Homemade Laundry Detergent

OK, I broke down and tried it. I did. I admit it. I tried the homemade laundry detergent. My one word description is: impressive.

Some months back my friend Mel Suderman, wife, mother, homemaker, and librarian, was talking on FB about making homemade laundry detergent and how much money it was saving her. With 5 people and a dog in the family, I know Mel is and experienced laundress. And whats more, she has a husband and son who like to play hard. Like working on cars and driving motorcycles kind of hard. So not only does she do a lot of laundry, she is really dealing with some serious dirt.

She gave me the recipe for the liquid form of the detergent she was brewing up. The ingredients were simple and easily attainable items in the cleaning isle at most stores. Wal-Mart would certainly have everything I needed.

Unscented bar soap, Borax, and Washing Soda.

The recipe Mel gave me was for like 4 gallons of this stuff and I wasn’t sure I really wanted to jump into a batch that size and then discover I didn’t care for the way it performed.

So I started reading on the internet about similar recipes and discovered a few for dry detergents in much smaller batches. All of them contained at least the three ingredients Mel had given me in her recipe.

A few weeks ago, while looking for ways to trim my budget, I came across these detergent recipes. I decided to give it a shot and see what happened. After trying a couple different variations on the recipe, this is what I came up with. (I make it in much larger batches but broke it down in a smaller batch for you to try)

1/3 bar of soap (Ivory, Fels Napfha, or Zote)
1/2 cup Borax (20 Mule Team brand recommended)
1/2 cup washing soda (Arm & Hammer brand recommended)
Do not confuse washing soda with baking soda. They are not the same thing.

Using a cheese grater to grate 1/3 of the bar of soap into a bowl.
Add Borax and washing soda, and stir until bar soap is well broken up and blended completely with dry ingredients.
This is what it is going to look like when it’s all broken up and blended well.
You could actually pulse this in your food processor and break it up much finer. Don’t over process though or it will melt the soap and cause clumping.

The photo shows what it takes to wash 1 load of clothes, 2 tablespoons.

That’s right, 2 tablespoons of this stuff really packs a punch. Extra large or heavily soiled clothes; I use 3 tablespoons.

To compare usage amounts (commercial detergent vs homemade) here’s what a measure of homemade detergent looks like in your commercial laundry scoop.)

Store detergent in a cool dry place in a container with lid. This recipe will fit into a small cottage cheese container or butter bowl.

Variations for this recipe:

  • Add 1/2 cup Clorox all fabric bleach to maintain vibrant colors in your clothing and added stain removal.
  • Add essential oils to scent your detergent.

Although the detergent has a clean fresh smell in the container, your clothes will come out of the wash with the absence of smell. No odor at all. I was amazed.

Here’s the fun part, which totally blows my mind.
Cost of doing a single load of laundry with my store-bought detergent: 63 cents per load.
Cost of doing a single load of laundry with my new homemade detergent: 6 cents per load

Seriously, I am saving 57 cents per load, and with all the laundry I do, that is a substantial savings.

I don’s have a great deal of clothing to wash; just what I wear each day,  and a couple of outfits a week for my grandson, (oh and the occasional visit from one of my sons wanting to do his own laundry. )

But I have several animals which means I go through several blankets, furniture covers, and doggie beds each week. That’s about 6 loads per week right there, and that’s in good weather.

Top that off with my not being a big fan of cramming our landfills full of disposable paper towels, and the mountain of cloth towels and rags I use each week would scare a normal person.

It may not seem like a huge savings, but I will take it where I can get it.

Some discoveries I made while trying out these recipes:

  • Aside from being seriously economical, this detergent is safer to both the environment and you, than any commercial detergent! This mix contains no dyes, perfumes, or other components to irritate skin or pollute the environment.
  • During the month I have used this detergent my dog has not had any mysterious break outs. (She’s allergic to everything including commercial laundry detergent apparently.)
  • I have had no dry itchy skin.
  • My clothes all look and smell clean. I worried about the dog bedding not coming clean and smelling fresh but I was pleasantly surprised. There was absolutely no smell in the bedding what so ever.
  • I gave some of the detergent to a friend of mine who cannot use any detergents with any kind of perfume in them. it causes her respiratory distress. After trying out this detergent she says she will never buy laundry detergent in the store again. She has had no allergy issues with the homemade detergent.
  • A couple of hunters also let me know that the detergent was perfect for their hunting clothes as they want zero scent on them when they go out into the woods.
  • I have not noticed any visible difference in the color of my clothing. Nothing appears to be faded or dull. Whites are still coming out white, colors still bright.
  • I still use fabric softener sheets because I want the softness and a slight scent to my laundry. The scent is much softer from the fabric sheets when using the homemade detergent.
  • If you want to soften your clothes and are not concerned with any scent, use a 1/2 cup white vinegar in your rinse cycle to soften fabric. Your clothes WILL NOT smell like vinegar when they come out of the dryer. They will have no smell at all.
  • When I wash my cleaning rags, I don’t use any fabric softener sheets. This allows me to use cloth rags to clean glass without streaking.
  • Because this detergent requires such a small measure per load, it’s space saving and is convenient for campers, truck drivers, or anyone who travels.
  • This recipe does not create suds and therefore is fine to use in top front loading machines. It is however recommended that you cut the measure in half for front loaders.
  • This recipe would be a perfect money saver for animal rescues and shelters that wash a lot of animal bedding.

Since the dry version of this detergent was such a success, I decided to make a couple of gallons of the liquid version. I stirred it all up tonight and will start using it within the next couple of days. After I have tested it out, I’ll let you know how it goes and give you the recipe for that as well.

Coming up, I’ll share recipes for the following as I have had a chance to try them out thoroughly.

  • Stain remover for the laundry
  • Fabreeze type air and fabric freshener
  • Household bleach cleaner
  • Window and glass cleaner
  • Dishwasher detergent


Day 2 of the original batch of liquid detergent- This batch did not gel or clump up.

I was perplexed because almost every recipe I have read about says the mixture will thicken, gel, clump, separate when gelling, etc. My batch had no clumps, no gel, but was just milky and slightly thicker than water.

That’s actually good btw because it means that I can use it in a spray bottle like a pretreatment (Shout or Spray -N- Wash for example) without messing about with it clumping in the sprayer.

Whatever the issue was with the lack of thickening, I used some of the watery detergent today, washing two stinky, dirty dog beds, and they came out of the wash perfectly clean and smelling….well they had zero smell, so just clean.

It bugged me so much about the gelling thing that I made another batch of liquid detergent tonight. This time I processed it just slightly different.

  1. In the original batch I melted the soap in a little water on the stove  till dissolved.
  2. Then I removed from heat and added the Borax and washing soda into the HOT water with the melted soap.
  3. When everything was dissolved in the pan, I added the soapy mixture into the bucket with the rest of the water.

I also stirred the first batch every couple of hours for about half the 24 hour period it was “curing”. (Never noticing any thickening I might add).

Batch 2:

  1. This time I first dissolved the Borax and the washing soda in the bucket of room temperature water.
  2. Then I added the hot melted soap and water mixture from the stove into the bucket of borax and washing soda mix and stirred.

I even went a step further and once it was mixed I poured this batch into two different containers.

One I have covered and plan to leave alone for 24 hours. The other I’ll stir occasionally to see if I can keep clumps from forming (if it does gel).

Mystery solved.

Adding the Borax and washing soda to the scalding hot melted soap mix in the first batch must be the reason for the mixtures refusal to thicken.

So far that’s the only difference in the batches, and this batch was gelling within minutes of stirring it up. Thickening was actually apparent before I had it all stirred up well.


Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )


Connecting to %s