Frugal DIY: How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

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)


  1. LeAnna McAllister via Facebook says

    I’ve been making my own laundry soap for over a year now and will NEVER go back! It’s fabulous! and super cheap!

  2. Jennifer says

    I love making homemade laundry soap. I usually add a scoop of oxi-clean to each load to give it a little extra boost. I also use gallon milk jugs to store my laundry detergent in. I like to make a couple batches and have 8-10 gallons ready to go. I also use 1 bar of Ivory soap (slightly cheaper) and haven’t noticed any difference. Thanks for the great reminder of this money-saving tip!

  3. says

    YES!!! I’ve been making it for 2 1/2 yrs. Won’t go back to store bought. I have allergies and this hasn’t bothered me at all. I make the recipe that is 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha, 1/2 C each of borax, washing soda, and baking soda. Makes 2 gallons. I always make a double batch. It takes just as long.

  4. Cate Florey via Facebook says

    I’ve been making my own as well for several years now- works great! We add essential oil (tea tree or lavender). If your store doesn’t carry the super washing soda ask the manager to order it for you- most will.

  5. Mandy Halverson via Facebook says

    I have to make mine tonight … or tomorrow. Just ran out! 5 gallons lasts a looooong time. Even with 7 people living in the house. Yay!!

    • Cindy says

      Yes, if you search online you can find the amt to use in HE machines. My friend made some and loves it. I haven’t tried it yet but plan to when we’ve moved. I have HE machines. I just can’t remember exactly how much you use.

    • LeAnna McAllister says

      Yup! Fill it half way up with tap water, then stir in the melted soap mixture, and then fill up the bucket (just remember to allow for stirring room)

  6. Kelly Szeto via Facebook says

    That’s awesome! This is my first time hearing about this. My son has very sensitive skin and only uses arm and hammer detergent because it’s fragrance free. I’ll definitely give it a try.

    • LeAnna McAllister says

      Kelly, that is the reason I started making my own. The Arm and Hammer was the ONLY detergent I could use until this. My kids finally have smooth skin again :)

  7. Mandy Halverson via Facebook says

    Tara ~ YES! I use it in our HE washing machine!

    The key to HE soap is that it needs to produce a very very low amount of suds because it doesn’t use as much water. This homemade soap produces practically NO suds whatsoever. So, it is just fine to use. I’ve been using it for our HE washing machine for quite some time now … without problems!

    Hope that helps!

  8. Shannon says

    Can you replace the Fels soap bar referenced in the recipe with a different brand and if so what works best? This is awesome.

    • Lynne says

      You can use ZOTE (I’ve found at the 99 cent store) or ivory bars as well – you just want to make sure that you’re using real soap, not a “moisturizing bar” or something like that. I’ve used all three in my powdered detergent and like them all.

  9. Tara Pippin via Facebook says

    How about the quality of the wash? I am kind of picky with my detergants, but am thinking of doing this, how does it compare to tide with getting the stains out?

  10. Mandy Halverson via Facebook says

    Tara ~ In my opinion, I don’t think it cleans as well as Tide. But, it’s good enough for me! :) I do pre-wash stain treatments as needed and sometimes use oxy-clean as well for a boost.

    Also, there is no smell with the homemade soap. The clothes just come out smelling … clean. No perfume smell. I like having a good smell, so I often use a liquid fabric softener in our wash cycle to help with that. (not to mention we hang dry all of our clothes here in Hawaii, so I want them to be soft with having to use the dryer).

    I still love Tide, but don’t use it anymore because of the cost. The amount of money we used to buy laundry soap is now saved since making your own soap is so inexpensive!

    Go ahead and try it! If you don’t like it, you didn’t invest THAT much money into it! If you like it, you’ll save yourself A LOT of money down the road.

    Have fun!

  11. Jolene says

    On the tv show “20 Kids & Counting” I watched the Duggar family make their own soap, and they have to be frugal. This is an ambitious endeavor.

  12. says

    YES! I make my own laundry detergent and will NEVER buy it from the store again! Our clothes are super clean and my initial $10 investment for our small family of 2 has lasted over a year. My 5 gallon bucket will most likely last us 18 months! I use white vinegar as our fabric softener and it works fabulously well!

    Next up: Dishwashing Detergent… anyone know of any good recipes for that?

