies or young children or with people who have skin allergies. As with any new product you try, be alert to any sensitivity your family might have when changing to new products.

We have not had any problems and have been using Zote based laundry detergent for about six years, but we don’t add the various chemical scents. Usually I add a few drops of natural essential oils like lavender, lemon or sandalwood to woolen dryer balls. In addition to making the laundry smell wonderful, the laundry room smells heavenly as well.

To further reduce the cost of laundry you can use crumpled up balls of aluminum foil in place of chemical laden drier sheets. These can be used over again several times. I’m always glad for more savings.

If you try this laundry detergent recipe and want to store enough of the individual ingredients for the next year’s batch, I have a few suggestions, gleaned from sad experience. Any powdered product stored in cardboard can absorb moisture fairly quickly causing the contents to clump and even turn into a solid mass, especially if the box has begun to split a bit at the seam….(see photo below)

I know I could probably hit this Washing Soda clump with a hammer and put them into the food processor or blender but it’s so hard packed that I’m not sure this would be a wise thing to do. Using a serrated spatula to scrape the block into a large container seems to work, but it isn’t something I want to repeat any time soon, even if my dear husband is willing to help. Hopefully this will be the first and last time this challenge arises!

As soon as the boxes of Borax and Washing Soda are purchased I will put them into larger canning jars with lids along with a clay desiccant packet or oxypacks. Another way to keep the powders away from moisture would be to seal the inner part of a two piece canning lid using a Food Saver Jar Sealer. That process takes about 10 seconds.

Another option would be to place the unopened box into a plastic bag to protect from moisture. This only needs to happen if you are storing these ingredients over the period of 6 months to a year. Just give them a check now and then.

LA’s Totally Awesome Oxygen. This stuff is also great for spot cleaning carpets. It does a good job on grout and tile after making a thick paste, applying it to area and allowing it to stay there for about 5 to 10 minutes before washing it off with a wet cloth.

Put the dried, grated soap into the food processor in batches. If you opt not to do the drying process you take the chance of ending up with a sticky substance that will not blend well with the other dry ingredients, so take the time to air dry the grated soap bars to assure an even blending of all ingredients.

The Zote soap that has been grated, dried, and then run through the food processor condenses down to about 4 cups of concentrated powder. This is two large bars. Surprisingly this pure soap “powder” melts in cold, medium and hot water with just a little agitation. Remember there are little, if any, suds. Don’t let that fool you. This is a powerful cleaner.

Next, collect all ingredients and put on a surgical type mask. Into a large container, like this 3 gallon bucket, pour all five powders and blend well and evenly.

Using a sturdy spoon blend all ingredients until evenly dispersed. If you don’t use a mask the concentrated dust from the grated soap and the Borax dust that billows into the air will get into your lungs, so don’t take the mask lightly.

Final Thoughts

Finished product: About a year’s worth of laundry detergent for $12.50! We are now a family of two so you can extrapolate your own family’s approximate needs based on that calculation. This will do approximately 225 loads of laundry using 2 tablespoons per load.

For extra-large or heavily soiled laundry you could use up to four tablespoons. The plastic scoop that comes in the LA Awesome Oxygen cleaner container is exactly two tablespoons.

There are no fillers or harmful substances in this detergent so a little goes a long way. Of course, there are still sensitivities to detergents so be alert when you begin using a new product. Avoid getting into your eyes or having direct contact to your skin in concentrated form.

One question that might be on your mind is, ”Can I make liquid laundry detergent?You sure can. The reasons I choose to make the powdered soap are simple. First, to make the same amount (enough to wash 225 loads of laundry) and using this very exact recipe, if converted into a liquid form it would equal 10 gallons! That would take up a lot of my laundry room space.

Second, the liquid version settles and clumps a little so must be shaken up or stirred if left sitting for long.

Third, what containers should you use to store the liquid version in? One might think that clean plastic gallon milk jugs would do the job. There are two drawbacks with this choice. The milk sugars cannot be completely cleansed from the plastic, so there is a possibility of contamination. The other reason is that the plastic jugs are likely to breakdown and disintegrate.

I don’t want 10 gallons of liquid laundry detergent oozing all over the floor! (This breakdown of milk bottles happened to a friend and she was only storing water!) If you have high mil, clean plastic containers in mind and you have the space then go for it and store 10 gallons.

You can choose to use two five gallon heavy plastic buckets. They are difficult to move when full and still must be stirred every once in a while, so you’ll need a long stirring stick or agitator. I have a friend who chose this route last year and she’s quite happy in her choice.

What I have given you in this post is one recipe and one way to cut laundry costs that I have found effective and, of course, economical. There are variations and substitutions which can be used. I’d love to hear the experiences and tweaks you may have used for your laundry needs. If you have not tried to make your own laundry soap I hope you’ll put this one to the test.

