Laundry Detergent

We have been making our own detergent for the last year or more and it has really worked well for us. I do use some spot remover on chocolate, dirt stains, blood or other such things from having two young boys, but any food marks, oil, yogurt, etc, comes out without a mark. My boys don’t wear much white so I can’t really say how it does with that. I do wear white, though and I feel like they come out just fine!

I really like the idea of making my own because I know what ingredients have been added! And an added benefit is, it’s so much cheaper! I have a cost comparison at the end of the post. It really doesn’t take much time to do; it’s easy and makes a lot, so you don’t have to make it very often. It also does well in my HE, front loading washer since it is a low sudsing detergent.

I use it to wash my cloth diapers as well and feel it does a good job with that too. I do add about ½ cup of vinegar and ½ cup of baking soda to each load of diapers and wash them on hot with a prewash, extra rinse and an additional rinse and spin cycle. (I will have more on cloth diapering and washing later on).

All the ingredients are pretty readily available. I purchased my Borax ($3.99 for 76oz box) and Washing Soda ($2.99 for 55oz box) at Wegmans, but if you don’t have one of these stores close by, there are other options. I found it at [amazon_link id=”B0042UF6JO” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Amazon[/amazon_link] ($6.49 for Borax and $3.25 for Washing Soda) and ($4.95 for Borax). There are also plenty of ways to get discounts and free shipping from both of these sites as well.

So let’s get cooking…

• 3.1 oz bar Ivory soap (Ivory is chosen because it’s all natural. You may use a soap of your choice)
• 1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax
• ½ cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
• Water

• 5 Gallon container
• Knife or potato peeler
• Pot large enough to hold 5 cups of water
• Long stirring stick/spoon (for 5 gallon container)
• 4 cup measure

Shave the soap into small strips and place in the pot with 5 cups of water using the knife or potato peeler. I think the potato peeler works better and makes it smaller so that it melts faster.

Bring the water just shy of a boil and stir until the soap is completely melted.

While the water and soap on the stove is heating, fill the 5 gallon container with 3 gallons of hot tap water, borax and washing soda and mix until completely dissolved. Once all of the soap shavings are melted, pour the mixture into the 5-gallon container. Stir until completely incorporated.

Optional: Essential Oils for fragrance. If you like fragrant detergent now is when you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oils. However, if using this for washing cloth diapers, do not add oils otherwise it will decrease the absorbency of the diapers.

Now you’ve got a huge container of hot soapy looking water. You can either leave it in this container with a lid, or pour it into smaller containers. I have used old gallon milk jugs which work well. I now use old detergent containers from Costco, so they hold about 2 gallons and are easy to dispense. Let it cool overnight before using. Once it’s cooled it will gel. It will not gel uniformly so it will be lumpy and watery. It may not be very attractive, but it works. Be sure to shake or mix well before using. Use ½ cup per laundry load. You should be able to wash 110 loads of laundry.

Cost break down:
As of March 2011, the purchase price for the ingredients are as follows:
• Borax: $4 for 76 oz.

  • Cost per batch: $0.42 (8 oz needed for recipe)

• Washing Soda: $3 for 55 oz.

  • Cost per batch $0.22 (4 oz needed for recipe)

• Ivory Soap: $1.29 for 3 3.1 oz. Bars.

  • Cost per batch: $0.43 (1 bar of soap needed for recipe)

Total cost to make: $1.07
Yield: 440 oz.
Cost per oz. = .00243
Cost per ½ cup (4oz) = .00972 or rounded to .01 cent per load

How does that compare to your store-bought detergent? I know I purchased a container of Kirkland brand environmentally friendly laundry detergent for HE washers from Costco for $17 for 170oz which is 110 loads which is a good price. At that cost it would be about $0.16 a load! Doesn’t even come anywhere close to as good a deal as making my own or as safe!

7 thoughts on “Laundry Detergent

  1. WOW, that is awesome Bethanie! I’ve been looking for a good recipe. Thanks for posting. With the amount of laundry we do as a family of 6 with one in cloth diapers I LOVE the cost comparison here! I will most definitely be trying this once my laundry detergent runs out!


  2. I just made this homemade laundry detergent and it feels great to have saved so much $$! It was SO easy! Thank you for sharing this!

    I’ve been waiting till my store bought detergent was done to make this. I reused my store bought detergent containers and refilled them with my new homemade detergent. I even used a free bar of ivory soap from one of my husband’s business’ overnight hotel stay so I saved a bit there too. 😉 …THANK YOU!


    1. I’m so glad it was helpful for you! 😉 I hope you continue to be satisfied with it! Looks like your batch was extra economical! 😉


    1. I have tried the dry version, but it doesn’t work very well with our front loader. I’ve found much better results having it in liquid form. I wish I could do that version though… it would be a lot easier and quicker!


  3. I used a cheese grater . . . The lg. 4 sided ones to grate my soap and it was so much quicker and even were smaller pieces then when I used the potato peeler. . . . Just an idea.


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