Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

Making your own laundry detergent sounds intimidating, but it’s one of the easiest things you can do!  If you know how to use a cheese grater and a measuring cup, you can make your own detergent.  The best part is, this stuff works BETTER than the stuff you buy in the store, and for fraction of the cost.  There are three simple steps to the process – grate & melt the soap, combine with washing soda and borax, and add water.  That’s it!  This recipe makes 5 gallons of concentrated detergent, which you’ll further dilute to make 10 gallons of ready-to-use laundry detergent.


Here’s what you need:

1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap ($3.11)

1 cup of Arm & Hammer washing soda (NOT baking soda) 3.97

¾ cup of Borax 3.97

Essential oils of your choice (optional)

Cheese grater


Long-handled spoon or stirring utensil

5 gallon bucket with lid (gamma lid is best, available at your local home improvement store)

Just a couple of notes before we proceed further: 

Fels-Naptha soap and Arm & Hammer washing soda are both available at your local Wal-Mart in the laundry aisle.  If you can’t find Fels-Naptha, Ivory soap works just fine, too!  

For this recipe, you MUST use washing soda (sodium carbonate).  You cannot substitute baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).   It is possible to make washing soda from baking soda, but we’ll cover that in a later post.  Baby steps!

Making this detergent is simple, I promise!

  1. Grate soap & melt on stove

First, grate the bar of soap and place shavings into a medium pan and add enough water to cover the soap shavings.  Heat the soap mixture gently over a medium-low flame, while stirring regularly with a whisk, until the soap dissolves.  Depending on your stove, this may take anywhere from 15-30 minutes.  While the soap is melting, add 1 cup of washing soda and ¾ cup of borax to the bottom of your 5 gallon bucket.  It’s best to keep your bucket on the floor as it will get very heavy!

     2. Combine soap with borax and washing soda

Once all soap chunks have disintegrated and your soap mixture is completely smooth, turn off the heat and pour the soap mixture into the bucket.  Whisk the mixture quickly, dissolving the borax and washing soda completely.  Add hot water from your tap (as hot as possible!) and keep stirring.  I use a long-handled spoon for this, but you can use anything that reaches the bottom of the bucket and can handle the hot mixture.  I’ve even used a mortar paddle attached to the cordless drill!  Fill your bucket close to the top with hot water, while stirring.

     3. Let sit overnight

You’ve filled your bucket, now snap or twist on the lid, and let the detergent sit overnight to congeal.  I use a five gallon bucket with a gamma lid for my detergent because it’s water-tight and prevents spills, but any tight-fitting lid will work just fine… just don’t tip the bucket!

4. Stir, add scent, and fill smaller containers

The next morning you’ll take off the lid and stare at your congealed detergent and wonder if you’ve made a mistake.  You haven’t!  It’s supposed to look like globs of snot.  Give it a good stir with whatever long-handled thing you were using the night before to break up most of the globs.  At this point, your detergent is done, but I prefer to take it a step further.  I add scent and dilute it so that it’s not gloppy but a nice, smooth liquid.

Simply fill whatever laundry detergent container or plastic jar with lid you’d like to use halfway with glop.  Add very hot water to fill the remainder of your container.  Add essential oils for scent – I love to use 10 drops of rosemary, and 10 drops of lavender in our 1 gallon containers, but feel free to experiment and use whatever scents you prefer.  Now give it a good shake, and your detergent is ready to use!.

To Use This Laundry Detergent

Shake up your container before measuring out liquid.  Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup to your load in the wash.  This detergent is safe to use in HE washers, too!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s