How to Make Laundry Detergent

homemade laundry detergentLaundry detergent is very easy to make and costs a lot less to make than buying the eco-friendly and natural detergents that I use.  If you are used to buying really cheap detergents with lots of perfumes and unnecessary chemicals then you may not see much of a cost savings.  My friend Sharon and I made a batch of this detergent and have some notes to share about it:

  • You use 1/4 cup per regular load, more for heavily soiled loads, but if you want to get stains out you may still need to treat stains before washing.  Sharon’s son’s white school uniform shirt did not come entirely clean with this soap.
  • This works for high efficiency and front loading machines (that’s what Sharon uses) but you need to put it directly in the load rather than in the compartments you might normally put your detergent in.
  • The bar soap you use may make quite a difference in the finished detergent.  Most recipes call for either Fels-Naptha or Zote – both are really heavily perfumed and have ingredients I don’t want in my laundry but I know Fels-Naptha is a great stain remover so your detergent may not need stain treatment pre-wash if you use it.  For this batch we used Trader Joe’s tea tree oil soap because it’s cheap and natural.  When I used it in a “handwash” load in my machine it left some residue on a dark shirt – so this may not be the best soap for the job.  This did not happen with my last batch.


  • You do not have to use distilled water but it’s better to use water with no added chlorine or other chemicals in it.


  • The cost for this batch was $6.39.  How long it lasts will depend on how many loads of wash you do a week and how much detergent you generally use.  I usually spend $11 or more for liquid detergent that lasts less than a month.  The last time I made this detergent a gallon of it lasted a month and a half.


  • It is NOT dangerous to work with washing soda if you refrain from getting it in your eyes or mouth.  So don’t eat it or wipe your eyes right after you’ve hand your hands in it.


  • Sharon had an old Parmesan cheese grater and this worked so well I want to get one to grate my soap with too.

I based my recipe on one I found in the homemade laundry detergent recipes post on Tipnut but my method is a combination between Tipnut and my friend Kathy.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent


  • 2 cups washing soda
  • 2 cups borax
  • 2 cups bar soap, grated
  • 2 gallons distilled water


  1. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Once water is boiling, add the grated soap and boil until all soap is dissolved then turn off the heat.
  3. Add the washing soda and borax and stir until dissolved.
  4. Put a lid on the pot and let sit over night to let it set up.
  5. If the detergent is soft and gelatinous - go ahead and put it in the containers you plan to store it in.
  6. If the detergent is hard - stir it by hand until it's broken up enough to allow an immersion blender to do the rest of the work. Blend it until it is in a pour-able state, then put in storage containers.
  7. Use 1/4 cup per regular load, 1/2 cup for heavily soiled loads.

IMG_3827That cheese grater was awesome!  The last time I made detergent it was a pain to grate the soap.

sharon adding sodaWe learned an important lesson: turn the heat off before adding the washing soda and borax UNLESS you use a huge canning pot like my friend Kathy does -because it boils up really fast.

IMG_3853This is how we found it the next day.  it was very stiff like a jello with too much gelatin added.

super lumpsWe broke it up with a spoon but the clumps were big and it was a lot of work trying to break them up.

lumpy laundry detergentThe clumps were too big for this to be easily scoopable.

resorting to the immersion blenderSo then Sharon had a brilliant idea: use an immersion blender!  It worked.  It still has a clumpy look to it but is now pourable/scoopable.

bottling it upI store my detergent in half-gallon jars but you can use old liquid laundry detergent containers or any other glass or plastic container with lids.

3 thoughts on “How to Make Laundry Detergent

  1. angelina Post author

    Kathy – I can’t believe I never responded to this comment! I was channeling your homesteading brilliance while I made this batch! Isn’t that cheese grater perfect for the job?! The first time I made detergent I used a box grater and it was pretty annoying. I want to find one of these on sale or at a thrift store so I can use it for my next batch.

  2. Sharon

    I really should never be a hand model- but aren’t I brilliant with the immersion blender? Mine is still going strong though I upped the load dose to a half cup for no apparent reason. Thanks for experimenting with me!

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