Blessings, Donna

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117 Responses to “DIY Laundry Detergent for Pennies per Load”

  1. Hey – the reason that the store bought “soaps” don’t work for laundry is that the superfat (loose fats left over after saponification :the act of mixing the lye with the fats) is way too high. When you make a laundry soap at home – the bar kind – you do not leave any free-floating fats out there. That’s why the Dawn works well. Because it cuts grease because there are no added fats. For you that make soaps at home – go ahead and make bar soaps, but at 0-1% only of superfat. You will be so happy with the results. The store bought stuff is meant to be good for skin, not for laundry. Laundry soap made with the Dawn is very good. I’ve made them all – but I do not purchase store bought soaps at all – it’s just a waste of dollars all the way around. I have had to use my clothes washing system this year with the plunger washer and buckets. I used the Dawn laundry detergent because it was fast and I had wet laundry everywhere – So either use the Dawn or make your own at 1% or less superfat – You’ll be very happy with the results.

    • Hi – I have made the powdered version with Fels Naptha, Borax and Washing Soda. I also put in some Oxygen powder like OxyClean. I added liquid bleach with my white loads. After awhile my whites got dingy and gray. We do have a water softener, by the way. What could be causing the dinginess? My husband wants me to go back to
      Tide because his t-shirts look so bad. RE the vinegar – I put it in a Downy Ball and it does a good job of softening. Thanks, Jan

    • Jan,

      I have always used bleach with my whites but gave it up for this test. My laundry area is in a closet and there is a carpet in front of it. I have always worried the beach will splatter and spot my carpet. On laundry day I lay out broken down cardboard boxes in front of the washer – just in case. Since using my DIY laundry detergent, I have not used bleach at all and am happy with the results – and this is using cold water. I am so pleased.

      Anyway, my guess is that the borax is not completely dissolving and interacting with the salts and minerals in your water. I think a water softener still leaves some minerals but not 100% sure. Will Tide turn the dingy tee shirts white again or are they now toast? The reason I say that is it would be worthwhile to get them white again then go back to a DIY laundry detergent with no additives (bleach, oxyclean) just to try to isolate the problem. And for sure, I would try this liquid version since you know that the borax is dissolved.

      The alternative is to use 1/2 the recommended amount of TIDE and cold water and at least save some money that way.

      — Gaye

    • I had the same problem. It took about 8 months before we were sure it was the detergent. At first, I thought it was the fabric softener. But the buildup was all inside my washer and hubbies shirts. Gray grim!! Switching to the dawn detergent was a life saver. We noticed and immediate difference!! Now, I use that and mix vinegar and fabric softener for the rinse. Clothes are great! And I do a lot of laundry, we have 6 in this house!!!

    • Does it need to be Dawn, or would the cheaper ones, like from the Dollar Stores, work as well?

    • I would try making up a small batch and see how it works. I have some Costco brand dish soap in my garage – I should try it and compare it to Dawn. For dishes, I prefer the Dawn since I can use a lot less to get the job done.

      It does go on sale a lot. Costco usually has $3 off coupons and I see ads for it all the time.

    • I started by using Dawn, but now I am using Gain dish soap. It smells nice. I also added 1 extra tbsp of every ingredient in my last batch, just because I found one site where they adjusted their ingredients the same way. My kids run a lot and their clothes get very sweaty, and my husband works in a factory. I think the dish soap recipe works much better than the recipes w/the grated soap. I had no luck w/those, especially the cooked version–our clothes always stunk, and whites got very dingy.

      I may actually continue to use my regular detergent for whites, but am hoping I will continue to be pleased with this new recipe for all of my other loads. I have a front loader, and everything I washed today came out fresh and clean.

    • I am going to try adding the extra tbsp. in my next batch. I don’t really have a problem now but every once in awhile, a spot will remain on my whites.

      As far as the DIY laundry soap with grated soap/Fels Naptha? That did not work well for me at all. Even the darks seemed dingy after using it and the finished load had an odd smell. I did not think that the bar of Fels rubbed over a stain did much to remove the stain either.

      I have having modest luck with hydrogen peroxide as a spot remover.

    • I had the same problems you did with the liquid Fels Naptha soap. In fact, sometimes a whole load of laundry would come out of my dryer smelling like perspiration odor. I never have/haf that problem even if I use a cheap store-bought laundry detergent.

      Try using liquid dish soap on stains or pretreat them with a 50/50 white vinegar and water spray. Both seem to help. Again, I am worried about whites getting dingy so I am sticking with regular detergent for those. I hope this homemade detergent doesn’t fade my darks either. I may use less per load or make up a weaker batch for darks.

    • So far my darks are fine – actually better than with the commercial laundry soap. My guess is that the store-bought leaves a residue. We have water on the soft side so I don’t use a vinegar rinse very often although when I first started with the DIY, I used vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser and I think that brightened up my darks.

      Or it was my imagination LOL.

