Cleaning Recipes

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I started making my own laundry detergent a few months ago and I will NEVER go back to buying it in the store. It is so simple to make, does not take long at all, and saves you a ton of money. Not to mention you know exactly what is in it, so you are exposing yourself and your family to less (unnecessary) chemicals. I wish I knew about this years ago! I have tried a few different recipes for it, and today I am sharing my favorite one with you. It happens to be the same recipe that the Duggar family uses, imagine how much money they would have to spend on regular detergent with such a large family! I do it a little differently than they do but the measurements are the same. For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 bar Fels-Naptha soap
  • 1 cup Super Washing Soda (not baking soda)
  • 1/2 cup Borax

I found all of these items in the laundry detergent aisle at Walmart. I do not remember the exact price of each item but it was around $10.00 for all of it (less expensive than only one bottle of most commercial laundry detergents and will last you much much longer). If you can’t find Fels-Naptha or if you have sensitive skin you have many other options. You could also use Zote, Pure&Natural, Dr. Bronners, Ivory, etc. (If using Zote you only need half of a bar) You will also need:

  • Hand grater
  • Measuring cups
  • Medium size pot
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Long spoon for stirring

Step one: Grate your soap. I know it seems like a pain but really it only takes a minute. It is not hard to clean the grater afterwards either, it rinses easily. Just be careful when you get down to the end, you don’t want to grate any of your skin off! lol

Step two: Add grated soap to pot with 4 cups of hot tap water. Stir over medium heat until the soap has melted. (Some recipes will tell you to bring it to a boil, I do not do this in fear of ruining the batch. Someone once told me theirs crystalized after boiling it) After your soap has melted you will have what looks like a bright yellow soap soup!

Take your soap soup off of the heat, and stir in your super washing soda and borax until dissolved. This will thicken your soap soup quite a bit. Fill your 5 gallon bucket half full with hot tap water, add in your soap soup, then fill your bucket the rest of the way with hot tap water. Make sure you give it a good stir, then cover it and let it sit for 24 hours. Thats it! How easy is that?!

After 24 hours when you go back to your detergent it will be like a gel. Give it a nice good stir and you are good to go! It will be lumpy, that is perfectly normal (I freaked the first time I made it because I did not know this, lol). This is a picture of what was remaining from my last batch to give you an idea:

Now you can either keep your bucket next to your washer, or fill up an empty container (I used an empty Simply Lemonade container in the top picture) and store the bucket somewhere else out of the way. Use 1/2 cup per load of laundry.

Now many of you may be wondering if this “is safe for a HE washer”, and the answer is yes. We have a HE washer and it works perfectly. This is actually good for HE washers because its low suds. Suds do not equal clean! We recently had someone come to look at the washer for an issue with the pause button, and he said it looked great other than that. So there ya go, proof its safe!

Another thing that many of you may be wondering is “does it work, and do the clothes smell good”. Well I can tell you that it works very well, I actually think it works better than store bought detergent (and I have tried many brands). As far as how the clothes smell, they do not smell like anything when they are done, just clean. But I have a solution for this if you do still want your clothes to smell good. Here is it:

This bottle of Purex Crystals was about 5 dollars at my local Walmart. I just recently discovered these and I am so glad I did. Even though I would never go back to store bought detergent I did kind of miss the good smells. I only use half of a cap full of these per load and my clothes smell fantastic! This bottle will last me a while i’m sure, and I am okay with spending the extra 5 dollars because I am saving so much by making the detergent myself. This is also safe for HE washers! You could use Downy Unstoppables if you so choose, but this is cheaper and does the same thing. (Edit: These must be getting pretty popular because sometimes I have a hard time finding them. I purchased the blue Downy Unstoppables and they made my clothes smell AWFUL. I think I will stick with the cheaper but better IMHO Purex crystals and just go without if they don’t have them in stock at the store) I have also melted about 1/2 of a bottle of these into my detergent with the soap. It takes a while to melt the crystals and the detergent does not gel up as thick but it still works great.

I do not buy fabric softener anymore either. You can use plain white vinegar and it works wonders (the clothes do not smell like vinegar once dry). I also have a cheap and easy recipe for homemade fabric softener that you can find here.