    • Kelly Chadic says

      I have tried and tried to make dishwasher soap that works well. It is borax, washing soda and citric acid in most recipes but after a few washes (even with vinegar in the rinse compartment) the glasses become very cloudy. I decided that since I really only need about a Tablespoon of storebought powder, it is not such a terrible expense and worth it to have clear glasses…

  13. says

    When I made our own detergent last year for the first time, I was SHOCKED at how little time it took (and how EASY it was and how LONG the soap lasts and how CLEAN our clothes are!) No brainer! I’ll never buy Tide again!

  14. Kelly Chadic says

    I like to make the powdered version – it takes up way less space. I just pulse the soap bar in the blender (I have used Dr. Bronners, Burt’s Bees, Fels Naptha, Zote, Yardley’s – .69 at Walgreens today) to pulverize it and then add the borax and washing soda and blitz again. It becomes very powdery and dissolves easily. The clothes are clean with both liquid or solid. I use a scant Tablespoon in the wash compartment and a little less in the pre-wash compartment of my HE washer.

  15. Lacy Dill via Facebook says

    I have been using homemade detergent for almost 3 years and it has been an awesome blessing!! And I have an HE machine and I have had zero problems..hth!

  16. Chantell Fithian via Facebook says

    I just bough castille soap and am going to make some tonight. I am not using borax though, I want to stay away from that. So glad others are doing homemade laundry soap too!

  17. Cindy says

    Yes, if you search online you can find the amt to use in HE machines. My friend made some and loves it. I haven’t tried it yet but plan to when we’ve moved. I have HE machines. I just can’t remember exactly how much you use.
    BTW, these are great prices on the ingredients. I live in WA state and searched out the ingredients. The Fels Naptha was almost $3/bar!!

  18. Carson says

    My recipe calls for 1-2 Tbs of Dawn dishwashing detergent…the blue stuff. Stir it in with all the other powdered stuff. It acts as a degreaser.
    And while the homemade stuff does NOT (not matter what I pretreat with) get out that ground-in red-sliding-into-home-base baseball dirt (or the center-field-diving-for-catches grass stains, for that matter…lol) it still is WONDERFUL stuff for regular old laundry!

  19. Suzy Rodriguez via Facebook says

    LOVE our homemade laundry detergent. We have been using it for a few months and it is wonderful!

  20. Kris says

    Ug. Guess I’m a lone wolf here but ummm… yeah no. Not happening. Grate a bar of soap with a cheese grater?! I don’t even like grating CHEESE with a cheese grater. LOL. Plus I can get detergent pre-made for about the same cost so why bother? I’d need to see a real savings to make up for the time spent.

    • Sharon says

      I used my Cuisinart and grated the bar in about 60 seconds (that even includes cutting it in thirds). Even the cheap detergent isn’t as cheap as this is….because it makes SO much!…I can’t wait to try it tomorrow after it gels

  21. mary says

    anybody know who has the best prices on borax and washing soda? It’s not always easy to find, and I’ve noticed the prices have gone up at the stores I shopped before.

  22. Laura says

    My mixture is really runny. After it cooled, there was some gelling. But then I stirred it again and it looks more like runny egg whites. Normal?? Do I need to add more of something?

  23. Buffy says

    The only bad thing I’ve noticed about using homemade is that the clothes don’t get their shape back as well as they do with store bought laundry soap, pants stay baggy and shirts sometimes look stretched out. Used one batch, have enough for another…gonna use it up then go back to regular for a while and see if I notice a difference or if its just a figment of my imagination. Anyone else notice that?

  24. cj says

    Sorry… what I meant was I love the dishwasher detergent recipe! AND, I would like to see a rinse agent. LOL =)

  25. Cindy says

    My husband and I really love the powder version and the scent of Fels- Naptha. Had no isses with our HE washer. BUT (1) after washing a load of red clothes, they seemed faded and (2) I’ve been wondering why my “girl part” has been irritated the past two days…it’s the homemade detergent! Oh well, I tried!

  26. Jennifer says

    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

  27. 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?

  28. Sheri says

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

  29. 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?

  30. Raegan says

    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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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. :)

  33. says

    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

  34. cynthia says

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

  35. Jennifer says

    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.

  36. Johnson says

    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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