  2. Thanks for this info…one of the best posts I’ve read on home made laundry detergent. I do have a question. I recently started line drying clothes outside. Prior to that, I had used a fabric softener sheet (actually half a sheet to save money) in the dryer. My washer is old enough that it doesn’t have a fabric softener dispenser. Could you tell me the mechanics of using vinegar…mainly when do you put it in the washer? It would be great if you could put it in right away rather than having to come back at some point during the cycle. Thanks again for all your info…I enjoy and appreciate your posts.

    • My washer has a dispenser so during my trial, I put the vinegar in there. I think the best thing for you to do is to add it with your laundry detergent at the beginning of the cycle and see what happens.

      The other thing is that there are some recipes on the internet for re-usable “homemade dryer sheets” made from scraps of flannel or other cloth. You might want to do some research and see if that works for you. (Maybe I should give it a try too – so that I can share the results :))

    • I have read that vinegar will neutralize the soap (acid reacting with alkaline detergent). If you don’t have a dispenser, use a Downey ball or the like.

  3. I put the vinegar in a Downey Ball, and throw it in at the beginning of the wash cycle. I do make my laundry detergent with Fels; I’ve simplified the recipe greatly. The reason I use Fels is because I can get a lot of bars in a very small space. Dish soap if fine to use, but I wouldn’t count on having it around for a long time in an extended emergency situation. You can place the bars in individual vacuum bags or zip bags and press the air out. Place them in a used plastic cat litter box and press down the lid. I have printed out the recipes for various kinds of homemade soaps and cleaners, and I keep them in a binder.

    • Karen – so many of the DIY Laundry Detergent recipes are a mess to deal with. I am sure my readers would be interested in a simplified version that can be made in small batches.

      — Gaye

    • Gaye-Here is my scaled-down, easier recipe:

      1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap, grated
      1 cup washing soda
      1 cup borax powder
      3 tablespoons essential oil (optional)
      1 five gallon bucket
      5 (one gallon) recycled vinegar or other jugs

      Grate soap into 1 gallon of water in an old non-aluminum pot or bucket you’ve set aside just for making soap. A regular 2 gallon bucket with a lip is good for this. Stir in the washing soda, the borax, and choice of essential oil, if using. Then use an immersion blender to blend completely. Pour into a five gallon bucket. Add hot water to equal five gallons, rinsing the pot or bucket with some of the water and pouring back into the bucket. Stir well, then allow to sit, covered, for 24 hours; it will gel up and look like egg whites. Blend again if necessary and decant into 5 one-gallon vinegar jugs (set them in the sink, and use a funnel to fill). If needed, shake before each use.
      Using 1/2 cup for each load, this recipe will make about 160 loads.
      I keep a 1/2 cup measure sitting upside down on the jug I’m currently using.
      Vinegar jugs are best for this application, as they are made to stand up to corrosive stuff. I found out the hard way that milk jugs are only made for milk.
      This recipe can be cut down to make just the amount of laundry soap you would like.

    • This is the recipe I use too. As to vinegar, add to last rinse as you would fabric softener. The vinegar works any remaining soap out, so no fabric softener is needed unless you want it. Hadn’t thought of the vinegar jugs…we use those detergent containers which can sit on the shelf and has a spigot. We use less too. I’m currently experimenting with Ivory bar soap for the gentle fabrics. will let you know.

    • I have found that opening the bars of soap and letting them dry out before using makes them way easier to grate… in fact no problem at all.

      Also, when I got a new washer/dryer stacking combo, it is the HE kind and they recommended the laundry detergent be put in first. The ONLY way it works for me!

      I was in the hospital and an acquintance “helped” with my load of laundry. Needless to say, she did not read instructions and I had to rewash the whole load.

  4. This has got to be the easiest homemade detergent recipe I’ve seen. I’ve been collecting homemade detergent recipes for a while but did not want to have grate bar so and cook up a batch. And, I like Dawn dishwashing liquid-I think it really helped my homemade dishwasher detergent. I like Dr Bronner’s for other stuff but for cleaning, nothing beats Dawn. It just works so I need to add some to the stockpile. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

    • I do not have a utility room – just a closet with a smallish, stackable washer dryer. I like that I can make up a small batch and not worry about storage.

      I have not tried DIY dishwasher liquid yet.

  5. I must tell you about Sun products, made in USA, and Bowling Green is one producer here near my home.
    I needed a whitener and I do NOT like bleach.
    At the Dollar Tree and many dollar stores these products are on the shelfs.
    I put this in with my whites only one day and was amazed at the whitening ability.
    So, now I mix it in with my two crystals A & H, and Borax.
    Try it..non-chlorine, color safe…looks like this. 19 oz. for $1.

    • Oh I LOVE Dollar Tree. Next time I am in the city I will pick some up. I have seen the SUN products on the shelves but passed it by thinking is was just too cheap to be good. My bad. Thanks for the tip!


  6. And those dryer sheets get bug stuff from your car bumpers, and clean dried bug guts from your windows real well.

  7. I’m sorry – I lost your reply to my question about dingy whites. Also, whether a cheap dishwashing liquid would work as well, or should I stick with Dawn? Thanks!

