Homemade Laundry Detergent

About six months ago I became tired of buying expensive laundry detergent in obnoxious plastic packaging. So, I decided to start making my own. If you think this is the craziest homemade mothering idea yet, read these reasons and then give it a shot:

1. Save Money: The cost of making the below recipe is about $2.00. With this 2 gallon size recipe you will have enough to do about 55 loads of laundry. That translates to about 3.5 cents per load.

2. Better for the Environment: Where do I start?! A homemade detergent uses far fewer scary chemicals. Store bought detergent comes in thick plastic bottles which never biodegrade. Transporting store bought from the factory to the store to your home uses a lot of fuel. Store bought detergent can have dangerous fragrances.

3. It works: I’ve been using this for a few months now, and our clothes are clean!

4. Its fun: Admit it—its kinda cool to know how to make something like this. And in times like this its nice to do something to save a little money and be kinder to the environment.

5. Its easy: total active time for me was about 8 minutes!


***NOTE: I have updated this recipe. Please click here to see the latest and greatest laundry detergent recipe.***


The Recipe

1 bar Ivory Soap

2/3 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda*

1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax**

A 2 gallon bucket with a lid – I found a good one in the painting department at Home Depot


Very finely chop the soap and put it in a large pan.

Add 6 cups water and, stirring often, heat it until the soap melts. Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until both are dissolved. Remove from heat.


Pour 4 cups of hot water into the bucket. Carefully add the hot soap mixture and stir. Add 22 cups of warm water and stir. Let the soap sit overnight and it will gel. Stir well. Keep in mind that the consistency of this soap is different from store-bought detergent — it is a liquidy gel.

Use ½-¾ cup per load. I use the top of an old detergent bottle to measure out for each load. Remember that this is a low sudsing formula, so don’t expect to see a lot of bubbles. Don’t worry – bubbles are not what clean the clothes!


*Arm & Hammer Washing Soda: Don’t confuse this with baking soda because they are two different things. Washing soda is sodium carbonate (baking soda is sodium bicarbonate). Washing soda helps to remove dirt and odors. You can buy this at the grocery store, but I bought mine from drugstore.com and Amazon.com


**20 Mule Team Borax: Borax is a naturally occurring mineral (sodium borate). It serves to whiten and deodorize the clothes. You should be able to locate this in the laundry detergent aisle, but I bought it from drugstore.com and amazon.com


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24 Comments for this entry

  1. The Butlers says:

    Oh! I cant wait to use this. I use white vinegar now instead of fabric softener. Yay for natural!

  2. The Butlers says:

    oh and I dr bronners peppermint to it 🙂

  3. MommaD says:

    i am psyched to try this…visiting for the first time and following you now!

  4. MommaD says:

    made this tonight and I am going to write about it on my blog sometime this week, is it okay to link to you? can’t wait for it to cool and to try it soon!

  5. maureen smithe brusznicki says:

    I'm so glad it worked so well for you! Try to hand soap, next!

  6. shiny_witch says:

    This is great! I'm a Uni student who's running out of money and feeling guilty every time I use a washing machine. This homemade laundry detergent could solve both my problems, lol!!!

  7. Jessica G says:

    My recipe that I've been using and loving is a little different and it makes 3 gallons of detergent at $0.04 per load. here's the link to the detergent recipe on my blog if you're interested.


  8. gina says:

    I am totally wanting to give this a try. We buy ALL free and clear right now because everything else gives us a rash!

  9. Mrs4444 says:

    So, if it whitens clothes, can you still use it for colors?

  10. Jeanette H. says:

    I have been using this recipe since May, when I seen it posted here. I LOVE it! I made my 2nd batch last week and think it's great!! I bought the new bounce dryer bar and have the great smell of bounce in every load!!
    Thanks again for the great recipe!!

  11. Donna R. says:

    Just tried this last weekend…the clothes I've washed this week are fresh smelling/ deodorized but not 'smelly' like flowers….so great for sensitive skin and allergies. And, so very EASY…way easier than lugging the bottles of detergent. Thanks! Donna R.