So there you have it, homemade laundry detergent. There are many recipes out there so if this one doesn’t float your boat it shouldn’t be too hard to find one that does. If you have any questions I will do my best to answer them. I hope you will try this (you won’t be sorry!) and let me know what you think!

❤ Ashley

Homemade Laundry Detergent:

4 cups hot tap water

1 Fels-Naptha soap bar, grated

1 cup Washing Soda

1/2 cup Borax

Add grated soap to pot with water. Stir over medium heat until melted. Remove from heat and stir in washing soda and borax until dissolved.

Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap mixture, then fill the rest of the way with hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken. Stir.

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79 thoughts on “Homemade Laundry Detergent”

  1. Hi Ashley, me again. Only one question this time. I forgot to cover the detergent, and after sitting overnight, it looks and feels, well, like gelatin, but with some liquid. Is this just because i have to remix it? Normal, not normal? Thanks again!!

    1. Hi again! I don’t mind the questions 🙂 That is totally normal. Just give it a good stir, or blend small batches if you would like. I let my daughter put her hands in the bucket and squish it, she loves it lol. Small lumps will not make a difference in how it works. I hope you like it!

    2. I had the same problem, so i started using a paint mixer, the kind you put in a drill. It works great and you only need to do it 1 time.

  2. I love it!! I did a “test run” on some cheap bath towels i got from Wal-Mart. Really cheap, .46 cents a rowel cheap. I thoughtfor sure they were going to be all scratchy and terrible, used the detergent, and WOW!! Even the husband was happy about it; he thought for sure I was crazy, but he is a believer now (me too!). The towels came out smelling very nice, and super soft. Thanks again!!

  3. I was wondering if you could oxi-clean to the mixture and if so, how much would you recommend to add with the borax and washing soda?
    I have an HE washer and made up some home soap similar but was afraid it would cause problems. So I quit using. But I am going to go back to using it as the all natural laundry soap is over $9.00 a gallon. Thanks

    1. Cheri – I am not sure about how much you would add to the detergent, I would probably add about a cup if I were going to try it. This detergent is actually better for HE washers, its very low suds but still works great 🙂

      1. Thanks. I have some of the items on hand. I just need to get some of the bar soap. I love finding and making up recipes that are all natural and so much better for us and the environment.

  4. Made this recipe with addition of a little more Borax (1 cup instead of half-cup) as I have hard water. Used the Purex Crystals (“Fresh spring waters”) in the laundry as well. (Hadn’t made the laundry softener yet) Works just fine! Clothes smell wonderful, very light scent and clean. I’ve now made the fabric softener (with Suave “everlasting sunshine” conditioner) and can’t wait to load up the washer! Thanks for the EASY and effective recipes for saving money and going more natural.

    1. Pat, I’m glad you like it 🙂 I just bought that conditioner to try in my next batch of fabric softener, it smells really good.

  5. I tried a similar recipe (called for 1 cup borax vs 1/2 cup) and it didn’t do the state to sit over night before adding more water, does this make a big difference??? I know there are many out there. Just concerned where I do have a HE machine. My first load of wash seemed great no issues, my second load, well the soap staying in the dispenser and never went through. Wonder if I need more water in the mix?? Would love your thoughts and thank you for sharing your recipe too!!!

    1. Stephanie, Did you give it a good stir after letting it gel up? If you didn’t break it up enough that could be why it got stuck in the dispenser. I have never had any detergent get stuck in the dispenser and we have a HE washer too. What I have been doing lately is taking about a gallon at a time and blending it up with my immersion blender. Then I just store it in a jug and shake it before using it. You could add more water if you want to but I don’t like to. I hope that helps 🙂

  6. Thank you for your response. I did add more water as the recipe I used didn’t seem to call for enough. I whisked it all up in the 5 gal bucket and now appears to have the consistency of your picture. And now so far so good. I am really excited about this! Thank you for sharing

    1. That is great 🙂 I’m glad it worked out for you! I know it is exciting. I still get excited and feel so accomplished every time I make a batch lol.

  7. I’m wondering if I can use Ivory soap that has been microwaved (Ivory Soap explosion experiemnt) in this homemade laundry mixture. Would anyone know? 🙂

  8. Does anyone know the weight in grams of a Tablespoon of the finished Powdered Laundry Soap and the ounces per load that are used for the liquid Laundry Soap? It would be a great help if anyone that has the Powdered Laundry Soap can weigh ia Tablespoon for me.