  8. Never mind about the dingy whites – I found the reply. But still wondering whether a cheap dw would work as well as Dawn. Probably not, as it doesn’t work as well for dishes!

    • Oops, I found this reply, too. I swear they weren’t there the first time I looked. Anyway, I am definitely going to try with the Dawn. It only takes 2 tablespoons so a bottle would last a long time. Thanks.

    • Dawn (or some stores house-label equivalents) is a very good product because of its grease / oil removing capability and relative safety of use. Animal rescue organizations use Dawn to remove oil from contamination events like the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that gets on migratory birds, they can wash the bird directly with it and the bird does just fine.

    • Paul – Do you happen to know of some good, store brand, equivalents? OTOH, Costco has frequent coupon sales on Dawn as do many grocery stores.

    • Cost plus store-ability. Borax and washing soda are also store bought products. The difference is that a box of each plus a small bottle of dishwashing soap will make enough laundry detergent for thousands of loads of laundry. The cost will only be a penny or two per load.

      Also, storing a box of borax, a box of washing soda and a bottle of Dawn (or other dishwashing soap) takes up very little space.

  9. I am very late commenting, but would like to add that I have discovered that 1 tablespoon of liquid Tide works well even in a top loading washer. And on my husband’s VERY dirty work clothes. I put it in a pump bottle and know how many pumps to use. It still wouldn’t be as economical as making your own, but makes a bottle last a very, very long time.

    I am looking very forward to trying this recipe. I have previously made the kind in a 5 gallon bucket—didn’t like having to stir it each time or take up all that space with the bucket.

    Good to know about the American made Sun products. I usually feel guilty about buying at Dollar Tree because of everything coming from China.

    Another tip: Wet a Fels naptha bar and rub it on poison oak. I am VERY allergic and this is the most effective treatment yet!!! And CHEAP!!! Do it several times throughout the day if you have blisters. I’m also sure it would be as good as the expensive products about stripping the oils off your body if you suspect you have had contact.

    • You are so right about using a much smaller amount of commercial laundry detergent than the manufacturer’s recommendation. Since starting my tests, I have also used cold water exclusively and logic notwithstanding, see no difference at all.

    • Hi! Jumping in 🙂 Thanks for the recipie, Ive been looking around alot and finally found one I think I might try 🙂 As a Mom of 4, I love the no muss no fuss idea 🙂

      As far as the water temops, I have NEVER used anything but cold water…hot isnt even hooked up to my washer! LOL!

  10. Re Stain removal:
    I use regular 3% Hydrogen Peroxide from the drug store. Apply to stain, let dry. Keep doing this until the stain is gone, then put in laundry. It even works with turmeric, though takes 10 or more applications.
    Hope this helps.

    • Hydrogen peroxide is a miracle remover for blood stains. As a nurse, I’ve used it a good bit. May take several applications, but it will usually bubble it away. Take care not to let it soak in your clothing too long, however. I rescued an injured chicken in my favorite white cotton blend shirt. It was badly stained, so I left in in the peroxide overnight. Had holes in it the next day! >:(

      Also, I’ve found that using straight Dawn with a toothbrush on stains, especially “ring around the collar” really works well!

      Thanks for the recipe and all the hints, y’all!!

  11. I have been using the Fels-Naphtha, Borax and washing soda laundry soap for almost 2 years now. After finding this ‘recipe’ last week, I gave it a try. Not only can I make a 1/2 gallon of this in minutes, my jeans also seemed much softer coming out of the dryer.

    I still have to do the math on cost, since I believe the Fels-Naphtha version cost me around 22 cents a gallon. With your recipe, I used Walmart’s brand of “Dawn”, which BTW, was also ultra concentrated. I imagine if I used the regular dish soap, I could save even more.

    Thanks for this, Gaye!

    • I believe I mentioned that I have been using this DIY laundry detergent in cold water only for additional savings. I am working on some other DIY cleaners so be sure to check back.

      Also, I have some Costco/Kirkland brand dish soap that I set aside because I do not care for it but since it is so much cheaper than Dawn – and I already have some – I want to see how it works in this laundry recipe. Stay tuned 🙂

  12. hi Gaye, great article on DIY laundry detergent. something you might try as an additional ingredient when you have really greasy, nasty clothes to clean up is tri-sodium phosphate. this is what used to be in all laundry detergents until the government in all it’s wisdom made the manufacturers take it out. you can find it in the paint section of Home Depot with a big TSP on the box. i haven’t actually mixed it up with your recipe but when i’m cleaning up kitchen cabinets coated with grease or tobacco smoke or both there is nothing that works as well. you don’t need much and i’ve found nothing that cuts grease and dirt quite as well. always enjoy your blog, james

    • Very cool. I will pick some up and give it a try. Someone had mentioned using Sun products from the Dollar Tree but when I was there yesterday, I just could not wrap my mind around the stuff. Have a wonderful holiday! . . . Gaye

  13. Enjoyed the article – my lovely daughter-in-law is interested in learning to make her own laundry detergent because she is expecting TWINS in June (my first grandbabies) and wants to keep their costs down as well as limit chemicals in the babies’ clothes. I sent her your recipe but she asks if it will work okay in their new high-efficiency washing machine? Have you or any of your readers given it a try?