  12. Carole says:

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I used to make my own dry laundry soap but often found some residue on my dark clothes. I got your recipe from WackyMummy and find that it works extremely well.

  13. Lori says:

    I just found your blog. Love it! I am wondering how much you think I would need to use for a high efficiency washer? I am so excited about making this! Thanks!

  14. HomemadeMother says:

    Welcome, Lori! So glad you like this site!

    I use a front-loading HE washer and I use about 1/2 cup-3/4 cup. Just keep in mind that this detergent does not produce suds/bubbles.

    Also, I've updated my recipe. Here's the latest:


  15. Anne says:

    Maureen – I am so thrilled to have found your blog (via Sarah over at personalfaves.com)! I ordered all of the supplies via Amazon to make this laundry detergent. We are expecting our first baby, and I’ve found that the store-bought detergent I used to like is overpoweringly scented now!

    I have two questions – (1) Do you use 1/2 to 3/4 cup per load for a high efficiency washer or for a regular washer? (2) Do you heat your soap and water combo in a pot that you also use for cooking or do you have a dedicated pot for non-food uses?

    Thank you so much for putting together such a great site!

    • Maureen Smithe says:

      Welcome to Homemade Mothering, Anne!

      I have a front-loading washer and I use about 3/4 cup per load. This is a low sudsing formula, so you do not have to worry about too many bubbles overflowing.

      I do heat the soap/water combo in a regular pot, but use a separate plastic cutting board to chop/grate the soap.

      Also, keep in mind that I also still use a conventional stain stick on especially messy stains like baby food. I am also a BIG fan of soaking stained clothes in a sink full of regular water while I wait to run a load in the washing machine.

      Have fun living the Homemade life!! 🙂

  16. Organicmommy says:

    This is a great recipe, and I really wish that everyone would try to make their own or buy their own natural laundry soap instead of mainstream detergents that are petroleum based and contain harmful synthetic fragrances, which are carcinogenic (pthalates). I use soapnuts, which are grown on trees, and they come in a muslin sack (no plastic). These clean and soften and just 5 nuts can be re-used for up to 5 loads, and they’re biodegradable of course! You can buy soapnuts on amazon.com. They are seemingly expensive upfront, but I bought a huge bag about a year ago, and I’ve only used half. That comes up to about 3.33 US dollars/month on cleaning my laundry. While I applaud you on making your own homemade laundry soap, I must say that I am a little surprised that you chose to use Ivory soap. This soap contains animal ingredients and artificial fragrance. Furthermore, it is made by Proctor and Gamble, which tests its products on animals. According to cosmeticsdatabase.com (Skin Deep), Ivory soap is a moderate health hazard. I would switch to something like Dr. Bronner’s or soapnuts to make your laundry soap recipe a little more natural! Thanks for your idea. I think I’ll try your recipe with Dr. Bronners to see how it compares to my soapnuts. Thanks so much!

    • Homemade Mother says:

      Just about any soap will work in this recipe. I chose Ivory because it is very gentle on clothes and doesn’t have any lingering fragrance. When I run out of my Ivory stash, it’ll be fun to try out a different brand.

  17. Cindy says:

    I just made this last night. When I opened it up this evening to wash clothes, it had kind of separated into a kind of egg white/watery liquid. I mixed it up and the egg white stuff broke up into smaller pieces, but didn’t completely dissolve. Normal?

  18. Cindy says:

    Thanks for the info. Glad to know I got it right!

  19. Kim says:

    I’m just starting to get into the DIY stuff, and have been using a similar reciept on your cloths for a year now. But now that I have a baby on the way, I would like to know if this laundry soap would be save to use with cloth diapers? Thanks.

    • Maureen says:

      When it comes to cloth diapers, I am a very loyal user of Charlie’s Soap. Occasionally I will use homemade laundry soap on the diapers, and I haven’t had any issues.

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