    Jaime in Medellin, Colombia

  9. Try putting Fels Naptha bar in microwave in 30 minute increments on a plate -salad size is what I used. I cut bar in half – it will swell and have small holes / pores in it. The outside you may have to put back in for 15 to 30 seconds more after you cut out middle swelled part- let it cool then put in processor with blade. It processes easier as it puffs and drys a little.
    Zote soap cut into cubes put on plate for about 1 1/2 minutes until they look somewhat like marshmallows and cool and process with blade.
    Ivory soap makes a glob you remove and you microwave the rest longer until it makes – cool – process with blade or rub hands together to powder. > someone else posted this one for Ivory so I tried the others.

  10. I made this laundry soap with my microwaved Ivory flakes and it works wonderfully! My husband has sensitive skin and my boys get to watch the Ivory soap irrupt in our microwave. 🙂

  11. I cannot wait to try this! I have a couple of questions. Where do you add the Purex Crystals? Does it go somewhere in the dispenser or do you put it in with the laundry? Also, what about the vinager as a fabric softener? When/where does it get put in? Thanks!

    1. Hi Stacey

      You just add the purex crystals in with the laundry. I just put my clothes in the washer and sprinkle the purex on top. We have a fabric softener compartment on our washer so I pour the vinegar in there. You just use it like you would your normal fabric softener. I hope that clears it up for you 🙂

  12. Can you use the liquid Dr. Bonner’s soap in place of the bar of soap? That would make it easier.

    1. I have never tried that, so I can’t say. You would still have to heat the water to dissolve the washing soda and borax anyways. If you don’t want to grate the soap maybe you could try the microwave trick? If you do decide to test the Dr. Bronners liquid soap I would definitely make a very small batch just in case it doesn’t work right.

  13. I am excited about trying this…but my biggest question is how much to add to my HE washer…would I use the measuring cup that I would normally use with commerical washer soap? Can’t wait to give it a try…it will also give my family another opportunity to call me a “hippy” and make fun of me…but I am all about saving money.

    1. Yes you use the same amount as you would normal detergent, which for me is about 1/2 cup per load. Sometimes if the clothes are extra dirty (my husband is a warehouse manager lol) I will add more. I really just eyeball it, a few times I have accidentally poured too much into the dispenser but it caused no problems. People make fun of me too but who cares! We are saving money to spend on better things 🙂 I think it is a little crazy not to save money and use less chemicals if you can, maybe we should be making fun of them lol.

  14. I just made a batch and do far I love it.did a test wash with a white rag. I put mustard on it and let it dry good and hard. Outside its 100 degrees plus. Washed it with a few other towels and it came out. I did add chlorax2 because id add that anyway with stained laundry. Also I boiled the wafer first then dumped the grated soap in. Melted nicely and water stayed good and hot for the other ingredients too. No boiling at all.

    1. Yes, I have not personally tried it for this but I have read of others using it. I have made liquid soap from it and it does gel up quite nicely.

  15. I tried to make this and when i checked it the next morning it was still liquid with a layer of chunks on the top and was not gel like at all is there any way to fix it or can i still use it?

    1. Yes the liquid may separate and it is fine, just stir it the best you can, small chunks are not a big deal. If it really worries you try blending it up in small batches. I love my hand blender for this but I think it would be fine in a regular blender too, just start with a small amount to be sure. I usually blend a gallon at a time in a large pot with my hand mixer and then pour into empty water or milk jugs with a funnel. I hope that helps, enjoy 🙂

  16. I added some small marbles to my bottles of completed laundry soap. Then when I get ready to pour some soap in my washing machine receptacle, I swish the soap around in the bottle and the marbles help stir the soap up. Kind of like the marbles in fingernail polish. You just have to watch when to get to the last of the bottle and make sure the marbles don’t end up in the receptacle.

  17. I love tis post! I was wondering if anyone tried a few drops of essential oil for fragrance. Would that hurt the laundry soap’s cleaning properties?

    1. Hi Jenny! I have not tried adding essential oils because I use the Purex Crystals but it would definitely not hurt 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, enjoy!

      1. Love the essential oils idea for added sent. I have several scents for an oil burner.

  18. Kathryn Mayhue – Do not use the oil for oil burners. It is not pure essential oils and will stain clothing. You can buy pure essential oils at a health food store or Herb shop. I haven’t shopped for essential oil for years so you can maybe find it elsewhere also. Make sure it is PURE essential oil.

