Sunday, October 30, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

One of the ways that I have saved money since I got married in March is by making my own laundry detergent. I save quite a substantial amount of money here, probably spending about $1 per batch of 5 gallons. Amazing, right?

My husband wears a white uniform to work every day, so I know what it is like to clean stains! This detergent really keeps everything very clean, and is great at getting stains out. It also does not leave my clothing perfumed. I never realized how used to perfumed laundry I was until I started using homemade soap! When I fold my laundry and give it a big wiff, I smell.... nothing. My clean clothes smell like nothing and I have actually started to really like that.

This recipe will take you about 20 minutes total to make and store (It has to set overnight, so it takes about 10 minutes one day and then 10 minutes the next). Give it a try! I have found it works the same (if not better) than store bought detergent. I don't use liquid fabric softener, but have found that dryer sheets from the dollar store (check out my post about the best dollar store deals HERE work really well.

Also, I make a half-batch which results in 5 total gallons (2.5 gallons concentrated) of detergent. If you need the full 10 gallon recipe, double everything I say below.

Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda 
1/4 cup Borax
1/2 Fels-Naptha bar

You can find these in the laundry aisle of most large grocery stores

The total cost for all of these ingredients is about $5-$6

First, grate half of the Fels-Naptha bar into a bowl or directly into a metal pot. I use the smallest grater because it takes less time to melt that way.

I store the rest of the bar in a plastic bag until I make soap again. If you want to make the full 10 gallons, grate the entire bar.

Pour the grated bar into a metal pot and add about 2 cups of hot water. Turn the heat on medium and start stirring. Do not stop stirring until all of the pieces of soap have melted. This should take about 5 minutes. (if it starts boiling, turn the head down).
After the soap pieces have melted, turn off stove.

Next, get out a bucket to mix your detergent. For my recipe, I use a 3 gallon bucket, but if you are making the full 10 gallon recipe, you will need a 5 gallon bucket.

Pour the Borax and Super Washing Soda into the bucket. Next, pour in your melted soap from the stove.

Start filling up the bucket with hot tap water. I usually fill it about half-way.

After you have filled the bucket half-way, stir for a few minutes or until all of the powder has been dissolved. Then fill the bucket the rest of the way with water, stirring occasionally to ensure the detergent is mostly homogeneous.

I aim to make 5 gallons, so I fill the buck to the 2.5 gallon mark. If you are aiming to make 10 gallons, fill your 5 gallon bucket to the top.

Place your bucket somewhere safe (where it won't get knocked over) and cover it. My bucket doesn't have a lid, so I cover it with aluminum foil. Leave it overnight.

The next day, gather some containers for your detergent concentrate. I store mine in 3 old milk jugs. If you have a bucket with a lid, you may choose to just store your concentrate in the bucket.

Uncover your concentrate and you may be shocked to find what looks like a bucket full of jellied buggars. Start to stir and break up the detergent, breaking up some of the larger clumps.

You may also notice that there are whitish streaks in the detergent. This is fine and will break down after storage and a bit of shaking. 

I use an old measuring cup to help get the detergent into my storage containers. I hold the milk jugs over the bucket and start pouring detergent in. This process takes 5-10 minutes. 

You may not believe it, but you are now finished. To use your detergent, I recommend using an old laundry detergent dispenser. I fill it up half-way with concentrate from the milk jugs, and half with water. This will yield a watery, low-suds detergent. Before every use, shake up the dispenser. You will notice all the clumps will go away after this. I use about a cup per load (maybe a little less).

These 5 gallons of detergent (2.5 gallons watered down before use) last us about 2-3 months.


  1. I've been using a variant of this recipe for over a year now- my husband calculated the other day that I spend around 1-2c per load. Ridiculous!
    It's been great for washing cloth nappies too.

  2. You actually skip the adding water part and save time and space - I used this recipe for years, and then read about justing using the powder. Now, I grate 2 bars of soap (I use Ivory usually, because it's cheap) and then using a spoon or potato masher to pound it into a fine powder, then add two cups washing soda, and two cups borax. I also usually add 1/2 cup powdered oxy-clean, and then I mix it all up, and keep it in a big jar. I use one heaping tablespoon per load. This recipe lasts me months and months. It takes less time to make, isn't messy and takes up far, far less space than the liquid, and avoids the problem I always encountered with the liquid, was near the bottom of the bucket, the solids were mostly gone, and the soap didn't work as well.


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