    Thanks for all the good info you post!

  14. @Jean – Absolutely. This is very low-sudsing. And btw, my machine is an HE as well. Congrats on being the grand-mommy of twins. Very cool 🙂


  15. No one has mentioned dryer balls. They work without harsh chemicals. They are cheap and last forever. I use 3. I guess the norm is 2 since they come in pairs. I wouldn’t use anything else. No toxins (poisons) in my laundry or home. I won’t use Dawn since it is toxic. Instead I use my organic non-toxic laundry detergent in place of Dawn to make my DIY laundry detergent and Dirt Cheap hand soap. I’m going to get some Fels-Naphtha bars to try. I used coconut bars and it worked well. Using filtered water to make the DIY laundry liquid is kind of an oxymoron since the water used in our washers come from our taps. However, it’s necessary in the hand soap…love all these DIY recipes. I’m for saving money and my health.

    • @Vicki – Funny that you mention dryer balls. I just pulled a “recipe” for making dryer balls off of Pinterest and was planning make some up with the lavender in my yard later this summer. The dryer balls were made from old socks and dried flowers.

  16. I make my laundry detergent using the bar soaps with good results. If I’m washing my husband’s really filthy work clothes I throw in an extra 1/4 to 1/2 cup of washing soda. I make my own “Oxi-clean” with boiling water, washing soda and hydrogen peroxide. It works well on organic stains but can bleach dark clothes. For a while I was making my own dishwasher detergent with one part borax and one part washing soda then adding vinegar to the rinse cup. I quit using it because I found it etched my glassware and flatware. The borax makes the BEST toilet cleaner. It leaves the bowl sparkling without the use of caustic bowl cleaners!

    • Leah, I know this is a rather late reply to your post, but still had to add my 2 cents worth!

      … You can save money on your *homemade oxy-cleaner*… 2 ways to save— 1. If you use the generic Oxy-cleaner (available from Dollar tree, or the Sun brand) and add water to that, you will end up with the same product in the end. . . . The Oxy-cleaners are made up of the same ingredients, — Washing soda and peroxide… . . . 2nd way to save— Dollar Tree Also has a product called *Oxy Power*, it is a liquid, white, 1/2 gal. bottle for $1.00— I love it, works as well as name brand (Clorox brand Oxy-cleaner is about $4.00 for a 24oz spray bottle).


  17. Excuse me, but if you add 8 cups of boiling water and shake, aren’t you going to have a massive geyser eruption?

    • Two things that perhaps were not clear. Only add 2 cups of boiling water to “shake” and dissolve the powders. In addition, do not cap the jug before shaking it up. I have never had a problem with a geyser eruption using that method.

    • When ever I make my own liquid laundry soap, I only use 1/2 the water the recipe calls for. . . then I only use about 1/4 cup per load. . . saves on storage space as well as being concentrated.

      I also make my own *stain sticks*… Since I am a soap maker, I rebatch & use up my leftover soap trims, add a little water and melt in a crockpot. I use about 1 to 2 pounds of soap, & other ingredients, mix well and scoop out into a mold. . . I wait about an hour for it to harden up and cut into 1 x 1 x 4 inch sticks. In 2 days they are super hard and ready to use. Just wet the fabric & the bar & rub.

  18. Vinegar in your laundry rinse removes soap residue from your clothes which is how it softens them. This means it has to be added to the rinse cycle somehow. So when you think your darks are “brighter” after a vinegar rinse, it’s not your imagination; it’s just there is less soap residue making your clothes look dingy.

    I’ve made homemade powdered detergent with grated soap and found that the smaller the grated soap, the better. So I use a $1 store small grater. But even still there are sometimes problems due to not dissolving completely.

    I used to use Dawn to clean cloth diapers so this recipe is very interesting to me. I’m going to have to try it out.

  19. I have never been happy with the grated soap version of DIY Laundry Soap. I keep trying new recipes and formulations that are sent to me by BDS readers but always to this version.

  20. Try diluted shampoo to pre-treat. Just rub some in and let sit a few seconds while you finish loading the washing machine. Gaye – You are the best.

    • I just made up a bottle of diluted shampoo to test. Heaven knows I have many old bottles of shampoo that I purchased and hated. I always knew I could repurpose them somehow. I will let everyone know how it goes.

  21. HI! My wonderful Mom gave me a recipe for stain and grease remover that really works and I keep it mixed up at all times. In any used liquid soap container, mix 1/3 ammonia, 1/3 Dawn dish detergent and 1/3 water. Mix by turning the closed bottle up and down – DON”T SHAKE, as it will cause the soap to foam up. Pour a little bit on a grease or other stain and use a small brush to get it into the spot, then toss into the washer. The ammonia and Dawn work together well to take out grease, which was impossible for me before having this recipe. Enjoy !!