  19. I have just finished my 5 gallon bucket of homemade laundry detergent. It last 7 months! Think of the money saved! It works well in my front loading washer. The only thing I have noticed is that my whites are getting dingy gray. I have been researching using bluing agents but am somewhat reluctant because there is conflicting instructions on how to properly use it in front loaders. I know it has to be diluted so as to not stain clothing but the amount of diluted liquid recommended would be too much for the dispenser in a top loader. Also wondering if it should only be used in white loads or could I mix some with my 5 gallons of detergent and use it for all clothes?

    1. Wow that is great! It does not last me as long but I have to do lots of laundry lol. I have no idea how to use bluing agents so I am afraid I am not much help with that. We do not own many white clothes so I have not noticed an issue with them. Maybe some color safe bleach would help? Another thing that comes to mind is, when was the last time you cleaned your washer? We recently cleaned ours with the tablets and I was amazed at how much gunk can get built up inside the machine. I hope that helps!

      1. Thanks, Ashley. Yes there only 3 of us in the house now so not tons of laundry. Plus, I have a front loader so I have to use a lot less detergent (1/4 c). Our washer is only about a year old and it has a Pure Cycle (sanitize) that I run when the light comes on to remind me. I’ll keep researching this bluing thing. I can remember my great grandmother using bluing. It brings back good memories.
        Love saving money making my own detergent. I started making my own foaming hand soap too! Bonus!

  20. have you tried adding essential oil to the mix? I am loving how this works but I am missing the “just cleaned” smell of the commercial detergents.
    I have also used this recipe without melting. Just add the mixed powders (1tsp for small 2 tsp for large) voile still works great!

  21. Hi Sam, I have not personally tried essential oils… I just think they are too expensive and I would rather use them for something else. I do love the Purex Crystals for added scent, you could also use the Downy beads. I believe someone else said they put essential oils on a dry washcloth with the clothes in the dryer. If I were going to try it that is the way I would personally do it. Hope that helps!

  22. Ashley, I didn’t take the time to read ALL the comments, but I can tell you that me and a friend of mine went in halfs and made a large batch of this detergent. We used a whole box of borax, a whole box of the washing soda for example. We prefer to use the dry version, so we added the Purex Crystals during the mixing of the dry ingredients. You can also use a small tub of the OxyClean as well if you want. This stuff is fabulous!! After we split it up into 2 equal amounts, it has lasted both of us about 5 months!

  23. I wanted to let you girls know that if you will just open the soap bars and let them sit out for a couple or three weeks, or even a month, they will grate very easily because they dry out when outside the package. I just took them out of the packaging and stuck them in a great big strainer I had on hand, and left them in the laundry room for a month. They are so cheap that you can do one batch, and have the next one drying at the same time. Also, I have a small grated that is on a cylinder with a crank handle that I picked up somewhere for about $5—formerly used to grate parmesan cheese, lol, that I use to grate my dried out soap….now the only cutting I have to do is chunks to fit the little grater, and no scraped fingers! Again, the soap is so cheap, I could buy another small crank grater and still save money……..My friend thought I was being cheap, and had gone nuts when I was telling her about this, right up until she tried the bottle I gave her—-now I’m just a genius……..

    1. That is such a great idea!!! I have several bars in my laundry room already lol. I need to find me one of these graters with a crank 🙂 It is funny how you are crazy until people try it, so true!! hehe.

  24. Hello, came across your recipe a couple days ago and tried it yesterday. Today when I opened my bucket it was mostly water with a clumpy white center. When I stirred it, it became mostly water… Help! Is that normal for it to be a liquid consistency rather than gel like normal detergent? Did I do something wrong, I followed the recipe exactly but I used ivory soap and I didn’t quite fill the 5 gallon bucket to the top. I also put the lid on whevit was still warm, was that ok? Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  25. Hi Jessi. Did the clumpy white stuff mix with the liquid? I usually blend mine with an immersion blender because the separation while cooling is normal. It will be thinner than the store bought stuff, and that is okay 🙂 Have you given it a try?

