Frugal DIY: How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

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Have you ever wondered how to make h0memade laundry detergent in your own home? If so, you are in luck! The initial investment is about $11 for the first 5 gallons, but after that, you will have Borax and Washing Soda left over and will only have to buy the bar of soap.  To make it easier to stir, you may want to try a drill attachment for stirring paint.

Here is what you will need:

  • 4 Cups – hot tap water
  • 1 Fels-Naptha soap bar – $0.97
  • 1 Cup – Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda *It must be sodium carbonate!! – $3.24
  • ½ Cup 20 Mule Team Borax – $2.98
  • 5 Gallon bucket with lid (about $2.75)

We have found all these at Wal-mart. If they are out, Ace Hardware is the next best place to find look.

Here’s how you put it all together:

Shred bar of soap (we like to use a cheese grater) and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

  1. Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken. (It will gel.)
  2. Stir once again and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser. Shake before each use.
  3. Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.
Remember the FREE $10 VitaCost credit through this link?  You can order essential oils there for as low as $2.08, so grab a few bottles for FREE just pay the $4.99 shipping!

Suggested Measurements

  • Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)
  • Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

Leave a Comment


  1. I began making my own detergent when my youngest was an infant. He was allergic to many commercial detergents and didn’t have a reaction to this mixture and we had clean clothes. He is no longer allergic but I can’t justify spending $20.00 on detergent while this works and is so inexpensive. I spend about $20.00 a year to make my detergent. I make it in a powder form and it only take 1 Tbsp per load of laundry. I used to use the liquid but took too much space to store it. I will never buy detergent again.

    • Margaret Wiggins says:

      Hi, Jennifer. Wow! the powder form of detergent sounds great. Where do I find the recipe? Thanks, in advance. Margaret Wiggins

  2. natasha says:

    is this a good thing for children that have sensitive skin and eczema? I was thinking about making my own, with 4 kids, laundry adds up but im unsure if its safe for my kids. They break out with everything, i have to do everything unsented and no dye. What do you think?

  3. Natasha, I have the same question, my daughter has eczema and I am wondering if homemade laundry detergent would work for us.

  4. Lexe Wilson says:

    I made this detergent a while back and have had no problems out of it. My husband roofs houses so his clothes are covered in sweat, chalk dust, shingle grit, and lords knows what else. So I add some oxi-clean to mine. Now he tells me that his clothes are making him itch. Anyone have an idea of what I can change or add/remove that may help?

  5. For those that have skin irritations to Fels Naptha, use can substitute a bar of Ivory soap or Dr. Bronner’s in any scent. Works just as well.

  6. Verna Dayton says:

    For the powder recipe I use the following-
    1 75 oz 20 mule team borax
    1 55 oz arm & hammer washing soda
    2 bars fels-naptha (can use ivory soap)
    1 64 oz baking soda
    1 28 oz crystals fabric softener
    1 48 oz oxyclean
    grate the soap and mix all ingredients in a large container. Use 2TBSP per load. I use a 20 quart tub with lid to mix and store mine in. This lasts almost 4 months for my family but we also do a lot of laundry each week (20+ loads).
    I have also read on some sites where women have said if clothes are oily or greasy to add a 12 oz can of Coca-Cola to the wash. I have not tried this so don’t know how well it works.

  7. Nioka Kitchens says:

    My husband is a crane mechanic so you can imagine how dirty and smelly he gets. I haven’t tried the homemade detergent yet but I do add 2-12oz cans of original coke to his laundry and believe me it works. Sometimes it did not get rid of all of the diesel smell so I started adding 1 cup of vinegar to the wash. End result is clean,fresh clothes for my hard working man. :)

  8. I am new to the site and am enjoying it the ideas. Regarding detergents, I’d like to share my success. I have had great results with Shaklee’s laundry detergent which I have been using for just about 34 years. I never had any allergic problems or skin irritations and I recommend it constantly. As a Certified Nutrition Counselor, I run into the problem of toxic chemicals in people’s homes all the time and every cleaner that comes from this company is easy, clean and well, cheap.

    One thing that I suggest to consumers is to try to stop buying from publically traded companies – they don’t always have the consumer’s best interests as their intent for selling products. I love to support small business. Blessings to everyone. Georgia

  9. RE: allergies— the fabric softener is the most likely culprit for skin allergies. I am a pharmacist & see this fairly often.

  10. I would just like to mention that I get asthma from the dust and fragrance of Fels-Naptha. Even while wearing a dust mask. Otherwise the detergent is great.

    I grated an unscented Canus soap for making the next batch and had no problems.

  11. This is not’s soap. Fels Naptha is a very soap that is a skin irritant. No wonder the woman’s ”girl part” was irritated after wearing clothes washed in this stuff. Your recipe will fade the hell out of clothes. Maybe ok for washing shop rags and overalls but for street clothes, forget it. I also bet this stuff needs hot water to do a decent job. Modern laundry detergents, as opposed to soaps, do much of their work by enzyme action, not harsh surfractants. You may save a few pennies on your soap/detergent but you will pay big money in clothes you have to replace because they are faded and the surface texture damaged.


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