    • Ammonia is not something I tend to use (too toxic plus it stinks). That said, I know that ammonia is a staple in many households and that it does do a great job of cleaning. I am surprised, though, that you use it for spot cleaning. Doesn’t ammonia tend to have a bleaching action on fabric that is not colorfast?

    • Patty – I finally got around to mixing up a batch today. Now I need to test it for myself but based upon your recommendation, I am confident that it will work.

  22. Why so much WATER in this recipe? Once the initial powders are dissolved, can’t I just use & store the concentrated liquid?

    • @Judy – If you reduce the water, simply lower the quantity used per load accordingly. I am actually testing that out myself right now with the intent of using an extra strong concentration for extra dirty/soiled items.

  23. You did overpay for the Fels-Naptha. I buy it for $.98/bar at my Walmart 🙁 I just made my first batch of detergent from another recipe, (a five gallon container of powder….2-3Tbs a load, four loads a week…it will be a while before I can try this one), but it looks sound to me 🙂

  24. I’ve heard some people suggest using less water (like half) might give a “concentrate” that would work better. Sometimes that works, sometimes that doesn’t. I heard someone say that doing this with less water produces a less effective result and clothes are dingier. I find if I make “slop” which is ramen with chili – very tasty – it works better with 1 cup water per pack but when you want ramen as soup you want the recommended 2 cups per pack. Back in the early 1990s Sears had this really powerful detergent that was not very expensive but my mother found that you must follow the instructions, if you used it as stated it did a great job on cleaning clothes, but if you used it in too strong a mix (too much powder) it actually started eating holes in clothes! Another thing, when you use antifreeze in your car, pure antifreeze is less effective and doesn’t protect to as cold a temperature as when it’s diluted by an equal amount of water.

  25. A few years ago I started using Costo’s Eco Friendly Dish Soap for almost everything, mostly because I like the way it smells. ( Dawn stinks like chemicals, castille soap is too watery.) I use it for soft soap in the bathroom, to make my own rosemary-peppermint shampoo, as a laundry spot remover (never found anything better), as a bathroom cleaner, a few drops with vinegar for cleaning windows and floors. In the event of a major crisis I know that I can reuse the grey water in my garden and this soap will not damage the soil or crops. Is it really more Eco Friendly? By the time it is made in the tropics and shipped to me–probably not. But it won’t damage the envrionment after I use it.

    • Interesting. I tried the Costco Eco Friendly Dish Soap and returned it since I felt it did not clean well. Have you tried making your own liquid castile soap? It is very thick in comparison to Dr. Bronners.

  26. Gosh, I LOVE your blog. LOVE it. Just had to got get that out there! I’ve been using the dry-with-Fels-Naptha recipe in my older top loader, with outstanding results. I did pulverize the Fels Naptha to a very fine powder in my NutriBullet, maybe that’s why I had such good results. But, I also stopped using fabric softener altogether, whether it was liquid or dryer sheets. Now I add a quarter cup of white vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser (or the bleach dispenser, both work), and no more yucky odors! Everything comes out of the washer smelling very fresh. I also bought some felted wool dryer balls (Amazon and Etsy) and I keep four of them in the dryer all the time. Once a week or so I’ll put a couple drops of lavender essential oil on one or two of the wool balls. It doesn’t leave a strong fragrance, and it’s really nice for towels and sheets.
    Today I’m trying this liquid recipe. I’m pretty sure I’ll like it enough to make it again. Thank you so much for helping us keep our money in our wallets, where it belongs!

  27. For the die-hard powder users, I put the tablespoon of the dry recipe in the washer and turned on the hot water for a minute or so to dissolve the powder before I put the clothes in. Just an after-thought 🙂

  28. Gaye-You are right about clothes pins being very useful, but I went a different direction. On advise I read about someone making high quality clothes pins from ash wood with heavier stainless steel springs that would pin nearly anything and not break or come apart. With normal use they should last for generations. I was so disgusted with what is available on the market that I invested in them and each time I use them I have to smile! He has several options: completed or kits or 2nds. They certainly are not inexpensive but I love mine. His name is Henrick Kimball from Whizbang Planet in Morovia, NY and he has been out for a long time but will have a new batch available on Dec. 1st. I think you would be impressed if you checked him out! I look forward to an article on clothes pins. Go for it!

    • Henrick appears to be quite the character. Which option did you select for purchase? And you are right; an article on clothespins and the multitude of uses is long overdue.

  29. Gaye-Being able to save a bit, I chose the kit which was fun to assemble and finish. It left me feeling that I had some part in the fineness of the finished product!