    1. Yes, I stirred it with my hand and it all combined I just wasn’t sure if it was normal for it to be the consistency of water 🙂

      1. I let it set overnight and then stir it. Then I fill an old laundry soap bottle that I have added marbles to. The rest I leave in a large container till I need to refill my laundry soap bottle. I shake the laundry soap bottle each time I use it like shaking up nail polish. Just make sure the marbles don’t come out in the washer when you add the laundry soap.

  26. Mine comes out a little thicker than water but thinner than the store bought kind. If you find it is not working as well as store bought then I would try melting more soap in a small amount of water, mixing it in and letting it sit over night again. I always use Fels Naptha and I think the bars are bigger than Ivory but I am not sure. Cheri that is a great idea with the marbles too!

    1. Ok I melted another bar I’v ivory soap with some water and added another half cup of borax. When I added it to the already made detergent, it immediately chunked up… Lol so I ended up reheating the entire batch just to melt the chunks and then let it sit for another day. It’s thicker and kind of chunky. Will the chunks be harmful to my washer or septic tank?

      1. Jessi you could use the marble trick as mentioned above, an immersion blender or put small batches in a regular blender if you are concerned with the chunks. If they are soft chunks you can easily break with your fingers I don’t think it would be a big deal but since I am not looking at it myself it is hard for me to tell, sorry.

  27. I use this recipe but instead of Fels Naptha (has chemicals in it), I use pure olive oil castile bar soap. Can also use Kirk’s castile bar soap (coconut based). I have an HE washer & it is low suds, works great. Instead of fabric dryer sheets (full of chemicals), I add 1/2 cup vinegar in the rinse cycle dispenser. (want to make my own wool dryer balls at some point too.)
    Can also add 1/2 cup vinegar in the bleach dispenser to brighten clothes. I use Hydrogen Peroxide 1/2 cup in bleach dispenser instead of vinegar if I want to disinfect or whiten whites. Used this for a blue blanket recently & it did not harm the color. Have also pre-treated stains with H.P. & didn’t hurt color fabric. For H.E. machine you can make own oxiclean by putting 1/2 cup H.P. & 1/2 cup washing soda in the pre-wash dispenser (the other dispensers only hold 1/2 cup total). I’m learning as I go, so thought I would share what I’ve learned works for me.

    1. Thank you for sharing all of your tips 🙂 Sometimes I use baking soda and peroxide on tough stains and scrub with an old toothbrush. I have not thought to put the peroxide into the washer!

  28. The Duggar recipe says you should dilute the recipe again when you pour it into smaller containers. So it will actually make 10 gallons. And then still only need to use 1/4 c. for an HE machine. Do you dilute more or just use the 5 gallon concentrate? And you say to use 1/2 cup. I’m just wondering if the 10 gallons is too diluted and what you do.

    1. Hi Jenny. I personally think that making it into 10 gallons is diluting it too much. You still get plenty for your money this way, but do whatever works best for you 🙂

  29. You can also use this same recipe but instead of a 5 gallon bucket, split the soap soup into two quart canning jars. Put the lids on tightly and flip upside down. After about 2-4 hours (depending on room temp I imagine) it will separate into a liquid and a solid. You can either attach a blender blade directly to the jar and whip it up or do what I do and pour/scoop a jar at a time into my blender and whip it up until it’s the consistency of cool whip. I put the finished “soap cool whip” into a square Rubbermaid container and close tightly. In the morning the texture will resemble Noxema. Use ONE TABLESPOON per load. SAME result, takes us less space! (I have a very small laundry soon) put it directly ON your clothes in the washer, NOT in the soap dispenser. I use a hand towel to scoop it out of the measuring spoon (who doesn’t have a hand towel that needs washed). I have a front loader, HE washer and it works FANTASTIC.

  30. I LOVE the Purex Crystals too, however I found a recipe that calls for Epsom salt and baking soda. Mix the two together and use EXACTLY like you use the Purex Crystals. I use 2 cups Scented Epsom Salt to 1/2 cup of baking soda. Mixed them together well and voila! Even put them in the empty Purex bottle to make it easy to dispense

  31. Thank you for sharing.You can make your own cleaner for way less money than you would spend on a commercial cleaner. Even if not, I would still prefer to make my own for the other benefits.

  32. Thank you so much! I made the recipe yesterday and am going to use it today. After I put it in the bucket, I put some lavender essential oil in it for fragrance.

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