Frugal DIY: Homemade Laundry Detergent

What You'll Need to Make Homemade

One of the most popular threads on the Mommysavers Discussion Forums has been how to make homemade laundry detergent.   It’s a frugal DIY project that so many of our members have discovered to help save loads and loads of money (pun intended).

Our member Ellie Mae describes how she does makes her own homemade laundry detergent and answers reader questions here:  Savings on Homemade Laundry Detergent is HUGE!.  Ellie Mae estimates that with each detergent batch she makes at home, she saves over $40.

Here are her Homemade Laundry Detergent instructions so you can make it at home too:

  • 2 Bars of Lever 2000 Soap (Ellie Mae has used Coast and Dial soaps, but found that Lever 2000 works the best)
  • 1 cup of Borax (20 Mule Team Borax, which can be found in a big box store or grocery store in the laundry aisle)
  • 2 cups of Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer)
  • 5 gallon bucket with lid

Using a grater or knife shred the bars of soap.  Boil 8 cups of water.   After the water is boiling, slowly add the shredded soap.  Be careful so it doesn’t boil over. Reduce heat and stir until soap shavings have dissolved (about 5 minutes or so).

Put 3 gallons of water in bucket, add borax and washing soda then stir. Add the soapy hot water to bucket and stir again. Cover and let sit for 24 hours.  Standard washing machines require one cup per load.



    • ellie mae says

      I haven’tn used this in that type of machine but it is a no suds detergent and I have been told it works in a high effeciency washer

    • ellie mae says

      Washing soda is not baking soda. It can be found in the lauhdry aisle. If you can’t find it you can find it on the internet under arm&

    • Julie says

      It’s different from baking soda, but if you can’t find it in stores, you can make it out of baking soda. Pour baking soda on a cookie sheet (the amount you need to use in the recipe or you could just make an entire batch) and heat it in the oven at 36o degrees farenheit for one hour. It will create washing soda by removing the moisture and carbon dioxide from the baking soda. I find that this is probably a cheaper way since you have to buy one less ingredient. It also saves on the shipping fees if you have to order washing soda.

    • Becky says

      You can add a scent. I add tea tree oil the next morning after making it, ten drops to the 5 gallon pail. I also have the high efficiency washer and have made my own soap for over a year now.

  1. Dawnn says

    Essential oils like lavender, tea tree, or orange can be added to it, but you aren’t going to still be able to smell it when the laundry is dry. This recipe does work with high efficiency washers, but does not work well with very hard well water. In order to make it work for us we had to add citric acid and tri-sodium phosphate (which is really bad for the environment).

  2. Sarah Penn says

    I don’t have room for a 5 gallon bucket… so I use a powdered version of this. I use felznaptha for the soap, or Dr Bronner’s peppermint if I’m feeling like spending the extra $2-3. The recipe I use is found here:

    I have an HE washer and use about 1 TBSP per load. If I feel my clothes need extra softening I use white vinegar in the softener dispenser. Once I run out of prespot I will be using a dampned felznaptha bar and rub it on the stain. I hear it works wonders! 😉

  3. Jaimie says

    this can be used in HE washers, I’ve made this and used it in mine and i LOVE it! Baking soda and washing soda are the same just different. I found online that if you have baking soda and you ‘boil’ just with no water it turns to washing soda its just way easier to buy washing soda. you could add a sent to it just depends on the type of soap you use. For me it was easier to use something with a soft sent and use a stronger scented fabric softener and it works wonderfully! you can also look up recipes for fabric softener. One i saw recently used hair conditioner as a base so you just pick your favorite smell and go from there! hope this helps everyone!

  4. Lee says

    I have found that adding scent doesn’t work very well. It leaves an oil on your clothes.. Not very pretty! 🙂 Find a soap that you like the smell of and use that! Or add a fabric softener in the wash to add a scent.

    I use my homemade detergent in my HE washer. I have for years!

    I use
    1/4 bar Zote laundry soap (finely grated with a cheese grater)
    1 cup borax
    1 cup Super Washing Soda (I can only find it at Wegmans)
    1 gallon of water

    boil in a large pot until soap is completely dissolved. remove from heat and allow to cool and thicken some.

    I then pour the soap into 3-2 liter soda bottles and fill them the rest of the way with tap water. Cap them and gently mix.

    I use 1/4 cup for each HE load.

  5. Pam says

    How gentle are the homemade laundry soaps on clothes? I have been wanting to make my own laundry detergent for a long time but have been a little hesitant, since I don’t want to harm my clothes. (Once I bought some liquid that was supposed to be like Woolite at the dollar store, and it shrank my clothes!)

    • rhonda says

      Pam this is very close to the recipe that my Granny had when I was young, in which I have made for years. BUT it is harsh or its strong stuff, it will fade your clothes over time. I use it on towels,rugs,bed linens, my husband work clothes. The things that don’t fade easy, the first time I use it was about 30 years ago and my bab’ys clothes faded quick and he broke out in a rash from useing it so just be careful what you use it on. I do love it I save a lot of money but I like the tide active for my good clothes

  6. Maria J says

    I used a small bottle of Gain dish liquid instead of the gratted soap, and liked it alot more.

  7. Theresa Vincent says

    I tried the following recipe:

    1/4 bar Zote laundry soap (finely grated with a cheese grater)
    1 cup borax
    1 cup Super Washing Soda
    1 cup oxi-clean
    I wanted very badly for this to work. Maybe on adult clothing, but for children who play outside and get dirty, I found the homemade versions useless. My sis-in-law tried as well and arrived at the same conclusion. I was so disappointed because I really wanted this to work!

  8. Diane Palermo says

    I make this dry. I have been using it for about 3 months and I love it. It’s very economical too! I also add vinegar to the softner container and my clothes come out clean and soft.

  9. SarahW says

    I’ve been using this laundry soap for a while now and really like it EXCEPT for my whites. They are clean, but dingy. I have hard water, is that why? Any ideas?


  10. says

    After using this for a while, my whites were very dingy. I went back to regular washing powder because even the clorox wouldn’t get them clean in one wash.


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