  30. i use the powder soap and put in before my clothes even thought I have a HE washer Does not leave stains and cleans well. Spray my stains with pink solution and they come out well. I have really hard water

  31. Just had to say wonderful article. By the way did you know fabric softner has wax in it? My DIL did some research into it when her daughter kept having diaper rash. She stopped using fabric softner and Grand daughter is fine. That could be why my towels feel soft but they don’t absorb as well

  32. Then the soap isn’t getting rinsed out completely if it’s irritating skin. Try experimenting with less soap, extra rinse cycle and vinegar in the rinse cycle. Hope that helps keep your baby’s skin feeling better! As far as stains, gotta pretreat those for best results. No detergent will tackle those on their own.

  33. i have tried to read thru all the comments but i was wondering if this is HE compatible? it seems the dish detergent would be too soapy. i use the felsnaptha bars mostly, but would like an alternative thats also simple.

  34. I read that some people zap Fels Naptha in the microwave oven and it turns into powder. I do not know for how long or at what power. If anyone knows, please enlighten me. Thanks!

  35. Since ur using dish DETERGENT, it will work. But i rly dont think theres enough per load to actually clean the clothes even with the water softeners added, the borax and washing soda. The baking soda is only for smells, not dirt. Ditto for EOs.
    But use more dawn and you mite get suds coming out ur washer….
    Wish wish wish i could find a surfactant to buy to make my own detergent.

  36. I’m surprised at how many people love Dawn and Tide. If you haven’t used chemical cleaners for a year or so, you will be shocked at how bad they smell. Costco Eco Friendly dish soap smells great!! It isn’t as concentrated as Dawn so you need to use more. It also makes a good spot remover, just get the clothes wet and use a brush (like for scrubbing your hands) and almost all stains will come out. I also use it in my bathroom hand soap dispensers. People always ask what brand of soft soap I use because it smells good. I won’t dispute the effectiveness of Dawn and Tide but dear lord, they REEK!!

  37. I’m wondering if I could use this laundry detergent recipe and add it to water to make it a liquid and then put it in my front loading machine?

    • Mary, I can’t see any reason that you couldn’t make the powder into a liquid on a load by load basis. Of course you could make a total liquid batch. If you decide to do that I’d make only 1/2 of a batch. The dry recipe I gave you translates into 10 gallons of liquid soap and to me that is just too much to store, stir and hope that containers remain leak-free. If a front loader uses less water, does it also use less detergent? Id so I’d use half of the suggestion below.
      Here’s what I’d do for a single load of laundry. Take 2 Tablespoons of the powder and mix it into a cup of hot water. Allow it to sit for 1/2 hr. and see what happens. If it is too thick add more water till you are happy with the consistency. This is good for HE machines and has little or no suds. Would like to know how it works for you.

    • I’ve made this before and believe the added step of letting the Zote or Fels dry after grating makes all the difference in the world; dissolving in HE front load machines is not a problem. When you get the notion to make a batch, it’s hard to wait two days to put it all together, but worth the effort and lesson in patience!

  38. Hi Donna – Years ago I used to make my own soap this way with the Fels but without the Orange or the baking soda. I noticed after about 8 months that my clothes got “crispy” and waterproof. I found a scientific website that indicated unless you are washing with detergent, that will happen because of the difference in surfactants. Fels is a soap not a detergent. Have you ever had that issue? I would love to go back to making my own again, but before I spend the time and money, I just wanted to find out if the other two ingredients change the composition enough to keep from getting waterproof towels and crispy underwear. Thanks, Carol

    • Hi Carol,

      We have been using the Fels, Baking Soda & Orange version for years and have never had “crispy and water proof “clothes. We store the liquid detergent on reused liquid laundry soap bottles. It has worked out for us very well and saved lots of money. I grate the Fels in a food processor and we made 5 gallons at a time and mix it with a paddle mixer attached to a drill, paddle bought at a home supply store.

    • Carol, No crispy underwear in our house & we’ve used this recipe for over 6 years. The washing & baking sodas both have a softening property. So that that may be the answer

    • yes very low suds, very effective in HE machines. I have been using it for about 5 years. If family members have allergies, leave out Borax and double amount of laundry soda.Use any soap that your family is not allergic to.

  39. To make this laundry soap recipe, how much of each of the four products mentioned in this article should be included…all of each?

    • I use dry version:
      using same scoop for all, equal amounts of arm & hammer and borax–grate fels naptha in until you have a pretty combination!!!!!

    • Paul, Thanks for the question. Each measurement is in the article. But next time I will put ingredients in recipe form to make it easier to see at a glance

  40. I prefer the powdered version just mixing dry ingredients including oxygen cleaner…( loses effectiveness in liquid product)It does not have to be re mixed time and again. I store powdered detergent in old liquid detergent containers, and use small scoop from oxygen cleaner as amount for most loads…less for lightly soiled, and more for heavily soiled. Using home made detergents cut our laundry costs by 2/3.

    • Tater 59, Thanks for sharing your positive experience! I too prefer the powder. It’s easier to make and store.

