Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I made laundry detergent.

This is an item I typically buy.  I may not buy it any more.

Why Homemade?

  • It’s Healthier
  • Unbelievably Easy to make
  • Crazy Cheap
  • And It works!

I have always been more concerned with what goes “in” my body.  This can be in the form of what I eat, what I drink and what I smear all over the outside of my body.

I know that cleaning supplies have an effect on my environment and my health, so I’m growing in that area.

I own some cool “silver” threaded cloths that clean surfaces with just water.  I use things like vinegar and laundry bars around my house for deep cleaning.  I use essential oils to make all things fresh and fabulous.

BUT, I’ve always bought laundry detergent.

Most conventional laundry detergents do not list ingredients on their products.  This is concerning.  I know that many of them contain chemicals, fragrances, sulfates and icky things that can make me sick.  I am quite certain that making my own laundry detergent will be a healthier choice.

A reader sent me a note about homemade laundry detergent & asked if I made any and what recipe I used.  She had tried to make her own and had mixed results.  I told her I’d give it a whirl & report back.

I tried to be thorough with this experiment.

After much research and investigation I decided to use WellnessMama’s recipe.  Then I tweaked it.  It just wasn’t “strong” enough to get pig out of my clothes.  I increased the amount of soapy stuff in order to get the job done around here.  Her original recipe can be found here and is probably perfect for normal people who don’t swim with pigs.  Ugh.

If you don’t like Borax, laundry bars and washing soda – you won’t like this.  That’s all that’s in it.  I know there’s some debate on Borax.  I decided that Borax is naturally sourced and it’s going to be a lot better than whatever is in Tide or Cheer, so I’m using it.

laundry 4 Collage

Borax, Laundry Bar (your choice) and Washing Soda (salt & limestone).  That’s all you need.  What is amazing is that you will only spend $9 and the amount of Laundry Detergent you are about to make is mind-boggling.

You will only use 1 bar of soap and a fraction of these boxes to make over 4 gallons of detergent!!

Seriously, this stuff will cost you about $5 to make a batch (over 4 gallons).

I may never buy laundry detergent again.

laundry collage 1

First, we must grate/dissolve/melt the laundry bar in some water.  I used a cheese grater to shred the thing into smithereens & added it to 2 quarts of water.  Heat on stove top until all the bits of soap are all dissolved.  I stirred it occasionally.

laundry 2 Collage

Now grab a clean 5 gallon bucket.  It will need a lid later on.  Add 4 gallons of hot tap water.  Stir in: 1 & 1/2 Cup Borax, 1 &  1/2 Cup Washing Soda and the melted Laundry Bar.

laundry 12

This is what is going to happen to your laundry detergent as it sits.  It is turning into gel and foam.  This is normal… I think.

Now, this is important…..

Cover lightly (that says “lightly” not “tightly“) and let this sit overnight.

I’m not sure what happens in the middle of the night, but believe me, something does.

If your lid is on too tight you may have an explosion of foamy stuff erupt out of your 5 gallon bucket.  Don’t ask me how I know this….

So, covered (so nothing can fall in), but not air tight (so whatever needs to escape can).

laundry 10

In the morning all you will see is this.  A bunch of foamy stuff in your 5 gallon bucket.  What you can’t see is the separation.

Under all that foam is a thick gel-like liquid.  We must mix this up.

laundry 11

I used a whisk, but it all separated again when left to sit.  
laundry 3 Collage

I read that if you blend it with an emulsifier it will stay combined and not separate.

So, I tried that.

Guess what?
laundry 16

It separated again.  

It’s OK.  We’re just gonna have to shake it up before each use.

Now, let’s see if this stuff can clean!

I did 4 loads of laundry with my new detergent the first day.

I have done at least 30 loads of laundry with my homemade detergent at the point of writing this.

I should tell you that I have a real washing machine that uses plenty of water.  I do not have a “High Efficiency” washing machine…

This recipe is safe for H.E. Washers – I just don’t have one.

I have used HE Washers.  My personal opinion is that they don’t work.  lol.  At least, they don’t work for me.

When there is sunscreen on my towels, the towels come out of the H.E. washer still smelling like sun block.  When there is cologne on my clothes, the clothes still smell like cologne when they come out of the H.E. washer.  When the clothes are covered in mud, the entire load comes out of the H.E. washer dingey.  Yuck.

I don’t want to have to rinse all the dirt off my kids clothes in the back yard before I wash them (which is what I have to do when using a H.E. washer).  I just want to wash them.

You may have had a positive H.E. experience.  I may be using the wrong H.E. Washers (I’ve tried 3).  The bottom line is that we get really messy and need a washer that can clean really, dirty clothes.

I should also note that I am all for H.E. appliances.  I have H.E. dish washers (yes, we have two).  We have a H.E. refrigerator and freezer.  I just haven’t found a H.E. washing machine that works for our clothes.


This is what my laundry looks like on a pretty regular basis.  In order to clean this, you need water…. lots of water.

Here’s what I learned using Homemade Laundry Detergent:

  1. It cleans  — Most remarkable and notable was how well it cleaned my clothes.  It got the pig out.  It got the smells out.  It even got a coffee stain out of a shirt that my conventional detergent didn’t.  It works!
  2. It doesn’t smell — If you want your laundry to smell like flowers and rainbows, this is not going to do it.  Your laundry won’t smell like pig anymore, but it won’t smell good either.  If you want your clothes to smell good you’re going to have to throw something else in there (like lots of essential oils).
  3. I needed to use more than the 1/2 Cup per load.  Yup.  I had to dump at least a cup into each load.  Depending on how dirty your laundry is you may be able to get away with the recommended 1/2 a cup per load.

Overall, I think my Homemade Laundry Detergent was a roaring success.  It cleaned my clothes.  It’s healthier. It’s practically free.  It’s homemade.

My only complaint is the smell (or lack of).  I like things that smell nice.  I enjoy clothes and laundry that smell fresh.  Homemade laundry detergent does not provide the joy of lovely, freshly-scented clothes.  Homemade Laundry Detergent will clean your clothes.  It will get the pig, dirt, mud and farm out of your clothes.  However, it will not make your clothes smell nice.

After using homemade laundry detergent your clothes will not smell like “fresh linen.”  After using homemade laundry detergent your clothes will smell like… your couch.  

Who wants to smell like a couch?

Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Laundry Detergent

  • 1 & 1/2 Cup Washing Soda
  • 1 & 1/2 Cup Borax
  • 1 Bar Soap
  • Water

Grate a bar of soap into 2 quarts of water.  Heat on stovetop until dissolved.  Stirring occasionally.  Fill 5 gallon bucket with 4 gallons of hot tap water.  Stir in 1 & 1/2 cup of borax and 1 & 1/2 cup of Washing Soda until completely dissolved.  Add melted bar soap mixture into the 5-gallon bucket. Stir.

Loosely cover and leave overnight.  Stir the next morning until smooth and pour into containers if desired.

Directions:  Use 1/2 to 1 cup per load.  (I use 1 cup or more depending on the dirt situation.)

Pour detergent directly on stains to pre-treat.

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Happy Washing!


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