    • JJ, It was only the Washing Soda with a split box seam, stored about 6 months that turned into a solid block…… Not the completed detergent.

  41. as a single man I average 2 loads per week…I use Arm & Hammer liquid & always buy it on sale…the cost breakdown is less then 6 cents per load( $2.99 for 50 loads) thats 12 cents /wk times 52 wks equals $6.24 a year…and look at all time I save for more important things in life & prepping then making my own soap… I currently have a 4 year supply of soap

  42. My daughter in law has allergies specially fragrances. I wonder whether you could use Kirks castle soap in place of the Zote brand of soap. It comes with a mild fragrance and no fragrance. I want to make some of this as I sometimes are bothered with itching skin. It sounds like it would be great for all.

    ;Your words of wisdom are worth so much


    • Ellie, Kirks castile would be fine to use in place of zote especialy if you know it works well for your daughter. Dr. Bonner’s soap is natural and good too. So happy that you’re going give it a try.

    • Ellie…..make sure to compare the weight (oz.) of Kirks soap bar. It is smaller than Zote so you’ll need to make adjustments.

  43. I once made this recipe and used it faithfully until it was gone. However, I am hesitant to try it again because I noticed a big build up of the soap in the fabric softener dispenser of my washer. It was tedious and messy to get that out.

    Anyone else have this problem? Any advice? I really would love to use the homemade detergent but I worry about my washer.

    • Shalyn, I’ve not had that problem but I can see how it would be worrisome. Did you use liquid or powder? Did you add it right to the water? Or through the softener dispenser? Perhaps the build up was there before you started using the home made soap?? Just baffled at how that could even happen. Sorry I’m not much help…perhaps someone else has the answer..

  44. The original dry version has always been good enough for me.
    1 bar soap grated
    1 cup washing soda (sodium carbonate)
    1 cup borax

    2 tbs per large load, 1 tb small

    Sometimes adding a powder oxygen cleaner (awesome or sun) to the load.

    I did a lot of research on the 3 powders. One thing they have in common, they are activated by water and only effective in water for a certain amount of hours then they become useless. I can only conclude that people using and storing DIY liquid versions are just adding liquid soap and water to their laundry. I would expect resulting in less cleaning performance than the powder versions and a waste of money spent on the “watered down” powder ingredients.

    Also as a result of my research I now have a new and much improved dry version.
    1 bar soap grated
    2 cups Biz Powder
    (contains: borax, sodium carbonate, color safe chlorine free bleach (oxy), enzymes (for protein stains) and detergent). I found 80 oz. box $7-8 online. I never found a review rating less than 5 stars for Biz. Biodegradable and HE washer friendly if that matters to you.

    • Craig, I prefer the powder over the liquid too. You’ve done a lot of searching things out and I’m sure that information will be helpful to all of the BDS reader’s.

  45. Back in the 1980s, phosphates were removed from laundry (and dish) detergents, since it increased algal blooms. Phosphates were extremely effective in mitigating the effects of hard water and stain releasing. Since hard water is common in many rural areas (especially with well water), adding a phosphate will make a big difference. You can still buy Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) at hardware stores and add it to your own wash. It might eliminate the baking soda or one of the other powders. I’ve noticed a difference in my own laundry, even when using a small amount.

    I’ve included a few links on the subject.

    • It was taken out of laundry and dish detergents for a reason- it is bad for the environment.

    • If you have a septic tank that is not exiting onto an open waterway it is not a problem for the environment. It caused algae bloom when the processed water was put into fresh water to be carried to sea. At my house my septic tank is exiting on to a bed of rock with a little sand over the top. It would not be an ecological disaster like we were lead to believe , at my house.

  46. I just made a batch of your Miracle Salve for Christmas gifts and found this recipe. I have wanted to make my own laundry detergent, but I’m concerned the powder will not “melt” since I always wash my clothes in cold water. Does this work well in cold water? I also use a vinegar rinse instead of fabric softener in the washer. Have you used that or maybe it won’t be necessary with this recipe?

    • Dear Ellen,
      Yes it will “melt” in cold water. But here is a caution. Make sure that you air dry the grated soap for 2 days. Then but it into a blender (wear a mask) and make it into a fine powder. It is only when the grated soap is not fine and powdery enough that you could run into a problem. Thanks for commenting. I hope this answers your question and that you have a good experience with this money-saving recipe!

    • Opps Ellen, I forgot to mention the use of vinegar. Yes, I have used vinegar as a rinse in the laundry but now I have switched to using woolen dryer balls with a few drops of lavender or lemon oil on them.
      Long ago I used vinegar and water as a hair rinse and loved it. You’ve inspired me to do that again! Thanks.

    • Thanks for the tip on the soap. I look forward to making some!

      Oh, and I love the Miracle Healing Salve! I was going to give a jar to my sister, but decided to keep it for myself. I am giving a jar to my parents & mother-in-law so I’m sure they’ll love it too. 🙂

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